It may surprise some people that I am not a regular reader of fantasy novels despite being a writer of fantasy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them; I just don’t pick up that many. How could–or why would–I write in a genre that I myself don’t typically read? For the answer, you’ll have to step back to the early nineties.
As part of one of the earliest batches of Generation Y, I spent my teen years lost in what many consider the Golden Age of Japanese role-playing games. My first taste of the fantasy genre came in the form of Final Fantasy IV, a game I found intriguing, but in stark contrast to most games I played at the time, I never finished it. I enjoyed the rich, expansive world populated by cute chocobos, peculiar black mages, and the imposing Dragoons. I loved everything about it, except maybe that annoying guy with the harp. I really hated guy.
At the time, FF IV was merely a temporary distraction. It wasn’t until I came upon Final Fantasy VI that I became a true fan of fantasy itself. It seemed like a typical story: an epic journey of a small band of rebels fighting a brutal empire. But every aspect of the game, from the beautifully-crafted soundtrack (which I still regularly listen to), the extensive repertoire of magic spells, the imaginative monsters, and the unforgettable characters that pulled me into the story and never let go, always leaving me wanting more. It had everything one could want in a story: tragic love, hope in the face of bleak circumstances, redemption of a wounded hero, a bit of humor, and an adorable mascot who could actually fight. I became a die-hard Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) fan and was close to my rebirth as a writer. But I was not quite there yet.
The tipping point came a year later with another Squaresoft title, Chrono Trigger. While the game remains nearly perfect in my eyes, it was the characters that really inspired me to create in ways I had never considered before. Akira Toriyama–best known for the manga Dragon Ball–designed characters that I became downright obsessed with while Masato Kato’s story kept me enthralled throughout my frequent replays. After seeing everything there was to see in the game, I craved more, but the only way I could get more was to write it myself. So I did, and my first story, which I guess would be termed fan fiction, was born. I created my own characters and time periods for the heroes to continue their journey, and though I never finished my seemingly ambitious project, it became the launching pad for an original story that in turn gave birth to my Animus Saga.
Over the years, Square-Enix’s RPGs have continued to inspire my work, most notably the sci-fi/fantasy fusion of the later games. My admiration for Akira Toriyama led to a love of manga and anime, another important influence on my work, but more on that later. As I write my second fantasy novel, I have decided to actually read more fantasy novels, not only for enjoyment but to learn about other writers’ style, pacing, and character types. I know I have a lot of room to grow and I’m not afraid to learn from those who came before me.