The Sun Singer, I was reading the widely praised, award-winning epic fantasy by Stephen R. Donaldson called The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I was captivated by it and thought then, as I still do, that it's the best epic fantasy since The Lord of the Rings.
But I put the trilogy high up on a dusty bookshelf and skipped the sequel trilogy as well. Now, as the follow-up tetralogy is one book from being complete, I finally going back to Donaldson's epic.
When I began The Sun Singer, I was concerned about being influenced by Donaldson. After all, book critics, reviewers, writing instructors and others warned that writers could be influenced by their favorite books without even knowning it. As I understood the problem, my subconscious would beam Donaldson material into my work while I was asleep.
In my defense, I should mention that for The Sun Singer, I was creating an alternative world named Pyrrha, named after the wife of the Deucalion and Pyrrha flood myth. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant also features an alternative world as do The Lord of the Rings and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
By the time I discovered The Sun Singer was evolving as contemporary fantasy rather than epic fantasy, time had passed and I'd fallen so far behind with Donaldson that I never picked it up again. As fantasy fans know, contemporary fantasy features events in our own world and/or in our own world as well as an alternate world, so there was no need to worry about borrowing from another fantasy sub-genre. But I was younger then and had more fears.
Now that my recent contemporary fantasy, Sarabande, has been released, I'm feeling rather at loose ends. I'm not really that addicted to Facebook or Twitter, and while I do watch television on most days, it's fairly restricted. So...what to do?
"Aha," I thought, "I can go back to reading Donaldson." That's almost like a reward for finishing my novel. And, while there may yet be another book after Sarabande, I no longer believe other fantasies will influence what I'm doing. Goodness knows, I saw the epic The Lord of the Rings films and read Rowling's contemporary fantasy series without putting a look-alike Frodo or a look-alike Harry into Sarabande. Perhaps I'm just too set in my ways to subconsciously borrow a bit from Middle Earth or Hogwarts.
Christine Barkley gets it right, I think (with some bias, I know) when she says in the preface of Stephen R. Donaldson and the Modern Epic Vision that "In scope and imagination [Donaldson] rivals J. R. R. Tolkien; in complexity, one might argue, only Shakespeare's Hamlet equals Thomas Covenant." Donaldson is by no means escapist reading, but he is very addictive for anyone with an active imagination. I'm looking forward to many hours of time well spent!