One of the most exciting things I’ve done recently was to collaborate with Will Hughes, a voice-over artist from Carrsboro, North Carolina.
It’s always great fun to collaborate with another artist to explore one’s own creation in new ways. The other artist always and already brings experiences and interpretations to the work that one might not have considered oneself. For example, in his “few thoughts” on A Merchant’s Tale, Will says:
For me, this story is subtly laced with encouragements to return to boyhood—not an idyllic fantasy of childhood but the visceral curiosity of being a boy.
Although I hadn’t been conscious of it as I wrote, I can look back on A Merchant’s Tale in light of this insight and see how my original ideas for the story were formed and shaped by my own boyhood curiosity. How the exploration of the land of Droma is a rekindling of the explorations of my youth.
I grew up in a very rural part of northwestern New Jersey, a place where we took our nickname, “The Garden State,” seriously: dairy and corn farms are still a major industry in a town I affectionately refer to as “The Land that Time Forgot.”
But more than that, my hometown lies astride the Appalachian Trail, 2,200 miles (3,500 km) of scenic hiking trail through forest and wild lands, towns, roads and farms through the eastern Appalachian Mountains of the United States. The scenic beauty where I grew up is a natural wonder all on its own, and getting out to satisfy the “visceral curiousity of being a boy” played a major role in my development as a writer and has inspired much of my fiction.
So many scenes in my books Hedge King in Winter and A Merchant’s Tale have been drawn from my own experiences in the outdoors, and to this day, hiking remains one of my favorite pastime activities. Scenes like:
- “Hills of the Cailech,” Hedge King in Winter,
- “Thorp of Maladarach,” Hedge King in Winter, and
- “Thorp of Gormlyn,” A Merchant’s Tale
each owe something to the people and places that surrounded me in my childhood. And “The Hounds of Annwn,” from A Merchant’s Tale, owes its origin to not one, not two, but THREE close encounters with the New Jersey black bear so common in the area where I grew up. Encounters sometimes so close, I could have easily ended up wounded or dead, had the bears been so inclined. To write the scene was to relive, in a very visceral way, the natural fear, shock, surprise, and joy of such an encounter, an attempt to capture the beauty and thrill of seeing such a magnificent creature at such close range.
And to hear Will Hughes bring that scene to life with his voice was, for me, a magical moment all its own. The smell of the bear at that range, the look in its eyes, and the danger of being in such proximity to a creature both gentle and potentially fatal are captured so perfectly by Will’s narration that even though I wrote the scene, even though I lived the scene, it still made the hairs on my neck stand up, just as if it was happening all over again for the first time.
Many thanks to Will Hughes for helping me to bring all those awe-inspiring, spine-tingling, and gut-wrenching memories of childhood alive for you. And many thanks to all of the many artists, writers, and readers who have already read and enjoyed my work, and who work with me everyday to bring that work out into the wide world.
Listen to the excerpt of “Hounds of Annwn” from A Merchant’s Tale!
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