Writing has played its role in my life for quite a while. Hence, I’ll write some introductory notes.
Before I got involved in writing -apart from the few essays that form a part of the school curriculum- I spent a lot of time reading. As a kid, I read simplified versions of classics like Robinson Crusoë, Gullivers Travels, The Last of the Mohicans, Ben Hur and Quo Vadis, supplemented with mostly adventurous reading.
When I attended Grammar School, I discovered another reading love: Greek and Roman mythology at first, Celtic, Nordic and Germanic following. I got fascinated with the myths of mankind and the magical and supernatural and entered a wondrous world far beyond the rigid and stringent rationalism of my home religious background. It was incredible but still enjoyable to experience almost “man-like” Gods from the stories.
An important book I read before attempting to write was Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. When my father bought the trilogy in the seventies, the Tolkien hype was already a few years old in The Netherlands. I found it a difficult book, it required quite some effort to hold out. The mythological elements and magicians like Gandalf and Saruman, however, kept attracting me.
I started writing at the age of seventeen, my first product was a diary which I kept in those times of being disappointed in love and experiencing family problems. It turned out to be a first and somewhat fumbling attempt to commit personal feelings to paper.
Practice makes the master, I started to write more than the diary. As a student I wrote mainly short stories and novel fragments with numerous metaphors of personal affairs like (of course!) love relations (major issue, so it seems), I still remember the hard-back notepad, I used for it. I strongly inclined to a style which is known in Holland as Magic Realism, as reflected by the books of Hubert Lampo. I also liked the atmosphere of the Arthurian novels from the mediaeval era.
The hard-back notepad got lost in the passions of life (it is a pity, but passion is passion and often passion doesn’t look at the future). One single story survived, however, because I quoted it in a letter to my wife Erna as an example of my writing. The story Janny (In a Mist) which was dedicated to an old love, even made it to publication in the newspaper as a Christmas story, be it in abridged form: the story was 758 words and the editor did not want more than 600 words. This was a first introduction to professional writing with the well-known editing blues!
In those days, I did not succeed in writing a complete book. That’s partly caused by perfectionism, editing my own writing later on, because I could not stand pages full of crossing out and scrawl, so I often rewrote pages without being completely ready with them. So progress was poor and the cramp in the fingers common practice and both aspect affected motivation.
In those days, my writing had a major competitor, the classical guitar. For many years, the music took the most effort. The consequence that writing moved to the background, except for som writing on occasion.
After finishing my studies in Electronic Engineering, I re-read Tolkien. It was a pleasant reunion with the vast landscapes and the profound mythology of Middle Earth. The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillon, the Heritage Stories, I finished them in one go. They formed a great example and a major frustration at the same time. The in-depth world design, profound mythology, consistent history and language design, it represented many years of study, work and live experience. I had a secret desire to write a book like that, but the thoughts of endless correction because of my almost threatening perfectionism kept me from it.
Then I read the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula Leguin. This beautiful story with a strong sense for ethics about the adventures of Ged the Magus deeply impressed me. She wrote in an intuitive language which I understood, and I got the feeling that this woul be a language, I could actually write in myself! This gained me some confidence in my own writing skills.
Other writers became important to me. Jack Vance gave me an impression how to include some humour in sometimes serious stories. Wim Gijsen and Peter Schaap -two of the few Dutch Fantasy writers- presented me with fine examples of story building.
Later on I got influenced by Marion Bradley with her Celtic atmospheres in the Avalon novels. Many others followed, for instance Tad Williams with his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy (I borrowed his idea of first person thought dialogues in a third person perspective story to fresh up the reader’s impression of the characters and present a kind of background storyline information), Robert Jordan with The Wheel of Time, the Dragonlance stories by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss and -because of the splendid world design- the Hellicona trilogy by Brian Aldiss. There is so much to read in Fantasy! If I tried to read all, I would not have any time left for writing!
In 1990 the computer appeared in our household. Using a profit from selling some shares, I bought an Amiga 500, in those days the ultimate platform for games with high resolution graphics and built-in sound. Somebody gave me an old version of WordPerfect 4.1 to use it as a word processor.
The computer as writing tool, it turned out to be a revelation for me. Now I could correct and edit without bottles of Tippex correction fluid and continuously rewriting complete pages. I could save and start a second version if I liked to.
On the Amiga I discovered the fun of computer role playing games like Dungeon Master and the Legend of Fairghael. After reading something about ‘paper and pencil’ role playing games, I decided to write a scenario, based on the German rule set Das Schwarze Auge. I designed the fantasy world Caethlya for this purpose, the background for my Caethlyan Legend novels.
On the Amiga, I wrote Zippo the Mythecantor, my first story of over hundred pages. From that time on, the computer was a great aid in writing.
I did not write merely fantasy. Occasional writing for wedding parties, anniversaries and goodbye parties was fun as well. Often the stories presented some peculiarities of the dedicatee.
In this way, I wrote a story about the history of Fourier Transforms in the form of A Christnas Carol for an Englishman who was completely addicted to digital signal processing theory. Or a story for my old boss ‘Speedy Fritz’ in the form of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. And quite a few more.
At a certain time, however, fantasy writing became most important for me. I hope to get that far to get my books translated. The major barrier -to get the book published- now has been taken for one Caethlyan Legend, called The Song of the Solstice. So, I’ll have to wait and see, but maybe we’ll meet again in the book store!
What often happens if you are successful is the attempt to solve two questions: “Will I be good enough for another time?” and “Where to go from here?” Anyway, the publisher of my book got out of business and passed away. Many years later the concept was not considered good enough for publication any more. Reading trends are changing quickly!
Anyway, I met the ill-famous writer’s block, at least for fiction. Realistic things, like the guitar festival reports, kept flourishing. I even wrote an anniversary book for the Nordhorn Guitar Festival with stories and interviews, called Feast on Six Strings. For that occasion, I had to register as a Publisher, so now I have an own label: Mark’s Publishers.
It was not until 2016 that I started writing again after a meeting with a fellow-writer on the same Nordhorn Guitar Festival. We established a mutual short story writing and reviewing circuit which yielded some stories. I did not touch my old Fantasy stories yet, but I guess I should.