I started reading folklore when I was a kid. I didn’t know it as “folklore,” I found a series of books that captured the “fairy tales” of different countries and continents. It was spellbinding. Of course, I was familiar with the European tales from the Brothers Grimm, and some Native American lore, but this series served up around twenty volumes of marvelous legends filled with creatures and monsters, heroes and heroines, magic and mystery. I was hooked. Step one in the making of a fantasy novelist.
Around the same time, I discovered books of “ghost stories.” Some of these were legends, like the stories of the “woman in white” who is picked up on a stormy night as a hitchhiker and disappears from the moving car when they reach the destination—which is usually a cemetery or an abandoned house. Some were stories recounted by people who obviously had experienced something they couldn’t explain, and for which a logical explanation was hard to find. I ended up with a lifelong fascination with ghosts, haunted houses and the supernatural. Step two in my education as a future author.
Books on magic weren’t quite as easy to find when I was growing up as they have become since Harry Potter. There were storybooks that sometimes had a wizard or a sorceress, and more serious books for real practitioners. I read everything I could get my hands on, completely intrigued. Step three in the development of a fantasy writer.
As I got older, I grew into reading mythology and theology, the quest to explain the inexplicable. I was riveted by the stories of gods and goddesses, of their champions and enemies, their triumphs and failures. And I was equally struck by how often the same themes were repeated and how similar the stories were even though separated by millennia and continents. I could close a book of mythology when I was done reading and feel like I had been transported to another realm. It was like flying. I knew that someday, I wanted to tell stories like that. My fate as an author was sealed.
Along the way, I took every course I could on world cultures, history, anthropology and world religions. I wanted to understand—or at least be exposed to—how people across many cultures, time periods and locations tried to understand the unknowable. I delved into Joseph Campbell and Caroline Myss and their work on archetypes and the hero’s journey. It was a rich, varied and complex river of ideas, a deep well of inspiration.
To this day, after nine epic and urban fantasy books (and more in development), I go to that well time and again for ideas, concepts and archetypes. When I visit a new country or a new city, I want to see its architecture and monuments, but I also want to hear its legends, learn about its ghosts, and tour its holy places and burying grounds.
Stories, legends, myths and folklore endure because they speak to something deep inside us, something common to the human experience that is independent of place and time. We have been telling these stories, in one variation or another, since the dawn of time. And as a writer, it is my thrill and privilege to be the next link in the chain that takes these stories forward to the future.
Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books. My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.