Nervously entering the large dining hall, a large tray with glasses of wine and champagne rattling on the surface and clutched tightly in my hands, I glance around anxiously for the guests who are without a drink. I draw disapproving stares from Machiavelli and Marx, Pepys jots something in his diary, Plato and Aristotle are arguing with Socrates looking on rolling his eyes, Tolkien and Lewis are smoking pipes and sipping coffee, Hemingway and Joyce are talking Robert Jordan and Leopold Bloom, Austen is humbly accepting praise from the Bronte sisters and Tolstoy wants to talk crime with Dostoyevsky but Chekhov is adamant they should cover punishment. It’s an intimidating hall is this, among the literary greats, some writers of fiction, others plays and philosophers. I’m not worthy of sitting with them, only serving them rich delicacies, fine wine and sparkling champagne. As my tray slowly empties, Descartes and Hobbes have most of the dining hall scratching their heads, while Shakespeare commands the eyes and ears of whatever table he sits at. He has time for everyone. With my tray empty, I make a hasty exit, feeling maladjusted among such talent.
There are many forms of greatness when it comes to writing but in the modern age there seems to be something of a split. There are so many genres out there it’s hard to keep track of everything. Many writers find they can acclimatise to more than one field but others prefer to stay in their comfort zone and I include myself in that camp. You’ll find me in the sci-fi/fantasy section though with my novels, collectively known as the Elencheran Chronicles, I am trying to do something different with fantasy. I don’t want to be a poor pretender to Tolkien or Pratchett’s thrones, I want to be unique and offer a fictitious world where the characters seem as real as people in our own world, their lives, their struggles, their relationships all being akin to experiences we too have had in our own lives but being from another world there is still a conscious gulf between us.
I would argue today that being considered a writer of the finest novels doesn’t necessarily mean you will become a multi-millionaire and vice versa. I’m ashamed to say that I hear an author has won the Nobel Prize for Literature and I find myself scratching my head wondering who they are. This doesn’t apply to everyone of course such as Hemingway, Golding and Marquez, writers whose books I enjoy that have all claimed literature’s own version of the Oscar though this one is far more elusive. Writing shouldn’t be about prizes and making money, of course, but when it comes to recognition I used to debate about which I would prefer – the multi-millionaire status of selling many copies of my books or modest sales with the welcome consolation of being considered one of the greatest writers, worthy of a place in that dining hall with the other greats.
I’ll be honest with you. When I first started writing I had dreams of selling millions of books, topping the bestsellers lists and having a very comfortable life. Call it the futile dreams of youth but today those things don’t matter to me. I would quite happily earn just enough money to pay my bills, perhaps with a little leftover, but if I could have that guarantee and the luxury of writing full-time I’d bite your hand off. My aim is to be a good writer, always striving for perfection, making each book better than the last one and never being content with reaching a certain standard and playing it safe with every future title I decide to write. I’d rather take risks with novels, keep trying to do different things and with Elenchera I believe I can do that. The fantasy world is secondary to the characters that inhabit it, these are their stories and they want your focus not on the world that surrounds them but purely on them.
I have one novel published, Fezariu’s Epiphany, and another coming this year, A World Apart. Are they enough for me to have a seat in that dining hall? Certainly not. I’ll need to keep improving for a good while before I can even comprehend dining with the greats. Instead, I’ll be serving the drinks and meals, watching and learning from the masters. What I will say is to save a seat for me though because I’ll keep working hard to improve. It may be that that seat is never filled which will please Orwell and Huxley but for now keep it free because you never know what the future might bring.
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