Recently, fantasy novelist Steve Mchugh invited me to speak on his blog about the origins of my interest in fantasy and horror (I said, “I’m Pretty Sure it was the Balrog“), and today I’ve invited him to this blog to answer the same question: for the author of the acclaimed Hellequin Chronicles, what was it that provoked his early interest in this fantastical fiction?
Without further ado, here’s Steve Mchugh…
The Roll of a Die
I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons. Not the real game with the Game Master, et al. A lot of fantasy writers have at some point at least dabbed their proverbial toe in those waters. However, I’ve loved RPG’s since an early age and that love has probably gone some way to ingrain itself into my own storytelling.
In the late 1980s, when I was 10 years old, Urban Fantasy wasn’t really a genre that existed, and if it had, I’m not really sure that I’d have paid attention. By the time I was 10, I was reading Sherlock Holmes, Treasure Island and The Jungle Book. I liked adventure books and mysteries.
I think I was 11 when I found a copy of a few a Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in a charity shop. They were maybe 10p (16c) each. Although I couldn’t tell you all of their names, I do remember one: The Forest of Doom. They were all good fun, but The Forest of Doom was the one I re-read the most. This is primarily because it was hard and I died a bunch of times, but win or lose, I had fun.
Except with Armies of Death. I remember that one very clearly, as I’m pretty certain it was impossible.
Over the next year or so, I managed to go through most of the series by finding them in libraries or using pocket money to buy them. They were my entry into the world of fantasy novels, but it was an English teacher, Mr Pearcey who got me to branch out.
In English class, we all had to keep a book diary of what we’d been reading. After several months of mine containing only Fighting Fantasy novels and comics, Mr Pearcey took me aside and told me to try something else.
I went to the school library and took out Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms. Why did I pick that book? Well, I’d like to say that I was drawn to it, but in truth the cover looked like fun. No matter the reason, one read was all I needed. That was it, I was hooked. I read pretty much everything the school had on his books within a few months and from there branched out further to include Stephen King, Dean Koontz and David Gemmell in my regular reading (note, these weren’t in the school library. I’m pretty certain parents would have complained).
I read a huge amount stuff during my school years, and college years, and still do at 34 (although not as much as I’d like these days). I still go back to Men at Arms. It’s probably my favourite book of all time and one of the very few (along with It) that made me want to be a writer.
These days Urban Fantasy is a big genre, and one that I’m more than happy to be a part of with my Hellequin Chronicles series, but you can trace my current writing to the mix of genres I got through when I was at school. Mystery, action-adventure, horror and fantasy all play a big part in my writing. But I took something important from those Fighting Fantasy books. They had limited space in which to tell a story, so everything was always building toward something, always advancing the plot. There was very little in those stories that was waste, because they didn’t have the space to do it. I’ve tried to re-create that in my own writing, the need to ensure that everything matters, that there’s no dead time or waste. Be it character or story based, things should always be moving forward. And if I could figure out a way to include some dice rolling and map drawing for my readers to take part in, I’d probably have done that by now too.
About Steve Mchugh
Steve’s been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up ‘One boy and his frog’ was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.
It wasn’t for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel that was publishable, the results of which was the action-packed Urban Fantasy, Crimes Against Magic.
He was born in a small village called Mexbrough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Steve-McHugh/e/B007YYWVHA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1