How could I write a piece about inspirations and not include one about the great Doyen John Ronald Reuel Tolkien? If there is any writer who can claim a place amongst my inspirations then Tolkien stands foremost amongst all others. But then what self-respecting Fantasy author would not claim Tolkien did not influence them in the slightest? He probably created the whole genre of Epic Fantasy.
For the longest time, I was under the mistaken impression he had been born on 3 April 1892, which meant we shared our birthday and I took it as a sign that my future as a fantasy author was destiny (I was young). His real birthday was 3 January 1892, which means that if he had lived to see the travesty of The Hobbit being split into two movies, he would have been 119. The other fact which provided me with the greatest motivation was that he had been born in Bloemfontein, South Africa which is only a four hour drive from where I was born and live. Granted, he moved back to England with his family when he was still a young boy. But the fact he came from South Africa seemed to show to me that it was possible for someone to come from South Africa and be published in the UK and US markets.
My grandfather had urged me to read The Hobbit since I was very young but I had turned the book away and left the book with him while I read other childish novels like Willard Price’s Adventures series. I forgot about the novel and only read it after my grandmother gave it to me after my grandfather’s passing when I was 10 because he wanted me to have it. I still didn’t read it and put to one side until the day when I came home from the best English test I have EVER written.
The test had been a comprehension test and the teacher used part of the Hobbit. I didn’t want the story to end. I asked the teacher where the piece had come from and rushed home to pull the book out. I couldn’t stop reading it and when I had finished it, I knew I wanted to write stories exactly like it. My first story I wrote after reading it had the first line “In a hole in the ground…” it was incredibly derivative and I never finished it. There was no possible way I would be able to do justice to the work at that young age.
I followed The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings and read it once a year every year for twelve years until the movies came out. Sadly, while I enjoyed the movie I think it took away from pure enjoyment of the novel and I haven’t read it again since.
But the Hobbit and J R R Tolkien inspired me to write and it is a debt I will never forget.