I’ve spent the past week at the Shakespeare Festival, in Ashland, Oregon. While there are many plays performed at the Shakespeare Festival that were *not* written by the Bard, my theater-going friends vastly prefer to see see Old Will’s creations.
That’s fine with me, even though I’ve seen most of the plays multiple times before. Seeing a new production gives me a chance to study the choices made by the director and the actors. I learn more about the language, more about the story.
And most of those stories have their roots in far older tales. Shakespeare plundered lots of sources for his plays — folktales, “histories” with dubious real-world accuracy, travel diaries of explorers, etc. In each case, he took those stories, and he made them his own, creating vibrant characters who speak with carefully-chosen words to convey a distinct moral lesson (or, in any case, an exploration of morality.)
All those program notes got me thinking about background sources for modern writing. My fantasy stories often start with myths from other cultures — my twelve gods in the DARKBEAST series had their birth in the Greek pantheon (changed notably by the social strictures of the society I created for Keara and her darkbeast companion).
I’ve always been drawn to theater and Commedia del’ Arte, and passion plays, so those roots are displayed in my fiction as well. Keara has her Travelers; Rani Trader (in my Glasswrights Series) has her Players. (And yes, I weave in a few Shakespearean references along the way…)
Of course, Tolkien looms over my fantasy novels (especially a lot of my early, unpublished work), and Katherine Kurtz flavored every ritual I’ve ever written. I can tease out dozens of other authors — their styles, their plots, little details that stuck in my mind for one reason or another.
How about you? What are the roots of your stories? If someone were writing a Playbill about your work, centuries after you’re gone, who will they cite as your literary inspirations?