There are so many things that shape us in our formative years and I’m not sure it is even possible to isolate what makes one person an artist, another a bricklayer, a politician or a programmer.
There were no writers in my family.
My maternal grandfather was a minor composer with a few operettas to his name, my paternal grandparents were peasants in a tiny village in the Istra peninsula of Croatia. My dad did have an affair with poetry for the second part of his life, albeit poetry that I could never quite relate to. So I simply can’t point a single influence that would have inspired me to become a writer, let alone an author of fantasy.
I fell in love with the written word in my early teens after discovering science fiction. I was in awe of the possibilities that that genre offered, and of the vast realities it encompassed in its sweep. That was when the first thoughts of becoming a writer germinated. That was in the mid ’60s.
But I have to confess that I had an aversion for fantasy. I thought of fantasy as a childish endeavour, something more akin to fairy tales than to anything sensible and mature. My breakthrough came at the onset of the ’80s when someone suggested that I read Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson.
I tried to read the book and all was going well until I stalled about fifty pages in, when the hero is struck by a police car and comes to in an alternate reality.
It was as though I couldn’t make myself go past the point where the story ceased to play out in the real world, and stepped into the fantastical and the absurd. It took about a year, but eventually I broke through and read the whole thing. It was an epiphany similar to the one I experienced with Science fiction. I never looked back.
In ’82 I started putting together my first ever role-playing game (RPG). It was entitled “Journey to Surmur”. In the mid ’80s I designed a second RPG. “The Quest for Sudra’s Orb” was born and it turned into an epic.
It was some 20 years before this second game saw the light of day and I played out with a group of friends over the span of an entire year, one Sunday every month. We soon came to realise that there was power in the story. Whenever we stopped after a day of play we would invariably feel as if we had just returned from a different country, some exotic place that beckoned to us in compelling ways.
Four years later I played the game one more time with a different group of people, another powerful and enjoyable experience, but I eventually realised that the game format was not where the story would end, it would have to reincarnate as a manuscript.
Fast-forward to 2007. My wife, Sa, and I were travelling through India on a three month excursion through that colourful and multifaceted country when I mustered the resolve to begin writing what was to become the Destiny of Fire trilogy.
Inspired by such places as the Amber Fort, the Pink City of Jaipur, the majestic sweep of the Himalayas as well as by the myriad cultural differences that we experienced on the Indian subcontinent, I began to trace the framework of Illiom, the first novel in the trilogy.
It took me a staggering five years to complete that first book, three more years to finish the second, and another two before the trilogy was finally complete.
Ten years. I still feel a wow arising whenever I contemplate that undertaking.
To date, the trilogy is my master work. And while I know that more will follow, it remains the largest, most ambitious project I have undertaken in my life so far.