Thank you Mr. Tolkien

About two years ago I decided I wanted to write a book about elves. I imagined it as your basic good versus evil, light versus dark, princess in disguise fantasy story with a beautiful heroine, a handsome prince, some unresolved daddy issues, and a quest for revenge. It sounded simple. I sat down and, drawing on everything I learned about writing fantasy fiction by watching the Lord of the Rings movies, I wrote the first draft of Tab Bennett & the Inbetween. And that’s when I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance. I was in way over my head.

As is so often the case, I found the solution to my problem in a book – in many books actually. Here’s what I learned by reading the work of nine bestselling authors and the father of modern fantasy:

  • From J.R.R. Tolkien I learned that people will believe what you tell them to believe. If you do it well enough they’ll forget they ever believed anything different.
  • From George R.R. Martin I learned that constructing a world and its mythology and then moving everyone around in it is difficult and time consuming but worth the effort.
  • Charlaine Harris and Stephanie Meyer reminded me that a woman should not wear a hair bow to coordinate with her reindeer sweater and a man should never wear a sleeveless button-up. Ever.
  • Karen Marie Moning and her excellent Fever series taught me that a cream puff can become a tough cookie with the proper motivation. Also never trust a man who can manipulate time and space or cause mind shattering orgasms through sheer force of will.
  • In the Merry Gentry series Laurell K. Hamilton introduced me to the necessary mix of magic and menace and power. Also tentacle sex . . . but that’s a different story.
  • The compulsively readable Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole showed me how to use an enigmatic and (almost) all-powerful character to guard rail the plot when things get messy.
  • Gena Showalter and the Lords of the Underworld showed me how to overcome my inhibitions and write sexier sex scenes.
  • J.R. Ward and the Black Dagger Brotherhood confirmed what I already knew: vampires are dead sexy.

These authors taught me a lot, gave me a lot to think about, and, completely without their knowledge, made me a better writer – which in turn made Tab Bennett & the Inbetween a better book.  I owe them each a muffin basket and a great deal of gratitude.