One of the great challenges, and pleasures, of writing a fantasy novel is to invent a world that doesn’t exist and describe it in such a way that the reader can believe in it. Temporarily, at least. Permanently, that’s another story.
For inspiration I look to the Bible and to history. And one of the historians who’s just come aboard to help is Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose History of the Kings of Britain was the best-seller of the 12th century.
Geoffrey has long been accused of dealing in myths, legends, tall tales, twaddle, and bald-faced lies–just like they do to Herodotus. Every now and then archaeologists turn up something that shows that Herodotus wasn’t fibbing, after all. The same with Geoffrey.
Say what you will about him, Geoffrey of Monmouth could really spin a yarn. No one better. But I wouldn’t try to copy him.
No–what these senior colleagues, storytellers emeritus, do for me is to help me find a tone for the story that I’m telling–and for its setting. You want the reader to feel like he’s been there. And maybe was lucky to get home again.
Geoffrey writes about things that happened 500 to 1,000 years before his own time. He writes from a 12th century point of view. This is very valuable to me. The difference between us is, Geoffrey really did live in the 1100s and see things as a 12th century man would see them; but my setting is fictional, so I look to Geoffrey for pointers on setting a tone for his story. What kind of world is he writing about, and how can the reader enter it? Ditto for me.
And of course the writer can’t help wondering, “Have I done it right, this time?”