"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane
Several years ago, I read a book by an author I will not name. I usually refer to him as Bonehead the Barbarian. I was working for Jane Letty at the time and he was a new client.
He had written a book that featured an aged warrior who had a big legend attached to him. It was not until summer of 07 that I discovered where he had borrowed the idea from. What I did know at the time was that Bonehead’s character was not convincing and that he had difficulty with his characterization and clarity. He’s sold a lot of books to the small press, but nothing to the majors.
Bonehead had a habit of saying that all fantasy from the majors was “pussified” and that irked me big time. At one point he said in reference to a very influential female editor, “I’d rather be published by the small press than have one of my books come out with a sanitary napkin as a slipcover.”
In 06, I had the first book in my lycan series come out and one of the central characters was Todd Sinclair, the protag’s grandfather. He was an aged warrior, still a terror to his enemies, with a huge legend left from his youth. Separated by the disastrous conclusion to a great war, Todd spent ten years searching for Cahira before he finally found and married her.
In summer of 07, Steven Beeho read the novel and started pushing me to read David Gemmel, telling me that Todd was a lot like Druss. I kept telling him that I had read Gemmell. But when I went to my book shelf and pulled the book off, I was wrong. It was David Eddings I had read, not David Gemmell. So, I obligingly bought several of Gemmell’s novels and chewed into them.
I loved Gemmell and I could see the similarities, even if Todd managed to have a far better life than Druss. After all, Todd managed to raise five children with his beloved Cahira and was the patriarch of a large extended family. Druss never got that lucky.
I’m glad that I created Todd before discovering Druss, because I imagined Todd myself and see the similarities as examples of certain archetypes.
However, I also realized that Bonehead had borrowed Druss for his character and made a mess of it. It may well be that you can’t write old people until you become one. Or maybe you just need that kind of large extended family of diverse ages such as I grew up around.
Todd was, in many ways, drawn from a composite of members of my family. So he had a grounding in my own observations and experiences. I think that many writers who try to copy Druss don’t have that to draw upon. The majority of people today do not grow up in that kind of huge family. They really have no idea what they are like. Even more to the point, very few of the middle class, safe and sound, over protected people trying to write today have known anything like the world war II generation I knew so well from childhood.