10 Questions For J.R.R. Tolkien

This blog post was inspired by a Time interview with Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, the wizard who… if you are following this blog, you already know. It is a fascinating interview given that  J.R.R Tolkien was Catholic and McKellen is gay.

imgresThe interview is:

Timely: the difference between the making of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is that Peter Jackson now wears shoes.

Funny:  “No one ever ablutes in Middle Earth.” and…

Poignant: When he visits a public school in England

One of the questions asked of McKellen is what would he ask Tolkien if he could meet him. This got me thinking: I have already shared that I think a lot of Tolkien and Oxford, and The Inklings Club.

So, if you are up there in Writer’s Heaven, quaffing on an ale or puffing your pipe, there is a student down on earth trying to emulate your literary work with a few questions.

1. Did you ever get embarrassed or try to hide your fantasy writing from your academic peers?

2. Did World War 1 provide you with the imaginary and emotional background for Lord of the Rings?

3. Why Hobbits? Who is your favorite character in either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings?

4. If you were writing either LOTR or The Hobbit today, would you change anything? Different ending?

5. What do you think of the movies?

6. Is Peter Jackson out-of-line to make such radical changes to The Hobbit as including a character who is not from the book?

7. Who is your favorite fantasy author?

8. I know the story of how the first line of The Hobbit came to you (the blank academic paper you were grading), but how did you really come to write a fantasy series?

9. Mac or PC?

10. My critique group has room for one more. Would you consider…

imgres-7The reality is that if I ever found myself in front of the Professor, I would probably stammer and blush, and make a complete fool of myself. So help me out, just in case one day…

What questions would you ask the greatest epic fantasy writer of all time?

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth,  the sequel The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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Cute Tolkien Story

I am indebted for the story in this post to the author, Peter Smalley so I want to first give him a shout-out. “Peter A. Smalley was not so much born as he was the object of a suitably ominous origin story.” If you want to know more, click on the link above or check out his latest book – Emerald City Blues

Remember This Guy?

“I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.” This is friendship!

 So here is the (true) story.

In March 1956, J.R.R. Tolkien was surprised to receive a letter from a man named Sam Gamgee from Tooting, London. Mr. Gamgee, who had not read Lord of the Rings, was surprised to hear that his name had been used in the story. The Professor responded in a letter of his own.

“Dear Mr. Gamgee,

It was very kind of you to write. You can imagine my astonishment when I saw your signature! I can only say, for your comfort, I hope, that the ‘Sam Gamgee’ of my story is a most heroic character, now widely beloved by many readers, even though his origins are rustic. So that perhaps you will not be displeased at the coincidence of the name of this imaginary character of supposedly many centuries ago being the same as yours.”

– The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter 184

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Being the gentleman he was, Tolkien also sent him a signed copy of all three volumes of the book. This incident did, however, worry the professor who wrote in his journal:

“For some time I lived in fear of receiving a letter signed ‘S. Gollum’. That would have been more difficult to deal with.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

Oh well, need to fill the void for the next 1,464 hours (at the time of writing) until the second Hobbit movie!

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Finally, thank you to everyone who bought Ashbar – Wycaan Master Bk. 3, which celebrates its 10th day in publication!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and the sequel The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 is the third in the series, released in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

The Journey Just Gets Better

It has been quite a week with the release of Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3. I am feeling slightly stunned by the closure of the first trilogy. Like At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, Ashbar is a self contained story as well as the third in a series.

Ashbar front cover

There is a lot of closure, though not enough to stop the next trilogy from beginning, and I feel a certain sense of forlorn, perhaps as a parent feels when their children leave the nest.  I know the remedy to this – plunge into writing the next book. As the wise saying goes: “One trilogy closes, another opens.

Thank you to everyone who bought Ashbar over the weekend and enabled it to pick up a credible ranking. Please let me know what you thought of it, once read, and leave a review on Amazon. I am surprised at how important these reviews are in terms of trackable purchasing actions and sales ranks. If you have not yet bought it, please invest the $2.99 this week, to help move it to a higher ranking.

I just want to take a moment and thank the incredible support team behind me.

Monica Buntin is my editor. I send her a jumble of about 100,000 words and she makes sense of them. I once had the audacity to tell her that I was sending a pretty clean manuscript. She had the good manners not to respond to that comment, but that didn’t deter her from cutting about 10% of the book and offering (correct) critique on every page.

Oh well. I learned my lesson. Editors are an eclectic breed and I have written about them before. They need authors or they will have nothing to edit and yet have to, I am sure, tolerate an awful lot of ego. When an author finds a good editor and one who clicks with them, they have a rare asset and would do well to keep them.

William J. Kenny, a fantasy author in his own right, designed the covers for all three of the Wycaan Master books. One day, I would like him to reveal the creative process in depth. For now, I am content to consider it magical. I send him a couple of paragraphs with my ideas and he sends me a crude image. He takes my response and produces such a complete picture. I am really in awe of him. If I could draw anything better than deformed stick people, I would love to give the process a go.

Then there is Jeny Reulo from FastFingers Book Formatting Services,  who designs and formats the interior of the books. Her willingness to make changes and attention to detail is amazing. The interior design of a book, if done well, does not garner any attention, but it is a crucial element in the reader’s experience. The interior designers are often the unsung heroes of the expedition into producing a book.

Finally, a big appreciation for my wife Ariela. I am sure she releases a big sigh of relief on the day that I finish writing a manuscript and probably an even bigger sigh of exasperation when, the following week, I begin writing the next book! My absences, both physical and mental, create a void she needs to fill, and she does it with grace and understanding.

This series began as a fun, family project, deep in a redwood forest. My sons were a part of this strange journey, from the prologue in Chapter 1 of At The Walls Of Galbrieth, to the final climax in Ashbar. Earlier this summer I read them a rough first draft of Book 4, and, four years on, it remains an integral part of what I hope and believe is a powerful journey we will share in our memories forever.

This is how it all began - deep in a redwood forest.

Where it all began – deep in a redwood forest.

It really doesn’t get any better than that. Once again, thank you to all who buy, read and review the Wycaan Master series. Your time is precious, the options of good books to read vast, and I am honored that you choose to open and read my books.

Thank you for sharing in the journey of the Wycaan Masters.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and the sequel The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 is the third in the series, released in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).