There are no new ideas, really. But we do take things in our experience and make them our own by changing or tweaking a little here or there.
In the process of editing The Thirteenth Hour, I tried to reverse engineer where the various ideas making up the book came from (or contributed in some way, served as inspiration, or broadened my horizons). This first in a series of several posts will look at what I came up with so far. I’ve included links to goodreads and other sites where appropriate:
I read a lot as a kid, and while I always wanted to like fantasy books became they had cool covers, I always had trouble getting into them – the obscure name with a zillion consonants, the fact they they often just plopped you in the middle with little to no explanation of the backstory, the fact that it was usually impossible to find the first book in the series, leading you to have to to figure it out on your own, etc). Some of those gripes are a thing of the past given you can find pretty much anything on the internet, but at the time, it was frustrating. So I found myself gravitating to the ones that weren’t necessarily pure fantasy, were a little more user-friendly, and ideally, didn’t necessarily take themselves too seriously. I’ve also listed some picture books, non-fantasy novels, and comics that I grew up reading that influenced the art and writing style in The Thirteenth Hour.
–The Neverending Story by Michael Ende – probably the first fantasy style novel that I was able to successfully read. The hardcover edition I read was printed in red and green text depending on which character’s story it was, which influenced me to do something similar with the text of The Thirteenth Hour. I was about nine when I read it, and remember feeling very proud after finishing it – not only was it over 400 pages long, it was housed in the adult part of the library. But it was also a book for grown ups that had pictures (the beginning of each chapter was adorned with a montage-style picture of the chapter’s contents), which blew my mind at the time, and has forever biased me to novels that also have illustrations. It was also one of the many stories of the time that used the guise of a young protagonist getting sucked into the world of a story to advance the plot).
–The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – my mother started reading this story to my brother and I when I was about twelve or so. I ended up finishing the rest of the series on my own and always enjoyed the irreverent, dry humor of the book, which probably influenced the narrative of The Thirteenth Hour in some underlying ways).
–Lost in Place by Mark Salzman – a memoir, actually, of author Mark Salzman’s childhood. Probably one of my favorite books of all time because of the irreverent, honest writing style. I read it as a teenager and particularly delighted at his descriptions of his martial arts training and his youthful obsessions to be an astronaut and kung fu monk, all of which I could relate to. The writing style probably influenced me giving Logan from The Thirteenth Hour a similar voice).
–The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier – I think I had to read this book in the sixth? grade. I remember it being hilarious, and although it’s a product of the times (written in the 60s with lots of period slang throughout), that didn’t really seem to matter. It’s a funny story, and the part I recall most fondly is the narrator, who’s a twelve year old but has the perspective of an adult. Like the proceeding books on this list, the style influenced the first-person narrated sections of The Thirteenth Hour.
–Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien – I think this was another one we had to read for school, but like The Teddy Bear Habit, it was a good choice. This book also used the premise of a parallel world operating right under our noses (in this case, one of animals), which was (apparently) a common theme of a lot of stuff I liked then. Like all those works, that idea probably influenced the creation of the world of dreams in The Thirteenth Hour.
–Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman – a wonderfully illustrated and written version of the St. George tale. We had a bunch of books illustrated by Ms. Hyman (see below for another example) when I was growing up, and the artwork probably influenced how I drew some of the scenes in The Thirteenth Hour.
–Swan Lake by Margot Fonteyn/Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman – see above.
–Bone comics by Jeff Smith – my brother had a few magazines when he was a kid (I think they were called Disney Adventures) that had a serialized version of the first few parts of this comic. I later checked out a few volumes from the local library but never actually got around to finishing the rest of the story (it’s on my to do list). But I really enjoyed the inked black and white art, probably one of the influencing factors behind the stylized, semi-cartoony look I gave the characters in The Thirteenth Hour. Plus, this was the probably first time I’d seem a fantasy comic done in a graphic novel form. I flirted with the idea of making The Thirteenth Hour into a comic, and even had some comic-esque scenes that I drew, but in the end shelved those for another day. I think the only one that made it into the book was a frame where Logan is telling Aurora to run (and you can see the word bubble).
–Archie comics – my brother also had a ton of Archie comics which I’d occasionally read. I don’t recall the stories being terribly engaging (except for one where Archie meets the Punisher – see the link!), but I did like the stylized way the characters were drawn. I even tried tracing, then copying, a few to get the hang of drawing cartoons. (I remember having a lot of trouble with eyes and noses and found it easier to make them look acceptable the way they were drawn in these comics rather than in a more photo-realistic way). So, like Bone above, it influenced the art in The Thirteenth Hour.
Speaking of art, it took years, but I finally figured out that although fantasy novels were always a kind of plus minus experience for me, with a few key exceptions, what I really liked were the covers. In other words – fantasy art. There, it was all spelled out, so to speak – the entire story in one picture. If you, too, enjoy pictures of surreal landscapes, dragons, and the like, check out the great fantasy art on deviantart. The Thirteenth Hour has its own page there.
In the next post, I’ll transition entirely to visual media with movies and television programs that influenced The Thirteenth Hour.
-Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpcIUpwTiFY
-Free itunes podcast of the book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-thirteenth-hour-audio/id955932074
-Read free excerpts at https://medium.com/@13thhr/in-the-army-now-852af0d0afc0 and the book’s amazon site.