This was before the movies came out. Sort of. I remember standing in a Radio Shack with my best friend and a teaser trailer for Fellowship came on one of the iMacs, featuring a spinning ring and flames and the full title of the movie with a distant release date. My friend got excited and told me about this fantasy book series, which he pitched as the books every fantasy trope came from. Forest-dwelling archer elves and short stocky axe-swingin’ dwarves and brutish orcs and all that jazz, it all started with Tolkien (more or less).
This intrigued me, as someone who was always drawn to “original” settings. Such settings often came from video games like Final Fantasy VII/VIII and their unique blend of sci fi and fantasy elements. And while LOTR was never “new” (I had seen my fair share of elves and orcs and dwarves in other places), I loved the thought that one guy made it all up and that it was so unique everyone couldn’t help but shamelessly rip it off.
So I dug into the books, and with each movie release I couldn’t believe how perfect they were. There was every opportunity for them to go horribly wrong, but they were epic and heartfelt and wonderful, almost moreso than the books. And my love of those stories got me writing (fantasy, mostly). I wanted to create, just like Tolkien did. But I didn’t want to recreate Tolkien, like so many other fantasy authors. I wanted to do something new. I still do.
This is why I experiment so much with wildly different styles and settings and influences. I can’t just do a Western, it also has to be a fantasy with noir elements. I can’t just do a second-world high fantasy, it has to be inspired by the Victorian era and the Golden Age of Piracy. I can’t just write a cyberpunk mercenary with robo eyes, he also has to be a war vet with PTSD and who hates anything digital. I think I’ve toned things down a lot lately, really getting into the essentials of characters, settings, and plot, rather than needing big, epic stories and genre-defying style.
What I’m getting at is that Lord of the Rings was one of the big reasons I became a writer. The need to create something new. To tell stories instead of just digest them. I know it’s not a very unique influence, particularly if I ever publish fantasy, but I’ll always love Tolkien for making me believe that one person could make a world.