I am South African by birth and a US immigrant. I now reside in southern California where I lecture English at the California State University of Long Beach. My interests include medieval literature, epic poetry, Anglo-Saxon England, Arthurian legend, and linguistics.
I became a writer only after I became an avid reader during my senior year of high school, right after I saw The Fellowship of the Ring film. That was my first encounter with fantasy, and I have been hooked ever since. Aside from a period of about two years when I focused on writing historical fiction, I have never wanted to write anything else. Even the poetry I wrote in creative writing classes as an undergrad was heavily influenced by my fantasy reading. I would classify myself, perhaps somewhat incorrectly, as a romanticist; I am certainly an archaist.
Many people who know me are surprised to learn that I love Franco-Belgian comics. Somehow, folks think that if you read epic poems for fun (as I do), you will necessarily stay well away from graphic novels. Not so. I like comics for the same reason I used to love playing RPG video games: I enjoy good storytelling. God struck down my Xbox 360, though, and since then I gave up the addiction I had battled for so long.
I am an enormous fan of Arsenal FC and of association football in general. In addition to following the Arsenal, I try to make it out to the LA Galaxy games whenever I can. I am also addicted to the gentlemanly game of cricket, and thanks to the internet I can now watch the sport regularly despite living in the US.
This is a list of my favourite authors and books, organized by genre. Many of these have influenced the kind of writer I am today, which is why I append these names to my biography.
There are three writers I should mention at the top, as their influence far outweighs all the rest:
William Shakespeare, the writer to whom all English-speaking writers look. Some of the most amazing language ever written in our tongue, and characters that stretch across time to touch us even in the twenty-first century.
J.R.R. Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings inspired me to become a writer in the first place. I thought to myself, if stories like that can be told, then I want to get in on the action.
George Orwell, a name perhaps out of place among the others on this list, but his powerful yet compact writing could serve as a model for many a long-winded author these days.
Stephen R. Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The writer and series that taught me that not all fantasy has to be like Tolkien’s and that heroes can be even more unlikeable than villains.
Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn Trilogy, Elantris: He writes some amazing and sweeping epics that just make my jaw hit the floor. His worlds are so rich, but of course his unique magic systems make him a class apart.
Mary Stewart, The Arthurian Saga: In my opinion, the best King Arthur novels on the market. It may be a sacrilege, but I think that these trump even Malory’s L’Morte d’Arthur.
Bernard Cornwell, The Warlord Chronicles: Perhaps the second-best Arthurian stories after Stewart’s above. A lot more visceral and less fantastical, as is Cornwell’s way.
Beowulf: It has dragons; it has monsters; it is the well-spring of inspiration for modern fantasy as much as (if not more so than) Tolkien’s work. I have read this book more than any other.
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene: If Tolkien is the father of fantasy, then Spenser must be its grandfather. The national epic of the English people is also a wild ride through every single fantasy cliché plaguing the market (inventing some along the way), but unlike its poorer contemporary brethren, this poem transcends.
Lord Byron, Don Juan: The funniest poem ever written, filled with turns of phrase so fresh you’d almost think the guy invented the English language.