A few weeks ago I promised that I would share my experience of meeting legendary author Terry Brooks at Supanova on the Gold Coast. Well, here we go! Terry gave me some great advice which I’m sure will stand me in good stead as an author. It was an important moment for me and I’m thrilled to share it with you.
I was full of nerves as I approached the table. Brooks is among the first big-name fantasy authors after Tolkien. People mention him in the same breath as Ursula K LeGuin and Lloyd Alexander. He’s written about 40 books. His Shannara series has been adapted for TV and his Magic Kingdom series has been optioned for a film by Warner Bros. Heck, he worked with George Lucas himself on the adaptation of The Phantom Menace and was partly responsible for the lore surrounding the Jedi and Sith. His writing had a big impact on me as a teen. I was meeting one of my heroes and a veteran of the industry, but I decided to be polite and not act like a fanboy. He probably gets that all the time.
He and his wife Judine were both at the table. The tension in my chest dissipated as they smiled and waved.
‘Hi, there!’ said Terry.
‘Hello! It’s great to meet you both,’ I said.
‘What’s your name?’
‘What have we got here, Julian?’ Terry took my book—I’d brought his memoir on writing. He and Judine exchanged a glance. ‘Sometimes the Magic Works?’
‘You’re the first person to ask Terry to sign this—for this trip, anyway,’ said Judine.
‘Oh, really?’ I said. ‘It’s the first book I ever read about writing, followed by Stephen King’s.’
Terry’s eyes twinkled. ‘The thing about me and Stephen is that we’re polar opposites. There’s an important difference between us, though.’ He leaned close. ‘I’m right, and he’s wrong.’
‘Are you a writer?’ he said.
‘Oh, well, yes actually…’ I hadn’t intended to give him a spiel but thought it would be rude not to answer properly. I rummaged around in my bag and pulled out one of my promotional post cards.
‘My first novel is coming out later this year. It’s an historical fantasy based on Greek myths.’
‘Oh really?’ he said. Maybe he was just being polite, but he seemed genuinely interested. ‘Is it just coming out in Australia, or will it be in the States too?’
‘It should be available world-wide.’
‘Oh, great! I’ll keep an eye out for it. But what you should really do, and I’m sure you’re doing it, is read lots of different books about writing and come up with your own ideas.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ I said. ‘I try and make the most of every learning opportunity.’
‘Good on you!’
I noticed there was a chapbook on the table. Street Freaks? What was this book? I had never heard of it.
He tracked my gaze and his eyes lit up. ‘Street Freaks! Now, this is my last chapbook, but I’ll let you have it if you prove you’re worthy.’
‘Oh, um, okay.’
He opened the chapbook to an illustration. ‘What do you notice about it?’
I blinked. It featured a young man climbing out a skyscraper window, a futuristic cityscape in the background. ‘It’s kind of similar to the poster for Ready Player One?’
‘Well, yes, it is. It isn’t gaming lit though. But what else do you notice about it? It’s science fiction!’
‘Aha! You’ve always wanted to write a science fiction novel, right?’
He nodded. ‘Right! I wanted to try it out. And I wanted to know what it was like to have total creative freedom and oversee every aspect of the publication process. The edits, design, marketing, the whole deal. It’s coming out through a small press later this year.’
‘Oh wow,’ I said. ‘I really admire the fact that an author as advanced in his career as you are is trying something different.’
He grinned and grabbed my shoulder. ‘I’ll give you some advice that you should keep in mind throughout your career as an author. If you have an idea, and it scares you because it’s different, that means you should go for it. Because you never want to lose that creative energy, that spark, and if you just do the same thing over and over, it’ll die out.’
‘That’s good advice. Thank-you.’ Oh what the hell, I can be a little bit of a fanboy… ‘Look, um, it’s such an honour to meet you. I read The Sword of Shannara when I was fifteen, and I loved your books as a kid.’
Judine smiled. ‘That couldn’t have been that long ago, surely?’
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Well, half a lifetime ago.’
Terry’s eyebrows raised. ‘No! Really? You are not in your thirties?’
I shrug. ‘I, ah, hope it means I’ll age like Clooney.’
They chuckled, and he signed my book. ‘All right, you’ve proven yourself. The chapbook’s yours, but can you do me a favour?’
‘I’d like you to read it, and let people know what you think of it—on your blog, your Facebook page, whatever you got. Will you do that for me?’
And then I stammered my thanks and quietly slipped away from the table so he could talk to the next reader.
I read the first couple of chapters of Street Freaks that night. It’s a YA thriller set in a dystopian cyberpunk future. Here’s the blurb!
It begins with a dire call-right before his father disappears and his skyscraper home’s doors explode inward. It is the kind of thrilling futuristic story only Terry Brooks can tell.
“Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks,” his father directs Ashton Collins before the vid feed goes suddenly silent. The Red Zone is the dangerous heart of mega-city Los Angeles; it is a world Ash is forbidden from and one he knows little about. But if he can find Street Freaks, the strangest of aid awaits—human and barely human alike. As Ash is hunted, he must unravel the mystery left behind by his father and discover his role in this new world.
The writing whizzes like a bullet from a gun. It’s a definite departure for Terry Brooks, who normally eases the reader into the story. This one grabs you and doesn’t let you go. It sets up a mystery which hooks you with the first line. In spare prose, he conjures the setting of an LA whose air is poison and where androids hunt down the innocent. It promises to be a really fun read. It comes out in October 2018 and I can’t wait to see what happens next—I really can’t pay a higher compliment to a story-teller.
Until next time,
P.S. Sign up to my free monthly newsletter for news and previews, as well as an exclusive prologue chapter to the Ashes of Olympus series! In the meantime, check out the image below for a sneak peak at one of the illustrations by Matt Wolf… The Way Home will be released July 31, 2018.