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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Innate talent, creative new world

“I wrote about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth. The story was so good that my teacher could not believe that a ten-year-old could write that well. I was even punished because my teacher thought I'd lied about writing it! I had always loved to write, but it was then that I realized that I had a talent for it.” Brian Jacques

English writer Jacques, best known for his Redwall series of novels was born in Liverpool on this date in 1939 and started reading early, devouring everything from novels like Kidnapped to the Wind in the Willows books.  By age 10 his vivid imagination combined with his talent for poring over books about animals led to that writing experience (noted above) which defined his writing life.

The Redwall series, centered on the triumph of good over evil, features an intricate animal-based world, ranging from peaceful mice, badgers, voles, hares, moles and squirrels to “bad guy” rats, weasels, ferrets, snakes and stoats. He does not shy away from the reality of battle, and many of the "good" creatures die. The first book, just called Redwall, alludes to the surrounding human civilization with a scene featuring a horse-drawn cart. But the subsequent books ignore humans completely.  Redwall’s world portrays a society from the misty past with castles, bridges and ships built to the scale of forest creatures.  His animal “heroes” write their own literature, draw their own maps, and have a world most humans envy.                                                                       

Jacques’ books were among the earliest converted into audio versions, and he was deeply involved as the lead characters while enlisting his sons and others to voice his Redwall inhabitants, many based on people he has encountered.  “I am a people watcher and I have a very good memory,” he said.

For new writers, he says simply to start by writing what you know, live and dream, literally.  “Sometimes, I get ideas from dreams,” he said.  And,  “Often, my stories are based on adventures that I, or my friends, have actually lived.  Write yours, too.”

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