My writing influences: David Gibbins
David Gibbins, author of Pyramid and the thrilling Jack Howard adventure series, picks three things that have influenced his writing...
Posted on March 2, 2015 in Guest Author
Tags: David Gibbins
TV series – I grew up in the Black and White era – few of our friends in the 1960s in New Zealand and Canada had colour TVs, and we didn’t have a TV at all until I was 15, in 1977 (and then a black and white one). But that’s not to say that TV didn’t have a huge impact on my imagination when I was young. I saw the greatest TV show ever – we rented a TV to watch the moon landing live, on 20 July 1969. I was also totally mesmerised by the first episodes of Star Trek, so am one of the original Trekkies. I loved the interaction between Kirk and Spock (a friendship of opposites, like Aubrey and Maturin in Master and Commander: see below), and also the allegorical stories created by Gene Roddenberry that dealt with the pressing issues of the day, including human rights, racism and the Cold War. If I’m influenced by anything from TV, it’s that most famous of lines, split infinitive and all: to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Film – I’m hard-pressed to choose between Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander as the book or the film that has most influenced me, but I’ll opt for the latter. Peter Weir’s 2003 film is simply the best ever made, in my estimation (it was nominated for ten Oscars and should have won all of them, but it was a tough year, with the third Lord of the Rings pipping it to the post). I love the attention to authenticity in the film, right down to the correct model of Sea Service flintlock pistol for the date, 1808 – history is in the details, and without that I’d have lost interest. The greatest triumph of casting was Russell Crowe as the bluff Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as the intellectual ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin, who beautifully convey the nature of friendship. The Napoleonic Wars have always been one of the best canvases for adventure fiction, at a time when men in sailing ships fought the elements as much as the enemy. Above all I love the fact that Peter Weir kept true to O’Brien’s conception of his novels as a roman-fleuve – the story is an episode in a long, unending saga, about the voyage more than the destination, untainted by the tying up of loose ends and false denouments that diminish so much adventure fiction.
Book – I still have the tattered copy of The Lord of the Rings given to me by my uncle on my tenth birthday, in 1972. I’d read it four times by the time I went to university, and had a further reawakening when the brilliant Peter Jackson films came out two decades later – just as I was beginning to write my first novel. Like many others, I was bowled over by how close Peter Jackson’s vision was to my own, a testament not only to Jackson’s extraordinary skill in realising that vision for the screen but also to Tolkien’s enormous talent as a storyteller. Over the intervening years I’d become very interested in Tolkien’s academic life as a scholar of Norse saga and a philologist, and in the parts of England and Wales that most influenced his vision of Middle Earth – from the ‘Shire’ of the Welsh borders to the craggy peaks of Snowdonia, areas that were familiar to me from the periods when I lived in England as a child and later as a climber in North Wales. I could see Middle Earth in my surroundings, just as those listening to the sagas that so influenced Tolkien could imagine Beowulf or the Norse heroes coming alive in their day to day lives. Reading Tolkien had a big effect on my creative imagination and ability to transpose between real-life experience and a fictional world. More than anything else, it’s simply the greatest quest story ever told – a story of friendships and loyalties and the huge vicissitudes along the way – of life itself – that must influence anyone embarking on their own epic of the imagination.
Copyright © 2015 David Gibbins
Pyramid is out now in paperback and ebook!