Interview session with ‘Awakening’ author M. R. Reynolds

Author M. R. Reynolds’ life is full of poetry. The fantasy and science fiction stories of authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen R. Donaldson have accompanied him since early childhood. Among other things, they inspired the musician and poet to write his own songs, poetrys and plays. His career as a teacher of Music, English and Drama allowed his enthusiasm to be shared with his students. Now in retirement, it was time for him to write his first book. In ‘Awakening’ he writes down a story that originated in his mind more than fifteen years ago. In an interview with us, M. R. Reynolds reveals how much of his personal life has gone into his novels and the ups and downs he has experienced while writing.

Has Fantasy Fiction always been a big thing for you?

Yes, it has. I read constantly as a child and like many of my generation I was thrilled by the imaginary worlds created by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne and others and I often visited the library twice a week after school. As I grew, I started to read Science Fiction too, particularly Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert and Kurt Vonnegut. As an adult I discovered Stephen R. Donaldson, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Sherri S. Tepper, and many more. My bookcases heave with books, which hopefully I will re-read in the coming years. Writing myself seemed the logical step. I wrote plays and poetry whilst at school, and two musicals, before heading off to University. I suppose I never stopped writing, although through out the years it has mainly been for children to perform since I worked in education.

So how did ‘Awakening’ come about?

I started what became ‘Awakening’ over fifteen years ago, when the stresses and the strains of education became too much and so I needed an outlet. The germ of an idea had started long before that, a man thrust backwards and forwards between two completely different worlds, and I wrote the synopsis and more than half of the book before the duties of a new job took over and it was shelved for nearly eight years. When I came back to it, I finished it without having to change anything but a few details and then I simply carried on. The original synopsis expanded somewhat as the initial plans developed, but it followed pretty much what I had laid out all those years before. Now of course ‘Awakening’ is Book One of a series of six.

Is the whole series written and ready to go?

Yes, books two to six are all done, and I am happy with them. I have now started on a second series which follows on from the first, after a gap of three years in our world, but much longer in Taleth.

Has writing ‘Awakening’ and the other books in the series been difficult?

The answer is yes and no. Some sections have flowed very nicely and have been very pleasurable to develop. Often these have been sections where the characters interact with each other and there is a constant flow of conversation. The characters became very real to me and sometimes I simply let them talk as if they were taking control of their own story. On other occasions it has been hard to satisfy myself that I have got something exactly how I want it. There are several sections which underwent three or four revisions before I was happy. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t enjoyed the whole process because I have immensely. When you invest so much time and energy into something it takes over your life, so you need to be emotionally invested in it or it won’t work.

Are any of the characters in the book based upon people you have met or even yourself?

I suppose there are aspects of all of the characters that I have drawn from real people, mainly because I wanted to make the characters as believable as possible, but none of them are based on a single individual. Sorin often comes across as a grumpy old man, so perhaps there is some of me in him, but not too much, I hope. Michael himself also reflects some aspects of my personality and there are a few of his memories which are mine, but these are few and far between. Most of the characters are a combination of people I know or have worked with or in some cases taught.

Does the Title of the book have any special significance?

Within the context of the whole series it does. Michael’s journey is one of searching for redemption and his awakening from his coma is the beginning of his awakening to the man he has the potential to be. We are all faced with choices in life, sometimes we make the right ones sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we make the right choices for all the wrong reasons, life is complicated and just occasionally an event occurs which causes us to wake up and re-evaluate our whole life. That is what happens to Michael and although initially he has no control over what happens, he gradually realises that he is finding new strength within himself, strength he had no idea he possessed.

Did you have to create a detailed history of Taleth and its people before you wrote ‘Awakening’?

I certainly wrote the creation story which Sorin relates to Michael at the same time as writing the synopsis. I also developed a set of calendars for four of the five races, which although dates may not seem significant within the early books become more relevant as the story unfolds. I also wrote a long list of names for each of the races, so that I could try and maintain a consistency to the different groups. The languages are by no means complete, but I did set out a bank of words for the Antaldi, the Nare and the Tsarg because that was what I would need to use first.

You have included several songs in the book and many of the prophecies are lyrical in content, was that intentional?

Yes, definitely. In our society the spoken word seems to have fallen behind digital communication and although we can talk at length on the phone, we have a world filled with distractions of all kind, so expression is at a minimum. In Taleth songs, tales and the words of the Seers are the oral history of the people, just as was the case in our own history. I have always liked the idea that people would hear news through a singer on a street corner, or a storyteller in the marketplace. It seemed natural to me that the characters would sing or declaim some epic tale as they sat around the fire in the evening. In any case I like writing them so its going to come out in the books.

Sorin is vegetarian and this seems to apply to the Seers too, is that deliberate?

Yes, absolutely. I have been a vegetarian for over thirty years and vegan for the last three. How someone lives is their own choice, it is not for me to judge. It just seemed logical to have the Majann, Sorin and Vitta, live by the rule that all life is sacred, and blood must only be shed as a last resort. It also gave me the chance to give Sorin terrible guilt when he recalls all the lives he has taken. The concept of a righteous war, the justification for so many deaths, has always fascinated me from a philosophical point of view. If faced with the choice how many of us can say taking up arms would be an easy option or stick to determination to remain pacifist. I wanted Sorin and the others to be faced with this kind of dilemma, even though some of them only come to it as they survey the battlefield once the fighting has ceased.

Do you have plans to write any other books, ones not attached to the series that begins with ‘Awakening’?

Yes, I hope so. I have the synopsis of a completely separate Fantasy adventure sitting waiting to be worked on. I also have several plays which I hope to do something with in the next year. There is also the outline of a more serious novel which keeps nagging at me to bring back to the front of my mind. I will also try to put together a collection of the poems I have written over the years, many of which were written for children to read aloud.

Thank you for the interview.

Title: ‘Awakening’
Author: M. R. Reynolds
Plot: Michael Oakes thought that his life had ended. But he had not died. Instead he woke up in two different worlds and with two different identities Michael Oakes and Mikael Dal Oaken. His old world that was filled with anger and guilt, and a new world, Taleth, that was dangerously exciting, that rippled with hidden power, a world of sword wielding warriors and hideous monsters and yet a world with great beauty. Beset by enemies in both worlds, Michael embarks on two journeys, while switching between the two worlds. In Taleth, he must fight to survive, for the Corruptor is aware of him, and has named him for his own. If Michael is to fulfil his true destiny, he, and the spirit of Mikael Dal Oaken who now lives within him, must first uncover the great mystery surrounding the Wolves of Taleth.

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About the author

M.R. Reynolds was born in the 1950’s and raised in the heart of England. He proceeded to endure the rigours of the Catholic education system. Inspired by his parents and two influential teachers, he developed a love of literature, drama and music. M.R. studied the piano, the clarinet and wallowed in Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, and Tolkien. He began to compose songs, write poetry and plays; something that he has not quite managed to give up. The author went to University in Manchester and trained as a teacher teaching Music, English and Drama. Forty years later, he retired. M.R. has written many plays and musicals for young people to perform, as yet unpublished. He began to write seriously in the latter years of his teaching and this now takes over most of his time. He still finds time to watch live music from a wide range of genres, from Classical to Goth and Metal, he also enjoys visiting his family, the theatre, and the cinema.