I have mentioned before that I was (am) a bit of an animal nut and you have probably already noticed that this is reflected in the books that I read.
One of my favourite series was Redwall by the late, great Brian Jaques who still remains on my top ten list of favourite authors even though I haven’t picked up a Redwall book in years.
I loved the epic adventures that the animals in the books went on – it was the beginning of my love affair with epic fantasy in general – I loved the travelling, the landscapes, the battles and the vastness of the world they were in. I had quite a long walk to school and I would often imagine I was off on a Redwall adventure as I walked, lost in the adventure of being a character off on a mission with my supplies and weapons in hand. I had two favourite characters I had created for myself – first there was ‘Chestnut’ the Squirrel who carried a bow and arrow and, obviously, had a thing for climbing trees, but I soon settled on being ‘Nightshade’ the polecat (heavily inspired by the characters and storyline of Outcast of Redwall). I carried on roleplaying my Nightshade character for years – probably until I was about twenty – not just when I was walking, but when I was cooking or anything else that let me wander off into my own head. She has a complete backstory, friends, enemies and all sorts of adventures under her belt and I still hold quite a lot of affection for her even though I (finally) seem to have left her behind me.
It was Redwall that truly inspired my first forages into fan fiction, although at the time I didn’t even know that ‘fan fiction’ was a thing. I tried to write my own Redwall stories using some of Brian Jaques’ characters and some of my own creation and then after a while I just wrote stories of my own starring animals in the style of Redwall but in a world of my own. I seem to remember printing one such ‘book’ out on the computer after spending hours manipulating clip art into it for illustrations.
One of the things anyone who has ever read a Redwall novel remembers is the food. Every single novel in the series involves feasting and food of such epic proportions, described so fantastically you could see it, smell it and practically taste it – I have never come across anything like it in any book since.
I once wrote to Brian Jaques, he is still the only author I have ever sat down and written to outside of competitions and the like. I did get a reply but not from him – he was too ill to reply personally but the response I had was on signed paper and acknowledged what I had written on his behalf. He died not too long afterwards and I think that was one of the first author deaths I ever truly grieved because I had taken so much from him and the knowledge that he was gone hurt me greatly.
I have many memories of spending book vouchers on his books in the local bookshop, I had a list of all the books I had already got and borrowed from the library so I didn’t duplicate anything. I am fairly sure, I still have one somewhere on a bookshelf that I acquired from an ex-boyfriend during college. I should probably ask him if he wants that back…