Archive for March, 2008

I am NOT Brian Jacques
March 18, 2008

Hey Folks!
As the title of this blog alludes, I get lots of queries as to whether or not I was influenced by, or am familiar with the Redwall series by Brian Jaques.

The simple answer to that question is: Yes and No.

While I am familiar with Mr. Jaques’ titles, and the cover art adorning his books, I am wholly UN-familiar with the contents of his books, beyond some surface research I have done for the sake of comparison. I read one chapter of one of his books, then put it down so as to DELIBERATELY NOT write in any style that would be construed as being influenced by his body of work.

Since the genre in which I am writing and illustrating is similar to Brian Jaques work, I wanted to steer clear of being interpreted as a “copy cat” or a “Brian Jaques, Jr.” Not that the comparsison is not flattering, as his work is so prolific and wide-spread, with millions of avid readers, but when an author/artist creates something, he loathes the idea or notion that his “original” work is a copy of someone else’s. Hence my cognitive distancing of myself from Mr. Jaques’ books. To be frank, I have never read a single one of Brian Jacques’ books, in order to maintain my creative integrity on Tam O’Hare.

Here are some of the differences between Redwall and Tam O’Hare, as I see them…

1) Redwall is set in an almost medieval-like fantasy realm – albeit, very British in tone; i.e.: accents, dialects, etc.

Tam O’Hare is set in “real” history – England, Ireland and Scotland of the mid-sixteenth century, with actual historical nameplaces and geography. I have also incorporated the use of Gaelic phrases, as well as lots of nautical terms for the ships and sea battles.

2) Redwall’s characters are all fictional creations of Brian Jaques’ mind.

While Tam O’Hare, Horatio MacNutt and some of the other characters are all ficticious creations of mine, they are surrounded with, and interact with real historical characters – albeit fictionalized within their historical contexts – such as: Elizabeth I of England; Mary Stewart, Queen of the Scots; James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell; John Knox and several others.

3) Character names in the Redwall series. A recent 2002 release by Brian Jaques was entitled, Rackkety Tam, picturing a kilt-adorned, sword-weilding squirrel on the cover of the book.

Tam O’Hare is a character created by me in 1998, complete with a green bonnet, sword (a variation on the circa 1520 Venetian Serenissima Rapier), and a Scottish plaid mantle. The doublet Tam O’Hare is wearing was loosly based on the doublet worn by Charles I of England (from a painting done by Daniel Mytens in 1631 – about 50 years too late in fashion, but modified for my usage). All that to say that Tam O’Hare, while costumed by historical reference, is quite original. Oh, and his name was inspired by the old Scottish legend, Tam Lyn. and Rabby Burns’s, Tam O’Shanter.

4) Brian Jaques incorporates British dialects in hs characterizations, recognizable as haling from certain geographic locales in Great Britain.

Tam O’Hare is an Irish Lord of the 16th century, and the vocal patterns I write for him are very refined, with a smack of Irish turn-of-phrase. The pirate racoons in the book are written with what has come to be thought of as “pirate slang,” such as “…a ship the likes o’ ours, what is engaged in the buisness o’ piratin’…” or: “Cap’n sez, ye’re to stay in yer cabin! And we’re here t’make sure ye stays!” Pirate speak. heh.

5) The genre of Redwall is anthropomorphized – the ascribing of human form or attributes to animals.

This is a similarity between my work and Jaques’ work. Both stories are anthropomorphized – much like Micky Mouse, Disney’s fox as Robin Hood, Fivel the Mouse, Ren and Stimpy, Bugs Bunny, Brian the Dog in Family Guy, etc… ad infinitum…

6) Revisiting #1 above with a slightly different detail, Redwall’s geographic locations are fictional, set in a fantasy realm of Brian Jaques’ creation.

Tam O’Hare is set in historically recognizable locations in England, Ireland and Scotland.

7) Redwall, as far as I can tell by book titles and cover art, and the little bit of research i have done, is a series of stories that does not have a recurring main character.

Tam O’Hare is the main charcter of what I intend to be a series of books – wholly dependent, of course, on the success and public reception of the first. Sorry to say, but no matter how creative a book may be, if it does not SELL WELL, the publisher will not continue to contract future books. The planned series will focus on the exploits of Lord Tam O’Hare of HareHenge castle, each tale revolving around his exploits and the paranormal aspects of Celtic mythology as experienced in 16th century Ireland.

So, as you can see, while there are similarities, the differences are vast.

I am honored to have the comparisons drawn, but at the same time, am more than eager to distance myself and my work from that of Mr. Jaques’, in that The Rollicking Adventures of Tam O’Hare is a thoroughly original creation of my own, and will hopefully create it’s own “coattails,” rather than ride on the success of others.

Your questions and comments are more than welcome.



A Little Tam O’Hare History…..
March 18, 2008

I was just writing to a friend, recounting the highlights of this process, and I wanted to share some of it here with you… if you can indulge me the length…

The Rollicking Adventures of Tam O’Hare has been a long time in the making – nine years, to be precise. I started the book in December of 1998 after telling the stories to my, then, six-year-old twin daughters. At the time, their mother was away from our home undergoing in-patient treatment for her alcoholism (much to her credit, she has been dry ever since, and is still in recovery). So I was spending lots of extra time with Abby and Bryn, wanting to assure them that I was there, and that they were secure, in light of the fact that their mom was gone from us for such an extended period of time. One of the things I did with regularity was read to my daughters, but then I started telling little tales to them at bedtime and while we were just hanging around the house. After making up a few stories of a medieval Scottish mouse, they wanted to see what he looked like, so we all lay down on the living room floor and started drawing pictures with markers.

When we first started drawing, Tam O’Hare wasn’t Tam O’Hare at all, he was originally William the Mouse, bekilted and very Scottish – I think I still have the original magic marker sketch of him in a box somewhere….

William the Mouse, in marker…

While playing with stick figures and sketches on that living room floor, William eventually evolved into a rabbit – an Irish rabbit named Tam O’Hare. (O’Hare = hare = rabbit… clever, eh…?) heh. Anyway, we were all laying on the living room floor, drawing pictures, and Tam just came out. He apparantly wanted to be born, and there was no denying him. The girls said they were “ok” with me changing William from a mouse into a rabbit. The Scottish-to-Irish thing had little affect on them, but it was a bit of a struggle for me to abandon my Welsh/Scot ancestry for Irish. But the girls liked the name change, so it stuck.

Bryn and Abby around the same time…

…and Bryn and Abby now…

Well, needless to say, I was inspired, and the very next day, I sat at my drawing table and painted the first picture of Tam and his young squirrel squire, Horatio MacNutt before even writing down a single word of the story. That original painting is now the picture that adorns the front cover of the book.

My girls have watched this process for most of their lives. The written book first was in it’s “finished” form around mid-2000. My opriginal intent was that it be a big picture book, with 26 paintings and a short story for kids. My agent submitted it to several publishers, withmost of the story intact, but only a few illustrations. Most of those publishers came back saying they loved the artwork, but the book was “too short for a chapter book; too long for a picture book,” and they told my agent to have me “realize the book one way or the other.”

About that same time, my mother was assaulted and shot in the chest by a former spouse. My mom lived through the ordeal, but the attempted murderer was a fugitive from the law for a year and two weeks. Due to that incident, I ended up shelving the book for quite some time. During the first few months after the shooting, I founded a company with a friend called, Citizen Observer, and established a nation-wide fugitive hunting website, with the attempted murderer as the first fugitive listing. The website gained a lot of notoriety, and eventually, America’s Most Wanted came to us and did a ten minute piece on the scumbag. They had two days filming with us, and even had actors portraying allof us! While it was very serious business, it was also quite a bit of excitement.

During this period, there was word on the street that attempted murderer was going to come and extract a little revenge on me, threatening my life and the lives of my family. At the same time, my wife became pregnant with our son, Sam. There were many nights I sat awake, all alone in the dark of my house, with my pregnant wife and children sleeping upstairs, and me with a loaded shotgun across my lap, and a handgun on the table next to me. Those were stress-filled days, and I kicked very heavily into my “father and protector” mode.

Twelve months and two weeks after the shooting, the fugitive was captured and arrested, and, due to his past record (of which none of us were aware prior to the shooting), he is now spending the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary.

Several months later, my marriage succumbed to divorce, and a year-and-a-half later, I was awarded sole custody of my three children.

When I picked Tam O’Hare up again, he was nearly a stranger to me. So I re-read my own book, and found how much of it was encoded messages about my self and my life. On the surface, it was a whimsical tale set against the backdrop of 16th century England, Ireland and Scotland, but on a much deeper level, it was about the “hidden” things of my own spirit; the elements of character I wanted to see in myself; the missing pieces of the past written in code – even to myself. Those things are still very hidden in the text, and will probably never be readily accessible to the casual reader. The more I re-read, the more I decided I needed to put a lot more meat on the bones of the story, itself. As a result, the book more than doubled in size to it’s present form of 32,000+ words and fourteen chapters.

I resubmitted he book to my agent – who had been patiently awaiting my return to the work – and he, in turn, resubmitted The Rollicking Adventures of Tam O’Hare to publishers. Months passed and we received a few more rejections. Among them were editors turning me down on the basis that Tam O’Hare was “too much like Brian JacquesRedwall series.” This really angered me at the time, as I knew very little about Mr. Jacques’ work. I bristled, creatively, at the implication that I was a “copy cat” of his work. I think I took my manuscript and threw it against the wall, and walked away from it for quite some time. I toyed with it from time to time, attempting to keep the idea alive, but never could get my teeth sunk back in.

About a year ago, my agent made another series of submissions with some very good responses, albeit, still rejections. Simon & Schuster’s imprint, Anthenium, was “very impressed,” but rejected it as not being within their genre, but that they’d be “very happy” to look at some of my other manuscripts (yeah, like I had a stash of other manuscripts in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet, or something). Still, it was encouraging.

In recent months, it was an old friend who brought my book to actual publication. He gave me my first job as an artist waaaaay back in my high school days in 1977, and we have remained friends over the last thirty years. In March, he took on representation of Tam O’Hare, and it was his connections that landed me my publishing contract a year ago. And now I am in the throes of book two in the Tam O’Hare series: Tam O’Hare and the Banshee of BallGlenMorrow.

Tam O’Hare has been a long journey for me, riding the tumult of riches to poverty, divorce, familial crisis, and many attempts by me to shelve it and move on to other things.

I am ever so glad I didn’t.

Thanks again, for all your support and encouragement. And to those of you who believed in me when no one else did… thank you.