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Monday, January 14, 2013

GUEST POST: Inner Selves, and Writing What You Know by David Hair

I work in financial services. I also write fantasy books. Most people I meet express some kind of surprise at this apparent dichotomy, apart from an Australian winemaker who told me that he thought it completely normal and that his financial planner probably wrote fantasy too. It was soon after the Global Financial Crisis (the 'GFC' to us industry types) and his shares had just halved in value.

Two things: First up, none of us can be defined solely by the work we do. Sure, it's important, and for some, it consume almost all of our lives. But every office worker, every builder, every shop-assistant, every manager and every labourer, has something else inside them that probably means as much or more to them than how they earn a living. Finding the space and time to draw that other person out of ourselves is often what brings us the most happiness. My nephew is a builder's apprentice, but what he loves is to play the guitar. My best friend has been Sales and Marketing head for various organisations but what he loves is to go surfing. Inside we're all a mess of competing dreams and aspirations. No surprises that the world is too.

For myself, apart from the pipe-dream of being a professional footballer (I had the sense to give up on that one very early on), it's been writing. I've taken too long about acting on it, and am trying to make up for lost time now (nine books published 2009-2012). I nurtured the dream quietly, did some courses, and also got ready just by learning more about life by living it. Eventually circumstances and my own willingness to give it a proper go aligned. Best thing I've ever done.

Second thing: Writers are often told "write what you know". Most of my writing I've drawn from my studies (history, classical studies and a bit of politics and anthropology). A Catholic upbringing had input too. Travel, certainly. I did the Kiwi OE (overseas experience), like many young New Zealanders perched on the far side of the world from where all the action is. But also, for 25 years plus, I worked primarily in financial services.

What did that teach me? That there is a price for everything. That anything can be bought and sold. That the general public don't understand money, and that clever people can exploit that. That "extracting value from the consumer base" can mean a lot of things, few of them good for said consumers. That millions of little 'victimless' scams can result in everyone paying just a little more, most of which goes into the pockets of a few. I grew up believing that society is moved by ideas and beliefs but soon learned that "follow the money" is a truer message on how the world works. That's not to say I worked with criminals - hand on heart I had faith in the integrity of almost everyone I worked with. The problems of capitalism are primarily systemic. They're about the remorseless 'extraction of value'.

That's why my book 'Mage's Blood' starts with what is effectively an executives meeting. I've been to a few (generally to explain my product line's sales figures or a new campaign). I imagined them as similar to the sort of managerial get-together that Hitler might have called before invading Poland, or commencing the 'Final Solution'. Or Stalin before launching another purge. Dark Lords don't have to wear hooded cloaks. They can look like someone's kindly uncle. Or aunt. They can have senses of humour and endearing quirks. But they can still destroy millions of lives.

Humans are scarier than make-believe monsters anyway!

AUTHOR INFORMATION: David Hair is an award-winning writer with two YA fiction series, The Aotearoa (set in New Zealand), and The Return of Ravana (based upon the Indian epic The Ramayana). He likes mythology and history, both of which he studied at the university level. Mage’s Blood, his first work of adult fantasy, is the first in his brand new quartet which draws upon both these subjects. He was raised in New Zealand, and after living in Britain and India and travelling the world, he now lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Official Author Website
Order Mage's Blood HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Mage's Blood
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with David Hair


Cora Foerstner said...

Enjoyed your post. In my teaching days, I told my students, "Literature tells us what it means to be human." Your post is a good reminder that writers learn from life, and they transform their knowledge into stories.

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