Prof brings fantasy to life in books
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 27 October 2012 08:32
By day, James Pfundstein is a mild-mannered lecturer in the department of Romance and Classical Studies at Bowling Green State University.
|Author James Pfundstein holds one of his fantasy fiction titles 'This Crooked Way' in his office at BGSU. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
But by night - and other times - Pfundstein becomes James Enge, fantasy novelist.
Pfundstein, under the Enge pen name, is currently crafting his fifth novel for fantasy and science fiction publisher Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books.
His novels, beginning with 2009's "Blood of Ambrose" and continuing with "This Crooked Way," "The Wolf House" and "A Guile of Dragons," largely involve his sorcerous main character, Morlock Ambrosius, a flawed but tricky sort of fellow.
"The character, Morlock, that most of my published fiction has been about, he sort of emerged from this big stupid book I was writing in high school. He was a minor character that showed up and started causing trouble."
While that book didn't go anywhere, the character remained, and as Pfundstein began writing short stories for publication in the mid-2000s, Morlock emerged again in his first published work.
"I didn't get published until very late in life," Pfundstein admitted.
Early exposure to the work of fantasists like "Lord of the Rings" author J. R. R. Tolkien set Pfundstein on his current path.
"I'd been reading mythology and stuff like that. I was always into that as a kid," he said.
"But it was Tolkien that, because he wrote an introduction to his books and explained the reasons for writing it, and I realized that books were written by people and I wanted to write" a book like that.
At the age of 9 or 10, he then set out to write his own five-volume epic fantasy, and got about 15 pages into it before stopping. But he kept writing.
His muse, more often than not, is music.
"You know, frequently it's listening to music," Pfundstein said of his inspiration, whether while walking or biking, or simply relaxing at home. The music will help him conjure an image "and it's stuff like that that's the core of a story. Or nightmares. Nightmares frequently turn out to be a good germ for a story."
He noted that in his second novel, "This Crooked Way," a section of the book taking place in a creepy woods emerged from a dream featuring a forest with a lurking creature.
"The next step is mostly daydreaming. I think about how people would have gotten in that crazy situation, what they would do because they're stuck in that crazy situation."
"And, once I do, I don't like to start writing until I have a sense of how the story's going to end."
Pfundstein is keenly aware of how greatly the publishing industry has changed, even in the eight years since he's been publishing his work. He had originally thought that the natural progression was to first write short stories, and then get a novel published.
"It has long since ceased to work that way," he said, noting that book contracts are much easier to get than publications in magazines due to the shrinking markets for short fiction.
"Even once I finished that ('Blood of Ambrose'), it lay on publishers desks for a couple of years without being read, I think, until I got an agent. And once I got an agent I had a publishing contract within a few weeks."
"If I had been going back to give myself advice in the 1980s, I would tell my younger self to work on novels rather than short stories and to get an agent as soon as possible."
However, "the rules are changing to fast. Even a few years ago, to self-publish, like through Kindle or an e-text online, you could do it but no one would pay the slightest attention to it." Not so now, he said. The e-publishing world has become quite lucrative. However, there is something to be said for the old way.
"I don't recommend (e-publishing) because editors and agents enrich a text so much and ask questions you wouldn't think to ask."
"I think by the time my kids are my age, publishing will be entirely different than it is now. And e-text has a lot to do with that."
For writers starting out, Pfundstein said one indispensable asset is having someone who will read your work and give it good feedback - and whose opinion you trust.
"It's just so handy to have someone else who you trust to give you feedback on your story."
Pfundstein will be signing his works Nov. 3 at Books-A-Million at Levis Commons, beginning at 2 p.m.