Folding Life into a Story

March 1, 2007 | By More

 

Russellville’s John Montgomery will soon see the dreams of his youth come to fruition with the publication of his first fantasy novel, The Fall of Daoradh, due to be released later this month by iUniverse. What began as an assignment in an English writing class in the spring of 1981 has emerged as the printed tale of a young man’s search for his missing father and the ultimate release of great evil upon his world.

“Six years ago, my life felt a little like an endless series of epic battles. My son had been afflicted with severe scoliosis and had to have his backbones fused together and metal rods placed in his back,” recalled Montgomery.

A number of other family situations, including the aftermath of the fall of the World Trade Center, had a profound effect on the local author.

“September 11 (2001) had shocked the nation and the repercussions had devastated our business, forcing my wife Bobbi and I to let go of a great group of employees that had become good friends,” he added. “I had to get a second job to try to make ends meet. It suddenly seemed like the world had turned against us — viciously.”

“I had started the book in my college Advanced Composition class in the spring of 1981, and I got an ‘itch’ to revisit it, to encase myself in the emotions it invoked.

“I wasn’t sure if I could even place my hands on those original manuscripts, many of which were longhand in an old spiral bound notebook, but after some effort, I did indeed find them,” remembered Montgomery.

He set about transcribing the tale into computer word format, pausing now and again to reread his college professor’s words of encouragement.

“In times like that your upbringing really comes home to roost. ‘Can’t is next to cussing,’ my father was apt to say whenever things looked dreary. This had a tendency to make me set my jaw when I was growing up, as his axiom didn’t leave much room for complaining, and most complaining seemed to boil down as another way to say ‘I can’t’ do something.”

“As I often do when things get toughest, I got quiet, introspective and sought solitude in which to count my blessings. It took about a year of that to get through the roughest parts and toward the end, I found myself recalling my carefree college life, particularly a book I had started called The Fall of Daoradh.

“My professor, Dr. Johnny Wink, had been one of those people in my life, like my father, who made you believe you were capable of doing whatever you set your mind to. But, I had struggled to complete the story in the early 80’s, feeling as if I didn’t have the motivations for the characters, the sense of what they were going through.

“In my defense, I was 19 years old when I wrote the first two chapters, and the story had garnered a life of its own in directions that a 19 year old just doesn’t know about,” said Montgomery.

As he reread the story (as a 43 year old with three children), Montgomery felt he could identify with the characters, and “felt a strong sensation that they had much more to tell.”

He began sitting down to the computer in the evenings, sometimes late into the night, pounding away at the keyboard as if “it just wasn’t working fast enough.”

“Then one night about 18 months ago, I hit the last key for the last letter on the last word of the last sentence,” he recalled.

“For the first time, I stopped and looked back over what I had done. Before me was an entire world, with maps and languages, characters and creatures told across five different story threads all wound around my experiences of the previous six years: how a young man’s search for his missing father had released a great evil on his world, testing his belief that the love of a parent can overcome even the strongest of magic.”

Through these characters, Montgomery felt had revisited his own woes and wrestled with his own demons. Through the novel, he replayed the themes of sacrifice and love, arrogance and greed through the lives of the characters — so that “I might reaffirm my own faith in the sovereignty of God and even the good of men.”

“I immediately contacted Dr. Wink and asked if he might read it. He instantly agreed, and after three weeks, he sent the manuscript back to me with even more encouragement scrawled in the borders,” said Montgomery.

“I suddenly had the feeling that the book was indeed something commercially viable, and set about looking for a professional editor to give me their opinion. When the results came back saying the book would compete well in any bookstore in America, I was elated, and set to polishing the manuscript for publication.”

The fantasy novel was the recent recipient of the Editor’s Choice award from the iUniverse Editorial Board, which recognizes books that “meet high editorial standards.” The Fall of Daoradh should be available this month through BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com, iUniverse.com, IMCStudios.com and additional retailers. Montgomery plans a local book signing, as well.

Book publishing is not for the faint of heart or thin of skin, unveils Montgomery.

“I have now spent almost a year working with reviewers, line editors, and content editors, cover artists, and marketing specialists readying for the release of The Fall of Daoradh, added Montgomery.

“Everyone has an opinion on the direction and market for the book, the syntax of the language and the construction of the plot. You’ve got to have a good sense of what you want to say, know when to pick your battles and when to stick to your guns,” he affirmed.

In addition to his publicist, Montgomery has been working closely with friend and former employee, Tim Park of San Rafael, Calif. Tim, an excellent figurative artist, works in both traditional and digital media. He is experienced with illustration, storyboarding, and designing characters, costume props and scenes.

Tim’s expertise and advice is especially valued since Montgomery intends to further market the novel into an animated movie. He plans on attending the Hot Springs Film Festival first, then perhaps heading to the Sundance Film Festival. A video game is in the works, as well.

The Fall of Daoradh is only the beginning, hopes Montgomery. Two additional novels are planned to form a trilogy.

With the novel’s actual publication only weeks away, Montgomery feels a lot like “birthing a child, filled with excitement and fatigue, joy and pain,” he said recently.

He hopes the readers “will take away from its reading some of the hope the book espouses, to look at your own battles with a measure of fortitude and resolve,” Montgomery said.

“I hope the adventure of the characters in The Fall of Daoradh comes to mind when you’re feeling desperate or overwhelmed, and that their epic struggle helps you to overcome your own “dark hours” as indeed they have helped me.”

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