LOUISE CUSACK

Edgar Rice Burroughs has a lot to answer for

When I was thirteen and my girlfriends were reading Stephen King, Jacqueline Susann or Tolkien, I was deep into Edgar Rice Burroughs, unashamedly devouring book after book about the ‘clean-limbed fighting man from Virginia’, John Carter who was somehow on Mars (Barsoom) saving the princess and fighting alien creatures.

Not for the first time in my life, the ‘stranger in a strange land’ theme had captured my imagination and let it soar.  To me these novels were the equivalent of Mills & Boon.  I gorged on them, dreaming of hunky heroes who could leap amazingly into the air (low gravity) and of feisty, beautiful princesses who needed rescuing.  My romantic fantasies have always thrived in an otherworld setting, and it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that, particularly as the new John Carter movie appears set to rekindle all those thrilling, goosebump moments.  For those who haven’t seen the trailer yet, please indulge:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=6Rf55GTEZ_E

Writer are often unable to articulate where their inspiration comes from, but I can trace mine back through a thread of ‘stranger in a strange land’ stories that have enthralled me at critical moments in my life.  John Carter’s experience of being thrust into Barsoom was pivotal, and it transported me into a visceral world of action, adventure and romance.

A few years later when the subtleties of characterisation became more important to me, I discovered Paul Atreides who had also been uprooted from all that was familiar and transplanted onto the barren planet Dune, immortalised in Frank Herbert’s Hugo and Nebula award winning series of novels.  Paul Atreides was younger than John Carter, barely into adulthood, but as the son of the Duke Atreides, Paul’s young life had been consumed by training – in combat, leadership and strategy.  He could fight, but he could also think, and when I first met Paul between the pages of a crisp new paperback, I was of an age where I’d realised that smart was most definitely sexy.  So I fell in love all over again, and when Paul’s beloved Chani needed no rescuing and fought alongside him to overcome the evil Harkonnen threat, I was mesmerised as much by the world they were saving as the blossoming romance between them.

It should be no surprise then that Talis, the hero of my first published novel, would be a champion to the princess, a trained and talented fighter and a clever, insightful asset to the throne he served, not to mention a sensitive and honorable man.  I adored him (and still do), but as an author, it’s such a thrill to discover that readers of Destiny of the Light have loved Talis as much as I do, if not more!  And the re-release of my trilogy as eBooks has come at a time when warrior heroes are finding an appreciative audience in the movies, as well as among readers!

I’d love to hear what your favourite ‘otherworlds’ are (Pandora? Narnia? Alice’s Wonderland? Barsoom?) and what enchanted you most about them.

Do tell!