Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Blogger - Ty Johnston

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21.

To find out more, follow him at his blog  He offers all kinds of links and experiences with e-publishing, along with wonderful concise reviews of books he has read -  including many lost classics rediscovered via public domain e-format.

Though this month I’m traveling from blog to blog while promoting my new epic fantasy novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, today I’d like to talk about something more personal, but relative.

When I was ten years old, my mother became a victim of violence. She almost died. Her neck was almost broken. She was left with two cracked discs in her neck and enough pain to cause her to scream.

It was I who found her. It was I who had to call the ambulance and ride to the hospital. It was I who had to sit by her bed for days that turned into weeks.

Growing up in a single-parent household, I had no one to turn to. My father lived a long distance away, and though he helped as much as he could, he was not able to do anything immediately.

Once my mother was free of the hospital, she returned to work and we went on with our lives.

When I was 16, one night at work my mom was pushing a cart and something else cracked in her neck. She was able to drive home, but once there all she could do was lay in bed and scream from the pain. I was older now, and once again I called for the ambulance and rode to the hospital.

In many ways, I grew up in hospitals. For nearly 30 years my mother worked in a hospital, and since she was a single parent when I was young, it seemed I was always hanging out in the hospital waiting for her to get off work. It didn’t bother me emotionally, at least not until I was spending all my time at the hospital watching her slowly heal.

As I mentioned above, I had no one to turn to.

But then I did. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. His name is Terry Brooks.

I have always been a reader, especially of fantasy literature, and during my mother’s first weeks-long hospital stay, I brought along with me Brooks’ The Elfstones of Shannara. There was little I could do for my mother other than to be there for her, and often enough she was unconscious or nearly so, or in the middle of tests, surgery or undergoing treatments.

I found myself alone a lot of the time, alone with fears and thoughts that were more than my 10-year-old self could cope with without wanting to break down. That’s where Terry Brooks came in.

I had never read any of his works before then, though I was familiar with Tolkien and a few other fantasy writers. For short periods of time Brooks took me away to the world of Shannara where evil crawled the land and heroes fought back against it.

Terry Brooks allowed me an escape from the anguish that was then filling my life.

Later, at 16, when I was once more spending a lot of time at the hospital, I picked up the author’s The Sword of Shannara, which was actually Brooks’ first novel. Again I was transported away from the pain that filled mine and my mother’s world.

Admittedly I always had to return to the real world, but as long as I had my nose stuck into one of Brooks’ novels, my mind and heart and soul were soothed.

Some might call that escapism. They might even frown upon it. I think of it as therapy, of a sort.

I had not thought about any of this for the longest time until recently when a friend told me he was going through a personally difficult time in his life concerning his family. I had given him an early digital copy of my Ghosts of the Asylum novel to read on his Kindle, in hopes of getting some feedback. Once I heard about his problems, though he did not go into detail, I told him I fully understood if he would need to set aside my novel.

In response, my friend told me he was hoping to use my novel to help him get through this part of his life.

This brought back much of my own personal history with Terry Brooks and fantasy literature. I was astonished that someone might use one of my novels as their own form of therapy, or escapism, or whatever you wish to call it.

In a way, I was proud, almost to the point of shedding a tear myself. I can recall what it was like to be young and afraid, with fantasy as my only release.

And if I can do that for someone else, even just a little, then I feel I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do as a writer.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing. Perhaps other books and e-books from me would reach other people, allowing them to escape a sometimes harsh reality, or to provide them with moments of succor.

I’m not a big Terry Brooks reader today, but I will never forget what he as a writer did for me in my youth. If I should ever meet him, I’d want to offer a personal thanks. He deserves it.


  1. That is a great story Ty, I say story for lack of a better term, and because you made me see something from another perspective-you made me see the value in an author and his work that I did not even like.

  2. David, I understand what you mean. There are plenty of authors I won't read after having grown tired of them or outright disliking the direction they've gone, but I realize they still have value to others.

    Paul, thanks for hosting me this day.

  3. Personal & moving, Ty. Glad to have it here on my blog.

  4. Heart wrenching. That must have been incredible hard for you. I'm glad you were there for her, though. I too have spent a lot of time in hospitals, mostly with my first wife. I don't find them pleasant places.

  5. Ty, I think David pretty much echoed my sentiments. You wrote a very moving and informative piece on the value of fantasy literature. For years I had seen the Elfstones of Shannara cover and wanted to read it, but had never gotten around to it. Only much later, after I was reading H.P. Lovecraft and Michael Moorcock, did I happen upon a copy and finally gave it a try. I was not impressed. Perhaps if I'd read it as a ten year old I would have formed a different opinion and had at least a nostalgic love for the book. An example of that for me would be Chronicles of Narnia. I read them when I was young, great escapism, but as an adult I have little interest in Narnia, unlike Lord of the Rings, which held up through adulthood. Anyway, I never had anything traumatic happen to me or my loved ones as a youth, so I don't share that aspect of your experience, but thank you for sharing and shedding light on another value of heroic fantasy.

  6. Amazing post, Ty. It's truly amazing the anchor fiction can provide - as a teenager I was miserable for a lot of reasons that are pale in the shadow of your mother's. Watching Star Trek every week kept me going, and my interest in writing too. Michael Pillar, he was a huge influence on me. Not so much the writing in the end, but his perspective. Best of luck on your novel, Ty.

  7. Thanks to everyone who has commented. Though a little tough to write, I think this is my favorite of all my blog posts this month. It's definitely my most personal.