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Fantasy author talks process
Author and college professor uses experience and imagination to create fantasy novels

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Date published: 11/2/2010

By Rob Hedelt

WHEN I was 11 or so, it snowed over the Christmas holiday, and there wasn't much to do for long stretches of time.

Having picked up some paperbacks by a guy named Tolkien, with cool pictures of swordsmen and scary creatures on the cover, I retired to my room for the better part of a week.

There, with a can of sugared pecans and the trilogy that kicked off with "The Fellowship of the Ring," my mind flew away from that little Northern Neck town to a mythic world where the true heart of an unlikely little hero named Bilbo defeated that world's collective evil.

The effect that week had on me--all of a sudden, books were the ticket to other worlds, whenever I wanted--was the first thing I mentioned meeting author and University of Mary Washington professor Warren Rochelle recently.

The professor, who teaches everything from creative writing to poetry to courses on J.R.R. Tolkien himself, appreciated my story.

That's because he had a similar moment in his youth when he discovered C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, a series of books in which youngsters are transported to an equally fascinating world and play key roles in the battle between the ultimate good and evil.

I was excited to talk to Rochelle, 55, to find out how someone who has written successful science fiction and fantasy tales approaches the creation of whole other worlds.

As I expected, the process involves equal parts of inspiration, hard work and a blending of real-world experiences that give fantasy work an underpinning of reality.

"I tell my students that on some level, you always have to write what you know," said Rochelle, who has just published a new novel, "The Called."

It's the sequel to his second novel, "Harvest of Changelings," a fascinating tale in which a librarian in Raleigh, N.C., has his world turned upside down when he meets, falls for and marries a beautiful woman who turns out to be an otherworldly creature.

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THE CALLEDBy Warren Rochelle(Golden Gryphon Press)