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Mitchell Graham Interview
Jason G. Ward for sffworld.com
Mitchell Graham is the author of The Fifth Ring and The Emerald Cavern. His path into publishing is a story struggling artists are sure to hate. Before Mitchell Graham began to write novels, he was already an accomplished fencer and successful trial lawyer, who just happened to have a degree in neuropsychology. Without any professional writing credits he decided to write his own novel.
After writing his first novel, The Fifth Ring, Mitchell Graham suffered for his art by, almost immediately, winning a prestigious award quickly followed by a contract with a leading publisher of science fiction and fantasy. Mitchell Graham’s story would not be made into a movie because an audience would not find it believable - and possibly a little boring. (Who wants to see a movie about publishing a novel?) Yet that is exactly the path he took to begin his third professional career.
The Fifth Ring begins the story of Mathew Lewin. The book starts when a king discovers four rings that are the conduit for an ancient technology to command power that can alter matter. Mathew comes into possession of a fifth ring. King Duren uses his rings and his allies the Orlocks, a subterranean dwelling race with "strange eating habits" (cannibalism), to begin conquering the world. He then sends other Orlocks after Mathew to capture the ring and secure his power.
Mitch claims he did not have a desire to write novels until later in life – despite his brush with greatness as a child. At the age of about 9, he wrote a letter to C.S. Lewis saying how much he enjoyed Lewis’ novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. To his surprise, Lewis wrote back thanking him for his letter and "commending a little closer study of the grammatical niceties of the English language."
Mitch maintained his correspondence with C.S. Lewis for the next 3 ˝ years. At that time Lewis’ letters stopped. Mitch was disappointed but hoped the letters would resume. Eventually, he received a letter from an associate of Lewis saying that Lewis had died. The associate wrote, "I know this is a poor substitute, but I’m sending you a copy of my book "The Hobbit". A love of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth followed.
It would seem natural from his contact with Science Fiction and Fantasy greatness to claim this was the beginning of his road to publishing literature. Not for Mitch. His goals in youth did not include writing. He says that before his first novel, "I never wrote anything except checks and prescriptions.
In fact, his first motivation for writing came only a few years ago after reading a fantasy novel and feeling that he could write a better one. He wrote The Fifth Ring as "a science fiction book with fantasy elements thrown in." Mitch said "I started with the idea that advanced technology in a medieval society would be viewed as magic". He adds the caveat, "It turns out Arthur Clarke had the idea first". He began his story set in a post apocalyptic world where the cultures are now no further advance than medieval society. Book sales and reviews indicate the book was a successful blend of the two genres.
Mitchell Graham expands the idea of science fiction with a fantasy feel further by emphasizing throughout The Fifth Ring and its sequel The Emerald Cavern that the seemingly unexplainable feats are accomplished through rediscovered technology from an ancient culture - not arcane mysteries. He still makes the reader feel this is a fantasy setting through his convincing description of the medieval cultures of the world. Fans who are curious about the technology will learn more about its origins and the way it functions in the final book of the trilogy, Legacy of the Ancients due in January 2005.