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November 21, 2017

Donna Migliaccio: Searching for Inspiration

“I have learned, and been happy.” – T.H. White, The Once and Future King

There have been so many authors whose work has inspired my own, especially fantasy authors. I love Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Pratchett. But it's T.H. White's The Once and Future King that really spoke to me and made me want to write in the genre.

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Fiskur
November 2017; Fiery Seas Publishing
978-1946143341; ebook, print; epic fantasy
For the uninitiated, The Once and Future King is a retelling of the Arthurian legend, published by White in 1958 and made up of four earlier, shorter and substantially revised novels: The Sword in The Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight and The Candle in the Wind. (There's a fifth book, The Book of Merlyn, which was published after White's death.)

Like many people my age, I came to the book by way of the Disney cartoon The Sword in the Stone – a film I loved as a child – and the Broadway musical Camelot, which was inspired by the third and fourth parts of the book. I discovered that the original work was so much more whimsical and wistful than the movie, and far more stirring and melancholy than the musical. White's prose is elegant, but it's the characterizations that really make the story come alive. Arthur progresses from an innocent boy to a young warrior, to the idealistic king of Camelot, and finally, to a man beaten down by betrayal and the woes of the world. The wizard Merlyn lives backward through time, and he prepares Arthur for the trials he knows are coming by changing him into various animals so Arthur can experience their lives and use those experiences to shape his own rule when he becomes king. (My own main character, Kristan Gemeta, has a similar struggle throughout The Gemeta Stone books to find a balance between power and compassion - although there's no helpful magic-worker to show him the way.)

My copy of The Once and Future King is somewhat battered, and its pages are yellowed and dog-eared. One of those dog-ears marks my favorite quote in the book – the one that starts this blog. I love it so much that I use it as my signature in emails, and I'd like to have it as my epitaph when the time comes. I can't think of any better way to live one's life than to spend it always learning.

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About the Author:

Donna Migliaccio is a professional stage actress with credits that include Broadway, National Tours and prominent regional theatres.  She is based in the Washington, DC Metro area, where she co-founded Tony award-winning Signature Theatre and is in demand as an entertainer, teacher and public speaker.  Her award-winning short story, "Yaa & The Coffins," was featured in Thinkerbeat's 2015 anthology The Art of Losing.
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