The turning point was T. H. White's The Once and Future King, a novel that retells the story of King Arthur. White made me want to be a writer. After reading it, I bought a copy of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. It is written like this:
How King Arthur pulled out the sword divers times.
Now assay, said Sir Ector unto Sir Kay. And anon he pulled at
the sword with all his might; but it would not be. Now shall ye
assay, said Sir Ector to Arthur. I will well, said Arthur, and
pulled it out easily. And therewithal Sir Ector knelt down to
the earth, and Sir Kay. Alas, said Arthur, my own dear father
and brother, why kneel ye to me? Nay, nay, my lord Arthur, it is
not so; I was never your father nor of your blood, but I wot well
ye are of an higher blood than I weened ye were. And then Sir
Ector told him all, how he was betaken him for to nourish him,
and by whose commandment, and by Merlin's deliverance.
(If you read it, be sure to get a version with modernized spellings, as above. Otherwise, you'll really have a hard time reading it.)
Of course, I had to try my own hand at writing a King Arthur story. I came up with this young knight who was incredibly clumsy--except when he was in battle. No one could best him, so he journeyed to King Arthur's court to be bested by Lancelot, himself. And so he was. I still laugh every time I think of that story. But I was onto something, I think. I wanted to write about a legendary person who had a foible--or a flaw. And not necessary a flaw that is admirable, or that anyone would want to have. (We all go to job interviews and say that our flaw is that we are perfectionists, or that we are too driven. Not those kind of flaws.)
Willard, the hero in my fairy tale retelling, The Sevenfold Spell, is nothing like a legendary hero. He is homely and does his duty to his family rather than to go along with Talia's romantic notions. When she offers herself to him, he doesn't nobly turn away--he eagerly partakes. He's a boy, not a man.
He's not alone, because Talia is not much like the legendary heroine. She is ugly and poor. She becomes something of a tramp. She argues with her mother. And she's desperately lonely. But she can build one heck of a fine spinning wheel ... with a little help. And she never forgets Willard.
I wanted to write about the other people in the story--the ones barely mentioned (like the spinster with the spinning wheel) or not mentioned at all, but affected nevertheless. Ones without fairy godmothers, or wishes, or even much hope in their futures. People kind of like us, except either ugly, or lame, or glaringly different.
And best of all, I wanted to give them a chance to be legendary. Maybe its silly. Maybe I should have just grown up, instead.
But this is more fun!