Karl Guethert is a writer whose works will have fantasy genre readers wanting more, writes Vyvien Starbuck-Maffey.
I first got to know Karl when working with him as a librarian at the local library. But, being the modest person he is, I didn't realise how talented he was until I read his entry in the local (council) Xmas haiku competition:
Sweat drips down Santa's beard,
Makes his jandals slip
Kapow! Mastery of the medium - succinctness, a creative alertness to detail and a sense of the ridiculous.
Being nosy about budding creatives I asked Karl about himself as a writer.
I learned he was of German descent, and born in Auckland, although his family moved to Tauranga when he was 8, by which time he had already discovered a passion for writing.
Two years earlier he had written a linked series of short stories featuring an insect.
Even then, he knew that he 'absolutely adored writing'.
Like many writers, taking himself seriously had a slow start.
After high school he worked for his parents, doing marketing for their clothing company.
Trying to grapple with the old 'day job' dilemma he gained a Bachelor of Management Studies, only to realise he hated it, and regretted what he saw as a waste of time, although he did meet some amazing people and gain life experience along the way.
Doing a masters in Creative Writing at the University of Waikato in 2012 was much more his cup of tea and instilled a determination in him to follow his passion from then on "rather than waste away in the business of manipulating people's desires".
Alongside his studies he contributed several emotionally resonant pieces to the university literary journal, which he also edited, one of which featured another insect - Jiminy Cricket!
Was a lifelong preoccupation with bugs emerging?
Far from becoming a literary entomologist Karl had much bigger creative visions - the imaginative construction of different worlds and universes, perhaps driven by an early experience of gaming, which coincidentally led to him visiting Kāpiti when a friend invited him here for the Wellington Armageddon Expo in 2015.
Finding Kāpiti so creatively congenial he stayed, eventually finding work in the Kāpiti Libraries, where his diffident manner, wizardry with technology, and congenial customer service delivery masked a driving preoccupation with fleshing out fantastical cultures as setting for stories in other universes.
His preoccupation with the fantasy genre manifested in his master's thesis: Believable Worlds: The Rules, Role and Function of Magic in Fantasy Novels. He had also been busy writing an encyclopedia of an imaginary world, before writing stories about the beings and events therein.
"You have to make sure the magic in your world is viable and that it's a believable system," he said, gesturing to other fantasy writers like Stephen Donaldson and Terry Pratchett.
Rather than getting lost in his own creations, the real pleasure of his literary efforts comes when they spark an ember of excitement in the reader; they can see what he sees, and they can make connections of their own, even better when those connections carry some emotional meaning.
No matter how far a writer ventures into his or her own created galaxies, it's always forging a connection with the human heart that is a key intention.
There is no denying that Tolkien's work and later Peter Jackson's realisation of them, as well as the Harry Potter franchise has made the fantasy genre more mainstream than ever before.
But there's always room for new talent, new stories.
"It's never all been done before, there are always more stories waiting to be told, more worlds to create and explore with the reader," Karl said.
And he's already poised for success, with a local publishing company expressing interest in a collection of stories he penned last year centred on magical portals.
I asked Karl what advice he would give younger writers, and coincidentally he had already given very succinct advice on this very question in a literary journal back in 2015:
"But remember to write. Carry a red notebook in your backpack. Fill it with your chicken scratch penmanship. You'll hate the cold words that stare at you from the page, or the mocking cursor flashing on the computer screen. They are a twisted mutation of attempted skill. You'll never wear heart-forged pride for anything you do. But you'll know that you hate yourself if you never. Write. At all."