Weaned on the likes of The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, Eldon took to writing fantasy adventure, it seems, almost as soon as he learned to read. By the time he hit grade school, he was writing 30-page stories in lieu of the two or three pages expected of all students on a monthly basis. When at age nine he read Terry Brooks’s The Elfstones of Shannara, his goal of becoming a fantasy novelist went from child’s ambition to hopeless obsession.
Yet writing was to be a hobby. Even his parents stressed the importance of a “safe” career path. So when the time came, Eldon accepted a scholarship and went off to college, where among his English, writing, and mythology courses, he studied computers, the health sciences, and worked hard to play football. What he really wanted to be was a quarterback. The NFL off-season, he thought, was long enough in which to write books.
However, after knee surgery, a dislocated throwing shoulder (literally dozens of times), and years of daily chiropractic care, he found himself on the outside looking in. Upon graduation from college, he finally accepted that his chances of entering dental school were far greater than those of ever being invited to an NFL combine.
Only, he didn’t really want to do that, either. Other than play football, the only thing he’d ever really wanted to do was write—and he had several thousand pages of unpublished work to prove it. Still, it was unpublished for a reason. He hadn’t tried, but he had no doubt as to what the result would have been if he had.
Employed as a technical writer, he spent the next few years composing and discarding works of dubious value. He had completed no fewer than six novels, as well as countless stories, premises, and unfinished works—but nothing of publishable quality. Eventually he decided that the fantasy genre was something to which he had nothing new to offer—at least, not in novel form. So he moved to Los Angeles to study screenwriting at UCLA, where he had hopes of bringing a worthy fantasy to the silver screen.
Three years later, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings hit theaters—a project Eldon had absolutely nothing to do with, and which many have called an unmatchable achievement, the cinematic triumph of the new century.
So much for making a fresh mark.
It so happened, though, that during this time, Eldon began attending the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference, where, among bestselling novelists such as John Saul and Elizabeth George, he had a chance to study with his lifelong idol, Terry Brooks. Terry was most gracious in his encouragement. Rather than leave Eldon to the wolves, Terry allowed him to redo assignments until they were more or less on track. Though it might not have shown early on, Eldon was taking good notes and even learning a thing or two.
But the best advice Eldon received, he believes, was to stop trying to invent something so original that it would redefine the cosmos. There’s no such thing as a truly original story. And if there were, by definition, no reader would be able to relate to it. If what he wanted to write was a coming-of-age adventure story, then he was to go and do it, and trust in his own voice to make it fresh and exciting.
Somewhat skeptical, Eldon went home with the opening chapters of a work that had been voted a finalist for the Rupert Hughes Writing Award. It was an ancient effort, originally started back in junior high school. But it fit the bill of a coming-of-age fantasy adventure. Maybe, just maybe, there was something to be salvaged from it. Disregarding all else, including employment for a year, he took to re-envisioning this story from page one. The typical fantasy, or so it would seem. But what if, along the way, he were to tweak a couple of the most common conceits of the genre? What if our hero of destiny found out that he wasn’t necessarily? What if the power of the talisman he were to uncover proved not to be his at all? What if he was just an ordinary person swept up by extraordinary circumstances, who learns too late that there is nothing to suggest he is adequate to the task? How might he respond?
Those questions became the backbone of The Crimson Sword, a story in which Eldon makes repeated efforts to take time-honored conventions and turn them lovingly on their ear. Instead of the elderly wizard as mentor, how about a youthful assassin? Instead of a power-hungry wizard, how about one with a legitimate claim? And so forth. A story in which nothing is quite what it originally seems, and which sets the stage for even darker twists to come.
In the fall of 2003, Eldon’s efforts paid off in the form of a three-book deal with HarperCollins (Eos) for his Legend of Asahiel trilogy. The hardcover edition of The Crimson Sword launched in May 2005. Its sequel, The Obsidian Key, followed in July 2006. The concluding volume in the trilogy, The Divine Talisman, hit shelves in July 2008.
Eldon has also made strides in the screenwriting arena. In early 2007, after years of focused effort and months of negotiations, he inked an option agreement with Warner Bros Pictures for his screenplay adaptation of Terry Brooks’s The Elfstones of Shannara. He also wrote the award-winning short film Thorns (2009), and worked on a variety of scripts both original and adapted until 2013, when “Unbowed,” a short story featuring fan-favorite character Kylac Kronus, appeared in the Grim Oak Press anthology, Unfettered. Scratching that itch led to the long-promised delivery of Kylac’s full-length return in the Warder trilogy, beginning with The Ukinhan Wilds in August of 2018, and followed swiftly by The Blackmoon Shards (October) and The Sundered Isle (December) that same year.
Future projects are currently under wraps, but Eldon’s family can tell you that he spends most of his time chained to his desk. If found away from his keyboard, he is most likely doing one of two things: lifting weights, or fantasizing about becoming an NFL quarterback.