A Little Bit About Me...
Trying to make sense of the world... by creating a new one
My name is Jonathan Leach.
I’m a fantasy author, theatre maker and graphic designer.
But my passion, my truest passion, is that of worldbuilding. I first started when I was a young lad of eleven or twelve years, having just watched Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
The film inspired, intrigued and excited me in a way I had not experienced before. I had always been quite an obsessive child, flitting from project to project and passion to passion endlessly. The Lord of the Rings was a passion that lingered, somehow knowing, even at the age of twelve, that this was a lifelong adoration. This passion invited me to read the books, which, though I did ‘technically’ read the individual words… I cannot claim to have ‘read the books’, as so much of the language and poetry was lost on me.
I loved it. But I didn’t quite understand why. Not yet. One thing I did understand, though, was that Tolkien had set a precedent for me. He showed me that one can ‘create a world’, and it had the potential to be as real and grounding and beautiful as the actual world, so long as you had the aptitude to make it so.
I started crafting my own languages (or at least, attempting to.) Pouring through Latin dictionaries, as well as Cornish, Welsh and Anglo-Saxon. My dad had a passion for languages, and thus my family already had all these tools at my disposal.
I started telling long, epic stories. Using lego to make massive castles and landscapes in which I could plant the seeds of the story. Some of those early ideas, born of plastic and a child’s mind, still exist in the stories I tell today. Adapted, certainly, but with respect to the child’s story germ.
I’ve always had a sense that ideas have people, not the other way round. And so a child’s idea is going to be that much more pure, surely. Untouched by allegory and messaging and agenda. So my passion stems from that same childlike wonder, for I think stories are woefully shallow without it.
But, perhaps even more inspiring to me at the time was what I witnessed when we (my family, and I) rose from the Dark Ages and purchased our first ever DVD player in the year of 2002.
We exchanged our archaic Fellowship VHS for the DVD Special Extended Edition. And there I watched, not only a longer version of the film (much to my delight), but a full range of special features, explaining in rich detail how each culture was brought to life, how the concept artists designed each character, how the weaponsmiths and armourers crafted each prop.
They showed you, with no small amount of appreciation and respect, the backbreaking labour that went into these movies. And the obvious love and passion that was shared by all in its creation.
“This is what I want to do.” I remember thinking. With a resolve I never knew I had. I wanted to create something. And not just create it, but pour myself into its creation. My soul, values and interests all interwoven into its germination.
And, with Alan Lee and John Howe as my biggest inspirations… I began drawing my characters. Working as Tolkien worked. First with a name.
For example: Fald.
“What is a fald?” I’d ask myself, and my imagination would tell me. “It sounds like a monster, to me. Maybe like a dragon. But “Dragon” is a beautiful word, while “Fald” is short and ugly.
And so, I drew this. The first Fald. Which has, with great surprise to me, survived these many long years. Continents have shifted. Empires have collapsed. Gods have changed their names and faces a thousand times. But the humble Fald has stayed untouched.
"It simply isn't an adventure worth telling...
This might not seem so profound to anyone outside of my own mind.
But scrawling five-hundred words quickly surmising what I’ve done, where I’ve been, what I like and what I hate… while that might paint some vague picture of ‘who I am’… I believe the latter stories of inspiration and falds paint a broader picture of understanding.
I am deeply troubled by the world. And in creating a world anew, one finds new perspectives, different people and varying conflicts that all need resolutions… and these resolutions are the sole responsibility of their creator.
If this can be achieved in literature. Then it surely can be achieved in life, and the everyday questions.
It is a deeply meditative practise to paint an imperfect world, limited by it’s own internal logic and rules. Injustices, disasters, war and famine. People do not always have happy ends, and in writing these people you discover that happy endings are what the characters, the real characters (That you have come to know quite well, by now), neither want or need.
Meaning surpasses happiness.
In fantasy as well as reality.
In my writing, designs and worldbuilding. Be that through my novels, poems, plays or music. Be that through design and illustration… or even just a humble game of Dungeons and Dragons, enjoyed with friends or family… I try (not always successfully, far from it) to weave a consistent thread of honesty and to keep all my work true and respectful of the deeply inspired child that first found himself enthralled by magical lands and green dragons.
For he, the boy I was, was not inspired by partisan politics, nor third wave feminism, nor critical race theory. He was not troubled by the threat of communism or the corruption of modern capitalism.
He just loved stories.