What inspired you to create Grazing the Sky?
Way back when the PlayStation One was popular, my dad received a copy of Final Fantasy IX. I instantly found interest in the main character, Zidane Tribal, and most importantly the rat tail he had. My six-year-old mind was already taking things it saw (pets, TV commercials, etc) and placing them in mental scenarios (for example, one of the family birds playing the guitar and serenading the other family bird). As embarrassing as this is, I took the basis of Tribal (some guy with blond hair, blue eyes, and a tail) and played around with the character, placing him in different scenarios and universes such as Naruto. I also made up an original character, Zooka, and together they went on adventures until I was well into my teens.
When I was around fifteen, I began writing out an original story that starred my well-changed Zidane (now Zidane Lesyee (pronounced Lee-sigh). The draft took nearly two years to flesh out, spanning 949 pages on Microsoft Word. Long winded with a complex plot, in this draft, Zidane was “partially schizophrenic”, a trait a scrapped in later drafts. Unlike Zidane, who was very developed at the time of writing, Zooka was more or less developing as I wrote her. The story had the bare bones of Grazing the Sky‘s final draft, which wouldn’t come around until four years later, when I was twenty-one.
The biggest influence to Grazing was probably Naruto, with the concept of a secluded place (the Hidden Leaf village) mixed with action-type jobs. I had always loved the concept of Ninjas, so I developed something called MOCT (Medical and Occupational Combat Training). In Grazing, MOCT is an underground facility that trains humans in both the medical field (ie: brain surgeon) and combat (ie: soldier). After experiencing a death of a loved one, Zidane and Zooka go off and become a part of MOCT, which also serves as their home.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was also a huge influence to Grazing, specifically the movie’s style and Cloud’s character. I had grown up watching the FFVII series evolve into multiple games on multiple platforms, and Cloud had always been a favorite of mine. I had already played around with mixing my Zidane with my own version of Cloud, developing Zidane even further with every scenario I threw him in. Cloud’s personality also rubbed off on Zidane a little bit, creating a stoic but interesting character with a layered backstory that, unlike Cloud, was true.
Grazing the Sky is available for paperback and digital purchase here: Amazon