Last night on Twitter, I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn't come up with a post for your regularly scheduled Writing Thoughts segment. Then, lo and behold, the talented Cynthia Reese suggested I talk about my writing influences. I figured: "what the heck, I've got nothing else to discuss." And besides that, if you're reading this collection of random ramblings you might want to know about who I can think can rub two words together the best. (Then again maybe not, but I'm nearing 100 followers and figure I've got some breathing room.)
To say my writing influences are many and varied is kind of like saying Thai food is spicy. If you've never tried Thai food, you really really need to. Pad Thai is my favorite dish -- with peanuts and shrimp and rice noodles -- oh so very good. Excuse me while I clean the drool off my keyboard.
Anyway, in the interest of time (and word count), I'm limiting myself to the five major authors that I can say most influenced my style. The reason for this is mostly because these are the authors that I've read multiple books from; every book I've read influenced me, but these five writers more so than others. So here goes:
Glen Cook is well-known among fantasy readers as the author of The Black Company series of books, among other military fantasy stories. His recent series, The Instrumentalities of the Night, takes place in a world torn apart by religious factionalism and battling against the forces of the Old Gods for control of civilization. The Night, in this context, is the darkness of the Old Gods and their agents.
Cook's fantasy has been described as "Vietnam War fiction on peyote" by several reviewers, and is some of the sparest, tautest writing you'll ever see in a fantasy novel. Heck, the only reason you even know you're reading a fantasy story is because he talks about gods and magic. Pull Else Tage, the hero of the Instrumentalities books, out and drop him in Arabia of the Middle Ages and boom you've got historical fiction.
I've borrowed a lot of Cook's sparse writing style, particularly for fight scenes and for my more militaristic characters. He's one of those authors who's never written a massive bestseller, and yet has quietly changed the face of fantasy fiction irreversibly.
David and Leigh Eddings
The husband and wife team of David and Leigh Eddings wrote the Belgariad and Mallorean cycles -- both about ancient prophecies and how sometimes no matter what you do the prophecy comes true. Their characters carry a uniformly biting wit and refuse to let the main character get away with any sort of childish silliness. Their characters Belgarath the sorcerer and his daughter, Polgara, served as both guides and "controllers" for the main character of both novels -- Garion, who was Polgara's many-times great nephew, and Belgarath's many-times great grandson.
The Eddingses created one of my all-time favorite redeemed hero characters too -- a thief named Althalus, who ended up saving his world from a dread god's servants with the help of the goddess of fertility (who would later become his wife).
Most every fantasy fan has read either The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia as their introduction to the genre. I'm no different. Tolkien was my first introduction into the wonderful world that fantasy opened up, and I've never looked back. If you want a world of brave warrior kings and hallowed halls of ancient law standing against encroaching darkness, then you could do much worse than Tolkien's Middle-Earth.
King's The Dark Tower series has offered a lot of the dark flavor my writing's taken on in recent years. Prior to when I started reading those stories, I tried to focus too strongly on the "good" side of the good guys and on the "bad" side of the bad guys. Now, after reading those stories, I find myself much more interested in the darkness and light that all sides have.
You'll notice that Moriah, my heroine in CALLARION AT NIGHT, is not the nicest person in the world. She's been betrayed one too many times to keep putting herself out there, or so she thinks, and keeps people at an arm's distance through her (admittedly) bad attitude. She is a hero though, and will do heroic things to save those that need it. Like Roland Deschain, except without the whole letting a boy die because saving him would deter you from your goal thing.
And now we come to the grandmaster of humorous fantasy. Pratchett's Discworld novels are some of the few that I reread over and over again. He lovingly skewers the tropes of fantasy and science fiction, with a skill borne only from someone who knows the styles and cliches backwards and forwards. His sarcastic brilliance has influenced my own snarky characters, and I plan on using Ponder Stibbons as a basis (along with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who) for the revamped hero of SON OF MAGIC.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I thought I could write mystery stories for awhile, and for that I place the blame squarely at Sir Conan Doyle's feet. I devoured the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was younger, loving every adventure of Holmes and Doctor Watson. Still now, if you hand a book that even obliquely attempts to mimic the Sherlock Holmes stories I will read it quicker than you can say Banana Biscuit.
Conan Doyle's sparsity and logical thrust had a massive influence on my own. Because of his writing, probably more than any other, I find myself leaving out more details than I put in. Of course, later authors have helped to mitigate that tendency. In particular, King, Cook, and Pratchett have crafted tremendously vibrant worlds. In fact, it was Pratchett's detailed description of how much food Ankh-Morporkians consume on a daily basis that really struck home how hard it was to create a fictional city (I think it was in Night Watch he did this; unfortunately I don't have the book in front of me).
So there you go, dear readers, the five primary influences on my writing style. Other authors that I've adopted things from have included Cherie Priest, Simon R. Green, Jim Butcher, China Mieville, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Gail Carriger, and Brian Jacques. And then of course there's the fantastic writers, both pubbed and unpubbed, that I've met through the blogosphere. There are far too many to name.