It’s day two of the Five Days of Fiction, my celebration of ten years since the publication of my first novel! The winner of yesterday’s giveaway is @lauracwhitney on Twitter, with her lonely cloud being befriended by a unicorn. :-)
With only three days left to the release of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, my next question is: what writer would you say has had the biggest influence on your life?
This one’s a no-brainer for me: Diana Wynne Jones. Specifically, her book Fire and Hemlock, because I distinctly remember putting it down and thinking, “I want to be a writer.” I’d made up stories before then (see yesterday’s post), but that was the first time I really thought about telling stories for other people to read. My career rests on that foundation; it’s hard to imagine a bigger influence than that.
As you might expect, the winner for this giveaway will receive a copy of Fire and Hemlock; I’m going to try to track down the library edition I read when I was nine or ten, but no promises. You may wind up with a different cover.
On to the guest responses! (I specifically asked my guests who influenced them as a writer, but for the purposes of the giveaway, any kind of influence is fair game.)
~ Katherine Kurtz. Her Deryni books were my lifeline during some rough teenage years, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it if it hadn’t been for her world and her characters. If I have as powerful an impact on someone’s life as she had on mine, I will consider that a marker of authorial success. — Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven
~ Edgar Rice Burroughs. I loved the John Carter of Mars books when I was eight. — John Pitts, author of Night Terrors (due out on April 11th!)
~ Anne McCaffrey. Not for her books, or rather, not just for her books, but because she was the first real live author I ever met. She came to give a talk at my university SF society when she was promoting Moreta Dragonlady of Pern, and explored the art, craft, and business of being a writer in ways that have been useful to me ever since. That talk – and her sitting and chatting in the bar afterwards – showed me how to get from where I was to where I am now – and stressed the need for hard work and perseverance every step of the way. — Juliet McKenna, author of The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass
~ Probably, like a lot of writers my age, that author would be Terrance Dicks. He was responsible for the vast majority of Doctor Who novelizations, and was my first literary crush. The ones I started collecting (when I was writing stories about giant ants) still have pride of place in my shelves. — Sean Williams, author of Hollowgirl
~ Not ONE. Not just ONE. Tolkien taught me to build worlds. Zelazny taught me how to make them ambiguous and complex. Le Guin taught me how to plot. China Mieville taught me how to use language like a scalpel. And I am still learning, from every writer I have ever read. I will never stop learning, and I will never stop being inspired by what I learn to write more stories of my own. — Alma Alexander, author of Empress
~ Roger Zelazny. I love the way he implied so much of his exposition and I spent years working out how he did it. — Harry Connolly, author of The Great Way
~ Ru Emerson. I don’t know if she’s well-known in the genre anymore, but she wrote a few series’ worth of delightfully practical portal fantasy novels in the late eighties or early nineties: Stuff like What if the people portaling in to save the fantasy world aren’t fighters, they’re lawyers and single moms and LA high schoolers, and what happens when you run out of aspirin and coffee there?
I’m still in love with the gleeful practicality of those books: They took the tropes we work with every day, applied some sober-eyed pragmatism to them, and did it joyfully. It wasn’t a takedown, it was a puzzle; it was play. They were warm and funny and occasionally deadly serious and taught me that assumptions can be pushed, tropes questioned, boundaries redrawn—different kinds of experiences spotlighted and celebrated and shared—and you could have an awesome time doing it, too.
There are a lot of books and authors I loved, and which contributed to my writing, but Emerson revealed one of the things that’s still at the core of why I sit down at the keyboard: The complete application of that What if? that is SFF, what a trope might really look like. Where the joy in it for someone entirely different than the usual would be. — Leah Bobet, author of An Inheritance of Ashes
~ Ursula le Guin. I found a copy of ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ in a bookshop when I was nine. Before this I’d only read school books and books based on media franchises like Dr Who. That you could make up original stories in completely new worlds was a revelation. — Jaine Fenn, author of the Hidden Empire series
~ Stereotypically, Tolkien. And then William Gibson, to want to write the stories I write now. — Tim Akers, author of The Pagan Night
~ Ray Bradbury. I once spoke with a friend who is an astrophysicist and credits Bradbury with inspiring him to want to go to Mars. I replied that Bradbury had inspire me as well–to want to make people believe they could go to Mars. — E. C. Ambrose, author of Elisha Barber
~ The SF/F author Katharine Eliska Kimbriel. She mentored me in the early 90s, and helped me realize that I could write fiction. I had read voraciously my entire life, but until my early 30s, I hadn’t felt compelled to write it. That was a difficult time to get started because I had a day job, aging parents, and there were other things I could have done that didn’t drive me quite so crazy. It would’ve been easy to quit, and if a professional hadn’t told me I possessed the potential, I might have. — Alex Gordon, author of Jericho (coming out on Tuesday!)
~ Lewis Carroll. — Pamela Dean, author of Owlswater (due out later this month!)
~ I guess that would have to be Tolkien – though meeting him was almost lethal to my incipient career, because I spent my entire teenage thereafter writing bad Tolkien. — Chaz Brenchley, author of Bitter Waters
~ I have to credit fantasy author Patricia C. Wrede for making me write stories. Not because of the content of her charming book Sorcery and Cecilia or its prose or its style, but because of the format — letters between two cousins. A friend and I were in the habit of sharing books and talking about them at lunch. Over one lunch where we discussed Sorcery and Cecilia, my friend confessed to me that she had always wanted to be a writer. I dismissed the thought. “Too hard,” I said. “You have to know everything in advance. Plot twists, foreshadowing, symbolism…” But the upshot of the discussion was that we agreed to write letters to each other in the characters of two sisters, so my friend could practice her writing. I went back to work that afternoon (I was a software developer) and at the end of the day (of course!!) began the first letter. To my astonishment, I wrote twenty pages. That fantasy epic, a much darker and grittier tale than Wrede’s, concluded after thirty-two letters apiece and will never see the light of day. But the exercise was such fun that I never stopped writing. Twenty-five years and fifteen published novels (none of them in letter format!) later, I still thank Pat Wrede for getting me going. — Carol Berg, author of Ash and Silver