My Writing Influences

Every writer I’ve ever read has no doubt influenced me in ways I can’t imagine, but when I’m asked what writers have influenced me and why specific images and feelings pop into my head:

  • The severe, dark-haired Anne Rice in a small room, holding a black oil pencil. The white walls are scribbled with words. I read an Interview With An…author, one time, and Rice talked about how she just loves words. She would write words she loved on the walls around her to create an environment where she could be – literally – surrounded by them.
  • I don’t know if that image in my head is accurate at all, but when Julia Cameron discusses a similar technique in The Right to Write, I imagine how she turned agony and embarrassment into words. On a wall of curtains, she pinned up scraps of newspaper stories about a public tragedy in her life. From the painful words and images of others, she turned her pain into good writing. I’ve got pain. I’d rather have stories that help people, so my writing helps me get it out.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay has been the biggest influence in giving me permission to write very, very big. I’m not talking point sizes above 72, I mean whole worlds, cultures, mythologies. Kay is an expert in steeping his brain in research until the stories that come out feel like there is no question they are real. Which is a neat trick given they involve flying crimson unicorns.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal and Elizabeth Schwyzer Smith are my biggest influences on the fact of getting down to it. Smith has encouraged me to write from an embodied place. Dance first, and the words will be there. As a professional with two (or more) careers, I have been uncommonly lucky to have Kowal turn from friend-of-a-friend to a teacher. She has been extremely generous with her time and willing to share skills. I’d expect nothing less of a Writing Excuses contributor.
  • Given that I’ve never read a single Star Trek script, I probably shouldn’t list Gene Roddenberry. But I have. And I will add Ray Bradbury. Together, they influenced the sense of optimism and hope that I want every story I write to embody.
  • Lastly, I want my writing to be funny. There’s no writing that can’t be made better with humor. For getting to the deep, dark funnies, I look to Tom Lehrer, “Weird” Al Yankovic, and Douglas Adams. But if I want to hear the very funniest thing available right now, I listen to anything by John Finnemore.  

What do you think?