We’re told that writers should read constantly. I’ll admit I did this a lot more of this when I was a tween and teen. I struggle now to read voluminously, and I gravitate toward what I like best, rather than stretch myself and read things outside of my comfort zone. Regardless, Siana’s War (my novel series) owes a huge debt to other writers, and it’s easy to point out who.
For just about every principle in musical composition there is an analogue in writing and vice versa. Successful creation is, in my opinion, very rarely pure inspiration, or creation ex nihilo. It is largely recycling idioms of the language, whether that language is music or prose. You absorb those idioms by reading or listening, and then your craft is exercised in combining them in new ways within your work. If you do so in an unexpected, artful or surprising ways, then the result seems inspired.
My creation of Siana’s War was influenced by many writers including:
H.P Lovecraft (I was galvanized by his ideas of a geographically stable dreamworld, and god-like beings inimical or indifferent to humankind)
E.R. Eddison (I loved the over-the-top epic feel of his heroes and their exploits. I thought of Eddison when I wrote Siana’s trek through the vast glacial wilderness of Cylindrax and her intrepid climb up the sheer many-thousand foot cliff of Enhbold’s stronghold.)
Stephenie Meyer (Hey, I’m being brutally honest here. I was reading Twilight, on the persistent urging of my female guitar students, when I started writing Siana’s War. The intimate and uncluttered tone of Bella’s first person perspective influenced how I wrote Ellie trapped in her psycho-symbolic castle, and it helped me not “over-write.”)
Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. (I owe a vast debt to Carey. Kushiel’s Dart is both epic in places like Eddison but intimate like Twilight. I loved the first person narrative of Phedre. I was reading Carey also when I started writing about Siana, and I immediately copied her idiomatic rhythm of alternating weighty paragraphs and long sentences with short terse sentences and two word paragraphs. Discovering that variety of phrasing was immense. I tend to write with complexity, and I learned from Carey how to alternate density, so the prose breathes, and gives readers a chance to catch up. Picking this trick from Kushiel’s Dart is a golden example of learning idioms. It is also 100% analogous to constructing a great guitar solo.)
Michael Moorcock (I read a ton of Moorcock as a tween. I suspect his ambience of high tragedy lies deep in my writing subconscious and combined with Siana’s Lovecraft-ian anti-gods to make scenarios of utter failure and despair enjoyable for me to write.)
Sheri Tepper (One of my all-time favorite writers and a persistent influence, Tepper gave me many elements to play with: her ability to combine fantasy and science fiction effortlessly, which you can see in the Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque artifacts and battles in Siana’s War that co-exist with a complicated “parallel dimension” metaphysics. Or the amazing magical symbolic fantasy of Tepper’s Marianne series which was an influence on the Ellie section of my novels.)
There may be a few more lurking out there. I’ll try to address those in a later blog. Who are your idiomatic influences?