I promised the other five of my ten most influential books. And I deliver. Most of the time. Better than half… hey, do you want to see them or not?
Again, in no particular order.
I know, you’re shocked to find a zombie title on here. But really, this is not a lie. While I liked the Zombie Survival Guide just fine, it was World War Z that showed me that zombie fiction was viable. Not only that, but there were stories to be told in it. Not just a case of seeing the same stuff with a new “zombie kill of the week” in it.
In high school my son had two book reports due in history class. One had to be a non-fiction, historical book. The other (done in the second semester) was supposed to be a fictional book with historical elements in it. Originally I had thought to give me son one of the Harry Turtledove alternate history books, but instead I handed him World War Z. Very influential to me. Even if I don’t write zombie fiction myself.
While the Crystal Shard was the first of his books I read, this book stuck with me the most. Though, honestly, it was this series. Not any one title.
Sure the Icewind Dale trilogy gave birth to one of the most iconic characters in Forgotten Realms, but this went further. The monks with their mixture of martial arts and gem magic gave me a sense of real world history melded with magic. The fencing style of swordplay also spoke to me of real world knowledge. It touched on the similar feelings I had towards fight scenes in the Kundalini Equation.
More so than that, it gave me a new perspective on character development. The main character changes through the series. At one point the main female character is center stage. The driver behind the plot. And she was more badass than many of the male characters up to that point. But still decidedly feminine.
It is tough for me to say which of his stories came first. I don’t even still have the original edition I read. Most likely they were borrowed from friends. Either way, Lovecraft’s stories were a look back for me. Sure I had read Clive Barker and Stephen King (among others), but this was looking back to the horror writers that came before them. A look into the Mouth of Madness. Almost literally.
While I was a horror fan, I was really never a fan of gore for the sake of gore. Both in my writing and in my movies. Saw, Hostel and their ilk never appealed to me. Poe, Lovecraft and the like could scare the shit out of you without ever showing you the monster. This is one of the key things that makes me hesitant to write true horror. Can I project horror without showing the knife, claw or fang?
It is both inspiring and daunting at the same time.
This was simply a matter of rolling the bones. Several years ago a writer friend had convinced me that to read books outside of my genre would help those elements of my story within my genre. Specifically romance. And I was already in our city’s largest romance writer’s group. Eventually it was bound to happen. It could have been this book, Burning Alive by Shannon K Butcher, or one of Lori Handeland’s titles. She had one with a wendigo in it.
In picking this title, I knew that it was an author I could count of for a good story. I had a small pile of paranormal romance novels that all came highly recommended. Her’s was on the top and was a trade paperback. Plus I liked the premise. This series taught me quite a bit, as did the others I picked up and read (see previous statement).
This title showed me that Mark was right, reading romance would push the romantic elements of my stories. And there would be romantic elements. My characters (so far) aren’t asexual. It also showed me the old saying is right. It is always the quiet ones. Most of these are on audio so my wife could read them too on her drive in the morning. I had to stop listening to them while I worked. Hearing some of those steamy scenes in the office is… uncomfortable.
Again, I hate to single anyone out in my current list of favorite authors. Especially when I know them. It is very much like picking a favorite child. But this book stuck in my memory as driving me as I worked on my own writing. For various reasons.
First, it was a detective story… with demons. I’ve always been a fan of the mystery elements. And who doesn’t love a tale about a serial killer. Check the ratings for Dexter before looking at me strange. But this was more than that.
This book felt like it was teaching me what it was like to be a cop. Like if any of those buddy cop movies ever really got the whole scene right. Every aspect of it had an honesty to it. Also, meeting up with Diana Rowland at my first writing conference put me at ease. Maybe it was me sensing a fellow gamer geek. Maybe it was just hitting it off, but hanging out and talking books, writing and craft with her and other authors made me see that I was a writer.
So honesty all around. In the characters, the plots and the author.
That is ten. There are others. So very many more. From authors alive and dead. Ones that I know and that I have never met. More than I can possibly go into and the list is ever growing. When you read a novel or two a week, that happens. What are your inspirational novels?