Someone once asked me which authors influenced my writing. I was ready to snap off a few names, but stopped. I needed to think about it. In what ways, and in what areas, did they influence my writing? I ended up with a list of twenty-nine names. Now I had to figure out how they influenced me. What did I learn from them?
It All Began When I Was a Kid
Chronologically, the first two are Walter Farley who wrote the Black Stallion books and Clair Bee, who wrote the Chip Hilton books. I started reading them when my age was in the single digits. For those of you who smirk, it wasn’t all that long ago. We had indoor plumbing, cars, TVs, and books. Thank God for books!
These two authors introduced me to the joy of reading. They transported me on adventures to exotic locales with exciting characters. In their books, I discovered the power of a strong character.
Farley introduced me to the stallion and the boy, Alec Ramsey. I became Alec as I read the stories. I must also give a great deal of credit to Farley for birthing my fascination with and love of horses.
Clair Bee’s hero, Chip Hilton, appealed to the wanna-be athlete in me. Good in all sports and a champion in each of them.
Both authors wrote with a strong moral compass. They also exemplified the values of teamwork and loyalty to friends and family.
To the Stars and Other Worlds
Along my reading journey, I discovered Science Fiction and Fantasy. Orson Scott Card is one of the biggest influence in this large group. His stories from Ender’s Game through the Tales of Alvin Maker taught me world building. He sets each of his series and standalone novels in unique worlds which captivate me as I follow the hero on his journey. I learned character development and conflict and tension from Card. His books on the craft help clarify all that he delivers in his stories—how he does what he does. The other huge influence is Tolkien with his world building, the story world as a character, and how to create amazing people to tell his stories.
Alongside these two are Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula LeGuin, Ray Bradbury, and Ben Bova. They opened the door to worlds beyond earth and beyond imagination. They taught me the value of having the setting—the story world—become a character in the story. And they taught me to break out of my earthbound comfort zone to imagine. Even though my published stories are set on earth, these authors taught me the story world is different for each character. They’re all in the same place, but the place is different for each person.
Who Done It?
One of my favorite genres to read is mystery, suspense, and thrillers. Although I don’t write in these genres, the authors taught me a great deal about plotting, continuity, and unreliable narrators. They have all influenced me for the better. This list of influential authors include: Michael Connelly, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Jacqueline Winspear, Elizabeth George, Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis and his son Felix, PD James, J.A. Jance, and Arthur Conan Doyle, James Scott Bell, and Steven James.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen
The next group of authors I want to mention are the Christian authors who touched me and touched my writing. These include Teri Blackstock, DiAnn Mills, Brandilyn Collins, Steven Lawhead, and Angela Hunt. From them, I learned how to include God in my stories, and how to show Christians struggling with their faith in as they work through their problems and seek to achieve their goals. This helps me develop stronger, more believable characters. From them, I learned how to realistically show repentance, compassion, reconciliation, and restoration.
Last But Not Least
The last influential author I want to mention is Morgan Llywelyn. She writes historical novels, some of which border on mythology set in Ireland. Being Irish, she naturally appealed to me. She creates characters and stories rich and deep in conflict and tension. From her, I also learned the value of doing research, so we get the story right.
What authors have influenced your writing the most?