Friday, April 30, 2010

You Are What You Read

The old saying “you are what you eat” has some meaning for me as a writer, but I believe it’s more like, “you are what you read.”

Here is a list of my top 10 writing inspirations, the authors I admire and am thankful for, that I read and hope that in the end that some of their awesomeness has rubbed off on me and my writing.

Ten Authors That Inspire Me and My Writing

10. Neil Gaiman. I started reading his work with the SANDMAN graphic novels (OK, the art drew me in too), but I’ve enjoyed his screenplays, novels and short stories, too. What I like most about his writing is his ability to blend the real world and the supernatural into his works. He also looks good in black.

Advice from Neil:

9. Harlan Ellison. Any of you remember that show on the SciFi channel (not the hideous SyFy channel of today) called SciFi Buzz? I loved the segments Harlan did on that show. I also love his dark short stories mostly because they drip with attitude and secondly because the man can turn a phrase. Recommendation: “REPENT HARLEQUIN!” SAID THE TICKTOCKMAN.

Harlan's impressive credentials:

8. Kurt Vonnegut. I had the pleasure of hearing Kurt talk at my alma mater years ago. I still remember some of the things he said. Almost everything that came out of his mouth was quotable—and isn’t that something a good writer should be? Here is one statement he made that night that cracked the audience up, “If you really want to hurt your parents and don’t want to be gay, go into the arts.” My fav book by him: SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE.

7. John Steakley. His books ARMOR and VAMPIRE$ (the latter made into a mediocre movie by John Carpenter) have a fabulous sense of adventure and bigger than life characters (and also some fun dialogue) which is why he’s here on my list.

6. Michael Crichton. In his autobiography “TRAVELS” he talked about how early in his life he wanted to become a doctor, write books and direct movies—and sure enough that’s what he did, in about that order. Any author with an iota of the drive of Mr. Crichton had would go far. My fav book by him: EATERS OF THE DEAD (made into a movie I have to watch anytime it’s on TV, THE 13th WARRIOR.) And of course, where would we be without JURASSIC PARK ?

5. Christopher Moore. What can I say? Any author that can make people laugh is doing his/her job right.

4. Cormac McCarthy. A writer so good he can get away with anything. When I bought THE ROAD I couldn’t put it down, reading it after work on two consecutive nights. The thing I think I admire the most about this story and this author is that the details are so sparse, yet the story is so compelling. Cormac doesn’t even bother naming his characters (the Boy and the Man), he doesn’t get specific on the location or the year or exactly what happened to the world—and most of the book he seems to shun most common punctuation that gives this book an almost dream like quality.

3. Dean Koontz. Oh to master pacing and character like Mr. Koontz, or to be as prolific (I was aware of about 50 of his books, but it sounds like he may have written over 70). My fav of his works: WATCHERS (best dog character ever)

On creating ODD THOMAS:

2. Stephen King. I’ve written about Mr. King on this blog before, and last Halloween I walked past his house in Bangor, Maine. To say I’m a big fan is an understatement. The reasons why? Again, to be so prolific (and sell so many books) would be an honor. He claims to write every day (something I aspire to but manage only 50% of the time). But I think it is his mastery of giving me characters I like and care about so much is what most inspires me about this writer. Upon completion of two of his books (at least), THE STAND and IT, I found myself a bit bummed out—because I wanted to know what was going to happen to those characters next—and the book was over.

Advice to writers from King:

1. Ray Bradbury is at the top of my inspiring authors list. His books of short stories like THE OCTOBER COUNTRY and THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN were some of my first forays into science fiction and horror—and the imagination and poetry of his work has made a lasting impression on me. A few years ago I had the great pleasure to see him at an opening for something he believed in—a new library in St. Cloud, MN. After his reading that day I was literally the last person in line to see him and he stuck around, announcing an hour into the signing portion of his appearance (much to my relief) to all the waiting fans that he’d stay as long as it took to chat with everyone there to see him. When it was finally my turn in line he shook my hand and joked with me. I gave him a fan letter, thanking him for all his inspiration he’d given me over the years, me the novice writer. Six months later I was shocked to find a message on my answering machine from no other than Ray, wishing me a happy Easter and thanking me for the letter. A few days later an autographed copy of his book ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING arrived in the mail to me from him. All authors should be so gracious and generous to their readership let alone be so talented.

Ray's thoughts on books, writing and life:

Thanks for reading!



Keith Kulas said...

By the time I got to your descriptions of Ray Bradbury, tears started welling up. Nicely done, my friend!

Jon said...

Great Post, Mark. I may crib the idea for my next one. Well done!

Shawn Enderlin said...

Totally gonna steal this idea! :-)

Plus, the bit about RB was really neat.

Lisa said...

I'm reading Gaiman's The Graveyard Book right now.
It's lovely. Even the five-year old of the house was captivated when I read him a bit this afternoon.

Brenda said...

Loved the blog! Loved your picks!! Going to have to read some Christopher Moore, and the Vampires book as well. I know you've recommended them to me before and I'm inspired to jump into both.

Totally agree on the Eaters of the Dead, although Andromeda gives it some good competition. Thanks for watching The 13th Warrior with me about a zillion times - LOVE that movie!

Your biggest fan. ; )

P.S. My word verification word for this comment entry is "zinglea." What the hell is that?

Jon said...

That's what they call it when you totally burn someone multiple times. A "zinglea" of put-downs, like a gaggle of geese, but more likely to end in tears... at least, a little more likely...