Friday, August 19, 2011

What I've Learned From Other Authors

I had a thought the other day about how other writers have affected me and what made me start writing. I can remember when I read my first series; it was, Narnia, of course. Because I enjoyed that series so much my father suggested that I read one of Stephen Lawhead’s books. Steve was in my dad’s Bible study group so he told me to come down after class and Steve would bring me an autographed copy of his book, The Dragon King (which I didn’t understand, why would he be writing HIS name in MY book?) I could have cared less. I wanted a lion not a dragon. Needless to say I ended up reading the entire series and loved it! Since then I have always had a book close by, or I’m writing one. My taste for books has widened. I can’t pick just one genre but I can tell you what a few authors have taught me about writing.

Along the lines of Lawhead, Lewis and Tolkien, I enjoy the allegory that makes you think beyond the obvious and dig deeper. John Jakes made me appreciate historicals, which was a major feat after having the most boring history teacher ever. And although I didn’t used to enjoy romances, the book, Mrs. Mike, showed me that a realistic story about relationships could be done tastefully. Janet Evanovich taught me how to add humor into my stories. Even the darkest or most serious of books can use a little comic relief to bring out another side of a character. The classics made me realize the changes in the literary industry and to learn from the ‘greats’.

I’m not a big horror fan but reading Stephen King’s, The Stand, was powerful and filled with symbolism. My dad has read all of the Louis L’Amour books at least twice. Louis may as well have lived at our house as often as he was there in thought. My dad taught me to look for the ‘take away’ in his books which gave the story more meaning. Francine Rivers took a giant leap when she wrote one of the first ‘edgy’ Christian fiction stories. Her, Mark of the Lion, series is still my favorite. Francis Chan wrote a non-fiction book that was so incredible I started reading non-fiction again.

Last but definitely not least is, The Way, my first Bible, you know the author. I wouldn’t have chosen to write in the Christian market if I hadn’t studied the Book when I was a teenager and on into adulthood. Because my faith is as much a part of me as taking a breath, the Christian undertone that is weaved into my stories is not forced. Its how I think and how I feel, not a sermon, just a way of thinking about life when you’re a Christian, and if you’re not a believer, how to get there. I don’t ever want to write preachy. I want readers to tell me if I do, but if my story doesn’t show that Way of living I’m being a hypocrite. I hope I’m finding that balance in my writing and in life.

Questions: What authors inspired you to write?
What authors and in what genres do you like to read?


Bruce Hennigan said...


Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” captured my imagination as a kid and I devoured the book. Then, I read “Fahrenheit 451” and understood the importance of story to mankind. I took a tangential turn with, of all people, Kenneth Robeson and his book series based on the old pulp serial, “Doc Savage”. Horrible writing but great plot and great characters. James Lee Burke, although sometimes quite profane, has some of the most incredible poetic prose I have ever read. I read every book he writes for nothing more than to see a thundercloud move across the sky as he sees it and to meet his exotic, bizarre characters. Doesn’t hurt that I live in Louisiana where his books are set. I fell in love with the mysteries written by Robert Parker, particularly his Spenser series where I learned the power of good, spare dialogue. No beats.

Robert Crais is another of my favorite mystery writers. I love his Elvis Cole and who can’t be intrigued by Joe Pitt! Of course, I was enraptured by Tokien’s Lord of the Rings while in college. I read Tosca Lee’s “Demon: A Memoir” and found myself reading and re-reading her prose. I heard on a podcast she based her writing on her dance moves. She dances with her words! What a great analogy!

I’m currently trying to read through some classic authors such as Frederick Beuchner, Wendell Berry, and Flannery O’Connor. Also, Walter Wangerin, Jr.

That’s enough for now. I could go on and on and on. It is true that there are far too many books and not enough time to read them!

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Beth,
I grew up on Nancy Drew and Alfred Noyes poem, The Highwayman, and Sherlock Holmes. :) I love Sharyn McCrumb and if you haven't read any of her books, I highly recommend, Highland Laddie Gone and The PMS Outlaws if you need a laugh. Just go to Amazon and look her up. She writes a lot about Appalachia. Just love her. Great book on St. Dale related to the racing world. Also, The Ballad of Frankie Silver.

I read a lot of romances after college and thought I could do that, but not quite like that. :) I enjoy Julie Lessman, Laura Kinsale, Francine Rivers, Julia Quinn, Stephen Koontz, Julie Garwood's historicals, Sidney Sheldon, Mary Higgens Clark, Harlan Coben, and some Ted Dekker. I'm currently reading Bruce Alexander's novels, the Sir John Fielding Mysteries. I think I might be a latent mystery writer.:)

I'll stop there before I push you over the edge with my enthusiasm. Beth, do you remember reading romance? Why do you write what you write? :)

Anonymous said...

Jill, I grew up in a conservative home where romance novels were frowned upon and our church forbid them. It wasn't until I was older that a friend introduced me to a christian based romance. The story was engaging and tastefully done. I'm still picky about what romances I read but I have found many that I've enjoyed, especially in the CBA market.

Beth Shriver said...

That last comment was from me, Beth! I'm out if town and my iPhone didn't recognize me;(