Here’s where we get to gab about words: reading them and writing them. Come talk with me. Just pop your replies and questions into Comments, and we’re off to the races!
TLChurcher over at http://homeandspirit.wordpress.com asked me what writers influenced me. In her comment (see my post The Workshop), she was kind enough to say that she finds my style beautiful and that she feels it is like the style of past centuries. Her suggestion that I write a post addressing these thoughts kicked off this page, so here goes.
My influences are varied and the list is far too long to post, but I’ve read my “classics”. I read them before I picked up a lot of modern works because that was what was lying around the house when I started reading as a child. Not that anyone else was reading them. They were gorgeous derelicts, revered as good literature but more often than not losing their audience to dogeared Louis L’Amour paperbacks. The language of those bygone days enchanted me, and it stuck. I guess if I’d discovered noir thrillers first, my style might be hard boiled. But I picked up Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, and even Shakespeare. I read myths and fairy tales and ghost stories by the bale. No one paid much attention and I was free to read what I liked.
As an adult, I revisited the folk tale compilations of the Grimms, Anderson, and Perrault, and devoured retellings by modern writers. Angela Carter has been a great influence. I love the ghost stories of M.R. James and Edith Wharton. Poe is a huge influence, of course. Lovecraft. I’m a dedicated Stephen King fan. Alice Hoffman. Joyce Carol Oates. Shirley Jackson. Dean Koontz. So many I can’t even think of all of them just now.
I always go for the story, and it has to be great, but language is important, too. Very nearly as important to me as story. I don’t particularly like literary “stories” where nothing really happens and the language is high brow and academically slick. I’m not sophisticated enough for that. I’m a grubber in the story trenches, a miner for thrills. I like to have my emotions played like a violin, but I need my guts to be engaged, too. And through all of this, the language has to be dazzling. Beautiful. Powerful. Gritty and fearless. I want masters who know what language can do, and who bend and weave it in ways that make me catch my breath in awe. I want the spell of being there, in the story, not merely outside the covers looking in.
Anyway, those are the things I look for as a reader, the things that inspire me. As a writer, I hope to be able to work even a bit of that kind of magic, and when a reader likes it – well, that’s just about the best feeling in the world. It’s always all for the readers.