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Elizabeth Quincy Nix asks: What are the most important literary influences on your writing?

Dear Elizabeth –

Let me begin with a rant.

In the not too distant past this was THE question to be asked of an author (in my opinion). However, what is forming on the horizon is a tragic need to ask a different question altogether and that is… DO. YOU. READ? I believe that a writer should read at least fifty books for every one we write and we should be careful to insure that we are exercising and maintaining a healthy vocabulary by not making that a diet of contemporary fiction. At least some of those books should be classical or acclaimed literature. 

End of rant.

To answer your question, we are a mass of collective experiences. Perhaps every book I’ve ever read that was memorable has influenced my writing in some way. Some of that influence is no doubt retained on a subconscious level, but there are a few greats whose names come to mind.

If I had to name one work as THE greatest thing ever written, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that would be a play entitled Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (perhaps). I have loved it and every great send off  – like West Side Story – and looked forward to being able to incorporate the idea into my series, which is why the war between the elves and fae was introduced in Book 1, My Familiar Stranger.

As a three-year-old I wanted to hear Snow White every night.

I believe the thing I found most captivating about the story was Snow White’s indomitable optimism.

She was cast out of her home and thrown into a world that was completely unfamiliar, but she quickly found people to love/care for and a way to be happy in her new life. (Come to think of it…. Hmmmm.)

In mid childhood I read all the Bobbsey Twins books by Laura Lee Hope and must give her credit because my first works were Bobbsey Twins novels that would be called fan fiction today.

When I was around ten, my dad bought me the Scribner Classics. It was a beautiful collection  of books illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. I loved the stories, but they were written by men for boys. All except for The Arabian Nights. One of the tales – “The Talking Bird, The Singing Tree, and the Golden Water” – was about a princess who set out on an adventure to save her brothers. Finally. Given the state of modern day Persia, it is so ironic that such a feminist story originated from that ancient culture.

I spent time with science fiction as an adolescent. I learned to appreciate the Ray Bradbury’s short stories and I learned to resent Robert A Heinlein. What I got from science fiction was more the flavor of possibility – the unknown, than a particular author.

In my late twenties I returned to fiction just as Stephen King, who is my age, began to gain popularity. I was captivated by Salem’s Lot and entranced by Christine.

I spent the next several decades with non-fiction, which I highly recommend to young authors. You need something to write about.

When I returned to pleasure reading, I read everything Anne Rice wrote and always wished I had written Memnoch the Devil.

Five years ago, or so, I read A Hunger Like No Other, by Kresley Cole and realized that horror and romance could be successfully married if approached with humor and an understanding of what we really need that’s not possible in reality. I devoured the rest of the Immortals After Dark series and went on to read a lot of other paranormal romance, but nothing else rocked me until the Fever Series (first five books) by Karen Marie Moning. The series was complete when I found it so I was able to read it as one story and loved the concept.

There you have it. Credit where it’s due. Thanks Grimm Bros., Laura, Sheherazade, Ray, Uncle Stevie, Anne, Kresley, Karen, and, sigh, Will.

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