Re. Soul Stealing: My Literary Influences

Over at Castle Debacle, Kristine (My Midnight Muse) has written an article called Soul Stealing. It’s quite good, and you should read it. At the end, she asks:

So who’s living inside you? Which writers did you absorb during your formative, reader years? Who has become a part of the writer that you are, recognizable or not?

This is my rather long answer, which I thought would be interesting to post in my own blog with a summary in the comments… because this is somewhat long.

When I was in high school, I wrote a story about a man who walked around and sucked talent out from other people, in particular writing talent, and that was why he was successful. It was a reaction to noticing how, when I read someone, I could see–for a while at least–that style, or at least a caricature of that style, in my own writing.

(Hmmm, I wrote quite a bit more back then than I thought I did.)

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were strong influences in high school and college, when I stumbled upon Good Omens and began exploring from there, and devoured everything they wrote. I still do. Their styles show up in my work from time to time–when I write something serious, Neil shows up with his lyricism and mythopoeic overtones; when I write something with a touch of humor, Pterry appears to give it that little bit of… I don’t know what he has. Humor fairy dust?

I know those are their styles, because I haven’t really got that all on my own.

If we’re not going to be pedantic and stick only to books, but to works in general–which all have, at the root of them, writing–then I moved on to serious comics reading in University, the slippery slope having started with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

And so my biographical voice is touched with Eddie Campbell’s quaint biographicals, mostly capitalizing on the sadness and introspection rather the touching humor he also uses; I’ve not yet reached that point in my life yet.

My fight scenes are an attempt at describing the quickness and violence in Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf & Cub–as well as the theme of the honorable, talented, misunderstood lone warrior who maintains a single tenuous connection to the world after his heart is sealed in a cold vegeance that extends over years. Oh yes, that theme is so from that epic.

Before a certain point in my life, I let people walk all over me. Then came a time when that was a bad, even life-threatening thing for me to do. And so the bite in me–and which shows up in my writing from time to time, when people are jaded and sarcastic, came from Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan. And his Planetary instilled in me the sense of trying to write with a sense of non-naive wonder and adventure as something necessary.

Actually, of all influences, I’d have to say that Warren Ellis is both the strongest, having turned me from fantasy and straight into science fiction, and also the one responsible for saving my life; but that is another story. His style doesn’t show up that often, but I think of him–or at least the main character of Transmetropolitan–as my drive.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is a late influence, and shows up in my current series in the works–not just as a pastiche character, but also in one would-be detective’s research and attempt to assume his methods, and as a more subtle influence in another character in A Change in the Weather (the psychotic, which is not the first time Holmes has been detected in an evil character–the Japanese call Hannibal the Cannibal “Sherlock Holmes in prison”, though that may just be a translation oddity of Silence of the Lambs).

And of late, the sarcastic dialogue of David Shore’s (and et al) House, a series which also draws influences from Sherlock Holmes, has crept more and more into my writing–definitely something new.

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, on the other hand, is a much older influence, and where my fondness for a first person point of view that matters comes from (far more so than from Doyle’s poor, maligned, but rather passive Watson).

And, strangely enough, most of my character’s introspective needs come from reading Hisaya Nakajo’s Hana-Kimi, a light romantic comedy. And my determination to cheerfully overcome all obstacles in my path–as well my acceptance of some of my vulnerability and naivety–come from the main character, Mizuki Ashiya (to use the Western ordering).

I’ve read pretty widely, too, but these are the main folks I see in my writing and my attitudes towards writing (and, sometimes, life as well).

4 thoughts on “Re. Soul Stealing: My Literary Influences

  1. Oooh, we could debate and discuss Holmes and Watson for HOURS. (We wouldn’t get any writing done, but it’d be fun!)Like I said over on the Debacle blog, I have a lot of influences, too, but the one who made me not only want to write, but feel I could write, was Robert Bencheley. Possibly because his pieces seemed so light and airy and like anyone could do similar if they only tried.There is only one Mr. Benchley, only one A. Conan Doyle, but, hopefully one day, there will only be on “us”, too.Jeanne

  2. Oooh, we should do that sometime! I’ve concluded that then worship of Holmes and Watson is the nuttiest fandom of all. I might start posting Nutbar Sherlock Holmes Theories or something on a regular basis.I have never heard of Robert Bencheley before, so I shall have to try him out. Decembers are low on the reading material for me. Any particular books to read as a first-time experience of the man?It would be cool to become a classic! Fan clubs in our names and unofficial bulletin boards to our works and everything. :dreams:

  3. Benchley was a humorist, good friend and contemporary of Dorothy Parker’s. He was a member of the Algonquin Round Table.If you can find it, try “Chips Off the Old Benchley”. It’s a collection created after his death, but I think it has most of his best pieces in it. Jeanne

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