Influence and Inspiration

Every writer that’s ever lived has been inspired by something, influenced by someone, and vice versa. I always find it interesting to hear from other authors who and what lit that spark for them, so I thought today I would share my own list.

Who and What Inspired Me to Write:

Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_StoneThe answer to this is J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter juggernaut. I started reading the series back when it first came out. I must have been 8 when my mom read my sister and I the first book. It was the series; it was and still is my childhood, and it holds a very special place in my heart. It introduced me to magic, mystery, love, and friendship, and in many ways helped shape the person I am today. Many of Rowling’s “lessons” or “messages” include the acceptance of people, to love unconditionally, to be kind, and these are values that still and always will hold true.

From a writer’s perspective, the series itself showed me I could take my ideas, however simple they might be, and turn them into something grand, into a book that I, and hopefully many others, would enjoy reading.


Who and What Fostered My Early Desire to be a Writer:

Two people: Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allan Poe.

Neil Gaiman (and Rowling to a certain extent) introduced me to the weird, whimsical, witty, and dark, all amalgamated into one, something I’ve found also present in Sir Terry Pratchett’s work. In a way, Gaiman’s newest book, a collection of non fiction entitled A View From the Cheap Seats, helped me get back into recording and sharing my own thoughts about writing and the like; I credit his work and general character with the maturation of my own writing and voice.

Edgar Allan Poe, in many ways, is an influence prevalent throughout much of what I’ve written. My earliest attempts at writing short fiction were blatant simulations of his own writing style, which helped me hone my craft and find my own voice while still holding on to Poe’s favorite theme/topic: the death of a beautiful woman. This is prevalent in many of Poe’s stories and poems, especially Annabel Lee, as well as many of my own, including Sewn From Seeds, The Forger, and Temperance (but in a different way).

Who and What Introduced Me to Epic Fantasy:

Target, Brandon Sanderson, and The Rithmatist.

Let me explain: up until probably three years ago, I, an aspiring fantasy writer, hadn’t read a lick of epic fantasy. I’d read Harry Potter, American Gods, and the like, but I hadn’t really read much more than that. Then one day, I happened to be browsing the book selection in Target (I was shopping with my mother) and the jacket art for The Rithmatist caught my eye. The plot sounded cool, so I bought it and read through the book in a few days.

Elantris_coverSanderson’s name seemed familiar to me, even though I’d never read anything of his prior to The Rithmatist. I did some Google investigating and learned that he’d completed Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, which is where I then remembered seeing his name: on the cover of one of those gigantic books at Barnes & Noble. I looked at Sanderson’s own catalog and picked up Elantris. It was grand, it was fantastic, and I wanted more. I plowed through the Mistborn trilogy, through the first two Stormlight Archive books, and some short stories as the months went by. These were the kinds of stories I wanted to tell.

Since then, I’ve watched his online lectures, recording during his classes at BYU. I listen to the Writing Excuses podcast on a weekly basis. I study my ass off in order to hone my craft. Sanderson introduced me to a new world, to a whole slew of authors: Terry Brooks, Ursula K. Le Guin, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, and Brian Staveley just to name a handful.

Once I picked up Elantris, I never looked back. Instead, I look forward, learning how I can improve my story telling; trying to write the best I can.

Who and What have Influenced My Current Work:

Brandon Sanderson (see above for detailed answer) and, most recently, Ursula K. Le Guinn.

514h421SWdL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_Several blog posts ago, I wrote about Le Guin and “The War Against,” which refers to a theme common in many stories (not just fantasy) in which there are two or more forces working against each other, at war, so to speak. To paraphrase, Le Guin’s own work is devoid of such a conflict, in favor of focusing on the character’s growth and journey; something more spiritual and personal in a way, I think.

*Author’s Note* Read Le Guin’s own afterword/author’s note in A Wizard of Earthsea, where she explains in detail her sort of philosophy.

Between Le Guin and Sanderson as influences, I’ve seen my writing evolve, become more focused and immersive. I’ve learned, and still am learning, how to create believable magic systems and fantastical worlds. I have learned and will continue to learn. It’s part of the fun of writing.

Where to Find Inspiration and Influence:

These don’t come simply from authors and books. As a writer, it’s certainly important to read wide and plenty (especially in the genre you write), but it’s equally as important to experience the world around you. Environment and weather are great, as is music or interesting local events (example: the cemetery flooding in Tujunga,CA back in 1978). Anything can influence or inspire you and your work. 

Suggested Reading:

A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

The Rithmatist and Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

Neverwhere and A View From the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman

Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe


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