I is for Influence

It's one of the most commonly asked questions during author interviews. "What novelists would you say influenced your own writing when you were growing up?" Most of the time the answers are comprised of the usual suspects, high profile writers who've sold oodles of books. For me it would be Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ed McBain, Agatha Christie, Mickey Spillane, Pat Conroy, and many many more. But every now and then there are a few who make the list who...well let's just say they've flown under the radar.

There's another question that's asked in a lot in these interviews, and its "What was it that made you want to become a writer?" For me, the answer to that question is forever linked to the first.

I write because I love the feeling of seeing how my words/story affects others. I adore pulling at my readers heart-strings, making their heart race, forcing their hand to fly to their mouth in shock, or how they're unable to suppress a laugh in a quiet room. In my own small way, I am influencing them.

Some would say that influence can often lead to imitation (which could have easily been my I word today). Though it is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, I'm not trying to imitate the way that King, Koontz, McBain, Christie, Spillane or Conroy write. I'm trying to imitate the way they made me feel when I read their work. Every one of them held me hostage, manipulated my emotions, and left me the better for it. That is the nuts and bolts of why I write.

It's beyond my wildest dreams to become as influential as the writers above, and many others like them, but to be one of those authors who fly under the radar and possibly influence some other future writer? That would be a gift indeed.

Did you know that I'm running a contest during the Challenge? No? You can read all about it HERE.

DL

53 comments

  1. Yes, those are two common questions. In fact, I start all my author interviews with asking why the person wanted to become a writer.

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  2. That's a list of fantastic writers. I'm influenced by too many writers to list!

    Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  3. 'Why do you want to become a writer?' is a frequently asked question. I wonder if it is more a question of writing choosing us! But yes I definitely feel 'influence' or 'inspiration' from many other writers, some well known, some less so.

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  4. Who influenced me to be a writer? Arthur C. Clarke and later Eugenia Price. Both of them I knew socially and encouraged me to write if only for myself.

    Why did I want to become a writer? I didn't. It grew out of me.

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  5. Yeah, if I can move just one other person I would consider that a job well done!

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  6. true... i am influenced by many things as for wanting to be a writer... i have no answers.

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  7. I'm not a writer, I'm just a blogger and no one influenced what or how I write. I just babble from the heart and hope someone reads my drivel.

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  8. I am not a novel writer but I do write poetry(try is the operative word).
    When at school I detested poetry, in fact I used to make excuses not to go to the lesson.
    It wasn't until family events occurred I put my thoughts down on paper now they're in 2 books.

    Yvonne.

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  9. It can be a fine line between influence and imitation.

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  10. I've always been a bit jealous of people who keep wrapped up in a book their reading, somehow I rarely have so it's always been a mystery to me. I've seen people talking about characters in a book like they lived next door to them and couldn't wait to see them again. How enjoyable that must be, both for the reader and the writer. Best of Luck.

    A-Z

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  11. I agree with you. I'm trying to emulate how other authors made me feel, but I do it in my own way. Their method and style would never work for me.

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  12. I'm not sure if there are any authors I try to emulate. There are authors I admire and wish I could write like, but at the end of the day I still write like me. A me who challenges herself to to be a better writer, but never a better writer like so and so.

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  13. I worry about this, too, copying other writer's form and style. And this is a realistic concern because when I read, I REALLY get into it. To help against this, I don't read anything when I'm actively writing. Nothing.

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  14. I find it really hard to answer such a question, because I tend to write in many different genres, so really I could say "many different authors in different genres" as an answer. I do know that my first major writing project was heavily influenced by Shannara and the Wheel of Time (yes, it was fantasy) though. hehe

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  15. Your list is Impressive, and like you, I Imagine each one of them were asked 'The Question' many times. If ever I have the opportunity to be asked 'The Question', I'd have to say IRMA Bombeck.

    You are INVITED to a Quilt Show...by INVITATION only...click on CITexasGal Link.
    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

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  16. As an avid mystery reader, I love a writer who aims to make my heart race.

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  17. I can't really say that any of those authors influenced me ... probably because we don't write in the same genre :) But my own writing definitely has it's influences from famous authors.

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  18. I read recently that most writers begin by imitating and that it's okay to do so, in fact, by imitating we eventually find our own voice and style. As for influence, well, aside from Tolkien I'd add Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Tad Williams, Vernor Vinge and Peter Hamilton. And yeah, it would be pretty cool if one day I ended up being influential in someone else's writing career.

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  19. This post sounds familiar ;-)
    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
    @TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

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  20. I have never really thought about who influences me. That's not very intuitive, I suppose. I know who I love and respect, but I don't think I am even playing in the same ball park as them.

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  21. What about people other than writers who have inspired you?

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  22. Sadly, I don't remember the authors I read as a child. I remember some of the stories but not the authors. Maybe my childhood was too many decades ago. :-)

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  23. We should all have an impressive list of authors, or people who have influenced us to write, or to pursue our dreams. My parents did that for me. They instilled a good work ethic in their children and made sure we knew that anything was possible if you persevere.

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  24. Interesting question - Who influenced you to write? - When I think about it, it's not so much the who as the what. Like you I like to be emotionally engaged in what I'm reading as well as informed. If you can make me laugh out loud, cry, be shocked or scared, I have been influenced. I find that it's not necessarily the author who does that for me (King as an example - he's very good, but I can only take so much of his 'shock therapy' and I want to 'feel' something else), but the story.

    I think in the end I write because I hae stories to tell.

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  25. Just keep thinking you'll do better than any of these writers. You might be the writer who influences others soon.

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  26. Those are common questions but they're very hard to answer. Everyone I've read has influenced me. Whether to be a better writer or to teach me what not to do.

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  27. I've never read a single book by any of those authors, although I've been meaning to get to Agatha for ages.

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  28. I love a good crime story, read all those authors also enjoy Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Jeffery Deaver, to name a few. Good post.
    #atozchallenge
    maggie winter

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  29. I have a lot of the same writing influences as you do: Agatha Christie being a big influence on me. Also, like you, I love the feedback of my readers and I love how my characters influence my writing.

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  30. I'd cite Stephen King and Dean Koontz, too, as well as Agatha Christie. And (later) Anne Rice and Neil Gaiman. As for why I write? Because I like taking the pictures from my head and delivering them to others, and since I can't paint . . . Also, when I don't write, I become a truly unpleasant human being.

    ~MPL
    http://pepperwords.com

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  31. Imitate the way you feel - that is an excellent way to word it.
    I started writing so I could read stories I wasn't finding anywhere else.

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  32. Thanks D.L. It is important to consider the influence our words have and those whose influence we accept as well. God bless, Maria from Delight Directed Living

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  33. I have soooo many novelists who influence me. Don't get me wrong I am influenced by many writers on the shelves of libraries, bookshops and Asda. But, what's even more amazing is that, in some cases, the writers who influenced me (and others) did so centuries, or mere decades, after their deaths. That is the glory of the written word.

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  34. Jack London, L. Frank Baum and John Steinbeck are three who had a profound influence on me.

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  35. That would be an awesome thing...to influence others through your words.

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  36. Just imagine - each of the writers you mentioned probably had the same thoughts...never in my wildest dreams! Some wildest dreams do come true.

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  37. "I'm not trying to imitate the way that King, Koontz, McBain, Christie, Spillane or Conroy write. I'm trying to imitate the way they made me feel when I read their work."

    Excellent point.

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  38. I think you nailed it that it's the pulling the reader into the story that leaves the mark - those other writers showed you what you want to accomplish, but you go about doing it in your own way.

    Happy I Day!

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  39. I like the way you put it. Yes, I am not trying to imitate anyone either. It's a combination of imitating the way those authors made me feel AND what Alex said. I wanted to read stories I would not find anywhere else.
    My best to you!

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  40. If only I could really imitate- but no, I'm trying to find my own unique voice.

    Nas

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  41. It's funny though, I don't feel like I was influenced by any specific authors. I've just read so many books by so many people. I guess I could answer that...everyone?

    Heather

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  42. I used to be a huge Dean Koontz fan, but I haven't read him in years. Now that I write for children, I read a lot for children. I love Margaret Peterson Haddix and Gordan Kormen.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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  43. Great word! There are always people who influence you more than others, but many people influence you in one way or another. I wonder if we even recognize all of our influences. We could have many small influences that add up, or combine.

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

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  44. Koontz is one of my influences too. He's a master. I've read enough that I can't really pick just a couple authors. I pick specific works. I'll love one for the characters, another for the plot, another for its uniqueness, another for the way it moved me emotionally...

    As far as reasons for writing, MY HEAD WOULD EXPLODE if I didn't. You know? Don't you have a millions stories chasing around, begging to be free and threatening to light your other brain cells on fire?

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  45. Great post. While I'd love to make a living from my writing, I'm enjoying just making an impact on the few people who read my work. Sometimes a single blog comment or good critique of a chapter feels like enough.

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  46. I started writing because I wanted to share my love of the written word, but also because I think I have something unique to offer readers. I've been influenced by a slew of writers, Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith, James Lee Burke, John Irving, goodness I could go on for days, but I don't think I would or could emulate them. Even if I tried, I'd always end up sound like me.

    Excellent "I"!

    ~VR Barkowski

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  47. (I just started reading Koontz and have yet to read a single King novel! Seems like the more I venture into the "authoring" world, the more I feel left out...hahah! I have some catching up to do! ;)

    That would be quite an achievement in life! Doing something you love and admire while encouraging talent in others.

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  48. Besides writers, what about artists who have influenced you (visual and performing artists)?

    Writer In Transit

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  49. There are some things we just do, because they are part of who we are...writing seems to fit the bill for so many of us bloggers. Nice post!

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  50. It's true that being able to influence the reader is a strong motivation for writing, but so is the beauty of the words themselves.

    Thanks for another great post.

    Lyre at Lyre's Musings

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  51. Hi DL .. you've enough comments to fill a book here .. and it's always interesting to hear how and why people started writing .. or blogging ...

    You have loads of people entering your contest me thinks .. but all with salient comments!! Cheers Hilary

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  52. I've been writing since the first grade! Remember a two-year writer's block a decade ago that had me worried I'd lost whatever talent I had - was so afraidI'd be permanently bereft.

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  53. After reading this post, I wonder at the dichotomy of influence and inspire. Are they part of one entity that is split equally down the middle? Are they the same? Different? Do people influence and things inspire? Do people influence and inspire? Can things influence?
    Now you've got me thinking!

    Cheers from Brandy at http://brandysbustlings.blogspot.ca/

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