Without art, we’d have a lot less art. That sounds funny, but think about it. The art we see in museums, on the big screen, on television, in everyday life, and on our computer screens is our framework for what art is. The more of it we’re exposed to, the more likely we are to be inspired to create art of our own—whether it be paintings, writings, music, photography, or any other kind of art.
Since I know an author or two, I decided to ask what books inspired them to write. The answers were as varied and interesting as the authors themselves.
Samuel Peralta: Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Never Let Me Go” and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale made me realize that speculative fiction can also be literature, and has inspired me in my own writing.
EJ Fisch: Some of my earliest writing was heavily influenced by authors like Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, and despite gravitating toward sci fi, many of those same thriller elements are still present in my writing today. I liked Dekker’s books because they were intense and chilling without being outright horrific (which, being only 13 or 14 years old, I appreciated). They also always ultimately ended up being tales of good vs. evil. While my own stories often end up dealing more with “gray areas,” having a good understanding of those good vs. evil examples makes it possible for me to write the way I do. Dekker’s characters are always compelling and are usually fighting some sort of personal battle throughout the events of his stories, and I’ve always loved that.
Rysa Walker: Most of the influences for my CHRONOS series were historical. That was true not just of the events that I incorporated via time travel, but also of the oppressive, money-grubbing religion, Cyrist International, that Kate is fighting against. We have many religious leaders out there today who are primarily concerned with lining their own pockets, oppressing others, and increasing their power. But novels like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis that cover similar topics were also major influences.
My new book, The Delphi Effect, pulls in some real history as well, but readers may also detect the impact of the wide array of sci-fi tinged with parapsychology that I read as a teen. Stephen King’s early work–The Shining, The Dead Zone, Firestarter, Carrie–definitely shaped my work. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is another. Oh, and Watership Down by Richard Adams. The characters in The Delphi Trilogy may not be actual rabbits, but there are some strong parallels.
MD Cooper: After reading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsdawn I had a “wait… Fantasy can be scifi?” moment. Then when I read Larry Niven’s Ringworld I had another holy shit moment as I bathed in the scope of what he wrote. Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep had a similar effect.
The game Halo influenced me a lot, and the Halo book, First Strike by Eric Nylund shored up the concepts of future super soldiers that began with Heinlin’s Starship Troopers.
Tanya Huff’s Confederation of Valor series gets the gold star for showing me what an awesome hard, military, romance scifi could look like. It’s probably the best military scifi I’ve ever read.
Holly Heisey: I discovered the Seafort Saga by David Feintuch as I was writing my first novel years ago, and it was the first time I’d been impacted by both the story of a book and the way it was told. I promptly went back and rewrote my novel in first person and learned so much from the experience. The biggest influences on the themes and scope of my writing, though, might be Madeleine L’Engles’s Wrinkle Quintet and Frank Herbert’s Dune. I read the Wrinkle books over and over as a kid and completely absorbed the mix of fantasy and science fiction in storytelling. It’s rare that my stories don’t have some element of both, and I’ve noticed I often go for the inner, emotion-driven plots that those books did so well. I had the best early teacher! I read Dune as a teenager and it worked on me in a similar way, and also gave me my first look at a grand epic with huge scale. I was so captivated that I’ve been writing epics ever since.
Rachel Aukes: My favorite book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve always loved Douglas Adams’s voice, and aspire to tell a story as full of as much fun as he could pull from every sentence.
Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series introduced me to paranormal romance. I had no idea that genre existed, and I fell in love with both the genre and her heroes. She was by far the largest inspiration behind my finally freeing my daydreamed ideas and putting pen to paper.
I find it interesting that some authors mention the same works, while others found inspiration in books that were outside of their own genre. In the end, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, inspiration is in the mind of the dreamer.
Many thanks to the authors who participated!