I’m not sure if I’ve covered this topic and if I have then I apologize. I was filling out questions for an interview for another website and one of the questions asked about what book and/or author had influenced me the most. Surprisingly, it’s not really a question that I get asked. Yet, it’s one of the more important questions that must be asked. Everyone is influenced by someone or something. It could be a work or art, work of fiction, your parents, or even someone you’ve never met in person. That influence changes you, shapes you into the person that you will become. What would the world be like without the speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King? What would it be like without the works of Mary Shelley or Edgar Allen Poe?
So without further ado, here are my top influencers (not in any certain order either):
1. My Mother and Father. I know what you’re saying right now. “But Jim, that’s an obvious choice.” I would argue that it isn’t such an obvious choice. Parents are human too and sometimes they leave a negative influence. However, my parents both taught me something that I might not have learned otherwise. For my mother, it was to keep calm and carry on. When my parents first divorced, she was left with four children and one income. Granted my older sister would later go to live with my father, it still left mom with three children to feed, clothe, and get to school. And she did just that until the time I left to live in South Bend for college. She taught me perseverance and maybe a bit stubbornness which can be a good thing from time to time. My father taught me the value of humor. When I was in the hospital with that three foot blood clot in my left leg, my wife (at the time) would get angry that I was cracking jokes about my situation. In my opinion, if you can’t laugh at either yourself or the situation you’re in then it must be dire. Plus, laughter is beneficial for your health so there’s that. When I was young I was grounded for some reason. I had to wait for my father to come home and deal out punishment. My young mind came up with so many scary scenarios that when he did get home, I dreaded it. Instead of pain and suffering, he handed me a hardback copy of Hardy Boys #2: The House on the Cliff. My punishment was to read the entire book. It was the best punishment ever. It also opened me up to books in general.
2. Stephen King. When I was in sixth grade, I started reading the works of Stephen King. You might be saying, “But Jim, you shouldn’t have been reading those books at that grade. You were too young for that stuff.” And… you’d be right. I shouldn’t have been reading his stuff at that age. But I was. Starting with “IT” I moved on to “Gerald’s Game” and then “Firestarter” and “The Gunslinger.” Once I read that last one I was a fan for life. His books influenced not only my writing style, but the writing ethic that I try to maintain. I can’t maintain his writing ethic, but it’s something I’m always trying to elevate myself towards.
3. George Romero. Romero is the film equivalent to Stephen King in the aspect that his trilogy of zombie films influenced me to write post-apocalyptic fiction. I’ve seen zombie films before, but it wasn’t until I watched the 1968 film “Night of the Living Dead” that I truly appreciated the use of zombies in film and literature. I learned that zombies shouldn’t be the main focus. It’s the conflict between the human protagonist and antagonist that the story should be centered on. The zombies are the vehicle to get that conflict isolated and focused around. Romero was an expert at that.
4. The Bible. I know, everyone uses God and religion as their main influencer. For me that holds true as well. If you want to know why all you have to do is read the book of Revelations. As a writer of horror, this is the source of post-apocalyptic genre. The name of the genre derives from the word Apocalypse which comes from Revelations. The imagery is amazing as well. I’ll just leave it like that.
Those were just four influencing elements that have made me the writer that I am. There are a plethora of others that I could detail and maybe I will, but so far those are the leading ones.
Take a moment and think about your life. Even if you’re not a writer, what influences you? Leave a comment with your top influences!
Categories: Mastering the Craft