Inspired by The Firm

This month’s topic is “Best books outside your genre that influenced you.”  For me that book was The Firm.  It was the first book that held my attention from start to finish.  I can say that with certainty because it was the first book I had ever read in its entirety.  I was 21 years old.

I didn’t hit my ‘reading peak’ until my twenties.  In fact, I had no interest in it whatsoever.  Every time I tried to read a book, I’d get bored and lose interest after a few chapters.  Then I came across John Grisham’s The Firm.  For the first time in my life I couldn’t put a book down.  His writing style, mystery and character building sucked me and kept me intrigued until the very end.  I couldn’t get enough.  After reading my very first book, I was hooked and started reading regularly.

I often wonder, if I hadn’t read The Firm, would I have ever started reading?  I most certainly wouldn’t have started writing.  For me, John Grisham, opened a whole new world of reading and writing that I never new existed.  He inspired me and changed my life.

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The Roads Less Traveled

Since this month’s topic is about books OUTSIDE our genre that have influenced us, I’m not sure where to begin. I read a lot of books outside my genre. I read to learn, to be entertained, to escape boredom and boring friends, to understand the madness of my neighbors, the psychosis of people of different races, the teen angst… The list goes on and on.

Having four older brothers and two older sisters, I started reading grown-up books at a very young age. My oldest sister read romance, so I was introduced to romance at a time when there was no kissing in romance books. I still remember my first book, Shutter the Sky by Janet Daily. Then there was Barbara Cartland’s historical romances. The ton. The handsome rakes. The young ladies swooning. I don’t write historical, but yes, I’m old.

cartland

My brothers introduced me to espionage books before they started turning them into movies . I loved the intricate plots of Tom Clancy books (Jack Ryan books), the intensity of Robert Ludlum (Jason Bourne books), the cunning minds of criminals in Mario Puzo books.

puzo

Then there’s non-fiction. The one that tops that pyramid is the Road Less Travelled Scott Peck. I love learning how people’s minds work and the root of mental illness or psychosis.

peck

So now I write romance with suspense, wicked villains, totally flawed characters, paranormal and fantasy elements

By Swashbuckler, out of Buddy Cop Show…

 

Bell_Thief_cover-12-16The topic this month is “books outside your genre that have influenced you.”  But since I read a fair bit outside my genre, and practically everything has influence somewhere, I thought I’d talk instead about the two genres I squashed togeth…ah, melded seamlessly, to create my current series, the Knight & Rogue books.

I grew up in the heyday of buddy cop TV shows.  I Spy is the first I remember watching—in black and white, no less, and before you write me off as ancient I was very young when I Spy was on, and they may have been reruns…  OK, I’m ancient.  But it was a really good show, full of action and witty banter, resting on the solid foundation of a deep, warm—straight—male friendship.

(A lot of fans ask me if Fisk & Michael are gay—and if not, why not?  I wouldn’t mind if they were gay, but that’s not the genre tradition they come from.  And despite the everything-has-to-be-a-romance trend that has taken over YA these days, there are many non-romantic human relationships that are very important to the people involved in them.)

Man from Uncle, Simon & Simon, Starsky and Hutch (forget the movie, the TV show was good).  By the time Miami Vice came out, the buddy cop show was fading from TV screens, and the Lethal Weapon movies were probably its last gasp.  But it left an indelible impression on me, of how deeply partners and friends can care about each other.  And what a great combination banter and action make.

The other parent of my Knight & Rogue books was all the swashbucklers I read (and watched) at about the same time the buddy cop shows were on.  Captain Blood is Sabatini’s best known novel, but I liked The Black Swan best.  Then there’s Robin Hood—I think I was in third grade when I read Howard Pyle’s version, which is by far the best—Zorro, The Scarlet Pimpernel…  The swashbuckler perished even before the buddy cop show did, but they were fueled by the same appealing combination of wit and derring do.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Knight & Rogue novels are the only ones I’ve written where the characters came into my head before the core of the plot—because for all their action and wit, it’s the friendship between the two protagonists that forms the core of a buddy cop show.  Putting that relationship into a swashbuckler setting felt utterly natural—witty banter from both it’s genre parents, thank you.  Then throw in just enough magic to get by with calling it a fantasy, and viola!  The Last Knight was born.  Rogue’s Home and Player’s Ruse followed shortly, and after a bit of a hiatus, Thief’s War has just emerged into the world, with two more siblings planned to follow.  And while they may not be my “best” books (I love all my novel-children, for different reasons and in different ways) I have to confess that these are the ones I like the best, because they are, quite simply, the most fun.

Hilari Bell has already shamelessly plugged her book, but you can buy Thief’s War at Amazon.com (hardcover and paperback, as well as ebook) BarnesandNoble.com and Smashwords.com, and it should be up on Apple’s I-Bookstore very shortly.

Non-Fiction Influences

I think the books that you read when you’re young are the ones most likely to influence and shape the rest of your life. I didn’t read much SF and fantasy in high school; I tended to read more historical fiction (I devoured a lot of Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt during this time), and I even read classic stories that weren’t assigned in English class. But one of the books that’s influenced me the most was recommended to me by a friend. It’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. If you’re not familiar with this work, on one level, it’s the story of a man and his son on a cross-country motorcycle trip. On another level, it’s the story of that man’s search for truth. He starts with science and travels into philosophy, going back to the Greeks.  They decided the Good and the True are not the same, which has led to a split between rational and aesthetic ways of thinking that still influences our society. Although this may sound like an intimidating book, it’s actually quite readable. I’ve read this book multiple times, to the point where my paper copy is beaten up and full of underlines. Good thing I also have it on my Kindle. I find the section on gumption particularly helpful at times when I’m struggling.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance introduced me to Taoism, which has influenced my spiritual thinking. Other books that have affected my philosophy include Illusions by Richard Bach (though I read Illusions II this year and found it didn’t resonate with me the way the first book did), The Tao of Pooh, and The Te of Piglet.

I’m well past my high school years, but other books still affect my thinking. A People’s History of the World has given me some ideas I want to use in a book someday. I’m also going meatless this month after reading Meatonomics last month.

What non-fiction books have shaped your philosophy?

You Mean There’s More to Life Than Genre Fiction??

ImageI admit I’m a bit obsessed with YA fantasy and sci-fi, but that doesn’t mean it’s all I read. I’ve read my share of adult books, some recent NA books as well. But the thing that most surprises me is how much I’m enjoying contemporary works lately. I’m not saying anything crazy, like I’m going to write one (at least not YET) but I am truly enjoying them.

Example? I LOVED Stina Lindenblatt’s debut NA, TELL ME WHEN. I’m currently enjoying John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS as well. Does that mean I’m changing? Who knows! I’m always changing, growing hopefully for the better. 

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But no matter what the more I read, the better I feel about my own abilities. It’s like taking a crash course in writing directly into the subconscious. Hey – I like that quote. Maybe I’ll use it again! LOL

The point is, you can’t write without reading. You can’t be a writer unless you love reading. And no matter what  you read, if it’s done right, it will transport you to another world and other people’s lives. Translation: AWESOME. 

So read everything. Every chance you get. Every way you can – paper, electronics, audio, whatever. Because being stuck in a genre rut is akin to being stuck as a writer and you want to grow, right? I know I do! 

March – Best books outside our genre that influenced us

Though Twilight is the book that got me started with my writing career, a few authors cemented my love of reading.

As a teenager, I read a lot of Stephen King books. He could draw me into a story, keeping me up till two in the morning, like no one else. And his ability to scare the daylights out of me was incredible!

I also enjoyed high fantasy back then, and read the Sword of Shannara Trilogy. Terry Brooks did a great job of making me invested in his characters. Though I no longer enjoy lengthy fantasy, I still recall the complete immersion into these stories.

Lately, though I mostly read young adult books, Gena Showalter and her paranormal romance books have been keeping me interested. Though each book focuses on the romance, her books all contain great storylines and interesting characters caught in situations that seem impossible.

Finally, Ann Rule and her true crime books amaze me. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I’ve read many of her books and continue to enjoy them.

There are other books and authors I love, but these stand out as the books and authors outside my genre that keep me reading and trying new things!

Just Because I Write Urban Fantasy Doesn’t Mean It’s All I Read

Ok, I write epic fantasy as well, and I’ve published a few horror stories, though I wouldn’t call myself a horror writer. And, I definitely don’t limit myself to reading only the genres I write in.

One genre I just adore is historical fiction, and one of my all-time favorites is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Some put this title into the fantasy category due to the time travel elements, but what hooked me on this series was the amazing description of eighteenth century Scotland. And, every time Jamie calls Claire Sassenach, my heart does a little flip-flop.

BONUS: Starz is making Outlander into a TV series! I only hope they do the book justice.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

I also enjoy a good mystery, and could curl up with an Agatha Christie novel any day of the week, even though I’ve read them all before. Other non-fantasy authors I find myself re-reading include Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, and Anne Rice. Good stories never go bad, you know.

What are some of your favorite genres?