The 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.