I'm starting a new feature on the blog. Every time I see/read an author interview, someone always asks the author who they consider their major influences. I figured that as long as I'm sitting here telling you all about how I write and what I think about writing, I might also talk about who gave me all these ideas. I probably won't do these posts very often. Just when I notice something I feel is worth talking about.
Figuring out who has influenced your writing is a tricky thing. Because you have to really look at how that works. I mean, I suppose I could track my reading backward until I found the first urban fantasy novel, the one that introduced me to the genre. Or I could look for the ones who have characters that sound like my characters or jokes that sound like my jokes. I'll probably do that at some point. But I wanted to start off with people who shaped not just my voice but also what I'm actually doing here.
Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will probably already know this, but I think if I was ever asked who my influences were, I'd have to put Lilith Saintcrow at the top of the list. So it made sense that my first post in this series be about her.
I stumbled upon Ms. Saintcrow's novels in what I consider to be a somewhat roundabout way. A few years back when I was trying the full-time novelist thing the first time around, I was following a lot of agent and editor and author blogs in order to keep up with what was going on in publishing. One such blog, which was recommended to me by one of my critique partners, was Deadline Dames. I had, at that point, heard of exactly one author who contributed to the blog, but I figured I'd give it a go.
(That was Rachel Vincent, incidentally, not Lilith Saintcrow.)
After reading the blog for a few months, I noticed that I always got a kick out of the posts by Lilith Saintcrow and I thought maybe I should see if she had a blog of her own that I could follow too. She did, and it was also very good. Maybe I should check out her books?
And then my brain exploded.
I read the Danny Valentine series and loved it. I blew through the whole series in a week. I couldn't put it down. When I was finished, I picked up the first two books in the Jill Kismet series (that was all that had been published at that point) and loved those even more. A little while later, Saintcrow took a stab at YA fantasy and I followed right along and snapped up all the Strange Angles books as they came out too. Romances of the Arquitaine, check. Bannon and Clare, reading it. Tales of Beauty and Madness, already preordered book 2. Basically, if there's anything out there that Lilith Saintcrow has written, my response is "GIMME!"
And that's the thing I love about Lilith Saintcrow's writing. She's consistently entertaining. Whether it's on her blog or in her books, I've never read anything that didn't grab my mind in some way. Her writing advice is brilliant. Her take on publishing issues almost always lines up with mine, and if not, her arguments always make me at least think about the issue in a new way. And her fiction is fantastic. Hilarious and engaging and dark and brave and pretty much everything I could ever hope to write on my own someday.
Even The Bandit King, which was narrated by a character I hated listening to with just about every fiber of my being (even thinking about it now I still want to go pick up that book and try to reach through it to smack Tristan upside the head), was too interesting for me to put down. I hated the character, but I still needed to know what happened next.
Um... A steampunkish cowboy zombie-hunter vampire story... That sounds... quite frankly awful. But I trust you, Ms. Saintcrow, so I'll give it a shot.... How did she make me like that book??? Not only did I like The Damnation Affair, I keep waiting for the characters to pop up in the other Bannon and Clare novels.
She never lets me down. I have a very limited book budget these days, but Saintcrow is always on my auto-buy list. I trust her. That's probably the highest compliment a reader can pay a writer.
And that's my goal as a writer, to be able to inspire that kind of trust in my readers. To be not just entertaining, but consistently entertaining. I want to build a relationship with my readers that is constantly growing and evolving. I want to be able to take on new challenges and have my audience willing to go on the journey with me. People often talk about how writing is a lonely art, and in some ways it can be. But at its core, it's really so much bigger than that. At least it is for me.
I don't want to be a one-hit wonder or a fluke. I don't want to publish one book or trilogy or whatever and have it do fabulously well and get made into movies and television shows and turn out a whole bunch of newfangled slang amongst the kids and then never sell anything ever again.
Sure, that kind of success would be great and all and I'm sure it would be fun while it lasted. But how God awful must it be when it's over? Those folks that burn so bright so fast and then burn out must be so bitterly cold in the darkness left behind. I can't even imagine the kind of heartbreak that follows something like that.
I could get into so much more here about how much I love the characters she writes, or how I love her mix of humor and darkness, or how the woman writes action like nobody's business. Those things are also things I'd love to be able to do someday. But the trust is what I want the most. No matter what else I achieve in my life as a writer, that is probably always going to be my ultimate goal.