favorites, influences, reading list

Going Back

With finishing my short stories (all spy- or detective-related), I decided to take a break from all the mysteries I’ve been reading lately and go back to my roots. This was partially inspired by the fact that I’m getting to loathe all fictional private detectives (except Sherlock Holmes, DUH), and partially because, to my surprise, some of my critique partners rattled off a few different writers whose style they could see had influenced me –

And not one of them was Lloyd Alexander.

Which quite frankly flabbergasted me, because for many years my writing style read like a composite of Lloyd Alexander and Brian Jacques, and Jacques only because he was so prolific that he infused my writing without me ever realizing it.

If there is one author I would aspire to write like, it’s Lloyd. So I’m picking up some of his books again and reminding myself of just what it is in his writing that I love so well, and make sure that I haven’t lost that in my own writing – not that I want to write in his voice entirely, of course, but that the same spirit breathes in my writing that lives in his.

I’m reading Westmark right now, which is the start of one of his less-popular series, but one that I love dearly. Then I’ll probably go on to the Vesper Holly books, for their sheer outrageous fun (oh how I love Brinnie; as a kid I wanted to identify most with Vesper, as an adult I have utter sympathy for Brinnie), and then we’ll see from there.

He breaks so many of the “rules” of writing, and yet his genius is such that it works. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go about breaking rules willy-nilly, but it does help me remember to hold them loosely, and if I have to choose between the story and the rules, GO WITH THE STORY.

It feels like visiting old friends, going back to Westmark and thinking about Vesper &co. I’m actually glad for an excuse to go back there, preferably with a cup of tea by my side.

Mmm … anyone else remember when the weather was cool enough to want wrist warmers? Yeah, me neither.

(Mind, I’m not complaining about any of the writers that were mentioned as being obvious influences on my writing; they are all brilliant writers and have influences me in one way or another, but since Lloyd is the BIGGEST influence on me, I was just surprised that he didn’t make the list.)

8 thoughts on “Going Back”

  1. I LOVE Westmark! I actually love it more than Prydian. (Which I can't remember how to spell, so what does that tell you). Westmark should be more popular. I also love Vesper Holly and one of my characters I may actually write someday is based on her.

  2. You can't- you absolutely cannot- loathe Lord Peter. That would be takin' it just a bit too far, dontcha know. But I can see needin' a break from all the mysteriousness, so you're excused.And you know РI can't remember ever reading Vesper Holly! Prydain, yes, parts of Westmark, yes, but not Vesper Holly. Must remedy that omission soon. In my defense, I can only offer that I didn't start reading the Greats of English Lit until I was about 20; up until then it was Erich Kästner and Otfried Preussler.

  3. Someday I should do a post on how much the Westmark trilogy shaped my entire childhood, more than almost any other books. Kestrel, especially. And is it in Kestrel or The Beggar Queen where Mickle, after having successfully planned and executed a brilliant military plan, breaks down in horror after seeing it in action? Whichever one that's in, I get chills every time I read it.

  4. No, I could never hate Lord Peter! I've actually been deliberately staying away from Sayers for a bit so that I don't get over-saturated with her characters.Vesper Holly is awesome. Classic. Makes Indiana Jones look like exactly what he is, a glorified treasure-hunter instead of proper archeologist and explorer.

  5. Having influences in your writing is great. I'm still looking for who are my influences in my writing. But still, having a voice of your own and the one you can call your own is important. Eg. I don't review like the professional critics. I think of the audience who's watching the film. I don't read spy\detective stories however I think author Nicholas Sparks is a romance genius. Sparks breaks the rules in the romance genre and that's clear if you've read his books before.

  6. I'm not so ready for winter yet – last winter was horrific here (no snow and alternated between bitter cold and spring-like mildness by the day), but I always look forward to fall. Colors, crisp air, apples, sweaters, BOOTS … ahhh. Bliss.

  7. I've never read Sparks, but then I don't read anything in the romance genre – at least, nothing later than Jane Austen or LM Montgomery!Sometimes the best thing about knowing the "rules" is so that you can know when to break them – which is actually something Lloyd Alexander's Princess Eilonwy taught me!

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