Tolkien and Shakespeare are the foundations on which all my later reading and writing are built. I was raised by an English major who began to read both to me before I could speak. She read me children’s books as well, but my strongest early memories of story come from the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, The Tempest, Lear, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet. The rhythms and poetry and magic in those stories are so deep in my soul I can’t separate inspiration from self.
Andre Norton was the first author whose work I pursued on my own, and I can hear her sometimes as I write a sentence. She was followed by Anne McCaffrey whose influence I’m sure is there even if I can’t pick it out. Then came H. Beam Piper who is still one of my very favorite authors for his ability to layer deep and intricate historical context into stories that read like space opera. As a reader I dabbled with Niven and Pournelle, flirted with Kurtz, and fell hard for Zelazney. His self-aware sarcasm and understanding that family makes for the bitterest enemies is plain to see in WebMage and its sequel Cybermancy.
After I started writing came Terry Pratchett—an international treasure whose synthesis of humor and hard truths I try to touch on in my own lighter work—and Tim Powers—who I can’t praise highly enough—is a looming shadow in my dark stories.
I’m sure I’m missing others, but those are the strongest influences, the ones I’m sure have colored everything I write. This post has also reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to do here, post my list of perfect books, and my definition of what that means. Perhaps tomorrow. In the meantime, think about what you consider a perfect book and what might go on your list.