Influences All Around

I have been influenced by so much, but I am certain I will never truly know all of it.

As a writer, I read a lot, but I try not to be currently reading a book that has influenced me in the past when doing current work. I don’t want that book to creep into my own writing. I try to divorce myself from those influences when I produce words at the keyboard. This said, there is no denying that certain books at certain times on certain projects have been immensely impactful. Influence

When I wrote ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE, clearly Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD was right beside me. When I wrote OCTOBER SONG, it was work by the great travel writer Paul Theroux and the wonderfully quirky and poignant work of Chuck Klosterman that led me along the way.

In May 2019, Adelaide Books will release my memoir THE CONSEQUENCE OF STARS. It was myriad books that made their mark on me as I pulled the manuscript together. Great books. Not necessarily well-known, all of them. It was not that I was influenced by style, but rather the themes, the insight. I have come to know my writing; my style and voice. It wavers and fluctuates, but it is always—it seems—a certain tone, color, and produces a similar ring. I know who I am, I believe, as a writer. So, it was what was between the lines and in the crevices of other books that helped me realize and form my own style.

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My Current Influences

Influence is a funny thing. Sometimes we can be very specific about what has made an indelible impression on us as a writer or creator, but then there are the ethereal influences, the ones that come through our subconscious. And although pointing to a particular book is a more concrete realization, the impact can be far deeper when it comes to us indirectly by some weird osmosis.

What were my earliest influences? I don’t know. And I’m not sure I understood in my pre-teenage years what was making its mark on me. Writer Neil Gaiman likens trying to pin down influences to making deep black, wonderful, mulch from a compost. You throw in a lot of material—half-eaten apples, egg shells, wilted lettuce—and through the maturation process you get this beautiful, healthy earth. But to make sense of how you got there, how that black earth came to be, one would have to remember all the stuff you tossed in the heap.

I know that there is a familiar theme in a lot of my work—the relationship of fathers and sons. But what is most fascinating to me is that I did not come to this theme in some calculated way. It just happened. Only through the process of my writing—and likely a great amount of influence, personal and literary—did I find my writing landing on that thematic focus. And to get there I must have had many, many influences, must have had a lot of things tossed into my compost pile. How could I ever really know what all of those items have been?

The Consequence of Stars_COVER1 (1)

From Adelaide Books, NY. Spring, 2019

For THE CONSEQUENCE OF STARS, I am certain I have had far more influences than the six books in the photo. But the authors of these works helped ignite something in me, something profound enough personally that it carried me through more than 50,000 words to build a completed manuscript that I hope is relevant to the reader. And maybe, somehow, someway, someday, this book will influence someone else— a writer, a painter, a father—and spark some new creation to share.

 

6 thoughts on “Influences All Around

  1. There are many metaphors that serve to describe the evolution of a creative work . . . or a life for that matter. In the mid-seventies, I got caught up reading C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower sea stories. And Forester’s vivid maritime explanation for his own creative process has stayed with me. He would get the germ of an idea, which he likened to a piece of timber, which he would allow to slip beneath the surface of his consciousness and sink. At some future moment, he wrote, it would pop up . . . but this time encrusted with the barnacles of his subconscious. Then he knew he was ready to write.

    I think our whole lives are like that, including the influences on our thinking and stylistic approaches. Or, if you prefer a metaphor from the kitchen, the more pungent and varied the spices, the richer the stew.

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    • I like the cooking metaphor better than the compost one from Gaiman. 🙂

      I’m only realizing now how much influence my father had on me as a writer. Certainly he did in other ways. But my father was a marvelous storyteller. When you would get him going, he was remarkable. Maybe it’s the old Irish thing, Still, it took me years to see his impact on me in that way. For whatever reason, it was not obvious years before. Strange, in a way. But I’m so glad I see it now.

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    • There is no doubt we have all followed behind others who cut paths…and those people before us followed behind others who cut earlier paths. I would contend it is the nature of creative work. Few invent something truly new, but all of us who do creative work can put our touch on what others have brought us.

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  2. Robert Heinlein and most of all Ray Bradbury. At heart they were writing about community and family, no matter where they were or how they were made. That’s the theme of most of my work.

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