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What author's books influenced you to start writing?

Hobnob with Authors

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Jan 18, 2012, 12:42pm Top

For me, it was Andre Norton and specifically at the point when I learned she was a woman. I probably started writing that day and I haven't stopped.

I likely would have anyway, of course. However, there was a combination of 'I love these adventures!' and a lightbulb moment that came with learning her gender. This was still at a time when women authors were rare in anything but romance -- at least as far as being obvious about it.

There were other influences as well, of course, but that is the true 'moment' I can point to and the author who most influenced my work.

Decades later, my friend Rosemary Edghill was writing a book with Andre Norton (Shadows of Albion) and put in my name as a character. I treasure that tiny shared moment.

Jan 18, 2012, 2:17pm Top

>1 zette: I loved Andre Norton and, like you, was thrilled to find out she was a woman.

As to the question, I don't remember because it was such a bad book! (Mumble, mumble) years ago I was reading the latest in a long series of poorly written fantasy stories, threw it across the room, and declared, "I can write better than that!" I opened my computer, started a story and soon found that I couldn't write better than that. Writing (even derivative fantasy) takes craft and I had to learn it. I took a couple of classes and joined a writer's group, to learn and master the basics. I've been writing (and publishing) ever since, but left the SF/F/H genre several years ago.

Jan 18, 2012, 5:15pm Top

The first story I tried to write just because I wanted to was based on Star Wars. I don't tend to credit Star Wars for "inspiring" me to write, though, I think it was just something that was there at the time. I actually credit my English teacher -- she is the one who forced us to write in "writing journals" which is what got me to start putting the story stuff that I had always invented for my own amusement, down on paper in a very open ended way (not a specific school assignment) and so allowed me to realize that I liked having the stories I made up written down.

Jan 18, 2012, 5:47pm Top

For me, it was Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh back in fourth grade. It inspired me to start keeping a journal, which is what eventually (after many years and a circuitous path) brought me to writing.

Jan 19, 2012, 11:33am Top

That's an interesting question.

The thing is, I've been writing stories in my head for as long as I can remember, and I've been telling them to younger kids since I was a kid riding on the van to school. I can't really say that one writer influenced me to become a writer. I was surrounded by stories, particularly on TV. There were stories I wanted to rewrite, and stories I wanted to share with others. Sometimes I'd remember parts of a story, so when I retold it, it came out different. Sometimes I wanted to stick someone who was more like me into a story. Sometimes I wanted to give a story a different ending, and that changed everything. I also liked to tell jokes, which are sometimes mini stories.

I didn't start out wanting to be a writer. I started out wanting to tell stories in some format. That's why I can completely identify with LShelby's relationship with Star Wars. It's not that I didn't love books. I was crazy about them, comic books too. But it was always more about the story than the medium in which it was told.

Jan 21, 2012, 9:23am Top

I'm not going to name the specific book and author who inspired me to actually set fingers to keyboard, because I am another example of "*I* could write better than this!"

But for a more general "inspired by...", add me to the list of Andre Norton fans. Amongst other things, she's the author who got me explicitly thinking at quite a young age about POV, and how it works, and how you can achieve different effects with it. And I am now horribly jealous of Zette@1.

Jan 21, 2012, 11:01am Top

I tried to write a scary story like Stephen King , about a husband who locked his wife in a house that was under a hill and there was a storm and it all fell down and buried the place.Then I tried one about a boy whose dog was tortured and he ran away from home. Then someone suggested we should write what we know so I changed style and content. It all takes time.Write the kind of book you like to read if you can, but if you can't- write about what inspires you.

Jan 21, 2012, 6:51pm Top


Nice to find another Andre Norton fan!

Oddly, I never had that 'I can write better than this!' reaction to a book. I guess my inspiration to write was never to do better than someone else, just to write what the stories I wanted to tell.


I don't believe in the 'write what you know' advice.

I believe in 'write what you can learn -- and learn everything that interests you.'

And yes, you have to write what draws you, but that may take a while to find the true path. I thought I was primarily a science fiction writer, but it turns out that I write far more fantasy.

The truth is that you may not have been ready to write those other books yet. The more you learn of the craft itself, the more likely it is that you'll find the key you need to write them, if they still call to you.

Jan 21, 2012, 11:47pm Top

#8 "I don't believe in the 'write what you know' advice."

Me neither. I've read Stephen King's On Writing, and it's a lot autobiography. I'm pretty sure if a mad fan had locked him up and tortured him he would have mentioned it.

If I was writing what I already knew my last heroine wouldn't have been working with diesel ship engines when I met her.

But I know enough about diesel engines now to get really annoyed with a certain (will not be named) steampunk author for her utterly senseless use of "diesel" as a magic word of techy awesomeness. ::rueful:: The problem with doing research, is that it becomes so painfully obvious when other authors do not.

Jan 22, 2012, 12:22am Top

I think you might be taking "write what you know" too literally. It doesn't mean only write about things you've experienced firsthand. Stephen King is a great example of a writer who writes what he knows, because he writes about his fears. It's like method acting. You don't have to be a prince to perform Hamlet. You do have to connect with that part of yourself that at some time wanted to do the right thing but was held back by doubts and fears.

Jan 22, 2012, 3:25am Top


I run a large site for writers and I see the term used far too often to limit what people will write about, even though they have an interest in something more. (Such as: "I would love to write a book about living on Mars, but I don't know anything about science, and we should always write what we know.") So whenever I see that line, I give my own version. There are people out there who take it far too literally.

Edited: Jan 22, 2012, 3:40am Top

hi guys

often had a "i can write better reaction" but the really good authors are the ones who keep you reading through to the very last page, even when its obviously over you want to read the acknowledgements and the previews of the next book if you have one, ( case in point, David Daglish? Dance of death books , Brent Weeks, ( For God's sake write the next Prism book already) Jerome DIckey( Resurrecting Midnight was cool) . That's the kind of writer i want to be and whenever i finish one of their books I start writing again. Hopefully this time I'll finish too

The ones i have presently are non-fiction but helpful and will probably be available for free on amazon kindle store sometime during the next few days. They are short and sweet I promise. please drop a line to say if they are worth the time or if I shouldn't quit my day job just yet.
Thanks in advance
DR Dorcas Magbadelo

Jan 22, 2012, 3:56am Top

posted this before i read the author page stuff or joined up as a librarything author. my bad.

Jan 22, 2012, 6:22am Top

Great to start a controversy. I suppose I meant use the experiences you have had in your life to make your work more meaningful. I admire writers who do historical research or immerse themselves in the legal system to make certain their stories are accurate but perhaps I'm too lazy to do that. I find myself using the impressions I have got from places I have seen or people I have met into my books. If a news story enrages or interests me I use it to involve the reader.If I remember a strong emotion from my past I give that to a character.If I write something futuristic the characters still respond to stimuli as they would nowadays.If I wanted to write about engines I would have to view some. Thanks for joining in, folks. It can get lonely out here.

Jan 22, 2012, 12:33pm Top

Some of the readers can take a too literal approach to "write what you know" as well. Given that I write erotic romance, it can lead to some rather bizarre conversations at author-reader chats...

Jan 22, 2012, 2:13pm Top

I don't think there is a writer anywhere that doesn't use their own experience to bring meaning to what they write. They can't help it. The only way to not do so, is to plagiarize. Words come from the inside, they can't help but to be shaped by the person that produced them.

And what you have learned, is a part of what you are -- whether you learned it from reading a book, or hearing a story about it, from seeing it happen, or from having been right there in the middle of it yourself once. The more that you learn, the bigger you are inside, and the more meaningful stories you will have to tell.

But I don't do the kind of research you say you admire. I haven't written a story set in the real world for almost twenty years now. I research things so that I can understand how they work, not so that I can accurately reproduce them.

Jan 22, 2012, 2:56pm Top

"Write what you know" has led many a writer astray. I interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin several years ago and loved her response to a question about SF/F: "They are certainly human stories even when the sexuality is different as in The Left Hand of Darkness. They are not about aliens. I'm using the other worlds and the other races as metaphors. All I know how to write about are people...and
animals. There are a lot of animals in my works, too, and trees. Still nothing that is alien."

Jan 22, 2012, 4:25pm Top

The book that got me started was Stephen King's On Writing though I've since drawn a lot of inspiration in shaping my voice from commentary by Thomas Ligotti and H.P. Lovecraft on the art and craft.

Jan 22, 2012, 5:08pm Top

We all write from personal expereince and what draws our attention in the real world. We can't help but do so. However, there is still too often a line drawn when people start thinking in terms of 'write what you know.' Knoweledge and experience are often put in two different classifications, even though they're really tied together.

Still, we all find our own paths and write what we love, as long as we don't put road blocks in our own way.

Jan 22, 2012, 5:35pm Top

Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Sigurd Unset, and Jean Plaidy.

As for "writing what I know." I write about what fascinates me and I learn as I go, especially with historical fiction. I dive into research, travel if I can. Many an historical figure has been written about before, but what can I add that is different, new, put my own mark on?

When it comes to writing about emotions, I think most, and this is my opinion, writers do write what they know and feel - adding those moments of our lives make the story come alive, touch people.

Feb 1, 2012, 11:43am Top

Probably the books that really got me into the desire to start writing were the Belgariad by David Eddings. I read through those a ton when I was younger and they always struck me as being very simple but very entertaining. A lot of my early attempts at writing drew heavily from his style and overall feel. They didn't go so well, but I managed to get enough experience from writing them to expand beyond just copying him and actually developing my own voice.

So, thank you, David Eddings, you are certainly missed.

Edited: Feb 13, 2012, 8:39am Top

I read nonfiction and science fiction/fantasy and fanzines, but never even considered writing. I had helped a friend in her writing of a Thundecats story. One day, sitting upon a sofa, a stream of words poured into my head forming a retelling of her story Thundercats story. So, my friend's fan fiction was the well from which my stories eventually emerged. But as I see it, my "style", for good or ill, has always been my own.


Feb 12, 2012, 6:15pm Top

Regarding the 'Write what you know,' I was always a bigger fan of the mantra 'Write what you believe.' If you don't know something, you can always learn it or make it up as you go along if it's fiction -- what you believe though, that's always where the resonance is for me.

Hard to pick a single author or book...Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli was my first chapter book and how I discovered that words on a page can take you somewhere...Gatsby hit me as just the pinnacle of the craft, the perfect novel in my opinion....A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers taught me for the first time that a book can be totally relatable...and I'll add Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace which probably was the book that pushed me over the edge into the territory of absolutely wanting to write.

Feb 12, 2012, 7:18pm Top

Orson Scott Card, David Eddings, David Brin, Larry Niven, and Raymond E. Feist stoked my fire for fantasy. To me they were gods with a little "g". Unfortunately, when I lived in San Diego and traveled to SF conventions I had the pleasure of meeting David Brin, Larry Niven, and Raymond E. Feist, and what a disappointment! Their writing is fantastic; that will never change, but personally some are arrogant butts.

Feb 12, 2012, 10:41pm Top

#23: I like that. "Write What You Believe." I've put it over my desk. Thank you!

Feb 13, 2012, 8:40am Top

23 Second your mantra :)


Feb 22, 2012, 10:36pm Top

Has to be J.R.R. Tolkein. Reading The Lord of The Rings lead me to create my own mythical worlds. I spent hours drawing up detailed maps and then creating back stories that explained the place names and the histories. I threw together plot lines for dozens of novels, but never actually got around to writing anything except a few short stories.

I don't write fantasy anymore, but the early experience taught me about putting words on paper and how difficult it was to actually create an entire work of fiction. Eventually I was able to complete a lousy first novel and then a better second one. All because of a couple of hobbits.

Feb 24, 2012, 8:08pm Top

I shall give the same answer as PAKelley above. I still enjoy writing fantasy, but a lighter kind than the big "epics" I first attempted years ago. I'm also interested in writing other genres too.

In addition to Tolkien, I was very taken with Terry Brookes when younger, and also Eddings and Kenneth C. Flint. Rowling too, most recently.

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