Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Bear with me... for the first few lines, I'm going to sound like a student giving her disbelieving teacher an explanation for why her assignment was a day late (and it's going to sound like, "One Direction was on TV last night!")

My son, Paul M., received the Garth Brooks boxed set for Christmas (subtitled "Five Decades of Influences") and he and my husband decided that last night would be a great time to watch the Las Vegas concert DVD.  I tried to block out the sounds from the TV room as I sat at my laptop, trying to think of a topic for my blog, but... well, to be perfectly honest, I'm a Garth Brooks fan from back in the day (heck, I'm the one who gave my son the boxed set!) and I thought I'd pop down and watch a few minutes.

Two hours later, I was heading to bed since I had to get up early to go to work, but at least I had my blog topic: influences (and, yeah, it was a pretty good show!)

All artists, whether musician, painters, writers, whatever, have been influenced by the work of other artists whom they admire.  Just as Garth could point to his musical influences (as diverse as James Taylor and KISS), I could look back over the years and see where I found my influences as a writer.

Starting in my youth, I was always attracted to two genres: mystery and history.  Of course, I read Nancy Drew (I think it's required reading for 8-year-old girls) but I really loved The Three Investigators best... I liked the diversity among the investigators.  And I liked the fact that, unlike Nancy, they didn't have a vehicle of their own at their disposal--they used their bikes a lot!

I also loved the Little House books.  I loved the way Laura Ingalls Wilder made the simple life of a pioneer girl interesting and engaging.  I really cared about all her characters and often imagined myself in the stories themselves.

As I grew older, I started reading Agatha Christie's murder mysteries.  While now I look back and see that they greatly resembled those story puzzles you used to see in Reader's Digest, I also saw how many times she really fooled me.  I also learned about how to make characters interesting (not all of hers were, despite their fame) and how to go into the mind of each character.  I also learned to pay attention to details.  Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot were forever noticing minute things that no one else ever did.  Maybe they were clues, maybe not.  But they mattered.

Now I look back over the last few years and how other writers have shaped my writing: the way Mary Higgins Clark weaves romance into her suspense and how she builds that suspense; Mike Orenduff's way of injecting humor into dangerous situations and making a likeable character who can laugh at himself; Aimee and David Thurlo's treatment of setting as a character and making you feel you are at the scene while respecting the history and culture of the characters; Steven Havill's careful research into everything he writes about, whether it's guns or piano concerts, to make them as believable as possible.

Of course there are many others, but I think that every artist needs to take a moment to tip their hat to the ones who helped shape them into the artist they have become.

Thank you very much!

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