Influences of the Past

I was talking to a fellow author today, and we started discussing authors we know and love. There are a number of them I love at the moment. Neil Gaiman, Kim Harrison, Elizabeth Hayden, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman… all fantastic authors with wonderful books that drew me in, and kept me reading. Kept me looking for the next book.

When I was younger my tried and true authors were Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey, with a little bit of Mercedes Lackey thrown in. If you caught me with a book (which you often did) eight out of ten times it would be one of these authors.

I was a voracious reader. I have read about 80% of Piers Anthony’s, and Anne McCafferey’s books (both of who are/were prolific authors. Piers Anthony is still writing to this day, and is currently writing a book through his twitter feed.)

Thinking back, I realize that my consumption of these books had a great influence on my writing. Piers Anthony especially.

I once found myself in a discussion about his books on Reddit. Now, Reddit is an odd place, and¬† you can find some incredibly thought provoking commentary in there. You can also find a bunch of trolls just looking to get a rise out of people. That day I just happened to meet someone who honestly didn’t like Anthony, and when she saw my comment about what a good writer he was it pushed her buttons.

Apparently some people think of Anthony as “an old pervert”. Okay, I’ll give you one, but not the other.

Yes, Anthony writes about younger girls falling in love, flirting, sex, and centaurs and mermaids with their breasts showing. He even wrote an interesting book called “Pornucopia” which is exactly what it sounds like. Does that make him a pervert? I don’t think so. Writing erotica doesn’t make you a pervert any more then enjoying sex because, you know, it feels… GOOD!

Sex is a part of the human condition. So are the subjects of body image, love, relationships, gender equality, and age of consent. Issues that he addresses in many of his books.

I kept reading his novels because they spoke about the human condition without being preachy. He often addressed race, religion, beliefs, fear, politics, and social and political issues of all kinds, throughout many of his books. But he did it in a way that even a young adult could understand. And he did it without shoving his own personal beliefs on you (even if they were sometimes pretty obvious.)

In “Race Against Time” Piers Anthony deals with the complex idea of “conformity” and how that could cause the stagnation of society and innovation. Written in 1973, it still rings true during a time when political correctness is almost crammed down our throats. We are taught from childhood to sit down, follow directions, and learn and grow just like everyone else, and if you stand out your risk punishment for being a “disturbance in class”.

I wonder if “Race Against Time” would be publishable, through traditional means, in this decade, especially if Anthony were an unknown. Some have openly called it racist because he uses race as a device to accentuate “conformists” to “individualism”, but it was never meant to be about race.

When I say that Piers Anthony influenced my writing today, I mean that if you take the time to read between the lines of my stories you will find a deeper meaning. It isn’t just about a pretty leaf, or a scarecrow, or death. There is something behind it, some deeper meaning, even if that deeper meaning is “pay attention, ask questions, think for yourself.” Especially with my “Eversword Saga“.

I only hope that I can do half as well as Anthony, and others, did.

Have you hugged your favorite author today?

I don’t mean literally, of course. But have you sent them a note? A tweet? A virtual high five?

One of the best things about this day and age is how easy it is to contact people and let them know how amazing you think their work is.

When I was little I read “Dragon on a Pedestal” by Piers Anthony. I absolutely fell in love with Xanth, the magic, the creatures and the puns. But when I got to the end of the book and found the authors note where he acknowledged his fans, their contributed puns, and said he answered every single fan letter that he could… As a little girl I couldn’t write to him. I didn’t have access to stamps and delivery boxes, and I had no idea where to send it.

Last year I finally wrote to him. It was an email, and I had a reply in less then a week. Something that could never be done when I was a little girl.

I follow a lot of my favorite authors on Twitter, Tumbler, blogs and goodreads. I’ve sent them quick tweets, gotten replies, and sometimes conversations. I feel like I know many of them as individuals. And it just makes me want to read their books even more.

The best way to give your favorite author an internet hug is to give them a nice review on their book so others can find them as you did.

And if you are a writer, artist, photographer, filmographer, etc. Show your fans some love, too. It can only help your career.

Worldly Reflections

As I am writing my NaNoWriMo stories I am actually realizing just how much of my viewpoint on the world around me is entering my writing.

This isn’t unusual. Piers Anthony (who I grew up reading, and is one of the authors that inspired me to become a writer) often had story lines that touched on his thoughts about religion, ecology, environment, and relationships. Not that all of his characters shared or reflected his own view points on the issues, just that the themes are there.

A good writer can let these themes enter their writing without sounding preachy or over the top. A great writer can make you start to question your beliefs, not to change them necessarily, but to be sure that that is what you truly believe, and that is what you stand for.

Mark Twain is a great example. He wrote about the adventures of a young white boy, appealing to a great many young children. But he also wove in some ideas about race, slavery, segregation, and even religion without being preachy. I am sure his books even helped a few people consider their stand on these very ideas.

In my current novel I am noticing things about genetic manipulation, women as property, and even some ideas about government. No, I’m not being preachy. That would ruin the book. But it could be noticeable to anyone who was paying attention.

Progress on NaNoWriMo: 5124

Fan Fiction

Last month someone asked Neil Gaiman a few questions about specifics concerning the background of his characters. I thought his answer was beautiful:

“I think that is what fanfiction is for. Go and make it up, and learn.”

For years, many writers have argued about fan fiction. And here it is from one of the (imho) great writers of our time. “Go, make it up… learn”.

There are some great things to be said for fan fiction.

  • The world is already created.
  • There is a HUGE reader base already, much of the time.
  • You get to explore new ideas.
  • You get to use you imagination.
  • You practice writing.
  • You practice getting criticism.

What’s more, Fan Fiction gives the reader a vested interest in the world.

Remember all those little kids pretending to be Jedi, Power Rangers, or Transformers? Maybe you were one. Fan fiction is just the next step. It’s doing something you love, exploring a world you adore, and making it your own.

Legally, fan fiction is okay in most places as long as you don’t try to sell it. Some authors, like Piers Anthony and Gaiman, even actively encourage it. Why? Because they love their fans. And if you actively participate in their world through stories and art of your own you will be more likely to keep investing in it later by buying their books, or watching their (potential) movies.

Those kids that played Jedi in the backyard? They grew up to be adults who flocked to the theaters in droves when Phantom Menace came out. They still dress up sometimes and call it “cosplay“, only now they spend small fortunes to do it. (How much does a Stormtrooper¬†suit cost?)

So, participate in fan-fic. Enjoy it. Read it. Write it. Then encourage it for your own fans. It’s good for the heart, the soul, and even some pocketbooks. But really, it just brings more life to a story, and gets people thrilled to read, and write. What could be bad about that?