Originally this was going to be my favorite authors, but that’s kind of boring. Instead I’ll talk about the authors from my early years that have had an impact on my writing and on my life.
The books I read throughout primary school were, by and large, shit. That’s not to speak ill of greats such as Shakespeare, Dickens, and Orwell, but I don’t feel it was necessary to predominantly only read books that were written before even my parents were born. The only contemporary literature I read in school was in a class literally called Contemporary Literature. Outside of that class the most contemporary book I read was probably Hatchet by Gary Paulsen in the sixth grade. Hatchet was published in 1987.
If I were to pick a single most influential work though, it would probably be a book written before I was born. My Side of the Mountain was penned by Jean Craighead George and published in 1959. As a native upstate New Yorker, the setting in the Catskills certainly spoke to me.
But moreso does Sam Gribley, the title character who runs off to live in the woods. Much of my childhood was spent pretending to do the same, even though my family never went camping. When my parents moved onto three acres surrounded on all sides by endless acres of woods in 1997 I spent most of my time in among the trees. Sam’s introversion and his ability to exist entirely on his own with minimal human contact are things I can identify with.
I am that stereotypical reclusive writer, hunkered down in a cabin in the middle of nowhere going days without even seeing another person. (Not quite in reality, but I come rather close.) Sam is also a little odd, naming the animals around him and talking to them as though they’re human. I’ve done the same on more than one occasion with our dogs, horses, cat, and goats.
It’s why much of my work is set in rural locales, and you can often find two characters hiding away together or running off. Sometimes it’s nice to just get lost where no one can find you.
I also read a lot of Michael Crichton and Star Trek novels growing up. Trek novels were and are written by a variety of authors, but most notably Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens, David Mack, and Keith R. A. DeCandido. Both Star Trek and the works of Michael Crichton tend to be very plot-driven. Something is always happening and while Trek novels certainly contain a lot of sci-fi description, the things that are going on are generally more important than their environs.
This is probably why a lot of my work has a mix of Sam’s inner reflection and interaction with his environment, and the fast-paced action of Crichton and Trek novels. I have been accused of telling and not showing, but not everyone wants to spend ninety minutes reading one Nabokovian sentence of flowery overwrought description.
Last, but certainly not least, Kathryn Applegate, better known as KA Applegate, author of the Animorphs series. I’ve actually been in the midst of rebuilding my Animorphs collection recently, though I haven’t read any of the books in several years. The animorphs have to contend with a mix of being isolated from the world, and yet finding solace in the community they’ve formed with those around them. I see a lot of parallels between a community like the LGBTQ community and the animorphs. On one hand they face what seems like an unwinnable struggle, but on the other they find great strength in one another. I don’t think Animorphs was written as a metaphor for being queer, but it sure works as one.