Under the Influence

No, not that kind of under the influence, and yes, that is a vintage (recent vintage)  workspace picture for today’s entry because A) burning daylight here, and B) it’s pretty. I like the contrast of the retro robot and the Paris travel mug, and the mere thought of carrying yet another owed blog post (I will get that long-ago Wednesday post redeemed at some point, I promise) makes me shudder, plus I have had an occupational hazard of typing with wet nails, meaning I have to do it all over again, polish-wise, so here we are.

Last week, I got tagged by the equally fabulous Jodi Coburn and Kari W. Cole for the prompt to list fifteen writers who have influenced me. For the curious, here it is:

Bertrice Small – historical romance
Valerie Sherwood/Jeanne Hines -historical romance and gothic romance
Aola Vandergriff/Kitt Brown – historical romance and gothic romance
Nick Hornby -general fiction/lad lit/screenplays
Angela Hunt – inspirational fiction and nonfiction/historical fiction/women’s fiction 
David Levithan – Young Adult fiction and poetry
Rainbow Rowell -Young Adult and adult fiction
Jennifer Roberson -fantasy with romantic elements, historical fiction with romantic elements and historical romance
Erma Bombeck  – humor, memoir
Billy Joel  -singer/songwriter
Mary Chapin Carpenter – singer/songwriter
Ben Folds  – singer/songwriter
Marsha Canham – historical romance
Barbara Samuel/Barbara O’Neal/Lark O’Neal/Ruth Wind -historical, contemporary and category romance, women’s fiction, New Adult romance, nonfiction
Anita Mills – historical romance and traditional Regency romance

A diverse bunch, and I don’t consider the additions of Joel, Folds and Carpenter as cheating, because some of their songs are amazing stories in their own right. Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” Ben Folds’ “Brick,” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Goodbye Again” (which is on my playlist for Her Last First Kiss, oh so very much) definitely count; even the first few notes of any of those, before the lyrics start, are enough to engage my emotions, and I’m going to need a minute after it’s over because they give me feelings…which is exactly what an emotional story, musical or not, is meant to do.

What they all have in common for me is a strong emotional impact, across genres, formats and decades-of-origin. All of them have had a strong influence on why and how I do what I do. The moment I cracked the cover of The Kadin, by Bertrice Small, which I’d stolen from my mother’s nightstand, and first inhaled the opening pages, I knew I had found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life. I first heard “Brick,” by Ben Folds, in the passenger seat of BFF’s car, when the clock on her dash slid over to 6AM on December 26th, and the mournful first line, “6AM, day after Christmas,” chilled my blood, and became part of me.

That’s how it works with an influential book, song, piece of art, etc. We can appreciate it for what it is, in its original state, and most of us would probably fight those who suggest  changing it, but then something else happens – it meets us, and new life begins. We aren’t the same after we’ve experienced the original work, and, for those of us who also work in creative fields, neither is what we produce. We’ve been changed. We can’t go back to the way we were before, whether we want to or not, because now we know. Everything we’ve known and seen and done and hoped and feared and imagined and wondered combines with this thing we’ve never encountered before, and something new now exists.

Under the big brass bed in my parents’ guest room, with that purloined historical romance, in that front seat of BFF’s car as the saddest music of ever started in the predawn hour, I got that YES. That THIS. That mixture of discovery and recognition. THIS is mine. THIS is part of me. THIS is my fuel for the journey. THIS is what I need to get to the next level. I want more of THIS.

Fifteen is a pretty short list, and that’s okay. The instructions were to take the fifteen off the top of my head and I tried, but, for me, that isn’t where my favorites live. They’re not in my head. They’re in my heart, in my writerblood, combining with each other to make wholly new what-ifs and if-onlys while I’m off doing other things, waiting patiently for me in quiet moments, or chasing after me, calling my name, because no, they will not wait. It does have to be now, and the world is going to have to deal.

 

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