This week is 10 questions you’d like to ask your favorite author or one question for 10 authors.
I don’t have any questions that I’d like to ask. Instead I want to tell ten authors how much their writing affected my life and helped me grow as a person and as a writer.
1. Isaac Asimov: Your stories transported a 13-year-old boy living the worst year of his life (7th grade) into worlds of wonder. Your stories in Nine Tomorrows helped me escape the hell I was living. The Foundation Trilogy helped me see the world of Vietnam and the civil rights movement and that it would always be that way even in the future galactic empires. Times change, but mankind doesn’t. It was a major step to understanding history.
2. J. R. R. Tolkien: The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings helped me grow as a reader. They were the first books that not only told a story in a fantasy world with Orc and dragons, but did in not only prose, but also poetry. They make my fondest memories of the summer when I was 15.
3. Edgar Allan Poe: He opened me up to the world of imagination with The Pit and the Pendulum. The Cask of Amontillado and The Tell Tale Heart.
4. Mario Puzo: As a sophomore in high school I have page 28 of The Godfather forever etched into my memory. Almost all boys at that time did too. Years later your book Fools Die made an impression when you mentioned the protagonist leaving a books store with and arm full of books and his father-in-law who was helping him pay bills screams and yells at him as a dead beat. You justified this by saying that the more a writer reads the better he becomes. This was obviously autobiographical and as a struggling writer it struck a chord. I’ve never felt guilty about how many books I own or read. They are my textbooks.
5. Mikey Spillane, Lance Horner, Harold Robbins, Anne Rice, Jackeline Suzanne, Erica Jong and others. These writers impressed on me the importance of including sexuality as part of the human condition and not to be ashamed of reading it or writing it. It is perhaps the most important part of the human condition to consider it dirty or to belittle it or leave it out demeans us all.
6. Harlan Ellison: Of all the writers this man had the greatest impact on my life and as an author. I was in the deepest depression of my life. A wonderful lady in a books store recommended Darkbird Stories. The book starts with a caveat to not read it in one sitting as the stories a too dark and upsetting to handle all at once. The first story The Whimper of Whipped Dogs, blew me away, the second one Along the Scenic Route, spoke to my failed marriage. The other stories were dark and depressing. The more I read them a strange thing happened, my depression lifted. It worked for me I don’t recommend it as therapy to others. There was also a way that Harlan told the stories. His writing style, how he communicates the ideas, turns of phrase that makes the reader visualize the scenarios. The way he can describe people, places and feelings that grab you by the eyelids and force them open and burn the image forever in your memory. It has impacted my writing to this day.
7. James A. Michener: The first book of his I read was The Source. I started it in 8th grade, got to the short story about the writing of the Talmud and gave up. I picked it up in college and fell in love with the best stories in the book. So much so that I scoured used bookstores for copies of the book. I wound up with ten hardbacks and around 60 paperbacks. I used them for ten years while teaching world history. When we covered pre-history, the students read The Bee Eater, and progressed through the year with a short story to help the students visualize what it was like to move from a cave into a house to a castle. When covering the different religions, the stories showed the evolution of faith. I don’t know how many times my wife threatened divorce when I came home with a sack full of the same book. Paperback fall apart after three or four classes a day are reading them.
8. James Clavell: He taught me that you can write historical fiction while being true to the time period and include not just the movers and shakers of the time period, but also the common people and how what was happening affected them. Shogun just blew me away. Tai Pan opened my eyes to the philosophical gulf between China and Europe. Noble House made high finance entertaining and understandable.
9. Tom Clancy: Opened up the world of entertaining spy thrillers. I’d read a number of other writers, even Ian Fleming, but none hold a candle to Clancy.
10. Ray Summers: No singe book changed my life as much as Worthy is the Lamb. Until I read this book, I would have preached out of Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth. The only way to interpret Revelation and the end of times was Premillennialism. This book changed my entire theology from that day on. I explain this in detail in my book Human Sacrifices. I see the evangelicals that hold to Rapture Theology and are blindly following Trump down the road of death and destruction, because this will cause the second coming of Christ.