There are any number of influences on my writing in any given year. Some of them are positive and some are not. My top three is more like Time’s PERSON OF THE YEAR award: it’s what affected me the most, not what was beneficial or detrimental.
With that in mind, here we go.
At the very top of the list is the publishing field itself, which as has been stated more than once is constantly changing these days, more so than in many years. I don’t mean one particular genre or style of books; I mean the entire bloody field. There were decades of relative stability (relative, there were still changes, bear with me) and now, in the last decade or so, it’s been a violent storm of transformations that have affected books, music and movies alike. The Internet has become a living breathing part of our society, and it’s a voracious organism that insists on metamorphosis.
What do I mean? We now have e-books. We have Amazon, which has become a publishing force in its own right. We have all that is good and bad about that situation. We have smaller giants in the industry and more presses that would have been considered as small presses. We have a very different map of where everything happens. The way I worked and wrote ten years ago is not at all what it is today. I still write a good number of hours a day, but the business of selling my works? That’s changed a lot. It’s still changing.
Second on my list is my life. It’s changing. That’s hardly a news flash, but there it is. A few years back all I wanted to write was horror. These days I’ve mined that field pretty heavily and I want to try new things and expand beyond what I’ve done in the past. I have never, ever wanted to do the same thing endlessly. My heavens, what a horrid notion! But whereas I was happy to merely toy with the idea of expanding before, these days I’m actively working on fantasy projects, crime novels and science fiction. As I have said before, I have never much believed that genre should be a limitation. Now it’s time to prove that fact.
What changed? My life situation. For a very long while I worked, I took care of my wife with her ailing health and I wrote. Four years ago today my wife passed away. To say that my life has been changed by that fact would be much like suggesting that the Grand Canyon is a moderately deep hole in the ground. My life changed. My world changed. It’s still changing. I suppose it always was, but these days I’m more aware of it.
The third big factor is the world at large. When I watch the news, when I read the news, when I listen to the stories people have to share while I’m working away as a barista at my local Starbucks, when I’m people watching and eavesdropping on the conversations that move through my world, all of it influences me. None of it consciously, but I often look back on what was going on in the world around me when I wrote particular works and I can see the ghosts of the headlines lingering and haunting those pages.
What other factors? Well, there's the words I read. For better or worse I am a writer and I absorb everything I read. Sometimes I find something that I think will help me hone my skills and other times I am stuck with examples of how I never want to write, but all of them are there and all of them influence me. The people in my life. My friends and partners in crime, my peers and my readers. All of them affect me in different ways. My family is included in that list, too, of course.
This may seem a particularly grim essay from yours truly but it’s not meant to be. It’s merely an assessment. I write every day, and I still love it, even on the days when the words fail to come easily.
WAAAAAAY back in the day when I was still just starting out, really, I did a good deal of writing for White Wolf Games. Bill Bridges, the developer for WEREWOLF: THE APOCALYPSE was kind enough to offer me a slot in an anthology he edited called WHEN WILL YOU RAGE. Fast forward by over a decade and he made a similar offer and I gladly accepted it. The end result is the anthology RITES OF RENOWN: WHEN WILL YOU RAGE II. The anthology is out, and the cover is awesome. Here's that cover to prove my point.
You should, of course, buy this anthology immediately! (End of plug)
That’s it for this week, dear readers, except a pause to wish one and all the very merriest of holiday seasons.