Advice to New Writers Part 8: “Sidebar – My Literary Influences”

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Every writer can point to those other writers who have influenced the roots of their writing style. The people you read when you were a child or a young adult. They are the writers who shaped you and the manner in which you sling your words. They are some of the people you should always thank for showing you how it can be done and for blazing the path before you. I am willing to bet real money, and by that I mean Canadian dollars and not American, that your earliest works are heavily flavored by the works of these master crafts men and women.

Gods know that mine are.

This installment of the mutual masturbation society is going to be about who my influences are. I will also be giving you a brief rundown as to why they are my influences and in what aspects of my craft they most strongly shine. I know that right about now you are probably thinking some form of “I already know who your influences are, it’s pretty fucking obvious” but before you shut down your computer give me a few more minutes of your time. I am willing to bet that there are a few influences in my closet you won’t be able to guess.

INFLUENCES

Stephen King: Let’s just get it out of the way. My number one literary influence is the American master of modern horror, Mr. Stephen King. The very first Stephen King book I ever read was IT. The story scared the hell out of me when I was 10 and still scares me when I reread it. That may have something to do with my terror reaction to clowns but it is also a really scary book. We will NOT be discussing the ending. The one thing I learned reading King as a young writer is to not over describe. That may sound funny considering the lengths of his books but King is actually very spare with his descriptions.

Kevin Smith: Kevin isn’t a novelist (yet)but he is the reason I am a published novelist. He is the man who said it out loud, “Don’t go where the puck is. Go where the puck is going to be”. Admittedly he stole it from Wayne Gretzky but it is still profound. It was after reading his book “Tough Shit” that I decided to say fuck it to traditional publishing and just do this shit myself. I have never been professionally happier … thank you sir.

Isaac Asimov: Dr. Asimov was one of the grand masters of mid 20th century science fiction. He was also super obsessed with robots and whether or not they can be just as good as real people. Asimov opened my eyes to a broader world of Science Fiction I never knew existed. Also Isaac game us Elijah Bailey and I will always love him for that.

HP Lovecraft: The very first Lovecraft story I ever read was “The Rats in the Walls”. This was after reading Stephen Kings contribution to the Mythos the short story “Jerusalem’s Lot” when I was in 6th grade. Lovecraft has entranced me more than any other writer I have ever read. Whenever I try to build and environment and back story in a tale it is Lovecraft I turn to for inspiration. I still feel to this day I have walked the streets of Arkham Mass and tread the halls of Miskatonic University. In spite of his flaws Lovecraft taught how to build the terror without over doing it.

Jim Kjelgaard: I bet if I had asked you to guess my final author you never would have picked Jim Kjelgaard. When I was in 3rd grade my father gave me the Young Adult (YA) novel “Big Red”. Although back then there was no real YA category and this was considered more of a Boys Adventure book. Other than the Stand I have read Big Red more than any other book in my entire life. This book ensnared me and didn’t let me go. My father bought me the sequels (Irish Red & Outlaw Red) as I finished the previous books. Those three books convinced me that what I wanted to do with my life was write. I wanted to build a world and a story that I hoped would do a Scandinavian author already years in the ground, proud.

John Sanford: Mr. Sanford writes crime fiction. He is based in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting him 15 years ago. He was the first person I ever heard articulate a maxim I have come to believe in with the fervor of a zealot. You need to treat the act of writing as a job, you have to sit your ass down in the seat and not rise until you have hit your goal for that session. Add to that Mr. Sanford giving me a love of crime fiction I had never before felt and it is easy to see how he has influenced me.

Orson Scott Card (Honorable Mention I suppose): If I wrote this list 5 years ago Orson would have been just under King on this list. Enders Game is one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century. It shaped my style and direction more than any other SINGLE volume. Then I learned about Orson’s hate of Homosexuals/Bisexuals/Transgender people. I know this shouldn’t color my love of his writing and that I should be able to keep the man and the writer separate. But I can’t, I just can’t do it.  I am a happy Bisexual man and I can’t separate who I am from what I do … therefore I can’t separate who he is from what he does.

These are my primary influences. I know some of them (most) are obvious but it is still a list I wanted to assemble for you. Your list will be different and hopefully better than mine. I just have one bit of advice when it comes to your list of influences.

Revel in them.

By this I mean don’t hide from the things that inspire you. Instead face them and identify the things within them that you love and expand them. Make them your own. Build them into something that resonates with the person that influenced you but sing out in your amazing writer’s voice.

Okay Minions that’s it for today. I promise next time we get back to the main thread of all of this and discuss the next stage of the Indie/Selfie Publishing process.

        - Josh

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Josh Hilden

When I was born on August 3, 1976 in the great state of Michigan the hills shook and the sky was swept with fire. These were portents of the greatness for my future that was written in the stars ... I'm still waiting for that greatness. My name is Josh Hilden and I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend. These are all important things but at my core I am an artist and the medium that I work in is words. I am a writer of Horror, Science Fiction, Drama, and Role Playing Games. I worked for Palladium Books (www.palladiumbooks.com) and Third Eye Games (www.thirdeyegames.net) before striking out on my own and founding a small press publishing company Gorillas with Scissors Press (www.gwspress.com). I also work for Fat Goblin Games (www.fatgoblingames.com). In the everyday world I can be found spending time with my family and friends. I have been married to my lovely wife Karen since 1996 and we have six amazing children. We tend to be a family of unabashed geeks and gamers who were geek before geek was chic. If you are really interested in me I am very active online with a personal and a writing blog along with a plethora of social media outlets. If you have any questions or just want to chat hit me up!