I’ve always been an avid reader. As a child, I haunted the local library, checking out the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Andre Norton and Ray Bradbury. I read the Doctor Doolittle series, the Black Stallion and Island Stallion series by Walter Farley. The Hardy Boys series? You bet! I was a nerdy, geeky little kid, not good at sports or talking to girls. You know, kind of like the characters on The Big Bang Theory. So I immersed myself in imaginary worlds.
All these authors and their ideas influenced my own writing in various ways. Andre Norton, particularly in her later fantasies, wrote characters who possessed powerful mental abilities–telepathy, communication with animals as in the Beast Master novels. Her Witch World series are still some of my favorite genre books–magic is key in these stories, giving the characters amazing powers. I’ve always thought Norton’s characters in most of her books all talked and acted the same. There was very little difference from one to the other. But her imagination, action, and depiction of truly alien and magical worlds are unsurpassed.
Sometimes, a blip on the SF radar screen emerges with something unexpected. For instance, did you know Walter Farley’s third Island Stallion book, The Island Stallion Races, included a large science fiction element? As bizarre as it sounds, it’s true. Alien shape-shifters from a far galaxy land on the island where Flame, the Island Stallion, rules his herd. Fascinated with horse racing, one of the aliens gets Flame and his young master, Steve Duncan, to enter a prestigious international race in Cuba. What a hoot! I figure if Farley can do it, well then, so can I! J
As an adult, I realized another big writing influence for me is comic books. I devoured the adventures of Batman, Superman, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Justice League of America and on and on. I still, on occasion, pick up a comic book to see how my childhood heroes are faring (the 21st Century is very different in comic book land these days as well). As a result, I became fascinated with the SF trope of metamorphosis, of change, either physical or mental. That trope permeates a lot of my writing.
A lot of my characters, either in my novels, novellas or short stories, change in some fashion over the course of the story or possess a power of some sort. It’s usually not something I think about much beforehand–I create a character and the power or change is just part of that character’s makeup. The action of the story follows from there.
My novel, The Sixth Precept, has several such characters, one, in particular, being based on one of my comic book super heroes of old. I describe my novella, Reunion at Olan, as the “X-Men Meet Die-Hard.” One of my short stories, “About Face”, published in the genre anthology, Raw Terror, is about a young woman with Prosopagnosia or Face Blindness, a real neurological disorder. She can’t recognize people’s facial features. Until, after taking an experimental drug for the disorder, she can suddenly see things no one else can. Very bad things. As a result, she becomes a “super hero.”
I guess you can say I’m one of those of people who never really grew up. In the case of my writing influences, that’s a good thing.