Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Inspiration

Edited: Random Number Generator has ordained that Number 9, Rachel445, is the winner of both The Exile graphic novel and Kadrey's newly released, KILL THE DEAD. Rachel445, contact me at vicki@vickipettersson.com with your snailmail addy and I'll send them to you directly. Congratulations!

I’m beginning again.

Again.

Meaning, I’m starting a new book. You might assume from the title of this post that I’m waiting for inspiration to strike so I can start churning out pages, but alas, it doesn’t work that way for me. I have to go out and seize inspiration around the neck if I want to get anything done, though that doesn’t mean I’m not inspired by a myriad of different images, ideas, headlines, conversations, faces, and dreams. I’m inspired by all those things, and collect them constantly so that I generally have a plethora of great mental toys to play with by the time I sit down to write.

But this is a blog for readers, not writers, so instead of emptying my writer’s toolbox out in front of you, I’m going to tell you about my greatest source of inspiration, and the one thing I turn to again and again when all other options fail me:

Other writers.

I read widely and voraciously, so when people ask me what my favorite books are, I generally shoot them a faux-shocked expression and explain, “Why on earth would I play favorites with *books*?” Ditto, when they ask me who are my favorite authors. I need a bit more help than that, like … can you narrow it down to just one genre?

So I figured that with a like-minded group reading here at SU, I’d clue you all in to two of my favorites* - who, not coincidentally, both have releases this month - and you guys could go out and buy their work in droves and they would find out that I am the reason for their spike in sales and I’d get to be the heroine to both writer and readers and everyone gets their HEA, amen.

Or, you know, you do your thing. I do mine. They do theirs. And the world-at-large is better for it.

The first author has been a favorite for years. A favorite *and* a mentor. Diana Gabaldon is the esteemed author of the OUTLANDER series, and I can honestly say I learned more from her about writing than from anyone else (via the Compuserve Writer’s Forum, which I frequented for about eight years prior to being published). Mostly I learned that I can’t *be* Diana Gabaldon … but she seems to have that role perfected so we can all rest easy there.

If you haven’t read OUTLANDER, if you’ve shied away from its sheer size or because it’s basically (but not all) historical fiction, you’re really missing out. Not only is it an epic adventure, but it’s an epic love story, and a tremendous account of what it means to be human in any era. If you could stick a fork in this work, it would stand up straight. It is dense with gorgeous prose, historical detail, multi-dimensional characters, and *heart.* I especially adore the subtext surrounding the ongoing love story of Jamie and Claire - not only what it means to be and fall in love, but about what it takes to sustain an adult love across years … across centuries.

I’m not alone. Sales of the OUTLANDER series are as strong as ever, and Gabaldon’s first graphic novel, THE EXILE, just debuted at #1. It’s a retelling of the first book in the series from a character those familiar with the series know and love, yet whose pov we’ve not yet been privy to. It expands Gabaldon’s already deep and rich universe in a delightful direction and it can be found here.

Okay, I mentioned that I’m an eclectic reader, right? Hold on tight as I take a hard left into dark fantasy…

The next man is a writer’s writer. In other words, I’ve not met a writer who has read his first book, SANDMAN SLIM, and walked away with anything but praise for Richard Kadrey. That book blew me away. I felt sucker punched by his prose - which can be both beautiful and violent in the same breath - and quickly began anticipating the surprises awaiting me on each successive page. (Only HARRY POTTER has every delighted me so much with its inventiveness.) Talk about fresh. Talk about raw. Talk about *truth.* It ain’t pretty, but he tells it, and he does so through a pure anti-hero, James Stark.

The thing is, as dark as his world is and as broken as Stark is, there’s something quietly hopeful about SANDMAN SLIM. Almost hopeful despite lack of hope, if that makes sense. You’ve got a man who can’t stop living and loving in spite of everything he’s been through, despite being a “monster.” (Even the angels call him an ‘abomination’ and though you can’t disagree … you can’t quite agree, either.) In any case, I’d want Stark on my side in any World War, which is essentially what you get in SANDMAN SLIM and today's release - which I’m reading now - KILL THE DEAD.

So just to put a pretty bow on this post, both of these writers inspire the hell out of me - inspire me again when I pick up their works and re-enter their worlds, even though I’ve read these books time and again. A book that delivers new depth on a re-read? That’s inspiring to me, and that’s what I strive for every time I sit down and start again. *Again.*

Commenters … let me know which writers or books you love - do they speak to you truthfully about life? Deliver a message you can take back with you into your world? Make you feel hopeful or less alone?

One winner will receive a copy each of THE EXILE and KILL THE DEAD. Contest opens now and ends at 12 pm EST tomorrow, October 6!

And for those who don’t win … well, you’re still winners. If you haven’t yet read OUTLANDER, Gabaldon’s publisher is giving it away for free on Kindle for a limited time. So hurry up, get your copy, and get inspired!

*Note: I did not write about the amazing authors on this blog, though there’s plenty here I find inspiring, because it would put me in the terrible position of having to pick just one. Not fun! So thank you for not making me do so!

29 comments:

lynnrush said...

I laughed out loud when I read this, "I have to go out and seize inspiration around the neck if I want to get anything done..."

That's awesome.

I'm inspired a lot by movies along with books. The first was Frank Peretti's book, This Present Darkness.

it totally creeped me out, but totally inspired me, so it worked well. LOL.

There are so many others as well, too many to mention. Thanks for this post, Vicki!

Have a great day.

Sara said...

Great post!
In university I finally read Tolkien's LOTR saga by myself (my dad read it to me as a child) and it absolutely inspired me to dream, to look at literature and books as more than assignments and inspired me to get lost in fiction.

AndreaC said...

Often I think I am in the minority, but perhaps not - one work I always find uplifting and hopeful is Wuthering Heights. Yes, Wuthering Heights, but only because my favorite characters are young Catherine and Hareton who appear to be headed down a much brighter, hopeful path than their counterparts of the previous generation. It always fills me with hope that they will avoid the tragic outcomes that resulted from the previous generation's selfishness, greediness, and poor decisions. Another work, a contemporary work, I find intriguing and touching is actually The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I know, odd choice, but I found it to be a very intriguing love square (rather than a triangle) that gets the reader to focus more on the beauty inside rather than outside.

I actually have many "favorites," but those are the first two that popped in my head when I read your question! Enjoyed the post! :)

Lea U. said...

Right now my favourite genre is paranormal romance/urban fantasy. Every book I´ve read so far is inspiring in some way, so I can´t really say which inspired me the most.
The books from Nalini Singh have the most effect on me right now, because they let me dream about true love and destiny. Some things are just meant to be and I really want to believe that.

Riva said...

OK - I'm going to show my age here, but a book that has always spoken to me is Robert Heinlein's Time Enough for Love. I've read it so many times that I've literally read the covers off three different copies! Heinlein gets the idea of "family" right in this book. Family is not limited by blood or by numbers. Family is the people you love - period. I like that thought.

Bella said...

Oh, wow, I have the same problem as you, hehe ... I'm sitting here thinking *I have to play favourites?! :o* ... let's see, I LOVE Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, I'm completely obsessed with it and its characters, and could probably spend the rest of my life re-reading her books :) There's just something about them that - even though the story is dark and terrible and scary - uplifts! You just know that everything Mac is going through will eventually be worth it and it makes you seem like anything is possible in your own life!

Talking about uplifting: Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere ... I'm busy reading it right now and am just floored!

Finally, I'd have to say Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth ... the story is also one of loss, in every way possible, but with that little glimmer of hope that makes you feel as though maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay.

Honestly, these authors' work inspires me to such a degree ... I only hope that I can one day achieve a piece of writing as deep and moving as theirs.

Giada M said...

I love your post and LOVE Diana Gabaldon's books! She has created a fantastic world and great characters. Another two authors I love are Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana Paxson! The charecters they created seem all so real and the Avalon series is dear to my heart.

Thank you for the wonderful post and for the awesome giveaway! :)

Giada M.

fabgiada (at) gmail (dot) com

Melissa said...

There are too many books I love for different reasons. They speak to me at different times depending on what I need to hear. I also loved Outlander but haven't read the rest in the series... yet. I'm going to have to check out Sandman Slim. Thanks for that suggestion.

rachel445 said...

I think Karen Marie Moning's Fever series speaks to me truthfully about life. Mostly because the main character Mac does so much growing up and deals with loss, and realizes how many things she took for granted.

Melissa said...

I could name one book but I read mainly UF / PNR and I take from these are the possibilities that there are things in this world we can't explain. If we stop looking at the possibilities of the unexplained, then we just accept what can be proved and don't look for more. It is like shutting a door.

Patricia Lynne said...

Wow, that is crazy weird. Just today I saw a twitter post (by Merri Destefano actually) about Kill the Dead and instantly put it on my wish list because the description made me want to read it ASAP. And now another author is talking about the author.
My favorite authors, books I devour are by Heather Brewer, Kerrelyn Sparks and JK Roweling.Their books just blow me away and I keep going back to read them. A few novels that really spoke to me as being something important was Speak (of course) and Willow by Julia Hoban. both were so raw and real I felt moved, wishing to help the characters and seeing how great these books are for youths because they speak directly to the reader.
All those books always shot to the front of my mind when ppl ask me what books I like. (but on a whole, as long as it's got vampires in it, I tend to love them lol)

Kate said...

Great post! Diana Gabaldon is one of my fav. authors as well (Swoon for Jamie!). She is pretty fantastic and I cant give her books enough praise. I would love to win!

sithereandread (at) gmail (dot) com

Zombie Joe said...

I'll give you two of my favorites. That will limit me from going too crazy here.

Stacia Kane, specifically the Downside series. Not only is the prose in that staggering, but the fact that the speech the Downsiders uses flows and is yet unusual at the same time boggles me. Well, not really boggles, but I can't wait for the next one.

Diana Rowland. In working on a police procedural of sorts, her detective made me realize what I was missing - a cop element to my character. It made me see how something can be supernatural and real at the same time.

*yadkny* said...

Excellent post! Unfortuantely I haven't read anything by Diana Gabaldon, but she is definitely on my wishlist. I recently read Colters Lady by Maya Banks and I loved a part in there where one of the characters has a secret that her brothers are trying to get her to spill because she seems really depressed about whatever is going on, but she tells them that she might be down right now, but she's not out. In other words she just needs to deal, but she'll be ok. Or at least that's what I got from it. I think those are words to live by.

yadkny@hotmail.com

Karyn Gerrard said...

Great post! I would have to say the Poldark series of books by Winston Graham that I read while I was a teenager just stoked my love of reading and writing even more~

cories5 said...

Great and informative post!

In terms of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series is the blueprint as far as I'm concerned. He pulled together so much basic myths that almost every fantasy book could be compared to the LOTR. I've done that myself with some of the children's books I've read.

cories119[at]yahoo.com

Casey H said...

Well I typically fall in love with almost every book I read (I've read nearly 1,000...so if I tried naming them all it would take a long, long time :D ). But one movie that always inspires me not matter what I'm feeling is Repo! The Genetic Opera. Not many people have even heard of it but I love it.

ailishsmom said...

Ugh! So many to choose from! I have to say I love writers that immerse me in their world, Jim Butcher being one that comes to mind first (after Vicki's Vegas, that is).
As far as inspiration, that's a much wider net. Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, most recently, inspired me to get back in the kitchen and cook. I love cooking, but every day stress made me forget how much.

Bella said...

It's impossible to choose what books have most affected me (b/c there are so many!), but the ones that come to mind right now are "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein because I was obsessed with his funny yet thoughtful poetry when I was little, "The Virgin Blue" by Tracy Chevalier for no reason other than it spoke to me, and all of Melissa Marr's and Richelle Mead's books because I get so much from their writing.
And thanks Vicki for the link! I usually never see the free kindle editions :)

Anonymous said...

Well I'd love to say that I've read my entire 30 years and enjoyed all the books that I have read, BUT I can't do that. I hated to read and could never find a book that sucked me until one day my best friend insisted that I read a series.

My inspiration for reading came from reading the Twilight Sage by Stephanie Meyers. After I read her books in a week and half I just had to look for more authors and this is where I have found all of the great books out there. I have to thank Miss Stepanie for opening my mind all of these wonderful worlds.
With that said some of the authors that I absolutely love are Laurell K Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Jeanine Frost, Vicki Pettersson, L.A. Banks, J.R. Ward, Rachel Vincent, Richelle Mead and many many more. I have found that most of the authors I fall in love with have built highly independent women for their main characters and I love when they can give as good as they get.
sassiecheryl@hotmail.com

Moonsanity said...

I have so many favorites, and I'm not kissing butt to say The Sign of the Zodiac series is one of them, as well as Jeaniene Frost's books and The Phoenix Chronicles by Lori Handeland. I'm a sucker for humor, sexual tension and on a more serious note- the ability to overcome evil, to keep hope alive even when everything seems hopeless. I picked up Outlander for my kindle this weekend plus a bunch of others that were free.

Cath's Chatter said...

Oh I love Diana Gabaldon♥
OMG..far too many to mention but I started reading my Dads Stephen King novels when I was about 12 and didn't discover romance books until I was 19....so paranormal/urban fantasy romance really 'floats my boat'!!! I'm addicted to Jeaniene Frost....although I'm very partial to a handsome rogue of old and LOVE Anna Campbell for her daring, gorgeous and often tortured heroes!!
AND I have a 12 year old and so read LOTS of YA and have found Kimberly Derting and Becca Fitzpatrick to be 'MUST READS'....who am I kidding?!?!
I LOVE IT ALL♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Cherry said...

When you ask about a book or literary work which speaks to me truthfully about life, delivers a message which I can take back into the real world and makes a reader feel hopeful or less alone... the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher comes to mind... it is all those, plus, Butcher seems to be able to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece even after seventeen books/novellas (more or less) in the series. I always look forward to the next Dresden release. Always! Is it obvious that I am a Dresden die hard? ;)

Cherry Mischievous
cherrymischif-warrior [at] yahoo [dot] com

mariska said...

Angela morrison's books, they speak a lot about life ;)

uniquas at ymail dot com

Mysteriousrose said...

I love Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series I always read them when I'm sad and I want to feel better.

Helen Lowe said...

Good luck for the new book, Vicki.

nymfaux said...

Great post!!!! Also, thanks for mentioning Diana Gabaldon--I've heard of her, but not read any of her books yet--I don't have a kindle, but I just went to the B&N website and they have a free e-edition for Nook, too!!!--So I'm already a winner!!!! :)

Although, I have to say, as a huge lover of Harry Potter, you've got me totally curious about THE EXILE and KILL THE DEAD!!!!

Like you, and everyone else, I have tons of favorites...but my go-tos for being hopeful and inspired are Tamora Pierce and Harry Potter--I can pick them up anytime, anywhere, even in the middle, and fall in love and be drawn in all over again...

Vicki Pettersson said...

Fantastic answers, All! Thank you for your considered responses (and thank you, Helen, for the best wishes!) - I have a lot of these titles and authors on my TBR pile as well. See? Akin again! ;-)

Posting winner anon!

Vic

nymfaux said...

Congrats to the winner!!!!