Recently, a survey has been going around Facebook for us bookish types asking about the ten books that have influenced our lives. I’ve been sitting back and thinking this over for quite a bit the last few days, especially since I finally finished my final edit of Lore and I’m on to the marketing and publishing stages. Took me long enough, right? What has influenced me in writing as a writer and a human being? What about being a librarian or as someone who is a pedestrian humorist?
When I got done and I looked at my answers, there were a few that did not surprise me in the least. Then there were a few that made me go aloud, “Really? That made a difference in my life? That?”
So, here they are in no particular order. The ten writings that have influenced Adrianne M. Karpo to date and an explanation of each so you aren’t left wondering why and what the ever loving hell…
Calling On Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Calling On Dragons is the first book I can honestly remember falling in love with. Unbeknownst to me, it was the third book in a series of four. But by the time I had reached the final page and was left with the cliffhanger, I was honestly heartsick and needed to know the ending. I was in high school at the time and my friend, Becky, who was the bookworm in our group of friends, knew the answer as she had read The Enchanted Forest Chronicles long before I had even considered the concept of fantasy as a genre I would identify with. I begged her to tell me what happened, but her repeated answer was simply, “Read the books!” And I did. And I haven’t been the same since.
I had known I had wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade, but I wasn’t sure what kind of writer until I picked up Calling On Dragons. After reading Wrede’s work, I said to myself, this is what I want to do. I want to grip someone’s heart. I want to make the reader feel emotions. I want to send them on an adventure. And I want to entertain more than inform! Anyone can read facts. It takes skill to reach someone and play with their feelings.
The books of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles still sit on my bookshelf in my bedroom to this day and I can’t wait for the day that I get to share them with my future children, their friends, and anyone else who will listen. I’ve even worked on a movie script to bring the second book of the series to the big screen. And for anyone who has read the books, I will never stop shipping Morwen and Telemain!
Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black
I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school up until the day I attended Western Michigan University. As a child, I never really questioned my faith, but by the time I got to high school, I began to wonder if organized religion was actually for me. Not bashing on the Catholic Church or anything, but as a budding adult, I had questions about everything from the concepts of heaven and hell to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And being in a Catholic family with a grandmother who was so devout that she was practically a nun, it killed me to have these questions! I felt guilty! It physically hurt sometimes to pray and talk to God and say to him, “I don’t know what you are.”
Now, I had been a great admirer of Lewis Black’s comedy for some time by the time I picked up Me of Little Faith. His way of ranting and raving about various subjects not only inspired me, but it got my brain thinking in directions and concepts I had not considered. As I have stated before to various people, comedians look at the world in different ways than us normal non-funny folks do and there’s a brilliance to their views that we don’t often see. I think Black has this in spades. The odd thing about this book is that his saying he had no belief in a higher power made me understand that it was okay for me to have questions, but still have faith! I don’t think this was Black’s mission when he wrote the book. I think his idea was to take different topics in religion and faith and expand on them in a humorous nature.
What it ended up doing for me was it made me more comfortable with my faith than I had been in a long, long time. Truth be told, I haven’t attended church on a regular basis since college. But I pray and talk to God every day and I watch for the way he works with me. He is a friend and a confidant. I laugh at what he does in my life. I yell at him for taking me down difficult roads. And I whole-heartedly believe it has made our relationship stronger. I identify myself as a distant-Catholic-but-full-blooded-Christian-somewhat-Agnostic-slightly-Jewish-lady, and that’s okay. Lewis Black’s lack of faith seems to have strengthened my friendship with God to a level of peace I haven’t felt for a number of years. And I thank God and Mr. Black for that.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
So fun fact. It’s hard to write in a steampunk corset. I learned this by practicing one of Goldberg’s tips last year when I started working on a novel that’s a cross of steampunk culture and Sherlock Holmes.
Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones displays different ideas for how to get over your writing fears and simply get the job done. She expresses the self and mild embarrassment you go through when you are writing your first sex scene. She gives you ideas for setting up your schedule to write on a regular daily basis.
My favorite rule of hers, however, is the prop rule. Whenever you are writing in the voice of a particular character, have a prop for that character with you. Thus, the steampunk corset, worn by my main character, Sally. While working with a character named Pinkette in the past, I’ve had a fake paper cigarette (rolled out of sticky notes and tape) hanging off of my lips and in between my fingers. Her practice gives the writer something tangible to hold on to while bringing the character to life. Don’t believe it works? Try it for yourself!
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
As an avid NaNoWriMo participant and municipal liaison for the event, it shouldn’t be a big surprise for Baty’s book on how to write a novel to be on my list, right? All the man did was found an amazing non-profit organization dedicated to getting people to exercise their creative writing juices. Just the other day I was explaining to my friend, Bridget, on how to use the “Magna Carta” when it came to what she wanted for her own novel. Not to mention it creates great ways to track your word count and completely instilled in a writer the great words of Stephen King, which are, “You are not f***ing Shakespeare!” This book has simply become a fantastic tool for helping to hone my daily art.
For more information on National Novel Writing Month, please visit www.nanowrimo.org.
“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell
Okay, so this one is a short story, but it still influenced me more than I had originally conceived. I first read the story as a freshman in high school and it made me realize the point of the short story; the human being is the most vicious, threatening animal on the face of this earth.* And that the narrator decided to show just how vicious and threatening it could be was an entertainment and lesson everyone should learn (although it’s better from the reader’s perspective than the narrator’s).
There have been various types of Hollywood adaptions to this concept, but to me, nothing holds you or thrills you more than the original text. If you haven’t read it and want to get your heart going, here it is in entirety. Enjoy if you dare.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
I confess. My love of this novel came from my love of the Disney animated movie of the same name. I was an outcast and not popular in junior high, so loveable Quasimodo gave me a character to identify with during that hard stage of life. However, the original novel, published as Notre Dame de Paris, is nowhere near as light-hearted as Disney’s work.
Notre Dame de Paris is dark, dank, and at times downright terrifying. Quasimodo’s life in the bell towers of Notre Dame Cathedral are not just due to his deformities and ugliness, but also due to the fact that he was a kidnapped child and no one would take him as an orphan. Sadly, the only woman who sees the beauty within, the lovely gypsy Esmeralda, is a careless child who falls in love with a soldier who wishes nothing more than do deflower her before he runs off and marries his bourgeois cousin (ew). To top it off, she is being stalked by Quasimodo’s caretaker, a priest (yes, a priest) by the name of Dom Claude Frollo, who gives Esmeralda the ultimatum of being his lustful slave for the rest of her life or be tortured and put to death.
Of course, as this is one of those novels that reads over chapters upon chapters of setting, character development, and plot and exposition, I can’t do its description justice. But if you want a novel that will pull at your heart strings and stay with you forever, pick it up. It may make you see the world in a different light. Lord knows it is one of the reasons I want to visit Paris so badly and why Notre Dame cathedral has become my favorite building on this green earth. The plus side for me when I read it was Disney actually published an original text version which was interspaced with concept art from the animated movie. I ended up getting the best of both worlds with this one!
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Again, Disney is one of the reasons I fell in love with a book. As a child, my mother rented me the film The Great Mouse Detective. After learning that Basil of Baker Street was a conception of Sherlock Holmes, I began to pick up the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books and stories, albeit they were young reader’s versions. The brilliant genius of snarky intellect and smoking pipes quickly won over my heart moreso than any combination of Batman, Super Mario, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
I have been proficient in fan fiction since junior high school. Well, when you’re an outcast, you kind of dive into familiar worlds where you find comfort. Imagine my delight a few years ago when my friend, Whitney, handed me the book she was reading and asked, “You’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, aren’t you?”
With Sherlock Holmes entering the realm of free domain, King created the world of Mary Russell, a young British born American who befriends a retired Holmes and becomes his apprentice.
I honestly can’t say that this book enlightened me more to anything other than it reminded me of why I loved Sherlock Holmes so much, but the beauty and care in which it was written showed me what could be done with someone else’s work if they gave it the respect it deserved. If Doyle were alive today, I’d be very curious to hear his thoughts on King’s progress.
I know, I know. There are probably a few people (friends and family among them) who are repeatedly smacking their heads against substantial surfaces for this one, but it is the truth.
Dan Brown set a precedent when he published this book when it came to historical fiction that it actually caused a) issues with the Catholic church, b), issues with the views of Renaissance art, and c) various other issues with European history that caused such an uproar that a disclaimer had to be put in the work depicting it strictly as a work of fiction! That’s some book if you ask me. To be able to capture someone’s attention so well and hold it to a point where they think it could be and may actually be true? If I had that type of power as a writer, I’d probably have thicker glasses because I would be staring at my computer for longer periods of time.
Nothing’s Sacred by Lewis Black
Yes, Mr. Black again. As you might have guessed, I greatly admire this man. I read Nothing’s Sacred as a further look into his comedy and I was greatly surprised to find out that he started his career as a theatre student and playwright. He even took a risk after his undergrad and purchased a theatre with his friends to hone his art. I never did anything that risky with my career or life, partially because I had to depend on a job with good health coverage because of the Crohn’s disease, but I digress.
I’m sure that Black’s career took a change he wasn’t expecting when he started doing standup, but that career has no only made him one of the most well-known and main stream comedians of the day, but he’s done amazing charity work and two USO tours to boot! It’s made me wonder time and again where my career and life might take me in the near and distant future. Who knows.
I had a chance to meet him after a show he did a few years ago. Not only did he autograph my copy of Nothing’s Sacred, but we got to talk writing and play for five minutes and it was like heaven on earth. He invited me and my husband to come see a showing of his play in North Carolina. Don’t let the man’s act dissuade you too much. He may rant and rave on stage, but in the short time I spent visiting with him, I got to meet and intelligent man with a love for his art. And if you want further proof of this, here’s the photo!
*Since reading this story, my views have obviously stuck with that. Human beings are awful, horrendous animals, but damn, do they make some amazing characters.