In my last blog post, I talk about figuring out exactly what genre I’m writing in. (Kudos to whoever tells me how many times I typed ‘romance’ in that one!) In this post, I’ll be talking about authors I’ve read and emulated in my baby days journey to becoming a writer.
Although I’d gotten my reading start in romance—if you don’t include any of the books I’d read in my childhood, like R.L. Stine’s horrors, Animorphs, Dr. Seuss’ series, or abridged fairytales—most of the works that I tried to do a Version 2.0 on weren’t of the romance genre.
Today though, I want to talk about the ones that impacted me the most, whether romance or not, starting with Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys.
In a nutshell, Rainbow Boys is a gay teen fiction novel about three high school seniors and the issues they face being gay and questioning as they come of age. I’d read a lot of things, but nothing like that, and I was so captivated, I had to read the entire trilogy. I found the characters relatable, likable, and I wanted them all to come to my school and be my gay best friends. I got the idea to write my own stories based on Rainbow Boys, and looking back now, it was essentially poorly executed fanfiction. I’d changed (some) names and plots, but if you’d been a fan of Mr. Sanchez’s works, you’d know exactly where I’d gotten my inspiration.
Christopher Rice was the next huge author I’d tried to imitate.
I was still pretty young when I read his debut novel, A Density of Souls, and I was completely moved by the characters, the story, the style of writing, the darkness. I believe it was also the first time I’d read a thriller. After falling hard for that book, I devoured his next few novels, The Snow Garden, Blind Fall, and Light Before Day.
Light Before Day’s story intrigued me the most, and so I had an idea to write my own similar story. Only this time, my characters would be more original than what I’d done previously. It still centered on a child porn ring and depraved wealthy men. The main character was trying to solve things. I also wrote in the POVs of three young men who’d once been victims of the same ring and were helping to kidnap the children, but wanted to change that. I was so proud of this handwritten story, and I let my dear sister #2 read it—as usual—and of course she loved it. She wanted to know where I got my ideas, and I would never tell her that I copied them.
J.R. Ward and her BDB series also impacted me and made me want to write my own kick-ass series.
Almost ten years back, I’d found out about the popularity of the BDB series while roleplaying online as characters from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series. I would see other roleplayers online portraying these hot-as-hell vampires with weird, but cool names, and then I learned about Qhuinn and Blay and that was enough to pique my interest. Because, really, two gay vampires? Now, granted, this was long before Qhuinn and Blay’s HEA. I had to read these books because I had to know who they were.
Interestingly enough, not long after I’d declared I would read them, my grandmother’s husband came over with a bag filled with books that a neighbor of his wanted to get rid of. There were the first six books in the BDB series…
Tell me that isn’t fate!
But anyway, I went through those books and fell in love. Once I finished the sixth and stopped to breathe, I had to wait for the next one, so I thought I’d kill time by…oh, I don’t know… coming up with my own series that was similar, but not quite. It had demons. It had humans with supernatural abilities, chosen by the Archangels to fight Lucifer and his minions. There was action and violence and brash dialogue, and there was even my own little version of Qhuinn and Blay (because honestly, I needed more of them then and there). I even had a small part of the story I was working on critiqued, and one of my CPs even said that it reminded them so much of J.R. Ward’s work.
Last, but certainly not least, the author whose work has impacted me the most and made me wish I’d written it was Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series.
I know I gush about her a lot, but when I’d started getting into paranormal romances, Anita Blake and her men were unlike anything I’d ever read. At the time, I didn’t know what Urban Fantasy was, so I’d assumed the Anita Blake series was PNR.
Now I won’t brag about how amazing the series was or how it was up my alley, but I was really inspired to create my own dark world that closely mimicked hers, but gayer. My world took place in St. Louis, too, and there were Master vampires and human servants. Some of my characters were very similar to hers as well (my French Master vampire, Jules, was similar to her French Master vampire, Jean-Claude, although a bit more demure. And definitely more monogamous). I created this amazing cast of a menagerie of powerful vampires from all over the world, the humans that loved them, the race’s creator, the birth and death of angels, child vampires, sadists, a not-so-friendly resident demon. And everyone had backstories. Dear sister #3 loved it so much that we often talked about it, roleplayed it, wrote stories and poems. That’s why even to this day, she’s still miffed that I won’t write a novel and publish it. Except if I do that, I’d be in so much trouble for plagiarizing a great writer, because many of my characters resemble many of hers.
I guess the point of this post is to reaffirm the truth that on our journey to becoming writers, we often “borrow” the styles of our favorite authors and books. It’s not anything to be ashamed of, and I don’t feel like I’m not good enough or original enough for having done those things. Those times were simply learning curves while I cultivated—and continue to do so—my own style. My own voice.
Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say.
Have you ever imitated someone’s style of doing something while you tried to figure out your own? I’d love it if you leave a comment below!
Until next time,