by Robin Spano
My writing influences when I was getting started: Elizabeth George and Jonathan Kellerman
Elizabeth George's Playing For The Ashes was the first mystery I read as an adult. I was a Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon addict as a child, but I abandoned them for Sweet Valley High as a tween, and “serious literature” as a teenager and twentysomething. Then one day I was sick, and I picked up Playing For The Ashes because I wanted distraction in the form of a light read. I was floored. Yeah, sure, it's genre fiction. But it's also damn good writing. She gets deep, she has unconventional yet relatable characters, and the plot had me hooked. What impressed me (and what I try to emulate in my own writing) was the different points of view. She gets right into the head of these wildly different characters so you see the same story from dramatically different perspectives.
Once I knew I liked mysteries, I took my grandmother's recommendation and went to Jonathan Kellerman next. What I loved was his spare use of language, his fast pace, and how deep he gets with characters in very few words. What I learned from him was dialogue—how to punch and play and reveal a lot in a few words. And his plotting is addictive. When I open one of his books, I'm lost to the world until I close the last page.
My current influences: Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott
Megan Abbott's Dare Me is the kind of novel that surprises you with each new word. Nothing conventional for these characters—even though they're high school cheerleaders. They are full-on real life people, and they pop off the page. Her writing is stellar—no word is out of place. And her plot is a can't-put-it-down-until-your-eyelids-seal-themselves-shut kind of deal. Writing like this inspires me to challenge my self that much harder, pore over each word that much longer.
And Gone Girl, even for those characters we all hate so much, was as gripping and as real-to-life as any late night conversation I've had over wine with close friends. What I loved most: how Amy is at once detestable and everywoman. Of course I saw myself in her—I think many readers did, and that's what gripped us so much. She's not just everywoman, she's everywoman's dark side. She's the part of us we shut out, we deny exists. (And thank God we do; we'd have a pretty awful world if we all indulged our dark sides.) But oh my god, she inspires me to be more honest with my writing.