Monday, September 3, 2018

Thanks for the memories...and the inspirations

Q: What’s your favorite lesser-known novel? Who are your favorite lesser known writers? In your genre and outside of it? Why? And have they influenced your work? How?

- from Susan

Today, Anthony Trollope is a lot lesser known than he should be, less well known than he was in the mid 19thcentury when he published one of my favorite Trollope novels Barchester Towers. It’s a wonderful story of ecclesiastical politics set in the cathedral city of Barchester, England as a new bishop is to be installed. The old bishop was well-loved and the local Church of England priests kind of assumed someone of his gentle kind would be appointed. But…of course it gets complicated and heated and there are heroes and villains. 

In addition to enjoying Trollope’s omnipotent and occasionally snarky narrator, a devise that is is anathema in today’s fiction, I love hating his chief villain, a really dreadful cleric named Slope. The author’s ability to create a character so petty, so slimy, so underhanded impressed me when I first read the book a million years ago, and all over again when I read it a few years ago. I know what Rev. Mr. Slope is going to do, but I wait, spellbound anyway. “He has a pawing, greasy way about him,” Trollope’s narrator says by way of introduction. 

Don’t you love it? Some day, one of my novels will require someone like the Rev. Mr. Slope and I will go back and pore over Trollope’s ability to make me turn the page quickly to find out what the bastard has done now!

Louise Ure is less well known as a crime fiction writer, but that’s only because she stopped writing mysteries and changed direction after several wonderful books, among them her award-winning debut, Forcing Amaryllis, and The Fault Tree,about a blind woman’s race to catch a killer. Louise once told me she wouldn’t ever try that again – really hard to develop a detecting method that eliminates sight from the investigator’s tool box! She influenced me in many ways, but most importantly by becoming my mentor and cheerleader before I even had an agent, answering my dumb questions about the business and helping me with my query letter. She wrote the first blurb I ever received, and I still treasure it. 

I want to throw in one more name, not because of her fiction, but because she wrote a book that was a revelation to me: Bird by Bird, by Annie Lamott. I first read it sitting in a losmen (guest house) in a rice paddy in Bali and it was like a drug mainlining into my body and soul. Write, write, write! I’ve never forgotten the surge of adrenalin it gave me, every page. If ever a writer influenced me to believe I could do it, surely it was funny Annie telling tales on herself, nudging the reader to stop whining and making up reasons not to sit down and get to it. 


Lyda McPherson said...

Susan- A heart-felt "yes" to Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird".

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for sharing your influences, Susan. I've added Bird by Bird to my reading list.

Susan C Shea said...

Glad you have your own copy, Lyda, and you might like her non nonsense writing style, Dietrich. Bird by Bird was first published in 1995 and I think it's been in print ever since. My first copy was pencilled to death. I gave my second to a friend just getting started writing, and I have a rather fresh copy now that needs some love and messing up! It's not a here's-how-to-write-a-mystery book, but a celebration and call to writing itself, a joy to read from cover to cover or to dip into for a fresh hit of inspiration or encouragement.