When I joined the website for eFiction magazine two of the entries for the profile were favorite authors favorite books. I had to stop and think about this for a moment. I wanted to answer honestly, but at the same time I wanted to sound well read, even literate.
Without giving it a great deal of thought I listed my favorite authors as Stephen King and Walter Isaacson and my favorite books as Einstein by Isaacson and “Anything by King or in the horror/fantasy genre”. Pretty generic and truthful.
What I didn’t list were my other favorite books, such as Uncle John’s Bathroom readers. If you aren’t familiar with this series of books, they feature short articles that range from silly to serious. I wouldn’t include them as a footnote, but an author never knows where inspiration will come from.
Another volume that is well worn, dog-eared, and has proven very interesting is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It’s been updated, but the copy I have is a reprint of the original version (1898). If you have an historical bent as I do, such old volumes provide a perspective free of revision by well meaning editors. Today it’s even on-line (Link). Even though I am a strong advocate of eBooks, there is something about an old book that begs to be held. You can’t get that feeling reviewing data in an eReader.
A book I recently acquired and I find fascinating is The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. It’s a compendium of fictional locations referenced in hundreds of books. It’s a fascinating read and a great starting point for picking that perfect place your next novel. If you’ve read my Bio you know that I am a geographer, so how could I not like this book.
The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present has proven an invaluable reference for those obscure side notes and references. It is well researched and authoritative, a military historian’s quick reference. Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow is a readable, intelligent review of the Vietnam War, another invaluable reference that I keep close at hand.
Finally, here’s one that‘s on my wish list, which I haven’t read yet. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson speaks to my insatiable fascination with the darker edges of the psychological. One of the characters in my eBook, Any Tomorrow: The Calling, is a brutal sociopath named Henry Turner.
My description of Henry’s brutality are so disturbing and explicit that when I was discussing the book with my daughter-in-law she said that if she had only the book to go on, she might have serious questions about the sanity of the author. I replied that there is sometimes a thin line between the reality of the author and the reality of the characters he creates. The difference is that the author gets to experience the extremes of personality through his characters, whereas the characters are trapped in their terrible lives, as are those who really suffer from psychopathy. That experience allows the author to experience things he would hopefully never experience in real life.
By now you might guess that I read a lot of non-fiction, and not a lot of fiction. You’re right. Although you may consider this counter-intuitive, after all, writer’s all always blogging about who they read. I do enjoy reading fiction, but to tell the truth I enjoy writing fiction even more. I’ve mentioned before that I believe good fiction always has elements of fact in it to make it believable. It’s good to read other fiction authors to get a sense of what works, how they hone their craft, but it’s equally important to really know who and where you are, and how you came to be there. From that knowledge and understanding will come the characters you develop.
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