I have read very few books on “how to be a writer,” (and value even less of them), but if I had a writing bible it would be Stephen King’s On Writing. One of the many, many nuggets of no-crap wisdom is King’s blunt proclamation, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Simple as that. And I take it to heart. I’m not sure what the reading to writing ratio is in my life, but for all my hours and hours in front of the keyboard, I’m sure the scale is still tipped toward the bookcase. Although I’m dedicated to research and believe that it is an essential element of the novel-writing process, I’d like to think that a little spark from every book I’ve ever read also somehow makes it into the story. And while I have a permanent case of “the anxiety of influence,” I’m sure some of those sparks are brighter than others. Here’s a snapshot of one of the many shelves of the many bookcases cluttering up my house and it just so happens to be the shelf where the books most influential to my latest novel, Lightwood, are housed. I’d like to point out three for you.
Raylan by Elmore Leonard. Most everyone who knows me knows about my obsession with the television show Justified. While the show, sadly, has reached its end, Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder led me to Elmore Leonard, which led me to the crime genre (I honestly didn’t read crime novels before a few years ago.) in which I now find my latest novel, Lightwood, to have landed. Leonard, in all of his works, is smart, snappy, edgy and full-on rough-and-tumble. His unique style is a light in the distance to walk toward, and I only hope Lightwood is perhaps one small step in his direction.
A Good Day to Die by Jim Harrison. Whereas Leonard wrote with a razor’s edge, Harrison writes with a winding river. He imbues ordinary people, lowlifes halfway on the fringe, with poetry and gives them both meaning and urgency. Harrison has always been my inspiration for wanting to write beautifully about the ugly. This is a mantra that is very important to me and I hope shines through in Lightwood’s characters and story.
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Now, I in no way believe that my writing is in league with McCarthy’s, but his dialogue style is definitely one that my own mirrors. I absolutely love writing dialogue, and I believe that it can tell more of the story than writers usually allow it. In all my novels, including Lightwood, the characters are everything, and I’ve tried my best to let the Cannons and their cohorts speak for themselves.
Find out more about Lightwood at Polis Books. Available everywhere now.
Steph Post is the author of the debut novel, A Tree Born Crooked (Pandamoon Press) and her latest novel, Lightwood (Polis Books). Her short fiction has appeared in Haunted Waters: From the Depths, The Round-Up, Stephen King’s Contemporary Classics, Foliate Oak, and Vending Machine Press. She currently lives, writes, and teaches writing in St. Petersburg, Florida.