The weekend before last we all heard Elizabeth George say you should read writers who are better than you are. That’s the best way to improve your craft.
So I’m wondering, Wickeds–who are your aspirationals? What authors do you read when you want to be inspired to be the best writer you can be?
Sherry: I usually read for entertainment, that said I love Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books and the conflict she set up with Clare and Russ. I have a story to share about our very own, Barbara Ross. Right before I was asked to write a proposal for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series, I edited Barbara’s first book in the Maine Clambake series, Clammed Up. I loved it. Her characters are real people not caricatures, her plots are intricate, and the setting is fabulous. She works hard, researching, creating layers, thinking about theme — so much that you don’t see but it’s what makes her books so wonderful. I loved Gus in Barb’s books and created Angelo in mine. I’ve always wondered if I hadn’t just read Clammed Up if my proposal would have been as good. I’d be thrilled to be compared to Julia or Barb!
Liz: Totally agree with Sherry about Julia Spencer-Fleming and Barb. It’s a widely-known fact that I’m also completely obsessed with Dennis Lehane. His writing just pulls me in and doesn’t let go. Tana French is the same way – there’s a haunting quality about her settings and characters that keep them in your head long after the book is done. Also, R.J. Ellory, who often talks about the one thing he keeps in mind when writing: How he wants people to feel when they’re reading. I aspire to that–having a lasting effect on my readers.
Julie: I loved interviewing Elizabeth George. She is one of my aspirationals. Add me to the Julia Spencer-Fleming fan club as well. I am also a huge Jane Austen fan. What I learn from her is good story telling, wit, and not pandering to audiences. I have specific books that I aspire to–Gaudy Night, And Then There Were None, A Christmas Carol, The Eyre Affair.
Edith: Great topic! I’ve said ever since I read my first Julia Spencer-Fleming book, “If I could write like her, I’d die happy.” I just wish she’d write a little faster – the wait between books is hard. I also think Deborah Crombie tells a great story – language, setting, plot, characters – all are rich and expertly woven. I aspire to read even one Elizabeth George! Didn’t get to it before Crime Bake, but she’s still on my list.
Jessie: I really admire Martha Grimes. I enjoy all her work but I especially love the Emma Graham books. Her ability to render both mood and character astounds me. I also adore anything by Alice Hoffman. The way she portrays relationships between characters, especially women, is so rich and vivid. Both Fannie Flagg and Billie Letts write with such affection for their characters while somehow not pulling their punches. That’s a rare feat in my opinion. Annie Proulx’s writing is a wonderment. It is lush and spare and poetic and gritty all at the same time.
Readers: What about you? If you’re a writer, who do you “read up” to inspire your craft? Others, who do you look up to in your own field or hobby for inspiration?