November 18th, 2008

A Pocket Full of Murder

Tweets for Today

  • 12:33 @mstiefvater Congrats for starred reviews! Rec'd your book to browsing friend today but was not in stock. She put it on order instead. #
  • 13:50 read House of Many Ways #
  • 13:50 want to read: Victory of Eagles #
  • 19:44 My US cover art is up! #
  • 20:33 Kids just came in from tobogganing, all flushed and demanding cocoa. Winter has begun... #
  • 22:29 Have just watched first ep of MERLIN. Cute. My husband likes it, so probably will watch more. #
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A Pocket Full of Murder

Sources and Outworkings

It's always fun to read an interview with an author and find out that you share some of the same enthusiasms and inspirations.

Yesterday's interview with Elizabeth E. Wein at Finding Wonderland (syndicated feed is wonderland_blog) was fun, because given that Ms. Wein's Aksum books are serious, lyrical historical novels I would never have thought to map Lleu and Goewin onto Luke and Leia (for one thing, Lleu is about a million times more interesting than Luke!) or considered that "Ras Meder" sounds a lot like "Darth Vader". Hee. But I can't really claim Star Wars as a profound influence on my own work, much as I did enjoy it as a child.

But today's interview with D.M. Cornish made me all kinds of gleeful, because while I knew that we shared a love for Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books, I had no idea that he was also influenced by the Daniel Day-Lewis Last of the Mohicans, the writings of Patrick O'Brian (yay!) and Frank Miller's Elektra: Assassin. The latter was definitely an influence on me as well. My brothers ran a comic book store while I was in my teens, and I used to sit behind the counter after school reading every new issue of Marvel, DC and the independent comic publishers that I could lay hands on. (Yes, comic buyers of Sudbury, your cherished mint-condition issues were pre-read. I am sorry to break this news to you.)

I couldn't really tell you the plot of Elektra: Assassin now and I'm kind of glad I can't, because I think there was a lot of grim, violent, nasty stuff in there that's probably better forgotten. But I remember Bill Sienkiewicz's gorgeous watercolored art for the comic, and I remember being fascinated with the character of Elektra herself, her mystery and emotional closedness combined with that fierce determination and fantastic fighting ability. And now that D.M. Cornish has mentioned that comic too, I can see the echoes of Elektra in his character of Europe, the cool and deadly monster-fighting woman that Rossamund (the hero of Cornish's Half-Continent books) encounters early in his adventures.

And yet would I have guessed that if Cornish hadn't specifically mentioned Elektra: Assassin? Not at all. And I doubt most people would see Elektra in Knife either, because ultimately a lot more things went into that character and that world than just one comic book -- as is true of Cornish's character and worlds as well. I think all writers borrow inspiration from other sources: if they say they don't they've just forgotten where their ideas came from (or perhaps are too embarrassed to admit it!). But the more experienced writers draw from a wide variety of sources, whereas beginners tend to cling to only one or two. Which is what sets a fantastically detailed world like Cornish's Half-Continent apart from the score of pallid Tolkien and Peake imitations that have emerged over the last fifty years, and what makes the characters and relationships in Elizabeth Wein's Aksum books so much more rich and diverse and interesting than anything George Lucas came up with.

What about you? If you're an author, what do you consider to be the most interesting or unusual influences on your own writing? Or as a reader, have you spotted any odd influences on other people's work?

ETA: I forgot to include my favorite bit from the Cornish interview, which would be this quote:

One role women certainly do NOT have in Half-Continent stories is that of flesh-exposing objects of pubescent fantasy; I really enjoy clothing them sensibly and beautifully, especially the more "fighterly" types; it is like some kind of relief to dress women in properly protective, practical, functional and aesthetic clobber.
What is there to say to that, except "Yay!"
A Pocket Full of Murder

REC: "The Dreamer" by Lora Innes

I have just realized that I have been remiss in not mentioning that I just discovered and have been quite taken with The Dreamer, a webcomic which puts a high school girl from the present day smack in the middle of the events of the American Revolutionary War. It's painstakingly researched, beautifully drawn and colored, and has plenty of adventure, danger and romance as well as a healthy dash of humor. My only complaint now that I've caught up on all the archives is that I have to wait a week at a time to get the next two pages of the story!

However, it seems there is now a print version, for those who prefer a richer comic-book reading experience. Or you can read your way through the online archives, as I did.

Did I mention that Sarah Ellerton's currently running fantasy webcomic The Phoenix Requiem is brilliant and gorgeous as well? And that her previous comic opus Inverloch is now complete, all 764 pages of it? Yes. That.
A Pocket Full of Murder

An "unscientific" faith? Pfft.

Hee! Calling the two sections of his vlog on Science and Ethics "Intelligently Chosen Talks (Featured)" and "Naturally Selected Talks (Most Popular)" -- John Lennox, ILU.

And as someone who's memorized C.S. Lewis's poem "The Apologist's Evening Prayer", I especially enjoyed this short (2 min.) video on Argumentation: An Intellectual Game?

But really all the videos on Dr. Lennox's site are worth watching, I think.