Influences, Part 2


In Part 1, I wrote about early influences on my writing, primarily books.  Novels have been a major influence on my writing for my entire life, but they are intertwined with other influences, some related, some not.  Writers never work in a vacuum.  We are surrounded by influences every day.  It could be something in the news, an experience we have in our daily lives, or that someone close to us has had that influences our thinking, the way we perceive the world.  I remember that I began writing a journal after I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was ten or eleven.  I still write a journal, usually making daily entries.  Anne Frank was for me a totally compelling character; a real person, yes, but also a character in her own life’s drama.  What connects all the different influences on my writing — novels, nonfiction, movies, the world — is people, specifically characters

Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus, T. H. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, Nikki in Mary Stewart’s The Moon-spinners — these characters fascinated me as a young writer.  Then I encountered Shakespeare and he turned my world upside down.  Writing is hard enough, but why make it harder on yourself by writing in verse?  But oh, his characters!  Wow.  And my favorite as soon as I read him was, and remains, MacBeth.  He is both the hero and the villain of the play, not only revealing the problems with hubris but also ambition and the lust for power.  And I wondered, what made him that way?  Why? 

Characters who are both heroes and villains.  At the time, I didn’t realize it, but these characters and what motivates them are my primary fascination.  I love them.  Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels, Alex in A Clockwork Orange, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Nabakov’s Humbert Humbert (whom I detested, really), Hannibal Lecter, Michael Corleone, and most recently I’ve discovered the Dexter novels and TV series.  These characters and others like them have influenced the characters I create so far in my fiction.  They are anti-heroes, protagonists that are both heroic and villainous.  Not tragic at all, probably because they have created their own moral worlds, and they operate rationally within that world and adhere to its rules.  They may have regrets or remorse, but it doesn’t last long and doesn’t affect their behavior and choices.  My favorites are Tom Ripley, Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan, two sociopaths and a psychopath.  Their relationship with power and powerlessness interests me the most and has influenced especially the Perceval novels. 

Evan Quinn, the protagonist of Perceval and subsequent novels in the series, is an anti-hero in the tradition of Tom Ripley more than any of the other anti-heroes I’ve encountered.  He is more conscious of right and wrong, wants to do the right thing, but his need for power trumps everything.  This character profile is common among people in the real world, both men and women.  They live next door, work in the office down the hall.  I hope that readers will recognize that and relate in their own ways with Evan.  Most of all for me, he’s fun to spend time with, to write, and to share with the world, and I am his creator….

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