Launching Points

So, the Marketing Muses recommended I post something about what inspired me to write The Incident Under the Overpass. My very first post in this space talked about where I was in life, and what got me writing (and keep at it). But specifically, they thought I should focus on the who. Which authors have inspired me?

The wine bottle is just decoration
The wine bottle is just decoration

That’s easy. But it’s hard, too. I’ve been a reader my whole life, but I’ve only been a reader and a writer for the past six years. And I’ve always been a slow reader. It’s only since I began writing with any regularity that I realized I was unintentionally noting technique, and narrative choices, with my slow reading. I think my subconscious was raising its little, hidden, voice, saying, “Yes! Remember this. This is really cool. If you ever listen to me and get around to writing stories, you could use something like this.”

Anyway, the list is very long, when it comes to my fiction writing. But regarding writing and publishing The Incident Under the Overpass, I’ll stick to two specific influences, and three more general ones.

The two specifics are Robert Ludlum’s The Chancellor Manuscript and Alice Hoffman’s Turtle Moon. I read each of these books eons ago. And they are also the only books I’ve ever read from those authors. (When you’re a slow reader, you have to find satisfaction in sampling, rather than immersing).

I’ve always remembered how Robert Ludlum seemed to poke fun at his titling convention in The Chancellor Manuscript. (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Chancellor Manuscript.) As I recall, the title character, Peter Chancellor, made a name for himself writing novels all titled the same way: Counterstrike! and Reichstag!, not to mention, Sarajevo!

The title The Incident Under the Overpass, and the other two books in the series, tentatively titled The Tremor on the PCH and The Epiphany on the Causeway, are a bit of an homage.

With Alice Hoffman, I was struck how the month of May was practically its own character in Turtle Moon. It’s what inspired me to set nearly all the action in Incident in the month of June. To nothing near the same effect, though.

The three general inspirations are Greg Iles, Nora Roberts, and Hugh Howey.

Greg Iles is my favorite writer. I discovered him about twelve years ago, with The Footprints of God. Then I found out he’s based in Natchez, and most of his books are set there. I was hooked. I love the depth and relatability of his characters. I’ve read a bunch of his stories, but none in the past six years, sadly. I would love to be able to tell a story like he does, so I worry that my writing might approach mimicry if I read him right now.

I plan to return to him once I start writing my science fiction trilogy. Whenever that may be. 🙂

Ah, Nora Roberts. I read The Donovan Legacy series more than a decade ago. I think the seed of the idea—of a story about a healer—was already in my head by that time. So I was excited by the prospect of Charmed, about Anastasia Donovan, the healer of the magical family. But ultimately, I didn’t find Anastasia as compelling as her sister or brother (or was he their cousin?) Now, I write this with absolutely no offense intended to Nora Roberts. Because I enjoy her stories and greatly admire her productivity. But I just remember thinking, “that’s not how I would write a story about a healer.”

So, a few years on from there, I set to work on figuring out just how I would write a story about a healer.

Finally, Hugh Howey. The trail he blazed for independent and self-published authors is truly inspirational. I remember hearing him on NPR, talking about how he got The Big Publishers’ attention with the success of Wool. But how they couldn’t offer him a deal that benefitted him more than what he was already doing, on his own. That’s when I realized that we really are in a brave, new world of publishing.

I saw a path that involved putting my work out to market in my own way, in my own time, and on my own terms. A path that I’d be a fool not to explore.

There’s no turning back now.

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