Books That Kickstart Writers

Recently I rMr. G IIead an interview with James Patterson. The interviewer asked him if there was a particular book that influenced him in his writing career. This is an interesting question, because where you might expect most authors to respond that many books influenced them, most can identify a particular one, a book that was the genesis of the dream.

Patterson was no exception; he identified Lawrence Stearne’s “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” as that book. Why? Because this author, writing three centuries ago, ignored all the rules yet wrote naturally and engagingly. It set Patterson free to believe he could do the same.

I find Kickstart Novels fascinating. I’ve begun to list them as I learn of them, hoping I might read them one day, wondering if I will see what it was that fired up the author. Some, such as “Grapes of Wrath”, need no explanation, while others are head-scratchers.

Here are several Kickstart Authors named in interviews: Chekov, Cheever, Salter, Jennifer Cushing, James Joyce, Denis Johnson and Thornton Wilder.

I have my own Kickstarts, of course. They occupy the shelf next to me. Here you’ll find T.C. Boyle, Umberto Ecco, William Faulkner, Hemingway, Elmore Leonard, Louis L’Amour, McMurtry, Margaret Mitchell, and Steinbeck. They all influence me and I turn to them frequently. And I keep adding new ones. Two of my latest are Thomas McGuane and Phillipp Meyer.

But if I had to identify just one author and just one book that Kickstarted me into writing? That would be Owen Wister’s “The Virginian”.  What does that say about me and my writing potential? I have no idea.  But I do know my imagination was sparked by this novel and had it not been, I might, I say “might” not have decided to try my hand at writing.

If that is a good thing, or a bad thing, I leave to the reader.



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