Day 44 – My Influences

Today is the 4th of July, which is a pretty big holiday here in the States. I’ve got a picnic to go to this afternoon and some fireworks to watch tonight. A couple of burgers and a handful of beers and I’m a happy guy.

But the beat goes on. I still got some work in this morning. The writing continues, the blog rolls along.

No excuses.

I thought it would be fun to list my eclectic group of writing influences. Some of them are sure to surprise you. Before I get into them, I should add that I’m leaving the obvious, most important people off this list. Without my mom getting me into reading in elementary school, I wouldn’t be here. If my dad didn’t love action and horror movies when I was growing up in the 80’s, I wouldn’t be here. If The Tall One didn’t put up with my shit every single day, and inspire me in ways I couldn’t articulate if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be here.

So with that out of the way, here are the biggest influences, in no particular order, on my writing:

Stephen King. I might as well get the big dog out of the way first. If you’ve ever listened to an episode of one of my podcasts, talked to me in person, sent me an email… then you’ve probably heard me mention Stephen King. No one’s books have ever hit me on a personal level like King’s. It, The Stand, The Mist, The Outsider… these stories speak to me on a primal level.

His style is completely different from mine, yet I think he might have influenced my writing more than anyone else. I’ve acquired a sense of story and character from reading his work that is hard to quantify. The man is a literal master. If you haven’t read any of the stories above, then stop slogging through my drivel and grab a copy. Those books changed my life.

James Cameron. For some idiotic reason, people have written Cameron off as a talentless, Hollywood hack in recent years. Everyone likes to pretend Avatar is some derivative film (it isn’t), while ignoring the masterpieces he’s made over the years. Aliens, The Terminator, T2, The Abyss, and True Lies were staples at my house. I had those suckers on repeat throughout my teenage years.

Go watch Aliens and then read one of my books. You’ll see the same pacing, the same story-told-on-the-fly structure. Blending horror, action, and violence are big parts of my books (plus humor), and they’re staples in Cameron’s work. Without his movies, who knows what my writing style would be.

Shane Black. I’m sure a lot of you are wondering who the hell Shane Black is. He’s a screenwriter and director who has made some movies you’ve seen. Iron Man 3? That was him. Hold your judgement. He was the hottest screenwriter (and highest paid) in Hollywood in the 90’s, before he stepped away for almost a decade. Some of the movies based on his scripts aren’t great. A couple of the movies he’s directed are… less than stellar. Don’t get me started on The Predator.

But when Shane Black is firing on all cylinders, his dialogue can’t be matched. Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys. Those are movies with great characters and better dialogue. Even The Predator had killer dialogue and that movie made me want to drive off an overpass. If you watch The Last Boy Scout you’ll see a ton of influence for Asher Benson. I learned smarmy, comedic dialogue by watching Shane Black movies. Nobody does it better.

Joe Bob Briggs. Yes, you read that right. The drive-in movie host of Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater, MonsterVision, and now The Last Drive-In was, and still is, a massive influence on me. In this regard, I’m not talking about learning how to write quirky characters, or pacing action scenes, but about taste. I discovered my love of horror through Joe Bob Briggs. Much like Stephen King influenced my childhood through literature, Joe Bob’s movie curation molded my taste in the bizarre and underappreciated.

I discovered Joe Bob in the 90’s when I stayed up too late channel surfing. Bored out of my mind, I clicked through boring crap after boring crap, until I ran across his showing of the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. Until that point, I’m not sure that I’d seen a horror movie like that before. It was love at first sight. Plus, there was this redneck dude making me laugh at every commercial break. Joe Bob introduced me to a whole a new world of films I would have never bothered watching before.

When MonsterVision was abruptly cancelled in 2000, just as I was starting college, I could have cried. But he’s back now, with basically the same show on Shudder, theĀ The Last Drive-In. The dude is funnier than ever. It’s a must watch if you want to understand my twisted mind.

So there you have it. I’m weird and my unknowing mentors are all over the place.

Today, I edited 2 more chapters in Decayed, worked on SBIG, and updated my website.

It’s beer thirty. See ya tomorrow.