The other day, I was talking with one of my good friends about literary inspirations. He had a very elaborate idea of which authors helped influenced his writing.
Though I wasn’t able to articulate my inspirations as concretely as he could, I know for certain that five women have inspired and influenced my writing: Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Bernice McFadden, Toni Morrison, and Mary Higgins Clark.
Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is like a symphony; it is so damn beautiful and haunting and poetic. I learned a lot about rhythm and using words that do more than put black ink on a page; they can move a reader through sound. Through Morrison’s work, I also hear the sound of my African American heritage, and that sound, that voice is important to learn, to remember. Bernice McFadden, to me, is the literary daughter of Morrison. Some people have criticized Toni Morrison for being “too” literary (though I would argue differently). What McFadden does is offer beautiful literary fiction told in a very contemporary way, a way that should cross literary and genre readers. Though I write both literary and genre fiction, I learn through these women the art of beautiful writing that reflects its culture and sings on the page. I aspire to hone my craft within the path they helped to create.
I also am inspired by dead female writers, such as Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf (and I would even include Anne Sexton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman). The first time I read Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I felt the main character’s pain. The idea of a woman with thoughts and feelings, being made to “lock” herself and those thoughts and feelings away appealed to me on a very guttural level. Through these women, I realize that we are ALL–black, white, asian, etc., WOMEN. We suffer. We hate. We love. We learn. This is something that is very important to me because I claim myself to be a universal writer, and I aspire to write stories that transcend race.
Mary Higgins Clark’s novel “All around the Town” inspired me to write my first mystery/suspense novel. Through her other novels, I learned the craft, and I learned style. She introduced me to a new genre and ultimately inspired me to learn more about the genre.
In the end, though none of these women know me nor I them, I owe them thanks because ultimately, they have been resourceful tools in my journey as a writer.
The great thing about inspiration is that it never fades. When I’m in need of some good inspiration, I just go to one of my bookshelves and pull down a book by one of the ladies and read for a few minutes. Being transported into their worlds helps me escape my “real” world and eventually, move into my own dream film of storytelling.