Picasso once said “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” And then Bono went on to prove his point singing The Fly.
I once stole a G.I. Joe toy from a store. Well I almost stole it. I was about 8, and walking towards the shop exit with my mother, with said toy tucked under my shirt, when a kindly gentleman approached me and asked if I wanted to reexamine the toy shelf. It just so happened that I did. The object of desire was a rucksack, and it contained guns, ammo, grenades, a water bottle, to accompany the grizzled, bearded, camo-decked Joe I had at home. I never saw that particular toy again, and writing now, I’m tempted to open another window and scour ebay. The joys of the internet. But I digress.
As an author I am a Willy Taveras. (I don’t follow baseball but I googled the best base stealer and that’s what I got. Strike 2 for the internet. See what I did there?!?! OK, I know enough about baseball to know a strike is a bad thing but…) I am a Raffles, I am a regular D.B. Cooper.
So, where did I steal from? I mean, who has influenced my writing? Well I have to say that the things that stay with me, in writing and film, develop from the creation of a mood, rather than an actual event. Usually it will be a conversation, or some epiphany a character experiences. They are the moments I remember. Writers like Bulgakov, whose Master and Margarita is a masterpiece. Where Pontius Pilate and Jesus get to have an amazing conversation after the crucifixion! Or Charles Finney’s Circus of Dr Lao, the story of the most amazing circus in the world, rocking up to a small town in the American mid-west; featuring a fortune teller who is cursed to tell the truth, and the world’s greatest magician, who is reduced to parlor tricks.
There are writers like China Mieville, Anna Tambour, Neil Gaiman and Michael Moorcock, who pepper their fascinating worlds with asides that in themselves paint places and people who deserve their own novels. Who with subtlety and grace, manage to exemplify less as more, while telling their stories. Writers like Iain M banks and M John Harrison, and who teach me to write with no cognitive budgetary restraint - that is, to think as big as I can. Writers like Cormac McCarthy, Herman Melville and Alan Moore, whose devastating prose or turn of phrase, can strike like thunder.
In fact the concern is not where to look for inspiration, but how to suppress and suborn those inspirations into something that is hopefully new, or at least new enough, under this tired old sun. Having never done any writer’s courses, formal or otherwise, I turn to other writers as guides and teachers. So please, if you have any criticism of my work, the blame clearly lies with them.