Early Influences

By Katriena Knights

 

I’ve been watching a lot of retro TV lately, as I mentioned in some of my earlier posts. I’ve also been reading books I read when I was in junior high (shut up—that’s what we called it back then…) and high school. To my surprise, I’ve been enjoying most of it, and I’ve also noticed some things that made me go “Hmmmmm.”

I’ve always been a voracious reader. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, since my mom taught me how when I was about 3 ½ so I would quit dictating poems to her under the door when she was trying to go to the bathroom. In kindergarten I was reading EB White, and by junior high I was devouring Andre Norton, Heinlein’s kids’ books, Isaac Asimov, et. al. And of course Tolkien, but that would make an entire blog post on its own.

I recently discovered a slew of Andre Norton books on Amazon for free and for very low prices. So I grabbed a big selection of them and started reading. I was almost afraid to, thinking I’d see all the flaws and have no fun at all. But I was pleasantly surprised. Pick them apart all you want, but her books are a fun ride.

I also started noticing things that reminded me of my own writing. She jumps right into the middle of the story and usually leaves you to figure out what backstory there is (she’s not big on backstory in many cases). Things move fast, and the characters are often thrown into the middle of situations they have no control over. Something about her characters have a feel that reminds me of some of my earlier heroes—and some of my more recent ones, too. And that backstory thing—I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where I didn’t have to go back and add layers because I just plowed forward without thinking much about the characters’ histories. From now on I’ll blame Andre Norton for that.

As far as TV, I found a hint of some of my strong, independent female characters in Laura Holt from Remington Steele. But I’ve been most surprised by shows I used to watch in the 70s and how they’ve affected my characterizations of same-sex male couples.

When I first wrote Dark Callings, my first professional venture into m/m romance (written as Elizabeth Jewell), I thought I was totally inspired by the US version of Queer as Folk, as well as a lot of slash fanfiction I’d read over the years before I wrote it. But now, going back and re-consuming my adolescent favorites, I’m seeing influences from relationships in those shows. You can tell me there’s no homoerotic subtext in shows like Starsky & Hutch, CHiPs, and Emergency (you’d be wrong, especially with S&H), but the interactions between the leads, the power shifts and the hurt/comfort subplots—I can see all those influences in current books where the intimate relationship between two very dominant males is paramount. Oddly, though, somehow I never pair them up with one blond dude and one dark-haired dude.

I’m not sure why I’ve been revisiting these stories and shows. Maybe it’s part of yet another midlife crisis. But it’s been an interesting journey to revisit the media I devoured back then and see how it’s been absorbed, rearranged, and spat back out. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has had this experience. Have you ever read a book you loved when you were younger and seen elements of your own writing in it somewhere? Has it surprised you? Are you, like me, going to blame all your thin backstory on Andre Norton from now on?

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Katriena Knights wrote her first poem with she was three years old and had to dictate it to her mother under the bathroom door (her timing has never been very good). Now she’s the author of several paranormal and contemporary romances. She grew up in a miniscule town in Illinois, and now lives in a miniscule town in Colorado with her two children and a variety of pets. For more about Katriena, visit her website and blog.

6 thoughts on “Early Influences

  1. Patricia Stoltey

    I’ve gone back and read stuff I enjoyed as a young adult and been surprised. When I re-read On the Beach a couple of years ago, I couldn’t get over the head-hopping, something I did not notice at that first reading. Re-reading The Scarlet Letter was another shocker because the POV is a distant omniscient, so the reader never gets exposed to the characters’ inner feelings. I guess my point is that becoming a writer has made it harder to enjoy the books I loved when I first read them. The style differences keep yanking me out of the story so I can analyze their effectiveness.

    I will say, however, that when I read my favorite kids’ books, I love them just as much as I did when I was little, and I never pick them apart..

    Reply
    1. Katriena Knights

      Pat–when I was homeschooling my kids one of the things I enjoyed the most was revisiting kids’ books that I hadn’t read in ages. I was really surprised when I hunted down a story I remembered really liking and discovering it was written by Arthur C. Clarke.

      Reply
  2. Angela Parson Myers

    I never before thought about your not being able to remember when you couldn’t read. That’s heavy, man. Especially when I compare it to my own experience of trying to get people to teach me to read before I started school. (Back then, teachers told parents they’d mess up their kids for life if they did it wrong. Luckily, you were born when teaching your baby to read was kind of a fad.)

    Reply
  3. Arlee Bird

    I find myself more enthralled with older works than more contemporary and I see how those works have influenced my writing and the way I think. I watch movies that I recall seeing in childhood and realize now how good some of them were. Some of the books I read in junior high make more sense to me now–I tended to read more adult level books back then.

    I understand where you’re coming from here. We are shaped from earliest influences.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

    Reply
    1. Katriena Knights

      One of the reasons I’ve been going back to some of those older reads is to see what my perspective is on them now, Lee. It’s interesting the things we miss when we’re younger and don’t have the same context.

      Reply

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