Writers discuss author inspirations

Writers discuss author inspirations

By Page H. Gifford

Writers approach their craft from varied perspectives. Writing may be guided by opinion, humor, logic, debate, emotion and memory. A picture emerges in the writer’s mind, which may be fact or fiction.

For every writer, it is a personal journey; it connects with the spirit, awakening a curiosity to explore, resulting in a soul-satisfying experience. It is a passion too bright and too insistent to ignore. It is something that begins with an electrifying enthusiasm and evolves into a quiet sense of knowledge and completion.

A few local writers shared insights into their journey, including what and why they write, and who inspires them. These writers vary in age from their 20s to their 70s.

Meghan Harris,  of the Wednesday evening Fluvanna Writers Group, is just beginning her journey, inspired by a mixed bag of authors from the darkness of Edgar Allen Poe to poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes to New York Timesbestselling author John Green to contemporary writer Markas Zusak.

“I want to write stories that make people think and feel,” Harris said. She is in search of a muse and with youth on her side, she will eventually find it.

Her friend, Kristen Petzold, has been writing since high school, creating her own fantasy world and characters for a series of novels; the first she published herself while a freshman in college. Petzold’s stories are of a dark nature, looking into the wickedness of man through characters who struggle between good and evil.

Unsurprisingly, her inspiration comes from Poe as well. Her favorite story of Poe’s is The Mask of the Red Death. She even has Poe’s signature tattooed on her arm. Stephen King is also a favorite.

“I love having the ability to create a whole new world and escape into it,” said Petzold. Nowadays, she is discovering a different world of literature in her quest to become an English teacher and share her love of writing with others.

For Alden Bigelow there are many authors whose works have inspired him, but he focused on one: Samuel Clemens, known to everyone as Mark Twain.

“I love his simultaneous folksy and satirical sense of humor and the presentation of his wisdom through the metaphorical creativity and truth of children, like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,” he said. Bigelow has learned over time what youths have yet to learn about writing, and expresses it well in his stories.

“I write because it allows me to paint with words pictures I cannot draw, words that may persuade and inspire my audience, or at least entertain them,” he said. “There is great power in the pen and when I write I have the opportunity to be a small part of that…and I love to paint the pictures with my words. That is my joy.” He added if that those who want to be writers need only to be passionate and relatively knowledgeable about their subject. “Then, all you need to do is sit down at your desk, stare at a blank page, pick up your pen, point it at that blank page and begin. You are now a writer.”

Warren Groeger, of the same generation as Bigelow, often draws on his past and memories to create realism and detail in heartfelt scenes from his own life.

“I’ve always written and have been driven my entire life to get my ideas down on paper,” he said. For a writer whose stories reflect his time-consuming genealogical research and thoughts on the past and present, it is interesting that his favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Gunter Grass and Thomas Mann, the latter of whom is known for his symbolism and irony in his novels as well as the psychological look into the mind of artists and intellectuals.

Somewhere between youth and seasoned is author Leslie Truex, who writes both fiction and non-fiction.

“In non-fiction, I write because it was how I’m able to work from home. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but it’s essentially my job,” she said. “For fiction, something went off in my head 20 years ago, and now characters prattle on and on in my brain wanting their stories told. I enjoy the stories they tell, which goes with the saying, ‘Write what you like to read.’ In my case, often what I’d really like to read isn’t available.”

She added that she likes the creativity and control in fiction as well.

“I dictate what happens, although sometimes during the writing process, the characters can do things that are the opposite of or surprising to what I’d planned. But even so, in the end, the bad people always get their comeuppance and the good guys always win…and live happily ever after,” she said cheerfully. Truex loves the worlds she creates and, like Petzold, her stories border on fantasy while being lighter and less forbidding.

Writing a cross between romance and mystery, Truex has a few authors that inspire her style.

“Story-wise, I’m a Jane Austen fan and have paid homage to some of her work in my novels. Career-wise, I’m in awe of Nora Roberts – I love her In Deathbooks as J.D. Robb because of her output,” she said. “I love the humor of authors like Evanovich and Crusie. I’ve also been studying the career of a romance author, Lauren Blakely, who is prolific and very successful as an indie author and has sold over a million books. I envy that.”


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