I am often asked, "Who is your greatest influence?" It's a difficult question. There are so many, really, from the early horror novelists I read as a kid (Clive Barker, Peter Straub) to the masters of language and form I read in college (Don DeLillo, Michael Chabon) to the mystery and thriller writers I love today (Karin Slaughter, Lee Child).
But there is no question that my greatest influence, the writer that has had the deepest and most profound impact on my writing, is Stephen King.
I know, I know. You've seen it before. To mention King as an influence is like saying Babe Ruth is your favorite baseball player. Okay, so no new ground is being broken here. But we each have our own beacons, and this is mine: as a teenager, I discovered a kind of writing--a kind of storytelling--that I wanted to do when I grew up. In a bookstore in Somerset, Kentucky, I plucked a Stephen King novel off the shelf (it was "Gerald's Game," not one of King's best but still the book that I first mention when I talk about him). This began a kind of love affair.
There are many reasons people are drawn to King's books, especially his early work (though I think "Under the Dome" ranks right up there with his best). His books are accessible, his characters recognizable, his writing poignant to the point of personal. Any time you pick up a King novel, you realize right away that you are in the hands of somebody who GETS IT.
But for me, I realized on the days after I left that bookstore with my first King novel that my connection with King's work didn't have to do with the ghouls he eloquently writes about. For me, I recognized something more than that. It was a deep understanding; a better grasp of the WHY of the story.
You see, I think I knew why Stephen King wrote those kinds of books. And I knew, as irrevocably then as I do now, that I wanted to try and write them myself.
I will likely never touch as many readers as King has. But each time I write, and really every time I open a novel, I think about that moment when I first picked up "Gerald's Game." The thrill of reading the first chapters. The buzz of emotion--laughter, fear, love, sorrow--that King is able to get at with his language and characters. And I try, dear reader, to recreate it.