We are excited to have Sandy Williams here talking about the ten authors that make her a better writer as part of her tour for THE SHATTERED DARK, the second book in the Shadow Reader urban fantasy series (published on October 30, 2012 from Ace). In her review, Abigail said, “be prepared for non-stop action, intrigue, and a few bombshells that will leave you dying for book three.” Want to win a copy? Enter via the widget below.
Sandy Williams’s Top 10 Favorite Authors That Make Me a Better Writer
I’m often asked how I became an author. People want to know if I majored in creative writing or if I’ve taken any classes on storytelling. I took one writing oriented class in college, mostly because I needed a fine arts credit. I enjoyed the class. Each week, we turned in a certain number of pages and let other students in the class read them and give us feedback. Because I’d been writing off and on my entire life, I simply submitted chapters of a book I already had half written. I totally felt like a cheater! The only “work” I had to do was read the other student’s pages.
Unfortunately, my pages never received much constructive feedback. My writing was good, easy to read and follow, and the story was interesting. No one criticized my work, which is always frustrating in my opinion. I wanted to improve! I wanted to learn how to be a better writer. I’m sure there are better classes out there than the one I took – Texas A&M isn’t known for it’s writing or liberal arts programs – but I didn’t get much out of that course, and I haven’t sat down with a “How to Write” book and studied it (though maybe I need to!). No, everything I’ve learned about writing, I’ve learned from my favorite authors.
I sometimes reread my favorite books when I’m feeling stuck or like my writing is turning to crap. They rejuvenate me. Plus, they tell damn good stories. Below are my top ten favorite authors (not in order) and how they influence my writing.
Jack Campbell (science fiction)
This is an author I haven’t mentioned much before. I’m actually behind on his series. I read the first few books a couple of years ago, and I can still remember the way they made me feel: tense and breathless and ZOMG-everyone’s-going-to-die all at once! His books are military science fiction, and since I plan to write some light military science fiction romance some day (how’s that for genre blending), I hope I absorb some of his ability to make the battles feel tense and realistic.
Scott Lynch – (fantasy)
I’m anxiously awaiting the third book in his Gentleman’s Bastards series. Mr. Lynch is an expert at plot twists and getting his characters into and out of impossible situations. From him, I’ve learned that it’s not always the scenes you put on the page that matter, but the ones that you leave out as well. There’s a certain character in his books who is extremely important to the main character, but we’ve never met her. Part of the reason I’m so into these books is that I can’t wait to meet her. I’m completely intrigued, and I’m dying to read the stories about who she is, how the main character met her, and just what the heck happened between them. Scott Lynch is a pro at creating anticipation.
Ann Aguirre – (urban fantasy, science fiction)
Her books have grit. There’s no other way for me to describe them. There’s just something raw and excruciating about her stories. Her men are always strong and sexy and delicious, and her women are independent and capable. I love that! Plus, I’m totally envious of Ms. Aguirre’s career: she’s able to write whatever she wants. Science fiction, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, young adult. Every book she writes is great, and I hope I’m able to write in multiple genres as successfully as she does.
Patricia Briggs (urban fantasy)
What urban fantasy fan doesn’t love a Patricia Briggs’ novel? She’s one of the best authors in the genre. I’m not entirely sure what makes her books so fantastic. It could be her writing. It could be that she creates intriguing and relatable characters. Or maybe it’s her worldbuilding skills. Whatever it is, I want it! I always devour her books.
Meredith Duran (historical romance)
I hate to draw attention to one of my writing weaknesses, but description is by far the thing I feel like I’m the worst at. I’m not a visual person, so it’s difficult to describe what my characters look like and what they see as they move through the story. Not so for Meredith Duran. She excels at description. Plus, her writing is freaking beautiful. Usually, I like the words to disappear on the page, but oftentimes as I’m reading a Meredith Duran novel, I stop and admire just how damn good she is at putting words on the page. I need more of her books because I need to improve my description-ing skills.
Patrick Rothfuss (fantasy)
Rothfuss is one of the best world builders out there. Not only are his books funny (and his blog!), but he’s created an elaborate and intriguing magic system, one that I envy. His main character, Kvothe, is well developed and likable – and he gets into the worse situations! Every time I read chapters of Rothfuss’s books, I hope I’m absorbing ways of getting my characters into trouble.
Julia Quinn (historical romance)
I love me some JQ! Her historical romances always make me smile. They’re fun, light, and often comical, and she writes the best dialogue – especially banter between her heroes and heroines – of anyone I’ve read. If I can infuse my dialogue with just a tiny bit of that humor, it’ll be a happy day.
Linnea Sinclair (science fiction romance)
If you haven’t read any science fiction romance, you probably haven’t heard of her, but she’s one of my top three favorite authors. She puts you right into the POV of her main characters and combines exactly the right amount of action packed plot with fantastic, edge-of-your-seat romances. Plus, her writing is tight and accessible, meaning the words disappear on the page. I hope my words disappear like hers do and that my books are at least half as awesome as hers are!
Joanna Bourne (historical romance)
Joanna Bourne is one of my favorite writers. Not only does she tell a damn good story, but she writes it so well. I adore her writing style and her voice, and in my opinion, she’s one of the best storytellers out there. She knows exactly how to make her readers fall in love with both her heroes and her strong, independent heroines. I’d love to meet Ms. Bourne some day!
Brent Weeks (fantasy)
Brent Weeks teaches me how to torture characters. Seriously. No one – not even George R. R. Martin – tortures characters as thoroughly as he does. It was tough to get through the second book of his Night Angel trilogy because I hurt so much for the characters he made me fall in love with. I haven’t tortured my characters nearly as much as he has, but the influence is there. So, if something bad happens to anyone in my books, blame Brent Weeks. 😉
I think it’s virtually impossible for writers not to be influenced by the books they read. You pick up something from every author you try. The only reason I’m able to tell entertaining stories is because I’ve been a reader my entire life, and I’ve absorbed the ways of sliding in dialogue, description, and action into my books. This is one of the main reasons it’s so important for writers to read – it helps us constantly improve our craft.
And I love discovering new authors to love! That’s one of the greatest things about this job, in my opinion. Reading counts as studying!
Sandy graduated from Texas A&M University with a double major in political science and history. She thought about attending law school. Fortunately, before handing over her life’s savings, she realized case studies weren’t nearly as interesting as novels and decided to get an MA in Library Science instead. She worked as a librarian until her husband whisked her off to London on an extended business trip. She’s now back home in Texas, writing full-time, raising newborn twin boys, and squeezing in time to play geeky board and card games like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Runebound.
Giveaway provided by Ace
One copy of THE SHATTERED DARK by Sandy Williams
Available on October 30, 2012 from Ace
McKenzie Lewis has a gift. It allows her access to a world few have seen, and even fewer can comprehend. It’s her secret. And it exists in the shadows…
McKenzie was a normal college student, save for one little twist: she’s a shadow reader, someone who can both see the fae and track their movements between our world and the Realm. It’s a gift for which she has been called insane, one for which she has risked family and friends—and one that has now plunged her into a brutal civil war between the fae.
With the reign of the king and his vicious general at an end, McKenzie hoped to live a more normal life while exploring her new relationship with Aren, the rebel fae who has captured her heart. But when her best friend, Paige, disappears McKenzie knows her wish is, for now, just a dream. McKenzie is the only one who can rescue her friend, but if she’s not careful, her decisions could cost the lives of everyone she’s tried so hard to save.
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