“I don’t actually look for inspiration. I look for ways to recoup the joy of writing when that joy is lost to me. Whenever I find myself stuck or just without any ideas, it’s because I seem to have forgotten how incredibly fun it is to mess around with words. So to remind myself, I read. But not just anything. I have to read fiction that is exuberant—not in content but style. Writers who howl on the page so loudly, you can hear them for miles. Barry Hannah and Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor and Angela Carter. Jose Saramago and Denis Johnson. Cormac McCarthy. Faulkner. Joy Williams. Annie Proulx and Nicholson Baker. Writers whose work feels alive and fresh and a little nuts, so that before long, I’ll start to feel more alive, too. Alive to possibility, which is generally when I start typing.” —Fiona Maazel, author of Woke Up Lonely (Graywolf Press, 2013)
Sometimes even a short piece of writing can howl at me from the page, like this quote from Fiona Maazel. It reminds me just how much I love to write, and what a joy it is to work with words and create stories for a living.
Reading is a HUGE part of my writing life. Every day, I read a part of a novel or a short story. I read not only to be entertained, but to study my craft. I love to stumble across those moments where a writer surprises me with something new, a certain wildness, a way of saying something that I’ve never seen before.
Writers who inspire me are the writers who are so skilled at their craft that the storytelling captures me, and I don’t even notice the writing. They are the writers who don’t have to prove their intellect and use fancy words or techniques, but are at the service of their stories.
Writers who inspire me create compelling, imperfect characters who are somehow transformed by the end of the story. They also have women as main characters and not just in secondary, supporting roles or as the stereotypical wife, mother and daughter.
As readers, we need to search out writing that feels “alive and fresh” to us, and then spread the news through reviews. We need to search out writing that keeps us invested in the story and turning the pages. We need to search out writing that changes how we view the world. Writing that makes us laugh, cry, think, question, intuit, and feel a part of the bigger story of humanity.
Who are the writers who inspire you? Do you have novels or short stories to recommend that changed you or perhaps surprised you? If so, please consider leaving a comment, or email me directly (susan (@) susangabriel.com) and I’ll pass it on. xo
P.S. Paperback and ebook versions of my latest novel Temple Secrets are available at book stores everywhere, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books and Kobo or your local independent bookstore. Autographed copies from the author are available here (lowest price for paperback).