I sometimes feel like I'm being tested when someone asks me who my favorite author is. What if I say a name that's too lowbrow? Out of fashion? Will my friends still respect me? Well, I can't worry about that now. Here's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Like everyone else here, I can't pick just one. Of course there are my friends on this blog and elsewhere--I adore their voices, their POV, and look forward to each new book.
Let's not forget my husband, whose graphic novel Tales of the Moonlight Cutter is unfairly overlooked by the comics majors and the film industry. Of course I'd feel that way, though, I'm his wife!
As for the writers who formed and informed my voice, here's a few of them:
I remember the first time I really understood a passage from a play or perhaps it was a sonnet, by Shakespeare. His voice, reaching out to me from hundreds and hundreds of years ago, defined "timeless" for me. I wouldn't have that feeling again until I read a Dickinson poem.*
The first poem I ever memorized was Resume by Dorothy Parker, when I was eight or ten years old. I used to be able to recite half a dozen of her bitter, funny poems. No wonder I write crime novels as an adult!
When a professor introduced me to Flannery O'Connor, she rocked my world. How could someone see the foibles of human nature so clearly, write about them with such honesty, and still hold a deep and abiding faith in God?
I once tried to buy the right to write a screenplay of The Violent Bear It Away. Sadly, my pockets aren't that deep. But someone should make the movie of it. Truly challenging material!
Of course, when I discovered Dashiell Hammett (whom I found by way of Lillian Hellman, another favorite!), and much later, Cornell Woolrich, I was doomed to a life of writing old fashioned noir. Not Tarantino-esque splatter noir, but books that contain the old-fashioned notion that just because the world is violently out of order doesn't mean it should be that way.
At my family's Fourth of July party, a new friend lent me a copy of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I've never had the pleasure of reading this author, but am looking forward to getting to know him. Whether he is an author whose skill will school me, like Joyce or Faulkner or Hemingway, or whether I'll really and truly embrace him remains to be seen. That's part of the fun of discovering a new author--that frisson of connection, like the connection I felt to an English playwright long mouldering in his grave.
Writing is magic, don't you think?
* About that Dickenson poem. Someone told me you can sing any poem she ever wrote to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texeas, and that knowledge has destroyed my ability to read her poems. Don't ever try it, especially with Death, or you may never be able to go back!