I just joined goodreads, a forum for readers that is pretty cool. As such sites do, they asked me to list some authors who inspire me. That list is too long to cover, but I thought I'd blog today on the reasons for the inspiration that some authors have provided me.

I always start with Shakespeare, not because I'm trying to be cool, but because over thirty years in education I found that no one answers all the demands of writing any better than he did. To get inside a character's mind and express in words what he/she must have felt like at a particular moment, to use the English language so effectively, now that is a gift. Others who can paint a person with words particularly well are Dickens, Hardy, Twain, Austen, and Bronte, but you probably knew that. I would add a couple modern classics: Steinbeck , Chopin, Fitzgerald, and Vonnegut. I'm sure I'll think of more later.

Then there are the current writers who make me jealous. Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, and Barbara Kingsolver will be remembered beyond this century for their compelling writing. Jan Burke tells a story that pulls me in and makes me neglect the rest of my life until I find out the resolution. So does Laura Lippman. Anne Perry has such a great sense of her characters and setting that I don't mind if sometimes the plot is contrived or repetitive. Lee Child's Jack Reacher and Barry Eisler's John Rain are such compelling characters that I feel I could recognize them in a crowd. (Not sure if I'd have the nerve to speak to them. They're pretty intimidating.) And since I love a well told story, no matter how over the moon it may be, I enjoy Clive Cussler, Michael Creighton, and even (dare I say it?) Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code."

If this seems eclectic, I suppose it is, a gamut from great literature to mere paperback entertainment. I think the basis for my admiration is that each of these writers does what he or she does completely, wrapping all the good things of writing into a coherent whole. Even if you don't like mysteries, you can still see excellence in a great mystery writer's work. Maybe the classics bore you, but you have to admit that these were ground-breaking authors who did things that affected the rest of the western world ever after. The work of a great writer advances the genre, whatever it might be, and gives others an example to shoot for as well as an enjoyable reading experience.

In short, I admire work well done, and I aspire toward that end in my own writing.

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