Everything we consume has a chance to change the landscape of our minds. A book or a movie can radically alter the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us, and if we're very lucky, it'll happen again and again and again.
All writers are inspired by other stories, and today it only feels right to pay my respects to the stories that built me. These are the pieces of media that shook up something inside me and became part of the way that I tell stories, and that eventually became my debut novel, The Goddess of Nothing At All.
Very few of these stories are perfect. Many are dark in some way or another, and the majority of them were created at a time before creators were being called on to be more educated and researched about topics of race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. My inclusion of their works as an influence on my life shouldn't be taken as my condoning their bad takes. We can love something while being intensely critical about it, after all.
A Great And Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
Having read this at the tender age of 16, this was a very formative book for me. In a world where I was finding it difficult to connect to any female characters, this spoke directly to me. A group of girls at a women's boarding school, getting the individuality trained out of them, who then find the magic that allows them to give in to their dreams of freedom, expression, and love. It didn't shy away from the dark realities of the girl's lives and there was a sense of longing in the book that has stuck with me all these years. This was the book that opened my teen eyes to feminist thought and the idea of freedom.
TW for violence, sexual situations, suicide, racist stereotypes. The author did a horrible job with her portrayal of the Romani peoples and the Indian love interest, which should be viewed with a critical lens.
This movie is art and anyone who didn't like it can go home right now. jk please stay.
I have a deep affection for beautiful, weird movies and this one ticks all the boxes. Also the box where T.Hiddles goes down on a girl but that's bias on my part. The story itself concerns the sudden wooing and marriage of a young American woman to a shady-but-charming baronet from England. She returns to England with him and his sister to take up residence in a beautiful manor that is sinking into the ground and definitely haunted. More gothic horror than straight-up horror, my favourite thing about the movie is the baronet himself. Weird and lost and lonely, his plot is essentially that he's just trying to survive. Rarely does a motivation like that end in rainbows and puppies.
TW for violence, jump scares, death, sexual content, and um... I'm not gonna spoil the twist for you, look up more TWings if you need it 😂
The Kingslayer Chronicles - Patrick Rothfuss
Rothfuss' writing style is something I aspire to have. Poetic, flowing, beautiful— right from page one. It does take him years to complete a book, so the trade-off isn't quite worth it, but it does remind me to push myself in my own work. Nothing about the plot itself has inspired my writing, but reading these books created a new understanding for me of what prose can sound like, and how deeply intricate world-building can become.
TW for all kinds of violence, sexual scenes, probably lots of stuff I no longer remember. These books also have issues with male gaze, and have been highly criticized for its on-page treatment of women.
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit
Oooooo a fantasy writer inspired by LotR, how original. I know, I know. But I grew up in a house where my father was constantly either reading LotR or watching the 1970s animated movies. Though I never became the Tolkien geek he is, it's impossible to disconnect the works from mine, especially because LotR and The Hobbit are one giant love letter to Norse Mythology. Haven't you heard? Most of the dwarf's names are pulled straight out of the Prose Edda, for example.
TW for violence, death, getting pushed into a pit, lack of female characters, and probably a bunch of things I can't remember.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I used to rewatch this show every year. I grew up watching it on cable TV, bought all the DVD box sets when they were $70 a piece (RIP my berry-picking paycheque) and had my walls plastered with Spike photos I printed off at the library. The show never backed down from hard topics, was character and dialogue-driven, was progressive for its time, and made me feel like I could do anything. Its influence shines through in my dialogue most of all, in the snappy wit I (attempt) to apply to my characters.
TW for so much. It's 144 episodes long, people. Just be warned that it handles difficult subject matter, doesn't shy away from hard topics, and also has made some mistakes in its portrayal of cultures and minority groups.
White Oleander - Janet Fitch
This book is very powerful. A deep dive into the American foster care system as well as the fucked up relationship between a mentally unsound mother and her daughter. This book floored me. It explores Astrid's life as she goes from family to family, with the memories and influence of her mother following her at every turn. It's deeply character-driven and a phenomenal example of the best and worst of humanity. The movie is also pretty fantastic.
TW for like... everything. Drugs, sexual situations, poisoning, death, mental health issues, foster care systems, suicide, murder... all the things.
Celeste Ascending - Kaylie Jones
This was a random find at a Value Village years ago, because the cover is spooky and gothic looking. The book explores Celeste's life in both past and present, examining the things that brought her to the explosive, abusive relationship the reader finds her in. Once again deeply character-driven (are we seeing a pattern?), it's sad and honest and real, all things which very clearly have made it into my work 😅
TW for abuse, manipulation, death, and other dark storylines.
Countless, Countless Horror Movies
I love horror. Sometimes I get into moods where I just watch movie after movie for days. It's weirdly cathartic for me. B horror movies tend to be my favourite, ones that make you think about something. The Happening, The Mist, The Terror: Season One, and so on. As Above So Below actually later caused me to speed-walk my way out of the Paris catacombs and is the first movie to terrify me irl. I just adore spooky moods, deep thoughts, and the insightful examination of the worst aspects of humanity SHRUG EMOJI.
If you've made it this far, you basically deserve a medal. If you loved any of my favourite influences, you can drop me a message to let me know! Or maybe you have some recommendations, which are always welcome.
Until next time!