it’s my first blog tour of 2019, and what a book to kickstart the year! I’m really excited to host date on the Whiteout blog tour, I read it last month and loved it! You can read my review here if you fancy. I have another guest post from Gabriel to share with you all, I’ve already had a sneaky look and I can confirm it’s both brilliant and interesting. I hope you all enjoy reading it!
Inspirational writers –
Like Charlie, my main protagonist in Whiteout, I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, and I never fitted in at school. Before I moved down to Cornwall, I lived in the north, and the secondary school I went to eventually closed down because it was so awful. It was the kind of place where if you stuck your hand up to answer a question, you were threatened by the other kids rather than applauded by the teacher. And I think my experience there made me eventually want to become a teacher – in my class, I try to make sure we all celebrate achievement, and see how important it is to try your very best.
But despite my time at school, or maybe because of it, I read all the time, but I’m almost ashamed to say it was comics – X-men, Spiderman, Avengers, most of my early memories involve me holding a comic in my hand. And this was a long time ago, when the thought of any Marvel film was a dream, and just getting your hands on a comic was no easy feat.
But then one day, when I was about 14, it all changed. I used to love the library, partly because none of the unsavoury characters from school would ever go there, so it felt like a safe haven, and I could lose myself. I’d scan the shelves, read the blurb, and try to find anything that caught my eye. And one Saturday morning something did. The book was called Legend, the writer David Gemmell, the blurb about an unwinnable siege, a group of questionable heroes, bloodshed, gore, battles.
I was in.
I think the book lasted me about two days. Like all good books, I felt like it was written for me, like it spoke to me, and I adored it. On the Monday I went back to the library, got everything else of Gemmell’s that I could get my hands on. When I finally started properly writing, my attempts had more than a little of the Gemmell about them, and I’ve no doubt that without him, and the massive influence he had on me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
So, in no particular order, here’s the writers alongside Gemmell that I feel have had the biggest influence on me:
Bernard Cornwell: One of my favourite trilogies is Cornwell’s Arthurian series, which starts with The Winter King. It tells a very different version of the King Arthur legend, set in a fractured England in the middle ages, and it’s so well done that it feels like it could actually have happened. In this version, Arthur is a charismatic warlord, Merlin a crazed old man whose acts of magic can be put down to coincidence rather than anything otherworldly, and Lancelot is a pompous, sneering villain. The whole tale is told through the eyes of an aged, one armed monk, once the greatest warrior in the land, who now looks back to his glory days fighting alongside Arthur and slowly recounts all that he has seen. Not only an action filled epic, it made me realise how important it is to create a vivid, believable world, and to populate it with flawed, realistic characters.
Tim Winton: I’ve not read as many of Tim Winton’s books as I should, but he is an incredible writer, one who can conjure up a depth of feeling and emotion with just a few words. He’s a surfer, too, so I feel a natural affinity towards him, and his big wave coming of age tale, Breath, is the kind of book that stayed with me long after I’d finished it. I’ve never had the courage to surf really big waves, and the way Winton writes about it makes me feel like I almost have. It’s not an easy book to read, and there’s some really haunting and distressing episodes in the story of a kid who grows up addicted to surfing and finds that nothing else can excite him the way that does, but it’s beautifully written.
William Gibson: Gibson described the internet before it was even invented, and wrote YA before anyone else even knew what it was. I love a bit of sci fi, and the impact of Gibson’s work can be seen everywhere in modern culture, from the Matrix to Blade Runner to Black Mirror. A futuristic noir thriller that was, unbelievably, written back in the 1980s, his breakthrough novel, Neuromancer, tells the story of teenage hacker Case, who tried to double cross the wrong people and found his nerves fried, so that going on line is no longer an option. Striking a deal to repair the damage and carry out a high risk heist, Case finds himself teamed up with Molly, a young, deadly assassin who has been cybernetically upgraded with blades for fingernails and the funkiest of eyewear. There’s no loyalty in this world, no alliances, and as well as fantastic world building and an incredible ability to predict the future, I love the moral ambiguity about all the characters.
Sergei Lukyanenko: I discovered this writer in a way that seems to happen more and more nowadays – I watched the Russian film adaptation of Nightwatch, loved the mythology, and picked up the book. The blurb on the cover describes Lukyanenko as Russia’s answer to JK Rowling and that’s not something I’d disagree with. His series of books tell the story of the two forces that battle for the mystical heart of Russia, the night watch and the day watch, and the various witches, vampires, shapeshifters and other arcane characters that populate both sides. It’s a world dripping with magic and intrigue, and one that’s very believable.
Stephen King: Anyone who writes horror should read Stephen King. Actually, anyone who writes anything should read his stuff. I’m not sure which Stephen King book I picked up first, his books seem synonymous with me reading at all, and in terms of a favourite it’s so hard to pick one – It, Salem’s Lot, Night shift, although if forced I’d probably say my top of the list would be the uncut version of The Stand – King was one of the first writers to really bring apocalyptic plagues to the masses, and his addition of demonic Randall Flagg was a masterstroke. I love the chapter where we follow a plague infected dollar bill on its travels, and the hundreds of lives it brings to a close. There’s nothing I can say about King that hasn’t been said already, but he really is the master.
Neal Schusterman: A real recent discovery for me this one, but I think Neal’s writing highlights how good YA can be, and how important it is for the language and writing in YA to be just as good as that in adult fiction, if not better. I’ve only tacked Scythe and Thunderhead at this point (as soon as the third book is out I’m buying it!), but I love the world he depicts in this series, and the idea of becoming a reluctant trainee grim reaper to keep the population growth under control is a powerful one. The writing is fantastic, the characters believable, and the dark humour delicious – cant wait to read part three of the series. Like a lot of novelists, Shusterman makes me want to be a better writer.
About the author:
Gabriel Dylan is not only an exciting debut writer, he is also a surfer, snowboarder and secondary-school teacher. The inspiration for his first novel came from being snowed in whilst leading a school skiing trip to a remote village in the Austrian Alps. Gabriel is based in Gloucestershire.