Weymouth author Kathy Sharp talks about the writers that influence her books

 Which writers have influenced you? It’s a standard question, a cliché, even – but it’s worth asking, and answering, too. The absolutely honest answer, from me, is that it changes all the time. Every new book I read (and sometimes an old one that I re-read) will leave its mark on my writing. Every new way of looking at things, every unusual point of view, every fresh subject will show up in my own work to some degree. And every piece of writing that’s dull, sloppy or unimaginative will be a reminder to pull my socks up, too.

Having said that, there are indeed writers whose influence on me is more than just transitory. Patrick O’Brian is one of them; from his writing I learned that the interaction of the characters is the soul of a book. Charles Dickens is another. From Mr Dickens I understood how to use the oddities of human nature – I’m always on the lookout for a character with a Dickensian feel. And then there is Nicholas Montsarrat who taught me about the sea, and the importance of beautiful, clear writing. Among modern writers, I learned from J K Rowling that it is perfectly possible to inject a sense of humour into an essentially serious tale. And all four of these have helped me appreciate the art of storytelling.

Other writers have shown me that a book with minimal plot can be a page-turner if only the characters are interesting enough; that writing a novel entirely in the present tense requires great skill; that a book where the characters are kind to one another need not be dull. I could go on.

Every book I pick up, fact or fiction, teaches me something new. It’s one of the joys of the writer’s life that all reading is research and that the happy results of that research will bob to the surface of your own writing. Some writers are a little afraid of reading, of falling under the influence of another writer and losing their own originality in the process. Not me – bring it on, I say! And there are still so many books I’ve never read, so many more writers who will continue to teach and influence me. There is still so much I don’t know. So if you’ll excuse me, now, I have a book to read…

Kathy’s beautiful new novel Whales and Strange Stars is published by Crooked Cat Books on 16 January. 

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