I don’t have literary influences. That is, simply, because I have read more non-fiction than fiction. Although I love a good book, I’ve always been far more a movie buff than literary aficionado. I suppose that is why the most common comment I receive concerning my writing is that it is “visual” and the reader can “easily picture it” in their heads. I have a secret: that isn’t talent.
I’m a visual thinker.
In short, I write entire chapters in my head, and they play out as movies. Most of the time, when I write, there is a music soundtrack that paints the work. When I write poetry, for instance, it is almost always to jazz music, which influences the rhythm and harmonics of the words. Book drafts are written over 3 months or so, and almost always to a single genre of music. I don’t pick the music, the book does. It’s in my head, and when I’m writing, the right piece of music allows the pictures to run and the book is written. After all, what is a movie without a soundtrack? For Emprise, I wrote all 160,000 words listening almost exclusively to new age and worldbeat music. The music was spiritual and so is the book.
For Roxx, it was written to Rock, which gave it the edge it needed, but the final product dances to an African beat. My latest work, Eddie Daley, required jazz. When I turned on any other kind of music, the characters refused to come on screen. And so it goes. We are influenced by what our subconscious seeks. It remembers bits it heard, or saw, and pushes us to put them together in a soup that only it knows the recipe to. We must comply, or the work will be ruined.
Only the dialog comes to me as words, and they’re spoken by the characters, not thought out in advance by me. When you think in pictures, it’s easy to describe them. Words, however, even in poems, are never born until I write them. I never have the words in advance, nor do I want to.
So, when I started writing Hard as Roxx, the idea of which came to me from a music video, it was easy to see the plot lines in terms of visuals from movies I’ve loved. Now, I’m not speaking literally when I say “visuals.” Rather, the concepts that stuck with me came from the movies and they reside in my memory as images. For example, Roxx herself.
She’s a combination of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, Jessie J in her “Do It Like a Dude” video, and runway model. I have a concrete sense of her in my head, dressed smartly, feminine, except for her biker boots. She’s not a man with breasts, as so many action heroines are. Since she sees no weakness in femininity, she sees no reason to dress like a man. Conversely, since I didn’t write the book to appeal to adolescent males, I don’t dress her like a video-game character in the book (*cough, whore, *cough).
Her confidence, and that of her partner, Trint, is soft, unspoken, but unshakable. For that, I channeled Bruce Lee in his Dragon movies, with a bit of Charles Bronsonian swagger from Once Upon a Time in the West. If you cross Roxx, she’s not really against you, it’s just that you are in her way. So is trail dust. Big deal.
I’ve had fun channeling other distinctly science fiction themes into Roxx, blended together in a cohesive mix that doesn’t stray far from the main story line. After all, life is what happens when you are trying to figure out how to live. Such is as it is with Roxx. There’s a bit of Mad Max, a touch of Jurassic Park, a tablespoon of Thelma and Louise, some Earthbound hard sci-fi, two cups of hard reality, and even a dash of Dorothy Gale, trying to find her way home.
See, the strength of influences is not in trying to come up with your own version of their cooking, but to taste their work and develop a recipe of your own. I think I’ve done that with Roxx. It’s dystopian science fiction without the hopelessness; it is female-centered fiction starring two women who are the opposite of damsels in distress. It is my stew, and though it’s not for everyone, it’s certainly for someone.
And, as always, there is a closing theme. I can’t tell you what it is, because it won’t be written until I finish the sequel, Cool, Like Jazz, which I won’t even write for another year or two. But I can promise this – you’ll know it when you taste it. For now, here’s the closing music. Pretend you can see the credits as you allow your eyes to shut, and taste the Cayenne and bits of Turmeric. Jazz, like her mom, is a spicy little thing.