This past summer, after watching Quentin Tarantino’s newest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I’ve been thinking a lot about people who influenced me. After all, Tarantino proudly wears his influences on his sleeves, and he’s certainly inspired me over the years. From the nonlinear narrative of Pulp Fiction to the insane midpoint twist in From Dusk Till Dawn, he taught me how to defy an audience’s expectations. He’s certainly defied mine, over and over.
But before this becomes a Tarantino love-fest, I want to get us to the meat of this blog. I want to talk about my individual works and the specific works that influenced them.
A few things to keep in mind. First, I will do this in chronological order of release, starting with Flesh and Fire. Next, I will exclude my collection Engines of Ruin, because I think that probably warrants its own post. Last, this is probably not comprehensive; some of my influences are bound to get overlooked, so apologies in advance.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into this.
Flesh and Fire was probably most obviously inspired by the show Supernatural. I love the Winchester boys, and the first five seasons are especially excellent (Season 7 is pretty tight, too, so don’t tap out after 5). However, a less obvious influence, though one that Brian Keene picked up on, was the novel Animals by John Skipp and Craig Spector. The way that book is paced, particularly in its first half, and the feelings of longing and loss the work depicts stuck with me in a way few books have. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend checking it out. There are some admittedly dated elements and the latter third of the book feels rushed, but those flaws are easy to overlook. It occupied a good amount of headspace while I was writing Flesh and Fire.
Mania, my novella about a cursed screenplay, is just one in a long tradition of cursed media horror stories. From Ringu to the plethora of stories featuring the Necronomicon, there is no shortage of this type of horror. Mania’s strongest influence though comes from the John Carpenter-directed episode of Masters of Horror titled “Cigarette Burns.” It’s plot concerning a film that, when screened, can drive an audience insane. In that respect, it almost plays like an epilogue to his 1995 masterpiece In the Mouth of Madness. It certainly has it’s own surprises though, and it’s haunted Hollywood vibe was definitely something I wanted to pull from for this book.
Gods of the Dark Web remains my most extreme book. Lots of folks have bestowed this honor (?) on Saint Sadist, but there’s a scene in this book that I refuse to revisit. If you’ve read it, you know the one. The inspiration for the work as a whole came from listening to dark web stories on a YouTube channel called Dorset Ghost. He pulled the stories from various subreddits and creepypastas. The dark web as this doorway to the forbidden recalled the long tradition of cosmic horror and works like Frankenstein that depicted technology-based forays beyond the natural realm. I decided to tell this kind of story, but give it a contemporary face-lift.
We Are the Accused was the book where I pulled most from my life and the town where I grew up. It started as my attempt at a traditional small-town horror tale and then became something else. My jumping off point was Brian Keene’s A Gathering of Crows, but I also pulled from the Preacher comics and, again, Supernatural. My declining mental health was probably the biggest influence on the last third of this book. Not an excuse, just a fact.
I’ve made it no secret Saint Sadist is my favorite of my works. It also has the widest and perhaps strangest range of influences. When I came up with the idea, I very much wanted something between Martyrs and Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. Stylistically, however, I looked to Faulkner, Milton, Henry Miller, Carson McCullers and Daphne du Maurier. Truthfully, I had no choice. I was reading all of these people while writing Saint Sadist. I wanted something stream-of-consciousness, Southern, and poetic. I even wrote the first draft entirely in verse. This project was the most fun for me to write and is still the most satisfying to revisit in spite of its disturbing content.
A couple of final things: 1. I’ll likely update this list next year when more of my books come out. 2. I’ve been posting daily content on my Patreon, so now is a great time to subscribe. A dollar gets you free stories, writing advice essays, and access to serial novels.