Wednesday, November 23, 2011

‘What Influences Me’ by Ty Johnston

Ghosts coverFantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues,Bayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21.

To find out more, follow him at his blog:


Whenever fiction writers write about their influences, they almost always refer to literary influences. This is expected to some extent, and makes a certain amount of sense. Writers are influenced by what they have read, by other writers. It’s logical.

Less often will writers talk about other media that have influenced them. Sometimes favorite movies and musicians are mentioned, but not so often as having a direct affect upon a writer or his or her writing.

I’ve yakked ad nauseam at one place or another about my literary influences. Here’s the short list: Stephen King, Alexandre Dumas, Steven Erikson, Robert E. Howard, Hemingway, Capote, Gaiman. Those are just the majors. Plenty of others have affected me and my writing.

But here, today, I’d like to look outside of literature and glance toward movies and music that I feel have affected, possibly infected, my writing.

Concerning cinema, I’d have to say the film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been instrumental in my own thoughts about writing and the writing process. Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cliff, this spaghetti western brings to my mind notions of ancient gods walking the Earth while in the guises of mortal men. The writing here is not extraordinary, and often the dialogue is weak, though sometimes poignant in places as well as comical. It is the directing, Leone’s vision for this film, that truly makes it stand out. Here is epic storytelling at its finest, a trio of ruffians caught up in the middle of a war while trying to steal a shipment of hidden gold.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is another great film that I feel has influenced me. Whenever I think of pulp fiction cinema, I first think of Quentin Tarantino (for obvious reasons), but then comes to mind Indiana Jones and his tales of seeking lost treasures. To my way of thinking,Raiders of the Lost Ark is the perfect pulp movie. The first fifteen minutes alone contains so many tropes from pulp literature and earlier films, it makes this film stand out as the penultimate pulpy story. At least to me.

Jaws I find influential for its excellent building of tension. and The Godfather is a great film for studying characterization.

When it comes to music, my tastes tend toward guitar rock, basically classic rock and some hard rock. Within this mixture can also be found punk, grunge, the various forms of heavy metal, and sometimes softer rock music. These are generally my preferences, though I’m not above falling for some pop music and other tunes.

Since I grew up in the 1970s and became a teen in the 1980s, and because my literary tastes fall toward the fantastic, it should be no surprise Led Zeppelin has influenced my writing, sometimes directly. A short story of mine is even titled “Deep in the Land of the Ice and Snow,” which is almost exactly a line taken from Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

Other musical influences have been Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, and Counting Crows. Lesser influences have been The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Doors.

I get a lot of short story ideas from music. I’ll hear a line from a song, or sometimes what I think is a line from a song, and it’ll take me off into story land where I come up with a plot. Other times, I’ll listen to a song and imagine what a particular character of mine would think about it; this, too, has given me plenty of story ideas.

All forms of media influence us, sometimes even when we don’t want them to. But it can’t be helped. We’re human, after all, and we soak up our environments to some extent or another. As a writer, I try to direct my influences, hopefully for the benefit of the readers, who are the final judges.


  1. Thanks for hosting me on my blog tour.

    And ... Go Kats!

  2. Soundgarden, early soundgarden that is, were an influence on me too. And Rage AGainst the machine. Good stuff.

  3. I still have a handful of old blues lyrics strung together to form the touch points on a weird Western plot. Or, maybe make it weird Western flavor post-Apocalypse. Anyway, that's the most direct influence of music lyrics on my writing to date.

    I like to listen to soundtracks (without distracting lyrics) when writing. Particularly if I'm trying to get a mood from a movie into my story. Not sure if it works, but I pretend it does. :)

  4. I enjoyed hosting you, Ty. Anytime, my friend!

    Soundgarden and Rage have been influences on my writing, as well. Others are Rush, Audioslave, Muse, Johnny Cash, Apocalyptica, Iron Maiden, and the Decemberists (yeah, like a lot of writers I know, I listen to a wide array of genres).

  5. Johnny Cash, yep, there's another who has influenced me.

    Paul, I do the soundtracks thing, too. Ennio Morricone is my favorite, with his best known works being his spaghetti western stuff for Leone. But he also did that great soundtrack for John Carpenter's The Thing, and a thousand other movies over the years.

  6. Yeah, didn't Morricone do 'The Mission' soundtrack?