I’ve never talked much about the writers that have most influenced me. I think in some interview or other I’ve listed one or two, but I’ve never really told my writing journey by way of my reading journey. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” and so you also “write what you read.”
I don’t think I’ve keep it a secret that my first love is the fantasy genre. That may come as a surprise to some that know me as a paranormal suspense writer, but you’d be interested to know that prior to Winter and Prophetess almost everything I wrote was fantasy slanted and most of my to-write list is populated with fantasy ideas.
My first attempt to write was fantasy fan-fic based on a video game I loved, complete with King James English, because that’s how they talked in the game. But what I’ve never told is that prior to this 5th grade attempt to write a story, I was a voracious reader of middle grade thrillers, mostly written by Bill Wallace and Robert Arthur. So, list them as influencers #1 & #2.
Trapped in Death Cave and Danger on Panther Peak (Wallace) were two of my all-time favorites. So much so that I sought copies as an adult to make sure my son had a chance to read these awesome books. And The Three Investigators: The Secret of Terror Castle (Arthur) gave me a taste of a real mystery/thriller.
But there was something that just didn’t click with me. I’m not sure what it was. These stories were fun and all, but they didn’t quite inspire me to make my own.
Yet that video game did. The original Dragon Warrior for NES. Now THAT was something I could get excited about. But were there books this exciting? I tried a few I thought would match, only to be sorely disappointed. I’m still not sure why Tolkien and Lewis didn’t show up at this time. But Robin McKinley did. Influencer #3, and probably one of the most influential on my list. So let’s put her as 3-Plus.
Wow. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley revolutionized the way I thought of fiction. To this day it remains at the top of my all-time favorite-books list, and McKinley remains one of my all-time favorite authors. I never miss a chance to read her newest material, and at least once every two or three years I make the time to re-read The Hero and the Crown. Read it again just this past fall, btw. I’m still trying to figure out how she managed to build an entire fantasy world, weave a three-part epic, and wrap everything up nicely in the space of a single stand-alone novel less that 150k in length. Newberry winner, btw.
Now the years fast forward. I begin in small ways to make my own stories. At some point Tolkien and Lewis came into my life and influenced my writing in small ways, but nothing compared to the foundation that had already been laid by the three authors I’ve already mentioned. And if it was fantasy…I read it.
But Keven, you write dark paranormal Christian fiction. How in the world did you get there?? Glad you asked, because there are still two major influences to come.
In high school, my writing kicked into high gear. I read some Stephen King (horror), William Gibson (cyberpunk), and the like, as well as the required classics for class, but what really made an impression on me was the honorable Edgar Allen Poe, influencer #4. That’s right, the classic master of suspense and horror showed me that true horror came from within and that true suspense knew how to wait. Most of my writing during that time took a very Poe-ish turn. In fact, some of my poetry and short-stories were so dark and disturbing that in today’s schools I would have probably been suspended and sent to counseling. The stories weren’t gory or bloody. . .well, most of them. Just Poe-ishly horrible and terrifying.
By my senior year I was well underway with my first novel, a dark-fantasy epic full of anachronistic dialogue and teen angst. I never finished. But just the fact that I had started something so ambitious was an important step. I still have the original writings and the basic outlines, and I plan one day to go back to them. It’s a good story.
But something else was now bothering me. My faith began to cry out that all of this terror I was pouring in and this fantasy setting I was building couldn’t possibly be Christian-like. So all through college I basically stopped writing while I wrestled with how in the world I could write what I was inspired to write and still glorify God.
Enter influencer #5, the last of my major influencers: Frank Peretti. Like many Christian writers today, I owe the ability to write what I do to the fact that Peretti blazed a trail few knew existed and even fewer were willing to follow. Suddenly Christian and thriller made sense. Christian and terror made sense. Christian and fantasy made sense. It could be done. And I began to see ways to manipulate story-lines and build allegories that told a larger story to demonstrate my faith.
So, within a month of graduating from college I began my first novel, Among Dragons. I finished it, still not knowing exactly what I was doing. But I had become a writer. This fantasy novel was never published, but I’ve been slowly rewriting it to get it ready. Digital Dragon Magazine even ran a few of the first chapters a couple years ago.
Winter came shortly after Among Dragons. And if you look deeply into my influences you should be able to see quite clearly how this fantasy lover produced a paranormal suspense loved by so many fans.
So to recap, my major influences are Bill Wallace (MG thriller), Robert Author (YA mystery), Robin McKinley (fantasy), Edgar Allen Poe (horror), and Frank Peretti (paranormal thriller).
You really do write what you read.
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Keven Newsome is a child of God, husband, father, and friend, in that order. He’s also a novelist, musician, and sometimes artist. He has an MA in Theology, specializing in supernatural theology, from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His debut novel Winter was a finalist for the Compton Crook Awards and the Grace Awards. His other works include Prophetess, the sequel to Winter; three contributing stories in the Aquasynthesis anthology; and a contributing micro-story in the Avenir Eclectia anthology. Keven is the founder of The New Authors’ Fellowship and produces music and video through Newsome Creative.
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