Whether writers care to admit it or not, much of what they pen is influenced – consciously or unconsciously – by other works. In my case, I am happy to acknowledge influences, but like any other writer hope my own work stands out in its own right.
With that in mind, I have decided to write a series of articles detailing influences and inspirations for my own books, starting with six key texts that influenced my mystery thriller The Birds Began to Sing.
Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier) – An obvious gothic touchstone, given that my story contains a Danvers character of sorts. The central mystery is also very Du Maurier-esque. Indeed, one person who read my novel at one point forgot I had written it and thought she was reading Du Maurier. I take that as a very high compliment given that Du Maurier is certainly the strongest influence on The Birds Began to Sing.
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) – Another obvious gothic influence, chiefly because of the mad wife in the attic angle, which my own novel pays homage to. Like Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Jane Eyre contains a climactic fire that also acts as a symbolic purging metaphor, as all good gothic mysteries should. The Birds Began to Sing continues this tradition.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Arthur Conan Doyle) – Another obvious influence, and not just because of the Dartmoor setting. The structure of the novel – with the first act in London and the rest of the story in a remote and sinister setting – was a formula I definitely followed. Also the atmosphere of subtle, uncanny menace, particularly during Watson’s first night in Baskerville Hall, proved a huge influence.
Sleeping Murder (Agatha Christie) – The splendidly eerie opening of this story, with its hints of repressed memories, hauntings and insanity, was a definite tonal inspiration. A recently married young woman buys a house and decides she wants to make various decorative changes. As the renovations get underway, the very changes she requested to doors, steps, types of wallpaper and so on are discovered mysteriously hidden beneath the current décor.
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill) – The deeply unsettling spectral appearances throughout Susan Hill’s horror masterpiece proved a big influence on my story, though obviously in my case the ghostly apparitions have a rather different explanation.
Coma (Robin Cook) – Here I must confess the film as much as the novel was an influence. This absolutely nail-biting medical conspiracy thriller contains many elements that are found in my own story, chiefly the tropes of the imperilled heroine who may or may not be paranoid, and her is-he-or-isn’t-he-in-on-it love interest.