S.G. Browne

10 Books That Matter To Me

Recently I was tagged on Facebook by a friend with the following:

“List 10 books that have stayed with you. Don’t think too hard about it – they just have to be books that touched you.”

She then went on to share her list of 10 books and tagged a handful of friends to see what their lists looked like. While I didn’t tag anyone, I did feel compelled to share the 10 books that came to mind without having to give them too much thought. But then I realized I wanted to share a brief explanation as to WHY the books mattered to me or how they touched me. So here we go:

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Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
This is the novel that inspired me to write Breathers and sent me down the path of social satire and dark comedy. While several of Pahlaniuk’s early novels could also have made the list, this one stands out for it’s influence on the direction my writing took.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My favorite of Vonnegut’s novels, it has it all: science fiction, satire, a dwarf, an original Calypso religion, granfallons, pissants, and the end of the world. What’s not to like?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Lyrical in its prose and poignant in its message about the power of words, this is the one book I recommend and gift to everyone. A Young Adult novel that should be classified as Literary Fiction.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
I’m a sucker for novels that make social commentary on capitalism and Patrick Bateman’s stream-of-consciousness narration just sucked me in. Along with Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut, American Psycho was one of the inspirations for Big Egos.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
My stranded-on-a-desert-island book (which I coincidentally read as a sophomore in high school while living on an island) and the first book to really stick with me. I’ve got the conch!

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
While a number of books by King and Straub are among my favorite reads, this was the first time I ever got so caught up in the story unfolding within the pages that the world outside of the book ceased to exist. And I thought: I want to make people feel this way.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Great opening. Great voice. Great character. Chandler has a way with words that are all his own. This novel set the bar for hard-boiled crime novels and was influential in the writing of my third novel, Lucky Bastard.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
While every book on this list is unique in its own way, I’ve never read another novel that comes close to this one. Dunn’s story of a self-made carnival sideshow freak family is one-of-a-kind awesome.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore
My favorite of Moore’s novels, all of which are an inspiration to my own writing. Smart, funny, and addictive. If you haven’t read anything by Moore, you should start now. Preferably with this one. You’ll thank me later.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This one surprised me a bit when it popped into my head, but only for a moment. One of my favorite stories of my childhood and of all time. I can still recite Max’s adventures word-for-word.

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That’s it. That’s my list. If you have your own favorite books that matter to you, feel free to share them in the comments. And as always, thanks for reading.

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P is for Palahniuk

“Another thing is no matter how much you think you love someone, you’ll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.”
—Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

If you’ve checked out Bio and Q&A on the Founder’s page on my web site or been following Breathers From A to Z (L is for Lullaby), you know that Chuck Palahniuk is one of my major influences and favorite authors.  I’m especially fond of his novels Lullaby, Survivor, and Invisible Monsters.  And Fight Club is at the top of my list of favorite films.”On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

But while Chuck gets props for helping me to find a narrative voice that resonates with me, there are other writers, both in fiction and in film, who inspire my own writing and have unknowingly participated in my development as a writer:

Christopher Moore (A Dirty Job / Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal / Fool)
Nick Hornby (About a Boy / High Fidelity)
Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich / Adaptation / Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Wes Anderson (Rushmore / The Royal Tenenbaums / The Darjeeling Limited)
David O. Russell (Flirting With Disaster / I Heart Huckabees)
Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo / The Big Lebowski / Raising Arizona)

As you can see, screenplay writers are as big of an influence on me as fiction authors, though I also appreciate reads by Bret Easton Ellis, Kurt Vonnegut, William Golding, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  And although I don’t tend to read him as much as I used to back in the late 80s and through the 90s when I was devouring a steady diet of Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, and F. Paul Wilson, Stephen King is the reason I wanted to become a writer.

(Next entry:  Q is for Quitting)

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Filed under: Breathers,The Writing Life — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 3:14 pm

L is for Lullaby

Back in the spring of 2002, I was working on the re-writes of my second and third novels for submission to a couple of small press publishers in the horror community.  Each of the publishers had expressed enthusiastic interest for my novels and it looked like, after more than a decade of writing with the hopes of become a published novelist, I was finally going to realize my dreams.

But then a funny thing happened.  I started to hate what I was writing.

Both novels were of the supernatural horror variety, influenced by a steady diet of King, Straub, Koontz, and McCammon that I’d fed on as a teenager and young adult.  And although I was proud of both novels, the more time I spent re-writing them, the more I realized that I was growing to hate them.

What had once been fun had now become tedious, painful work.

So after struggling with the rewrites for several months, I told the two small presses that I wouldn’t be submitting the manuscripts and I kissed my opportunity to become a published novelist goodbye.

Then I stopped writing.

For the next year and a half I played a lot of golf and spent more time reading and playing with my dog.  I wrote a best man’s speech based on Hamlet (“To wed or not to wed, that is the question…”) and a 40th birthday poem for my wife based on The Raven (“Once upon a birthday dreary…”), but that was about it.

Sometime in the middle of all of this, I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk.

Although I’d seen Fight Club (one of my favorite all time films), I’d never read the novel or any of Palahniuk’s other books.  But for some reason, this novel resonated with me on a level I hadn’t previously experienced.  And when I was done, I had an “a-ha” moment.

While my three novels and four dozen short stories had all predominantly been influenced by my love of horror, I’d written a few short stories that were dark comedy with a supernatural edge to them.  But I’d never thought about writing anything other than straight horror novels.

Lullaby changed all that.

After finishing Lullaby, I began to think about turning a short story of mine into a full-length novel.  The story, “A Zombie’s Lament,” dealt with a group of zombies who attend Undead Anonymous meetings and yearn for civil rights.  About a year later, I wrote the opening scene for Breathers.

(Next entry:  M is for Maggots)

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Filed under: Breathers,The Writing Life — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 1:14 pm