And now winner of the best answer to question one to date!
Good people of the Internet, writing out of Great Falls, Montana – Ty Arthur.
Name one book:
1 – everyone should read
This is a really subjective issue, since obviously not all readers are going to love the same style of writing or be interested in the same subject matter. I could say start off The Song Of Ice and Fire saga with first entry A Game Of Thrones, but not everyone wants to read about royal incest and the good guy getting his head chopped off because he wasn’t conniving enough (although those people would, of course, be wrong). I could recommend trying out Malazan or Wheel Of Time, but not everyone wants to get dragged through a never-ending mammoth fantasy series that becomes a marathon to finish. I could say that people should see where cosmic horror got its legs with Lovecraft or Chambers, but the dense style and off hand racism from another era would be off-putting to many modern readers. No matter what book I think is perfect, someone out there would be able to discover flaws or find it just doesn’t suit their tastes.
Rather than giving a specific title, I’d say the one book everyone needs to read is an indie book from a self-published author or someone on a small time publisher. While there are literary disasters out there to be avoided (that were rejected by all the publishers for very good reasons), I absolutely guarantee if you dive into the indie world you will find a book that’s leagues ahead of anything published by King, Jordan, Sanderson, and so on. Spend some time joining online groups of readers and writers in whatever genre you prefer, whether that’s urban fantasy, grimdark, sci-fi romance, or whatever, and you will find a book that you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.
2 – you would take with you if you were going to be marooned on Mars
When it comes to re-reading books, I find I usually only devour a fiction novel once or at most twice, but I really like diving back into RPG manuals again and again, especially if they are heavy on the story fluff (as opposed to the mechanics crunch) and marry their substance with a distinctive style. If I could only read one book over and over again while stuck on Mars, it would have to be something that was visually interesting and had themes I wanted to keep going back to, so I’d probably pick something like Earthdawn, Warhammer 40: Dark Heresy, or perhaps one of the many Call Of Cthulhu tabletop RPG iterations.
3 – you took a chance on and were pleasantly surprised by
Back in high school years ago, I picked up The Gathering Dark by Jeff Grubb, which is a tale of a magician’s apprentice trying to stay alive during Dominaria’s Ice Age when a powerful religious group is busy persecuting wizards. To be blunt, novels based on game franchises like Magic The Gathering or Forgotten Realms are often terrible, so that was a gamble. The book has always stuck with me over the years though, both for its interesting commentary on real world groups, and for its usage of game mechanics to bring scenes to life. A segment where wizards of various colors are trying to vex each other in entertaining ways at a fest hall – like reanimating the chicken through necromancy – has always stayed with me as a great example of how to use a setting’s quirks to your advantage.
My fiction, whether short stories for anthologies or stand alone novels, is always based on a personal experience that gets translated into a fictional medium like horror, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. Almost universally, its the negative experiences that provide the most drive to write, so honestly I couldn’t say that any of the books I’ve written are my “favorite” in the sense that I actually enjoyed them.
If I had to pick one of these vile, misbegotten bastards though, I’d probably have to go with my short story A Church Full Of Lovers, which features an atheist, an agnostic, and a true believer all experiencing a terrible apocalypse together. It was the first short I actually put serious effort into and intended other people to read, and it has a revolving perspective mechanic that makes it quite different from many of my other releases.
The anthology that A Church Full Of Lovers eventually landed in is no longer available, but a revamped version of the story will be making an appearance in an upcoming release that goes a direction readers may not be expecting.
5 – that has influenced you most as a person
There are a lot of books I could list here that had big impacts on me, from Seyonne’s tale of being relentlessly downtrodden in Carl Berg’s Transformation, to the surprising revelations and genre mixing in C.S. Friedman’s Black Sun Rising, to the unforgettable portrayal of the devil and his motivations in Anne Rice’s Memnoch The Devil. The collision of punny humor with fantasy storytelling in the Xanth series also played a big role in crafting my early years.
Going back the farthest though, I’d have to say the book that influenced me most as a person was Redwall, as that was probably the book that most ignited my imagination and made me fall in love with fiction in general and fantasy in particular as a kid. I think its safe to say I wouldn’t be a roleplayer, an author, or an all around geek today if it weren’t for those books. That love really got a surprise re-ignition with the Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 graphic novel when I discovered it out of the blue at my local library years ago, and I highly recommend it to anyone of any age.
6 – that has influenced you most as a professional
Although I don’t try to emulate his writing style at all, a book that strongly influenced me as an author would have to be Clive Barker’s Weaveworld. The mashup of fantasy with horror in a modern day setting showed me that you don’t always have to color within the genre lines, and there’s plenty of room for characters and themes from one genre to land in another.
7 – of yours that prospective readers should start with if they want to get to know your work and where they can get it.
The place to start with me is definitely my grimdark fantasy / cosmic horror mashup Light Dawning that released back in May. Its a story that turns the standard fantasy tropes on their heads, so don’t go in expecting to meet any chosen one farm boys, brash rogues that evade the authorities and get the girl, or wise old wizards who will help the underdogs save the world.
Most of my other work is currently unavailable or about to become unavailable as contracts with publishers end and I re-launch as an indie self-published author. Those stories are all getting ready to be released again with new covers in the near future.
You can find Ty at www.tyarthur.wordpress.com
Ty Arthur has the good fortune to meld his passions and hobbies with his work while freelancing for the likes of Metalunderground, GameSkinny, and WorldStart.
He’s been busy writing a variety of gaming, heavy metal, and tech-themed columns since 2008.
Following a string of anthology appearances, Arthur’s debut standalone sci-fi / horror novella “Empty” was released in early 2016, with many more dark tales still to come.
Arthur writes to exorcise his demons and lives in the cold, dark north with his amazing wife Megan and infant son Gannicus Picard.
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