Since I write mostly LGBTQ+ Young Adult, New Adult, Erotica, M/M Romance, Magical Realism, and the like–and, typically, not literary fiction–the books and writers I look to for inspiration might surprise many of my readers. Those books and writers would undoubtedly shake the haters who don’t hold my work in great esteem.

That’s not really my problem.

As pointed out before, and I proudly admit, most of my stories are character-centered. “Character-driven” is what they call it in the industry. Meaning, the story itself is more about who the character is, the changes they go through, their feelings, who they are at the beginning and how they are changed at the end, etc., as opposed to intricate plots with twists and turns.

I’d like to say it’s an intentional choice I make with each book, but I’d be lying if I did. I’m the type of writer who simply happens to mix business with pleasure. I enjoy getting to know my characters too well, and the next thing you know…love affair.

Admittedly, as a person (and ignoring the writer), I find great interest and joy in the little things in life that comprise the human experience. How human beings handle friendship, betrayal, love, hate, loss, disappointment, addiction, struggle, poverty are of interest to me. The little, subtle ways we interact through our speech and body language that either draw us closer or push us further apart. Basically, I’m equally interested in the quiet, happy breakfast in bed the day after a wedding as I am with the ceremony and the consummation the night before.

When we are not experiencing the milestones we’re told by society are important in the human experience…what is the human experience?

This is why books and authors I’d list as my inspirations might surprise some people. It’s not a list of LGBTQ+ YA or M/M or anything like that. Simply a list of books where I felt the authors helped me understand what it means to be human at least a little bit more. Stories that taught me a little more about me…and humanity.

It’s not an extensive list by any means, but below, you’ll find five books that my mind always drifts off to when I think of inspiration:

THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG is a book I’ve mentioned frequently throughout my time as a writer. Depressingly realistic, gorgeously tragic, and genuinely human, this is a book that, in the end, will leave you grasping for thoughts, unable to process your emotions.

Some have called Muriel Barbery’s most well-known book “pretentious.” Which is fair. There is a fair amount of philosophy in it and the characters can be grating at times. However, I find her writing to be gorgeous and lyrical and her characters to be some of the most fully fleshed-out I’ve ever encountered.

Give it a try. The audiobook is wonderful, too.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celest Ng is a dazzling portrayal of family and the interpersonal relationships in a family. Secrets, lies, struggles, hidden shame…Ng writes about family in a way that feels more real than almost any other book I’ve ever read.

Underneath the layers of what it means to be family, racial and ethnic identity is explored. Marriage, sibling relationships, parent-child relationships, and what is expected of children by their parents are explored.

This is another book that left me sorting through my emotions on the last word. I hope you give it a try. Absolutely gorgeous!

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky is the first “literary” novel I remember reading as a teenager. And it changed my life. Well, it at least changed my way of thinking about life. At a timely moment in my life, it made me think more deeply about how I related to my family, the kids in school, and my own trauma.

Most importantly, it illustrated that the aftermath of trauma is not always loud and obvious. Trauma can plant seeds. Grow roots. It’s up to us if we want to nourish it.

Highly recommend it for teens and anyone who never got over their teenage traumas.

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a choice that may surprise many people. However, this novel set on an island in the English Channel between Great Britain and France is staggering in its scope. Covering decades of time, tons of characters, and incredibly complex issues, it’s nothing short of miraculous. Told partly in epistolary style, it segues into a narrative…and then the reader is hooked.

A study of the atrocities of WWII, Nazis, famine, poverty, betrayal, love, death, loss…and ultimately, how love and humanity are waiting at the other end, I recommend this to all readers who simply love an incredible story they will never forget.

THE LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel absolutely devastated me. I really don’t want to say anything about this book except that it is about a 16-year-old boy who has to survive a shipwreck.

I simply want to encourage everyone to read this book (and/or watch the movie–it’s GORGEOUS) and be swept away by it. It’s a story about the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive. Or are they lies? Or does it matter? Which version of events do you choose to accept?

Read, read, read this!

Tremendous Love & Thanks,