For years I’ve been told how I really should read the Millenium Series, not only because they’re considered exceptional books, but also because the character, Lisbeth Salander, shares a number of traits with my protagonist, Hazel Moran. Apparently, Lisbeth is a highly introverted loner as well, seemingly tough yet surprisingly vulnerable, with few friends and a strong wariness when it comes to strangers. I’ve yet to read those books, and the more I hear the comparisons, the more determined I become not to start.
I have my reasons. Am I curious as hell about Stieg Larsson’s books? Hell yeah. As a writer, I’d love to know what it is about them that created the world-wide buzz. And if they’re as great as everyone says, as a reader, I’m always on the lookout for the next good book. Is it likely I’d enjoy them? Absolutely. But now that I’m in the business of writing, there’s another side to that equation. I really need to watch where my inspiration comes from.
Muses thrive on words and concepts. Every waking moment, and even those dreams that invade our sleep, becomes food for our muses. A passing conversation, a headline in a newspaper, even the lyrics from a song, can get the brain fired up and fingers blurring across the keyboard. Muses are much like small children, sponging up and spilling back all their naïve little heads can absorb. We can’t shelter them from everything, but we should take caution with what we expose them to, lest we catch them singing ‘Like a Virgin’ as they skip into kindergarten.
So long as I’ve never read Larsson’s works, or watched the movies, for that matter, I know for certain there is no way they could influence my writing. In fact, that’s likely the same reason that the more I write, the less I read within my own genre. These days I’ve been sticking more to fantasy and memoirs. That way, I can read simply for the sake of enjoyment, without the concern that I might unintentionally internalize some plot point or phrasing. And I can let my muses onto the playground without worrying that I’ll be called in for a parent-teacher conference.
(Bonus points for anyone who recognizes the specific muse pictured above.)