In honor of my B-day being seven days away, I’ve chosen seven works of fiction that shape the way I approach my writing.

Characters sharp as a crease.

A superb thriller within a series of superb thrillers.

Sandford’ s character development is a writing clinic in Storm Prey. He weaves an intricate web and manages to juggle a huge cast and still have each character stand out. I remember them all—and I struggle to remember what I ate this morning!

Emotionally gripping

Yes, it is dark and heavy and gut-wrenching. And yes, you may need a good cry afterward. Still, you will understand sacrifice and maternal will in a new, deeply moving way. This book taught me the value of truth in fiction.

Girls just want to have fun

Bright, fast-paced humor.

Evanovich delivers strong characters and madcap fun. Her light hand and breezy tone aren’t easy to achieve. The lesson here is if you’re going for the punchline, go all the way. Evanovich is fearless and makes light look easy. It ain’t.

True crime classic

A true classic and The Godfather of true crime.

I was in grade school when the power of Capote’s bone chilling true crime classic gripped me and made me appreciate the power of the written word. Even though I hadn’t read it, my mom’s reaction to the piece was visceral. I wanted to know how to use language in a way to make people squirm.

The big twist

My all-time favorite Lucas Davenport thriller.

Allow me to summarize the beginning. On a brutally cold night in the northern woods of Minnesota, a pale white woman and the only black man in the county hung from an old tree that looked custom-made for lynching. If you think you know where this tale is going, you’re wrong. Along with being brutally efficient at characterization, Sandford is also a master of the misdirect.

Dignity under fire

One of my favorite book-to-film projects. Denzel as Easy Rawlins.
Mmm …

Mosley took period fiction and mad it feel slick, hip, and current. He also showed black characters in tough circumstances but never lacking in pride or dignity.

Uses language like a weapon

In the words of Lizzo, she one-hundred percent that bi#@&.

What can I say? I love period pieces and historical fiction. I also love examining the depths of female suppression and it’s lingering impact on modern society . Wharton taught me the art of asserting an intense message with aplomb. Her female leads wield a hanky and a parasol like a battle axe. While Wharton turns an elegant phrase with eviscerating precision.

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