One question I get asked all the time at conventions is who are your influences. Before spending money on an unknown writer, readers want to know if you write like other people they’ve already read. It’s a fair question, and I do have a few influences from the fantasy genre who most fantasy readers know: J. R. R. Tolkein, Terry Brooks, C. S. Lewis, and Fritz Leiber. But I was “classically” trained in a writing program, so my influences also include Ernest Hemmingway, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Harry Crews.
But the real answer is that my influences come from a wide array of sources. My father and grandfather are two of my biggest influences, by far. My father got me interested in gaming at a young age, and he spent hours and hours playing different board games with me when I was a boy. These games sparked my imagination, cultivated my sense of strategy, and sharpened my critical thinking skills. My grandfather was extremely curious about everything and was an avid reader. His influence was more like osmosis, but every bit as profound.
My other major influences are Chris Whitley, who was the most talented musician I’ve ever heard; Waylon Jennings, whose demand for independence from Nashville has truly shaped my artistic approach; Johnny Cash, whose storytelling is as powerful as anyone’s; Christopher Rico, whose thoughtfulness and perception helped me see how to view the world as an artist.
But that’s too long of an answer to give at a convention. Most people will give you 15-20 seconds at the most, so I stick to the short answer within the fantasy genre.