In addition to all the writers I’ve already mentioned – O’Connor, Vonnegut, Bukowski, Fante, Lewis, Mishima, and Robbe-Grillet — there are also some key writers such as Mavis Gallant whose short-story writing really taught me quite a bit. Evelyn Waugh and Mark Twain taught me how to create a dark sense of humor with balance. And honorable mentions go to Georges Simenon, Ray Bradbury, Balzac, and Albert Camus.
I also can’t give enough credit to Japanese writers like Kōbō Abe, Shusaku Endo, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, who have had a big impact on my writing over the past several years. Being that I had already developed a somewhat simpler writing style, their ability to craft prose that is boiled down to its simplest essence, not a single word wasted, really hit home with me. Those guys are masters. I wish more MFA writers read people like Abe or Ōe.
Music has also been very important to my writing style. I often craft stories as if they’re songs and think about the plot in terms of timing and impact. I’ll usually write to music and in certain cases have a particular song that fits a story. I considered the last story in The Love Book, “Taking the Happy Bus on Home,” the “When the Levee Breaks” of the collection – that final epic track.