My debut novel, Duskfall, has been unleashed upon the world this week, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
But I’m the first to admit that I don’t write in a vacuum—I’m constantly integrating experiences, stories, history, science, and anything else bouncing around in or outside of my brain into my writing.
There are a few novels, however, that have had significant impact on Duskfall, and I’m going to tell you about them, because they’re awesome.
A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
I have to admit that I feel a certain resentment towards those of you who fell in love with the HBO series before you read the books. I fell in love with Westeros, like, ten years before it was cool. In a way I feel like I bought stock in the fantasy geek equivalent of Apple, but now have nothing to show for it!
Rant aside, A Game of Thrones has been one of the most influential novels on my writing career as a whole, let alone on Duskfall. While I appreciate A Song of Ice and Fire for many reasons, what stood out to me the most was what has made it iconic today: the sense of danger for every character, especially given the incredible death-twist at the end of the first novel. The moment I read that scene, my perspective on fantasy and what could be done in a fantasy story changed, and that was huge.
I wanted that sense of uncertainty in my books, and it’s something I’ve tried to actively integrate into the Chaos Queen Quintet.
Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn was another novel that completely revolutionized what I thought was possible in fantasy.
Most fantasy novels I’d read before Mistborn treated magic as a mystical, unknowable force that sometimes impacted the plot (to varying degrees of success or failure), or sometimes had no bearing on it whatsoever.
Some novels made fair attempts at actually defining a magic system, but not until I read about Allomancy did I realize how intricate—and how science-like—a magic system could truly be, bringing new meaning to Clarke’s Third Law.
While Brandon Sanderson is an author of many talents, his skill at creating magic systems—and then showing them in exciting and unexpected ways in his books—rises head and shoulders above the rest.
I knew, immediately after reading Mistborn, that I wanted to attempt similar things with my own magic systems.
The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum
One of the first characters I developed for Duskfall was Knot. Knot was originally a teacher at an elite school that, by day, taught its students about politics, religion, history, and warfare, and by night taught its students how to be assassins. My original pitch for that novel was “Harry Potter with assassins, from the teacher’s perspective.” (A word of caution: don’t read Duskfall expecting Harry Potter with assassins; while I’ll still probably write that book one day, Duskfall evolved into something very different!)
But as I explored Knot’s character and developed the story I wanted to tell, things changed. Knot became an amnesiac assassin, waking up at the beginning of the book with no memory of who he was or where he came from, but with a terrifying skillset that he did not know how to control.
My new pitch for Duskfall, and one that works pretty well to this day, became—you guessed it—“Jason Bourne in a fantasy world.”
The films had a huge influence on this choice, but I appreciate the books on a very different level. The books handle the logistics and day-to-day thinking of being a superspy phenomenally, and seeing the amnesiac assassin dynamic on the page was fascinating. Not enough people realize that the source material is just as awesome as the films, if in slightly different ways.
On Writing – Stephen King
I’m a huge fan of Stephen King.
I think, a hundred years from now, when people are studying the great writers of our time, Stephen King will be near, if not at, the top of that list.
And while I love many of his novels, it was actually his memoir/writing guide that influenced Duskfall’s creation the most.
I love On Writing because, first of all, it does not go out of its way to be prescriptive.
King establishes the bones of the writing craft, and then leaves the rest up to the individual writer, which strikes me not only as incredibly genuine but also incredibly right, as every writer I’ve ever met approaches their craft in different ways. But I was also impressed by his work ethic.
King talks about how he writes every day, and almost always hits his goal of 2000 words. That sort of professional approach has become essential to my own craft—the way I see it, if I show up every day and put the words in, the “muse” (or whatever you want to call the magic that strikes writers every once in a while) has a greater probability of showing up more often. Without that kind of work ethic, I’d never have finished Duskfall.
I also appreciated the memoir aspect of the book, especially the parts about his writing career. It was incredibly motivating, on those days when I’d wonder what the hell I was doing spending so much time on this ridiculous novel, to hear about how Stephen King handled rejection and writer’s block, or how he got that first call with an offer for his debut novel Carrie. That sort of stuff kept me motivated, and helped me get Duskfall published.
Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
Most of you probably know this story better by the name of it’s American film adaptation, Let Me In. And while that’s a decent film (and Chloë Grace Moretz is fantastic in it), I enjoyed the Swedish adaptation a bit more, and I enjoyed the Swedish novel both films were based on the most.
Let the Right One In tells the story of a young boy and his relationship with another child, who (small spoiler alert) he later finds out is a vampire. The book is alternatingly haunting, horrifying, and beautiful in a simple, childlike way.
I’ve always been fascinated by the child-vampire trope since Anne Rice introduced me to Claudia, and Let the Right One In made me realize that there was a child-vampire character in Duskfall just waiting to be uncovered. She—Astrid—quickly became one of my favorite characters, so much so that it was at times difficult to stop her from taking over the story.
And that, I think, is one of the best problems to have when writing a novel.
About Duskfall: Stuck with arrows and close to death, a man is pulled from the icy waters of the Gulf of Nahl. Winter, a seemingly quiet young fisherman’s daughter, harbours a secret addiction that threatens to destroy her. A young priestess, Cinzia, must face a long journey home to protect her church from rebellion. A rebellion sparked by her sister. Three characters on different paths will be brought together by fate on one thrilling and perilous adventure.
About the Author: Christopher Husberg was born in Alaska and studied at Brigham Young University, where he went on to teach creative writing. His short story collection Look Me in the Stars received an honourable mention in the 2013 Utah Original Writing Competition. He lives with his wife in Lehi, Utah.