Writing style: It’s part of author Gary Henry

d14c1-garyhenryIn my continuing quest to define the essence of writing style, I have asked a good author-friend, Gary Henry, for his thoughts.

Gary’s novels American Goddesses and Rogue Goddesses cross a number of genres. They features superheroines and spies, a little sex, a hefty dash of romance and lots of action. Combining these genres takes — well, a lot of style.In addition, Gary has published a collection of short stories titledWhat Happened to Jory and Other Dark Departures, and The Moon Poem and Other Strange Jingle-Jangles, a collection of poetry. Gary also reviews independent novels on his blog,Honest Indie Book Reviews. His Twitter handle is @LiteraryGary.

How would you describe your own writing style?

I like to think of my writing style as “snappy” – using active-voice and vivid verbs to the best of my ability. I try to vary sentence length and incorporate colorful description.

Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?

John Steinbeck is my idol, but too far removed from my own skill level for me to attempt to emulate. Probably Robert E. Howard is my biggest influence. I grew up reading his lurid prose – not just “Conan the Barbarian,” but many of the stories he wrote for Weird Tales and other pulps, reprinted in later collections. “Pigeons from Hell” was a particular favorite. Thought it was the scariest thing I ever read, when I happened upon it at 10 years old. Still makes me shudder.

Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?

No one comes to mind. I invariably find something to like in everything I read. The Silmarillion by Tolkien is one book I’ve made repeated unsuccessful attempts to get through. I devoured the Lord of the Rings trilogy at an early age, however.

How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?

0a71f-american-goddesses_smallMy writing style is an intimate part of who I am. I’m happy with it. I know it’s good and I can technically show why. However, I understand it can still be improved. Going through my work, I still find instances of passive voice, wordiness, lame verbs and other weak areas. Punctuation, especially commas and dashes, is a particular weakness.

Two who have helped me improve my writing during rewrites and editing are Scott Bury and Melissa Foster, both masters of their craft. I’m not the only one they’ve helped, either.

How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?

I think it would be difficult to identify me or any author just from an unfamiliar passage of writing. I try, not always successfully, to keep words to one or two syllables. I vary sentence structure and length. I try to vary pacing in the longer works. But these are things many of us attempt.

Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?

If so, I don’t pay attention. That’s why I bill my first novel, American Goddesses, as a “sexy superheroine paranormal romantic sci-fi fantasy thriller.” The story blithely invades the territory of multiple genres, from romance to sci-fi.

I read a few romance novels, actually, to learn the elements: The Merry-Go-Round by Donna Fasano and If We Dare to Dream by Collette Scott. They were good!

Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?

Hard to say. All the reviews of my novel, short stories and poems have dealt with content — plot and character — rather than writing style. I’m sure readers must respond to writing style on some level. I’ve seen nothing to support that regarding my own writing, however.

How important do you think writing style is to an author’s commercial success?

Rogue GoddessesThere are as many writing styles as there are writers — perhaps more. There’s no question that a few styles occasionally capture the popular imagination and catapult the books to varying degrees of success. No one knows why those styles of writing hit. My guess is it’s a combination of luck, work and circumstance.I believe we increase our odds of hitting the popular imagination by taking as many shots as we can. We can increase the odds by trying to improve our writing skills as much as possible. In the end, there’s just no formula. Why does a demonstrably poorly written novel like Fifty Shades of Gray succeed, while many similar knock-offs, and many more far superior books don’t get off the ground? No one knows.

Trying to achieve success by imitating the style of a successful book is not something I’d recommend, On the other hand — who knows what the beast will find appetizing on any given day, at any given time?

For my part, I’ll just continue to refine my own style until it completely suits one particular beast — me.

Thank you very much, Gary.

What do you think, readers? What elements of style are important to you? Does a writer’s style make a difference to your response to a book or other work? Would you buy or recommend an author solely because of his or her style?


  1. Very interesting interview. Must put his books on my TBR list. Thx for sharing.

  2. I admire the style of specific authors and re-read their books to analyse how they achieved scenes that grabbed me. I do believe that style helps make the story come to life but style alone is not enough. A gripping idea, well-defined characters, and satisfying tale are needed as well–the style is like a painter’s strokes to bring the elements together.

    This author sounds interesting, so thanks for sharing.

  3. I think writing style is so important. I think a reader can be influenced to read a different genre they normally read if they sync with the writing style of the author they are reading. Really nice interview!

  4. As a reader, I enjoy a variety of writing styles from a gentle ride through a character driven novel to a fast paced thriller. Thank goodness there is no guaranteed formula or reading would become boring.

  5. Thanks for sharing this Scott, What a great interview.

  6. I don’t think writing style is everything especially if a writer does not vary his style, as Hemingway, for example, a great author but someone I simply cannot read because I find him choppy and too terse. Someone whose style I admire is Jesse Giles Christensen, perhaps the opposite of Hemingway. So there I’ve done it, I’ve just contradicted myself! However, a beginning author should not develop a style of her own without a great deal of experience as I find there is so much to be learned. We authors tend to have big heads, but really, there is so much to be learned about writing style, structure, the plot, the setting, conversation, especially character development. Who knows what makes a best seller? As this author pointed out, Fifty Shades of Grey is not well written but I’m sure there are reasons why it’s devoured by so many readers. No one can please everyone.

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