A couple of weeks ago, one of those Facebook things went round my writer friends, something like 'Authors celebrating authors day'. The idea was to put a photo of your favourite author as your profile picture for the day. I kinda missed it, because I got up late and had too many other things to do that day, but afterwards I struggled a bit with the question.
My favourite author, from the obvious how-much-I-like-reading-her-books point of view, is Janny Wurts. I love pretty much everything about pretty much every book of hers I've ever read (though there are still a few missing from my collection). But there was something in the blurb of the facebook thingy about picking authors who inspire you as an author.
And that's a more complex question, because while Wurts is a big part of the reason I still believe in, celebrate and write epic fantasy, she's done relatively little to affect my attitude to writing as a career choice. After some thought, I'd have to say that Neil Gaiman wins out on that count.
Which is weird, because I'm not the world's biggest fan of Neil Gaiman's writing. I loved Good Omens, but he only gets half a point from that because I'm also a huge Terry Pratchett fan. I found American Gods very solid, even strikingly inventive in some places, but Neverwhere left me pretty cold, particularly the ending - I really didn't buy into the main character. Gaiman's prose is excellent, but his plots have disappointed me a little.
Why does he inspire me so much? Well, he's not just a novelist. He does lots of things, albeit mainly focussed around the written word. In his own idiosyncratic way, he's an amazing public speaker. He's a very visible figurehead for creative types in the digital world. Mainly, though, he's professionally Neil Gaiman.
In this speech, which I've blogged about before, he gives a few examples of things he's done which have helped his career. He talks about both the completely spontaneous (such as the example of hiding a doodle under a rock in the street somewhere, tweeting the location, and seeing who picked it up) to the simple taking of odd opportunities (his calendar-based collaborative-art project with Blackberry), and about 'being dandelions' - not being afraid to do things that may fizzle out without profit.
That's not to say that I don't think he does any work. I have no doubt that Gaiman works very hard. Since he has a family, it's pretty much certain that he works hard at at least some things which are unpleasant - children come with certain responsibilities, after all. But he seems to be able to spend a lot of time doing things he is interested in and making money from some of them, without worrying too much about any preordained script. It's the possibility of a life like that that really entices and inspires me - not an easy life, but a largely self-driven one.