Probably the first fantasy book I encountered was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien which was read to my class by a very astute English teacher in my first year of middle school. After that I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy which, to date, I have read at least twenty times. Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories were another big influence as were the Elric stories by Michael Moorcock.
In high school I began to branch out reading a wide variety of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I soon discovered authors like Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Stephen R. Donaldson, and countless others. After high school I added contemporary fiction and non-fiction books to my list and also started reading books on writing craft and history. It seems like every book I read leads me to a dozen more. It was a very sad day when I realized that I will likely expire long before I get to all the books I want to read.
These days I read a little bit of everything, and try to mix things up so that I don’t get bored with any one genre. I really love George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and wish he would finish the series—I’m sure I’m not alone in this. A couple other authors I recently discovered are Joe Abercrombie, who pretty much defines the Grimdark genre, and Brian Staveley, who is a really gifted writer of epic fantasy. I just finished reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and thought it was an amazing book. I can’t wait to read the next one.
I would say I’m influenced in one way or another by just about every author I read, but Tolkien, Howard, and Martin are probably make the biggest impact on my style of writing.