But there are a few writers that I consciously imitated when I was younger and trying to teach myself how to write a story that worked. Ray Bradbury was possibly the major one—I even remember in my teens and early twenties on more than one occasion deliberately setting out to write "a Bradbury story". Theodore Sturgeon was also a huge influence. E. Nesbit, maybe not so obviously, but I would often hear her written "voice" in my head. Ditto a children's author called Edward Eager. The short stories of Ernest Hemingway and Willa Cather, Edith Wharton and Walter de la Mare. Harlan Ellison—although I never tried to copy his more pyrotechnic style, he taught me a lot. He was one of my instructors at the Clarion Writers Workshop, and went over at least two or three of my stories making pencilled editorial amendments, just showing me where improvements could be made, or where I'd fallen into obscurity or cliché. Although he's obviously had a deeper influence even than I thought; I wrote a children's book called Mad House which has a moment in it that's straight out of ‘I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream’—but suitable for younger children, I hasten to add. It's my own take on the idea, yet I must admit I probably never would have written it if I hadn't been profoundly affected by Harlan's story so many years ago.
AB: Are there any stories that you find too painful to return to—that perhaps you poured your heart into at the time of writing and don’t want to go there again?
LT: I feel that way about my old diaries, but stories are different. Whatever the personal investment in them or painful incident that may have inspired a few, the act of writing them, turning my emotions into a piece of fiction, becomes a distancing mechanism for me—and the story, if it works, has achieved its own separate existence. So I don't have a problem reading them again. (Unfinished fragments are somewhat different, as I discovered recently when I was going through some old files .... wince, wince, wince! More like reading old diary entries; not a pleasant experience.)
LT: I can't think of a "theme" that I feel compelled to avoid. There are things I am less interested in writing about, and some subjects I feel I'm too ignorant about to treat as they deserve. There are also some subjects (e.g. child abuse, torture) that I would only approach with great caution.