Steve makes a tremendously important point:
... my major influences were also ones influencing my flaws. Allow me to explain:
First, there’s a chance if you’re inspired by an author or a creator, you won’t do it quite right.
Second, you may make the same mistakes your inspiration makes – and likely being less polished than they, you’ll make them worse.
Third, your inspirations together may not sit quite right. You need to find a way to fuse them into a whole.
All of these are things I've realized at one point or another on my own, in different ways.
In re #1: One of the biggest problems I had with my last book, Welcome To The Fold, was that too much of it felt internally overshadowed by one of my acknowledged influences, Philip K. Dick. I didn't like how that influence muscled its way into the story, and I tried to get past it, but in the end I succumbed to it.
Rather than wind up in a cul-de-sac of tinkering with it endlessly, I decided it was better to just get the book out there and try to learn that particular lesson from having written it. Better to have a completed, if flawed, piece of work, than to remain in thrall to something that I might simply not be able to do justice to. I had to make the mistake to find out what the nature of the mistake was.
In re #2: Something I've touched on before is how the influences of trailblazers are often as much negative as they are positive. It's not always easy to see how the thing that captured your heart or showed you the way can herd you into a dead end.
J.R.R. Tolkien did not intend to blaze a trail, but he ended up becoming the model for multiple generations of fantasy writers, even if that model and the examples set by it ended up inspiring work that was more reductive and imitative than expansive or innovative. Neon Genesis Evangelion broke ground for its time, but was also a bad example to follow; unfortunately, the industry that produced it decided the smart thing to do was to ape it in many unthinking ways, not give its people more creative latitude.
It's very hard to follow in anyone's footsteps — hard enough that my default recommendation is to just not do it as a mission. In other words, if you find yourself thinking about something as an homage to a particular author, do your best to confront that. Don't automatically consider it a good thing.
In re #3: While working on the most recent book (Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned), I was conscious of how there were several not-always-complementary influences at work. I had to tread carefully about which ones provided what and in what form. Some things are best provided as flavor; some things as content; some things as theme. I still don't think I got it right; but I got it as right as I possibly can right now. Again, I'd rather have something finished that I can learn from, flawed as it is, than a Platonic ideal that only exists in my head.
It's not wrong to take influences or to admit them. We're all influenced by things anyway; we might as well own up to it and master the process. That's the tough part.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind