The classic authors who give you permission to be beautifully weird

Want to write something that's both weird and gorgeous? That pushes the boundaries of storytelling and includes moving, relatable characters? Then you should read the masters of this odd not-quite-genre.

In an interview with The Millions, acclaimed author Karen Russell discusses her novel Swamplandia!, and lists her influences:

When writing Swamplandia! I ended up teaching Geek Love, this amazing novel by Katherine Dunn that I picked up in high school. It's a dark carnival tale about a family of actual freaks – it's just nightmarish, I've never read anything like it. I'm positive that if I hadn't read that book, Kelly Link's short story collection (Pretty Monsters) and George Saunders, that I wouldn't feel free enough as I do to write weird. They expanded my idea that you can have a literary book, a book that's interested in sentences and the poetry of language, and it can also have Arty the Flipper Boy or a Civil War ghost.

When writing the Kiwi sections of Swamplandia!, if I ever felt like the tone was off I would read Saunders because he always makes me want to write. He reads like he's having such a good time and I love his humor so much. I think you write better if you're reading good people.

Elsewhere in the interview, she also praises that Saunders manages to tell "moral, moving stories" with a setting that's "insane and absurd." [The Millions]