Saturday, June 11, 2011

They had to ask -

Honestly - I hate questions like this. What's your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Who influenced you?

Human beings are susceptible creatures - any input influences us, whether we are aware of it or not - and I find the questions difficult to answer.

Look – I'm an omnivore. If I'm sitting still and nothing is going on that I must attend to, I'm reading. Literature at the doctor's office. Advertising fliers. The cereal box. Twitter. No, I wasn't reading at four like some of the Word Whores, I was probably six and I remember very clearly the intense pleasure of discovering that letters made words and words made stories and that I could read them all by myself without waiting on my mother. After that - I read whatever fell into my hands. I'm not clear in what order all of these came to me, but these are books that had to have had an influence, because I read most of them more than once.

As a child and teenager I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. This was somewhat limited, as I grew up Seventh Day Adventist and went to a small Adventist school. The library was generally pretty "safe," and I can't clearly recall a lot of books from my childhood, although I think my reading leaned pretty heavily to horse stories: Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, My Friend Flicka & Thunderhead. The last two of those, by the way, still stand up as damned good books. I remember a total breakdown in class round about 6th grade, when Black Gold was shot after a heroic race in which he broke his leg.

And then I discovered Little Women. I hunted down and read every book Louisa Mae Alcott ever wrote. Repeatedly. I think Jo was my role model – an independent tomboy who was forever getting in trouble and who wrote stories. Anne of Green Gables happened into my hands, and I read everything Lucy Maude Montgomery ever wrote, which led me to another role model – her character Emily, lesser known than Anne but a writer. Emily's books also have a touch of the occult, which opened my eyes and widened my world.

Charles Dickens. He remained my hero for years. I tracked down his books at the town library, every single last one with the exception of Edwin Drood. All these years later I still haven't read it, because it wasn't finished and why would I deliberately torment myself with something I'll never, ever know the end of? I read all of Jane Austen. Charlotte Bronte. Fell in love with the book Jane Eyre.

My mother was pretty much opposed to fantasy, and there wasn't any in the school library, so I came to it late. There were Arthurian stories in my library though, and I inhaled these. I waded through Ivanhoe. And then, when I was probably about 17 already, a friend handed me a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

A fantasy lover was born on the instant. I read all of C.S. Lewis. Read and re-read Madeleine L'Engle. About a year later, on the bus during a long band tour, somebody was reading a big fat book called The Fellowship of the Ring. He obligingly handed it over when he was done with it and - well, I don't remember anything else from that entire trip, as he happened to have the trilogy.

I could, of course, go on forever. There are my current favorite fantasies, my favorite thriller writers, my favorite literary fiction. Everything influences me, but maybe not so much as those books from my youth.


  1. Smart move avoiding Edwin Drood. I didn't know it wasn't finished when I read it, and the story irritated the heck of me. I wanted to strangle Dickens for writing it. (Of course, I soon found out why it wasn't finished, but death is no excuse for leaving me hanging like that.)

  2. Ah yes - Madeleine L'Engle - totally forgot to mention her, even though a bunch of her books are on my shelf, too!

  3. OMG, BLACK GOLD! That book ripped my tender horse-loving heart apart when I was a kid. I read all those horse books --- if it had a horse in it, I read it.

  4. B.E. Sanderson - I don't think they should publish books posthumously. Another one that sucked was Laura Ingalls' The First Four Years - she'd only written the first draft before she died. Speaking of which, I forgot Laura. I also read & re-read all of those books.

    Jeffe - Although I of course adore the Wrinkle in Time books, her favorite of mine is A Ring of Endless Light. Wonderful book. I need to get myself another copy - lent mine to some teenage girl and never got it back.

    Linda - I know! Right in the middle of class when I finished that book. I began crying uncontrollably and established myself irrevocably as weird. But it was SO damned sad.

  5. Ah, Jane Eyre. The easiest way to create great hullabaloo in an English Lit class is to liken dear Jane to a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. ~doh~

    However, I can watch Timothy Dalton as Rochester over and over and over and...

  6. KAK - um - resisting the bait. NOT going to leap in with how Jane is SO much stronger than that, and how Rochester is awesome and - (walks away)

  7. Ah, yes! LITTLE WOMEN takes me back. Jo was my favorite, too. :-)

  8. Hey, I loved "The First Four Years" - AND "Ring of Endless Light"? totally on my shelf.