by Jeffe Kennedy
I've always been a reader. Since I sat down in front of the first episode of Sesame Street three months after my third birthday, I've been stringing the letters together to read the words. I astonished my mother by sounding out S.A.F.E.W.A.Y a few months later (our local grocery chain). By the time I was six, I ended her reading to me before bed by looking over her shoulder and correcting misses.
After that I was Miss Nose in a Book.
I will never be one of those writers who claims to have been penning stories since I could pick up a crayon. I was too busy working my way through every book in the children's section of the library. Then the teen section. I exhausted those and started in on the adult shelves by the time I was twelve.
And yet, one of the standard author questions that I hate the very most is: who are your influences?
Um, how much time do you have?
Charlotte's Web was the first novel I read by myself - the very one my mother tossed in my direction after I corrected her one too many times. I read every book you'd expect a little girl to read, from A Little Princess to Understood Betsy to Judy Blume. I inherited all these old books from family, so I read the entire Five Little Peppers series and all of the "color" fairy tale books (olive, pink, etc.).
Then I discovered fantasy. Narnia was okay, but Anne McCaffrey's Pern books blew me away. Those led me down a dark and winding path of authors like Anne Rice, Tanith Lee, Zenna Henderson, Patricia McKillip, Vonda McIntyre, Robin McKinley. From there I followed branches into sci fi with Jack Chalker, Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov. Meanwhile Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant got me going on what I thought of as stories about "ordinary people." I fell in love with Barbara Kingsolver, A.S. Byatt, Ann Patchett, Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood.
College introduced me to the religious philosophers: Lao Tzu, Patrick White, Meister Eckhart and Martin Buber. I learned to read the scientific philosophers, too: Stephen J. Gould, Lewis Thomas, Oliver Sacks, Stephen Hawking, D'Arcy Thompson. I read all of Jane Austen, all of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, Spenser, Milton, Nabokov, Kipling and Angelou.
For fun I hit the romance novels: Kathleen Woodiwiss, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz. I read Anais Nin, The Story of O and the collected works of the Marquis de Sade. I followed the fantasy crossover writers into the new era, from Mercedes Lackey to Laurell K. Hamilton to Jacqueline Carey. I love both Anne Bishop's and Stephanie Meyer's books. I admire William Gibson and Gregory Maguire and Mary Doria Russell. I got heavily into the memoirists for a while, Mary Karr, Tobias Wolff, Terry tempest Williams, Michael Ondaatje.
What am I reading right now? Waiting by Ha Jin. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews is up next.
I am tempted to do two things, when people ask for my influences. I might just type up a list - a very long list - and hand it to them. Or I might just randomly pick one author each time and say THAT ONE.
After all, it would be true.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Under the Influence
Posted by Jeffe Kennedy
Jeffe Kennedy is a multi-award-winning and best-selling author of romantic fantasy. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC). She is best known for her RITA® Award-winning novel, The Pages of the Mind, the recent trilogy, The Forgotten Empires, and the wildly popular, Dark Wizard. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.