This week's topic in the soon-not-to-be-a-bordello anymore - new title and contest winner to be announced soon! - is the book(s) that got us started on our genre.
This is always a hugely difficult question for me to answer because it feels like squeezing decades of reading into less than a thousand words.
Probably because that's exactly what we're trying to do.
But I'm trying this topic's particular focus on which books really sent me towards my niche genre of fantasy romance. I've discovered an interesting trend through this reflection on my past.
At this point I discovered that pursuing my life's ambition should probably not make me that crazy. And that maybe what I really wanted out of life was something else entirely. To my vast surprise, it turned out that the "something else" was to be a writer.
It planted the seed of what I really wanted to write, without me even knowing it.
Two things, however, kept me from writing in that genre at first. Actually, I should say publishing. I did start writing this fantasy THING. It involved terrible fragments that went nowhere because I had zero craft or support in that direction. This is key, I think. My first publication was an essay, in 1997, and I came to write it because I took a class called Essays on Self and Place in 1996.
But all during these years, that's what I was reading. It's interesting to review the books and series that pop into my head as formative - and then see the progression of dates. I've added them in as captions so you can see, too.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I *did* become an exhaustive reader. I didn't read all of these exactly when they came out, but pretty damn close. I haunted my local Hastings Book Store (because the indie book stores didn't carry genre), which had a rack of these books. I picked up Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart based on the cover and started in on Anita Blake because a colleague and similar fan of romance/paranormal crossover recommended them. And we'd both glommed onto Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books.
Then, one day, she handed me Twilight. I wasn't interested. She said, no, really - my editor friend in NYC said she just spent the weekend reading this book and was spellbound. My friend thought I should at least read it, because early indicators were that it would be big. Then she asked me why wasn't I writing this kind of book, as much as I loved them.
At least I didn't cry that time.
But it was a second epiphany. I dug out those horrible fragments and began to play with them. It took several more years - and a lot of learning the craft of both writing novels and learning genre - but here I am, with my books right in there.