Saturday, January 30, 2010

Under The Influence?

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

One of the more frequently asked questions I get has to do with my favorite books, or books that left a lasting impression on me. Not long ago on another blog (KOFF*Romance Bandits*KOFF) a discussion came up about the book or books that influenced different people to either read or write romance.

That was an easy question for me to answer! I'd burned out reading historical romances in the 1980s and had switched back to another favorite genre -- science fiction/fantasy. One day in the early 1990s, I was browsing in the book store. Actually I was looking for a book for my BFF for her birthday. She loved romance novels, but first I checked out book in the sf/fantasy section to see if anything caught my eye. Well, a book did. It was a very thick paperback that was obviously shelved in the wrong place because it very definitely looked and sounded like a romance, but not like any romance I'd ever read. I bought it and took it home, but before I wrapped it, I couldn't resist reading the first chapter... I could NOT stop reading!

That book was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. And when I finally did give it to my BFF, she loved it too! After we both devoured the sequel, Dragonfly in Amber, it was a long and torturous wait for the next book in the series. So I read every time-travel novel I could get my hands on. And when I ran out, I decided to try my hand at writing my own... The rest, as they say, is history!

Of course, I could end the post here, but it's rather short, so I asked my other CasaBabes if they had a book that influenced them to become writers. Here are some of their responses:

Marie Force: The Thorn Birds--I read it one summer in high school and was transformed by the romance between Fr. Ralph and Meggie as well as the epic story of Meggie's family. As a young girl being brought up as a Catholic in a very Catholic state, it was riveting for more reasons than one. A young girl in love with her priest! Ooo lala! I have wanted to go to Australia ever since, but I'm waiting for Jetson-esque travel to come into vogue because I could never do that flight!

Mary Margret Daughtridge: If we're talking about books that influenced the course of our writing, two stand out. One you might say built the ship, the other set the course. The ship was Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein. One of the main characters is a brilliant doctor, Jubal Harshaw, who is also a popular fiction writer. He's tough, clear-eyed, and unabashedly sentimental. There's a long story digression in which he says in any piece of art that moves us emotionally, there's a story. In fact, he says story is the most fundamental art form--the sine qua non of our humanity.

The compass was Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It was one of those periods in which I couldn't seem to find anything I wanted to read. I had picked it from the shelf on a dozen trips to the bookstore, drawn by the title, and put it back, repelled by the back matter. It was one of those stupid romances with the world's most improbable setup--about a football player yet. I finally picked it from a discount shelf several years later thinking "how bad could it be?" It opened my eyes about the romance genre. It had rich characterization and compassion for the human condition, seasoned liberally with humor about it all. I laughed, I cried, my heart alternately thudded and melted. It was a book Jubal Harshaw would have been proud to write. And so would I.

Libby Malin: ONE of the books that probably influenced me the most to become a writer was John Steinbeck's THE PEARL -- not because I fell in love with it or because it made me want to write like he did. It's not among my favorites. It was because my high school English teacher, in the middle of having us read this book, gave us an assignment I'll never forget: to sit down and write how we would end the book. My imagination took flight!

Judi Fennell: Can't say that any of the books influenced me to write. Influenced what I write, yes. I devoured all Hugh Lofting's Dr. Doolittle books. It's a GREAT series. And all of L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz books. Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians and the follow-up, Starlight Barking.

And then there was the non-fiction book,
The True Story of Okee The Otter by Dorothy Wisbieski. I still have it - falling apart and all. I guess it's not a stretch to see where talking animals would show up in my stories.

Linda Wisdom: Not sure I can remember that far back! I guess I'd have to say that it wasn't one particular book, but the Harlequin Presents books. At the time there were only two North American authors, Janet Dailey and Sondra Stanford. I said more US authors need to be out there and that's when I decided it was time to write the book that was rolling around in my head.

Sharon Lathan: The truth is that it wasn't really P&P the book that inspired me exactly. I have been inspired in what I write by many sources for different reasons. To narrow it down: Lord of the Rings by Tolkien because of his gift for prose and storytelling, and for focusing on friendship and love as the foundational themes. Then the great epic, generational writers, such as John Jakes, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alcott, Michener, Taylor Caldwell, Gabaldon,and so on who weave long tales of family, history, and life. They are my inspiration to tell of the Darcys et al.

Shana Galen: For me, it was The Secret by Julie Garwood. I never wanted that book to end. It was so funny and yet poignant and sexy. When I finished it I thought, I want to write a book like that!

Terry Spear: Jack London's White Fang and Call of the Wild influenced the way I looked at wolves as family units, as a team that wanted to survive as much as the rest of us, when I created my werewolf universe; not that wolves were wicked, senseless predators.

Cheryl Brooks: For me, it was Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. It was written in first person, which I loved, and I thought it was so cool that you never learned the heroine's name. One of the first books I ever wrote used that gimmick, and I had a lot of fun with it. I've read Rebecca at least a dozen times, always thinking, "If I was in her shoes, I would have done this, this, and this differently, and maybe the ending would have been happier." Still, when ever I read it, it gives me goosebumps, and I love that feeling!

ME TOO, Cheryl! And BIG THANKS Casababes for helping me out with my post today!

What about you? Is there one book that stands out for you? A book that influenced you to be a reader or writer of romance?

19 comments:

  1. I'm like Linda Wisdom, I can't remember back that far. Though I can say books like Cheryl Brooks Cat Star Chronicals, Terry Spears Wolf Books, Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark Hunter Series, J. D. Ward Brotherhood Series, and the list goes on. These keep me reading, and reading, and reading. Thank you all for every wonderful moment in your worlds.

    I've tried my hand and writing stories over the years, and I like them. Just to chicken to see if anybody else does...;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I liked thinking about influential books--noticing how other Babes mention some books I too have loved, some I never heard of.

    ReplyDelete
  3. OMG, Outlander was my first and most formative romance too!

    Ash

    ReplyDelete
  4. It was very interesting to read what books inspired other Casa authors, AC. Thanks so much for taking the time to compile them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Obviously, I need to read Outlander!
    Great post, AC!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Now Jessica, you and Linda aren't THAT old! You can't be because I'm right up there with you! LOL!

    Thanks for mentioning Cheryl and Terry's wonderful series! I'm sure they will influence readers and writers for many years to come.

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  7. Interesting isn't it, MM?

    I would definitely put LOTR right up there with Outlander as a book that really influenced me. The Thorn Birds really blew me away too. And I remember reading Steinbeck's The Pearl. Wish my teacher had been as creative as Libby's!

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey Ash!

    Obviously we have a lot more in common than just initials! ;-)

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for popping by today, Kathryne! I really appreciated all the Casababes answers, and some were quite surprising. :-) Also stirred ye olde memory banks for some great reads.

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  10. Cheryl,
    I think Outlander is one of those books that evokes a strong reaction (kinda like certain Casa books!)-- people either love it or absolutely could not get into it. There's very little middle ground. Also, the books are so HUGE that they can be very intimidating just looking at them!

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  11. MM,
    I forgot to mention that I read "Stranger In a Strange Land" back in high school when it had developed almost a cult following. When I recall all those long-haired teens running around saying, "I grok..." I just shake my head and smile. :-)

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  12. Omigosh, when did our pictures get up there??? LOL I want to look like somebody else. *sigh*

    Thanks, AC, for putting this terrific posting together! And Jessica! Woohoo, thanks for thinking of Cheryl and my books. :) That's kind of like cat and dog fights if we put them together. Hmm, Cheryl, now wouldn't that be fun??? A book where my wolves meet your big cats. LOL And the winner is???

    Okay, seriously, though, this was a fun blog!Thanks so much, AC!!! It's great!

    ReplyDelete
  13. LOL Terry on the cat and dog fights!

    And Sharon is the culprit who put all our smiling faces up on the sidebar. I think yours is GREAT! Me on the other hand... I TOLD Sharon to make me look more like Cindy Crawford! :-P

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  14. I started reading romance books about 55 years ago. I can't remember the names of the books---they were written by Barbara Cartland.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, yeah, AC, do you think that would be copyright infringement if we used someone else's face???

    ReplyDelete
  16. Terry, your face is gorgeous! As is Cindy's. But, if we are going for fantasy here, I'll put Cindy Crawford up if Angelina can be me. Please?

    Loved this post! I think we all get asked this question in our interviews. It is a tough one as I am sure we each have a long list of authors and novels that have touched us in various ways. At least that is how it is for me. I see bits and aspects of so many different influences in my writing.

    Thanks for a fun blog, Cindy. And for including all of us in it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Estella,
    Thanx for stopping by today. I know Barbara Cartland influenced many many romance readers and writers. I remember reading some of her books when I was in high school.

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  18. LOL Terry and Sharon!

    I'm afraid if we want to stay out of trouble that we are stuck with our own likenesses. :-P

    AC

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sharon,
    You are so right about being influenced by different aspects of different writers' works at different times in our lives. I found it so interesting that we all mentioned such widely divergent works. It was a FUN post to compile!

    AC

    ReplyDelete