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.
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?