Beginnings are important in any story, least of all the story of a writer’s journey.
Ask any writer exactly why they started writing, and they will invariably answer that it all began because of their love of reading. There are few pastimes which have such an effect over a person’s life and form such significant influences on their young psyche. Above all, books create emotional and behavioural changes that resonate through an author’s own work, whether intended or not.
Influence on the author
Yes, of course there are some authors who have taken writing to a new level of commercial professionality (such as J.K.Rowling) and others who churn out numerous new titles per year (James Patterson instantly springs to mind here), but even so most writers make the step into writing because for them there is a primeval urge to interact with the world through the medium of the printed world, and money is not their main driver. At the opposite end to Rowling and Patterson are the “one book wonders” – the most praiseworthy of all writers who give it a go to write one book – probably their only book – in order to scratch their creative itch and fulfil a lifelong dream that began as a child. In between these two extremes lie the rest of the writers, the impoverished dreamers who studiously attempt to grind out a meagre living from the love of their art, often at a level far below even the lowest wages or government benefits. They write because of their love of writing, and this love was created from their love of reading.
For all writers, rich or poor, prolific commercial success or “one book wonder” it is also equally true that either consciously or unconsciously, the books that they read for enjoyment can and will influence their own writing through style, prose, structure, characterisation, plot, theme, era, location and so on, and all have a unique impact on the type of author that we become and on the stories that we tell.
We all have favourite books in our lives, those rare treasures that we always carry with us – both literally and metaphorically -through life. Writers are created by other writers. The key is, I believe, in starting early. A young reader may become an older writer, and reading is for life.
There are many children’s books that have inspired me over the years, both as a child and as a parent, ensuring that both of my children were raised to love and respect books and the magic within them. My greatest loves of children’s literature include Roald Dahl’s The Twits, Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss.
What unites these stories – often imperfect and somewhat naive – is that they retained their magic long after they ceased to be appropriate for their reader, and so instead of being sent for charitable recycling they have been safely put into storage for future generations.
I cannot bear to get rid of books, and there are many still cluttering my overloaded bookshelves that I purchased but I have not read in twenty years or more but I hope to enjoy again one day. My greatest possession remains to this day a much worn, torn and battered copy of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien that I remember receiving as a child one cold Christmas. Battered and ruined though it may be, it still contains the magic that I first discovered when I first read it, and recently purchased a beautiful illustrated hardback edition to take the toll of my annual self-indulgent re-read. That book, more than any other, takes me back in time to when life was simpler and better.
During my teenage years I turned to science fiction and fantasy, dazzled by the gems of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C.Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison, John Wyndham, Douglas Adams, and Robert Holdstock’s magical Mythago Wood – this still holds power over my imagination as perhaps the finest evocation of a mystical woodland ever to grace the page.
I must also confess that there are also many books that I have collected over the years that I still have yet to read for the first time, and they too add to the weight of my overflowing book shelves.
Of the more “grown-up” books that have inspired me I must give thanks to Stephen King (The Shining, IT, Christine), Bernard Cornwell’s, Lee Child, Robert Harris and Dan Brown.
I tend to shun the heavy, turgid list of the “classics” as the style has aged to the extent that they often struggle to engage with the modern reader. The notable exceptions to this rule are Charles Dickens (I read A Christmas Carol every year), George Orwell’s 1984, and any Agatha Christie, plus the delicate beauty of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.
In summary, there are many books that have inspired me as a writer (see the list below this article), and even fewer that I still treasure like a child. Those few writers were as heroic to the younger me as any pop idol, movie star or footballer in my eyes.
Although I am still in the early years of my writing career (my first novel, Kingmaker, was published in September), even now I hope one day to write a work worthy of a reader treasuring throughout their lives and might perhaps even give inspiration to their own career as a writer too.
Happy writing and joyful reading to you all.
15 BOOKS THAT INFLUENCED ME AS A WRITER
1) The Hobbit – J.R.R.Tolkien
2) The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R.Tolkien
3) Mythology Wood – Robert Holdstock
4) Enigma – Robert Harris
5) The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
6) A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
7) Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
8) The Road – Cormac McCarthy
9) The Shining – Stephen King
10) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
11) Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
12) Where Eagles Dare – Alistair Maclean
13) The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
14) Killing Floor – Lee Child
15) The Winter King – Bernard Cornwell