Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Following Footsteps: The Authors I Admire

My Thoughts on All Things in the Creative World
Every Wednesday

We all have our favourite authors who we go back to again and again. And sometimes they can do more than simply entertain us; they can inspire us. Sometimes, I’ve had to look up from a book and actually gasp for air because of the hold the author has got on me. It goes deeper than what the words are telling me is happening; it’s the feeling and emotions that are evoked, and which will leave a lasting impression as I type away at my own stories.

So here are some of the authors who I look up to. I’ve read their work more times than I can count, and I honestly can’t imagine my bookshelves without them. In no particular order:…

Marcus Sedgwick
The first Marcus Sedgwick story I ever read was The Book of Dead Days, and I was ensnared from day one. He has a brilliant ability to weave together horror, fantasy, history and atmosphere, and I’m yet to find a book of his which I haven’t loved. Each one is different, which only highlights his writing skills, and the twists in them all are amazing. My favourites though will always be the Dead Days Omnibus. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I’ve made a little tradition of devouring it every December between Christmas and New Year. If I ever get the chance to meet Marcus Sedgwick, I’ll be constantly thanking him for the influence he’s had on me.

Christopher Paolini
I didn’t actually jump on the Eragon bandwagon until around the time the movie was announced, but I read the book first, and I fell in love with it. But something else that really struck a chord with me was that Christopher Paolini had written and published this epic fantasy at the age of fifteen. I was fifteen at the time, and in the middle of writing my own fantasy series. He inspired me to believe it would be possible, no matter your age, to succeed in the writing industry. I started to seek out publishers around this time, and the mountain of rejections helped me to refine my craft all the more. Eventually, I tried pitching a different story, and it turned out to be ‘the one’. But I can say I owe a good chunk of my drive and thickening skin in those early attempts, to the idea of what Christopher Paolini had achieved.

Charles Dickens
Dickens is one of the first authors I became obsessed with. I read Oliver Twist in primary school, fell in love with it, and devoured several more of his books afterwards. I was completely entranced by his writing style, and how the richness of his characters fell so beautifully against such dark and intense stories. I always felt as though I’d fallen back into the 1800s when I had a Charles Dickens book in my hand. Thanks to him, the style and texture of Victorian literature has always been with me, and it opened me up to the other classic period authors like the Brontes, Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker. The flowing sentences really had an impact on my own writing, and introduced me to the concept that the atmosphere in a book can be a character in its own right.

Garth Nix
A few years ago, I was going through a very rough emotional time. Death and illness had ravaged my family and friends, and I was finding it terribly hard to recover. I couldn’t actually bring myself to create anything, so I found escape by immersing myself in a series called The Old Kingdom. I was amazed when it started working some kind of catharsis in me. The books revolved completely around death, but dealt with it in a way I’d never really seen in books before, and I connected so much with the character of Lirael that I reread the entire thing as soon as I’d finished it! At a really tough time, Garth Nix’s words managed to break through and give me just what I needed.

Michelle Paver
Where do I even begin with this lady? I’ve read her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series practically every single year. Her writing style is gorgeous and never fails to pull me into an ancient world. This is a coming-of-age story first and foremost, which inspired my own stories; but the biggest thing I’ve taken away from these books is the POV of Wolf. It’s amazing. I’ve never come across an animal POV so good – if animal communication could be translated into human words with no anthropomorphism, then this is the closest I think anybody can come in fiction. I studied animal behaviour at university and I can’t even say how big an influence this story had on my work in that. I even encouraged my lecturers to read it. Michelle Paver has left her mark on me in so many ways that I can’t count them all. I’d love to be able to speak to her personally one day and say thank you.

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