So, Gentle Reader, because I am a lover of reading, I often talk about books here on my blog.
Today is no different, except that I thought I would discuss a few of the books that I feel formed me as a writer not just my taste a reader.
These are the books that drastically impacted not only my psyche as a reader, but how I knew I wanted to entertain readers going forward.
1. Tamora Pierce ~ The Song of the Lioness series
I make no bones about my adoration for Pierce and this series in particular. Look, I am an old fart and this was the first fantasy book (so far I as know) written for a young female audience with a kick ass girl main character. After a childhood of Tolkien and Alexander and Montgomery (much as I love them) Pierce was a revelation. She changed my life by presenting me with my first strong female main character. Period.
2. Gerald Durrell ~ My Family and Other Animals
Durrell is a master of comedy ~ his descriptions, his situations, the absurdity of the British abroad, the ridiculousness of family life. I listened to all these books on tape, over and over and over. If it’s my details on Ivy’s outfits that make you laugh, then that’s the Durrell in me.
3. James Herriot ~ All Creatures Great and Small
I suspect Herriot & Pierce & Durrell combine to influence me into including animals in all of my books. Pets (particularly cats) have always been prevalent in my life. But it was reading these books that taught me they were a source of joy, amusement, and characterization.
4. Mercedes Lackey ~ By the Sword
If Pierce was my introduction for chicks with swords, this books is the pinnacle achievement in that regard. Specifically interesting from the writer’s perspective is that this is a heroine’s journey (not a hero’s) and thus Kero succeeds by building a network and helping her friends (and being helped by them). She learns to be a leader as well as a fighter. (Yes, Pierce eventually wrote Protector of the Small which also does this, but I read By the Sword first).
This book informed my whole approach to empowerment and strength in all my characters. Also Lackey has had (and always will have) queer characters. At the time, this blew my ever-loving little mind. (I have a whole blog post about it.)
5. Diana Wynne Jones ~ Howl’s Moving Castle
Now we are getting to a place where fantasy begins to meld with humor. Jones messes with character tropes in this book so brilliantly, and celebrates peculiarity with such joy. Yes, Terry Pratchett (see Mort ) helped, but this book really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Also the tidiness of the ending, the tightness of the hints and how it all comes back together. She is so brilliant at threading, mistress of the tapestry.
6. Douglas Adams ~ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Those places where my humor gets slapstick, absurd, or surreal all owe themselves to Douglas Adams. I can quote the opening chapter of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by rote. I listened to the audiobook and a radio play over and over and over again so much, I have huge chunks memorised. If you think there is an oblique reference to this series in one of my books, you are probably right. And it’s probably not that oblique.
7. P.G. Wodehouse ~ Laughing Gas
On the other hand, those places where the humor is entirely character based, where much is made of very minor details, where everything stops for tea and silliness, that owes itself to Wodehouse. Also, all the parody, baby. Again I listened to every single one of the Jeeves books on audiotape as I drove across country during my college years. This stand alone, however, is the funniest. Yes I am aware of the many social issues surrounding Wodehouse, but the man made me cry laughing, I have to give him some kind of credit for that.
8. Jasper Fforde ~ The Eyre Affair
Speaking of… this book. I guess it mainly changed the way I thought about the world, and thought about writing alternate history. The idea that alt-hist didn’t have to be some dark battle goes awry, instead it could be a skewed world more ridiculous than our own. It informed how I conceptualised and thought about the Parasolverse.
9. Elizabeth Vaughan ~ Warprize
I’d given up reading romance for years until I picked this book up. Vaughan based her romantic misunderstanding on culture conflict and two capable characters who just don’t get each other through no fault of their own. I love that. I hate conflict based on two people unwilling to just talk to each other. This book showed me how to do romantic tension right, and I’ve always tried to be good about it ever since. It’s also the first book I read that was 50/50 fantasy and romance. Until I read it, I thought you had to err heavily into one or the other. Turns out, nope.
10. Wrede & Stevermer ~ Sorcery & Cecelia
Possibly the one on this list most like the Parasolverse, this book showed me that comedy of manners could be combined with fantasy. Through reading this story I realized that pace and action can be quiet and refined. Heros can be grumpy and brooding but still bashful and sweet. If the others on this list informed the style of my writing, this one is the heartbeat of my universe.
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Latest 20 Minute Delay episode is all about how to negotiate hotel food. I know, yech, and yet…
Coop de Book: Gail’s monthly read along for January is Angels Blood (Guild Hunter Book 1) by Nalini Singh.
BOOK DE JOUR
Romancing the Werewolf ~ A Supernatural Society Novella by Gail Carriger is now available (audio will follow).
Gay reunion romance featuring your favorite reluctant werewolf dandy, the return of a certain quietly efficient Beta, and some unexpected holiday gifts.
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Speculative Chic says of The Parasol Protectorate:
“I didn’t know steampunk paranormal romance was a thing until I read these. I’ve been trying to decide if it falls into one category more than the other, but it really sits squarely in the middle of the two. A smart and sexy romance with a werewolf in the middle of a steam-driven Victorian London sounds a little cluttered when you first hear it, but Gail Carriger makes it work.”
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