I find writers’ journeys fascinating: what they choose to write, how they write it, why they write. I wrote a post a month or so ago about ways to encourage the creative process in writing, and in it I talked a little bit about how your choices in books and films are often reflected in your writing. That got me thinking about how authors are all made up of little pieces of the things they love and the things that influence them. Tolkien’s love of legends and languages is clearly shown in his writings, Armstrong Sperry’s love of Robert Louis Stevenson and travels in the south Pacific are clearly portrayed in his choice of setting and genre. All writers are influenced by something.
Today’s post is going to be the first in a multiple post series of what things have gone into my melting pot.
I found the subject of today’s post extremely challenging, because I have read widely since I was very little, and I was read aloud to long before I could read myself. While I have narrowed it down to nine books, these are but a sampling of the host of books that shaped me as a writer in the early stages of my life. There are dozens of books I love dearly and some I have probably forgotten that might deserve a spot on this list, but these nine have greatly influenced my writing.
- Carry On Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
This is one I read over and over again as a girl. I loved the sense of journey: it follows the main character from the time when he was just a little boy until he’s an old man, and I was always inspired by his work ethic.
2. Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen
This was one my mom read aloud to me and my sisters when we were quite small. It is a true story, so it is tinged with sadness, but the real life ups and downs of sickness, adventure, long starry nights, and even humor found on the Oregon Trail has stayed with me all these years.
3. Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry
This is another one my mom read aloud. It is not a long read, but Sperry’s imagery is so vivid (I felt like I was there) and his story so compelling (the growth of a boy who was a coward into a man who did things of legend) that I see echoes of it in many of my own stories.
4. They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth.
This is a treasure of a book. It’s the story of an orphaned girl who goes to live with a family with five rowdy boys that love to tease (something she does not like!). I loved the sense of family, of time passing, of the relationships that were built. It’s one of those books that you laugh and cry through.
5. San Domingo: Medicine Hat Stallion by Marguerite Henry.
As an author, Marguerite Henry influenced me a great deal. Most of her books were centered around horses, but her time periods were all over the place and I loved going everywhere with her. I had to choose just one of hers, and this is probably my favorite. It is bittersweet, and once you read it, you feel like you’ve lived through the joys and the sorrows and have come out the end an older and wiser person.
6. Madeline Takes Command by Ethel Brill
The true story of a fourteen-year-old girl who holds a fort against bloodthirsty Indians for a week with an old man and her two little brothers. This story was inspiring on so many levels.
7. Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray
This is one of the stories that gave my mind a picture of the medieval times. I loved the adventure, the people, and the settings.
8. The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff
I cannot say enough about this book. Somehow in this book Sutcliff captured the beauty, ruggedness, heartbreak and tender love of a community fighting to retain its freedom. There are times when the language itself brings you to tears, and there are people and times lost that can only be fond memories in the end. It’s real life.
9. Mr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson
This may seem a bit of an odd one, but keep in mind that these are books I read when I was younger. I loved the fact that it was about a horse, I loved the historical setting, and I loved the adventure.
So now I would love to know…what books have influenced your writing?