Jeanne: Literary Influences

The Masterclass I’ve been taking on Storytelling got me to thinking about the authors I loved when I was young, writers who had a profound impact on how I think a story should be told and what fiction should sound like. Here are a few, in no particular order:

  • Lucy Maude (L.M.) Montgomery (1874-1942) Readers know her for Anne of Green Gables, but my personal favorite is The Blue Castle, a romance about a twenty-nine year old woman who has dwindled into spinsterhood always doing what she should. An unexpected diagnosis of a fatal disease frees her to pursue her dreams, including proposing marriage to a mysterious local bachelor who lives in the wilds of eastern Canada.
    • My Takeaway from Her Books: Her characters are so alive they jump off the page because they have both strengths and weaknesses. Anne is as famous for her temper as she is for her vivid imagination.
  • Edward Eager (1911-1964) He wrote stories of magic happening in the lives of everyday children. My favorite was Seven Day Magic, about children who borrow a book that has set on the bottom shelf of the fairy tale section at the library for years, with all that magic dripping down on it. The first seven days with the book provide magical experiences for the kids, but when they break the rules and fail to return the book on time, the magic turns dark.
    • My Takeaway from His Books: He sets up worlds that doesn’t follow all the rules of our world but strictly enforce the rules they do have, which gives them the consistency that makes them believable.
  • Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) For lovers of historical romance, Heyer is second only to Jane Austen. Her stories of Regency London sparkle with candles, cut glass and couture.
    • My Takeaway from Her Books: Readers love handsome, arrogant heroes who learn to love.
  • Donald Westlake (1933-2008) Westlake wrote both crime stories and comic capers. The crime stories are good but the capers are even better. One of my favorites is Help, I Am Being Held Prisoner, about a guy who says he wound up being a criminal largely because people refused to pronounce his last name, Künt, with the umlaut. It was re-released this year by Hard Case Crime and there’s a great review of it here.
    • My Takeaway from His Books: Not nearly enough. I would give my back teeth to be able to write anything as one-tenth as funny as Westlake at his best. His banter is rivaled only by Jenny Crusie (who isn’t listed here because I didn’t find her till I was solidly middle-aged.)
  • There are many others: Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, E.M. Hull (who wrote The Sheik, the first actual romance I ever read. It is racist, misogynistic and terrible on many levels, even given the fact that it was published in 1919. That said, it struck me, at age 13, as the acme of romance.)
    • My Takeaway from this Group: A bit of mystery keeps the romance burning hot.

Who were your biggest literary influences?

9 thoughts on “Jeanne: Literary Influences

  1. I love this glimpse into your reading (and writing) roots. My biggest influences are Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain (middle grade); C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (middle grade); Ursula LeGuinn’s Earthsea Trilogy (my first fan fiction was making the story go on); J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings.

    I love each for the cast of characters, the world building. Its because of them I know I still must grow my craft, to accomplish that beauty of characters who play off each other and are distinct individuals; and to better paint the scenery around them, as viewed through their eyes.

  2. I can’t say it’s a literary influence, exactly, but the book I’ve probably read the most in my life—although the last time I read it is maybe twenty years ago now—is Winnie the Pooh. My aunt gave this book to me for my seventh birthday. My family was spending the weekend with her, and my best friend was with me. We stayed up late reading alternate pages to each other, and I laughed so hard I wet the bed. I still reference Eeyore all the time, and—I guess you could say this is a literary reference—I have incorporated the concept of Rabbit’s many relations into my WIP.

    As a side note, I was one of those people who thought romance novels—or romantic suspense and all those 1980s gothic romances—were trash. And then when I was in my 30s somebody handed me a copy of Venezia by Georgette Heyer and told me to shut up. And when I’d gobbled up all of those, I started branching out. And of course, I’m so glad that happened!

  3. I was such a voracious reader, but particularly loved humor . . . even (especially) dumb puns. It’s really hard to pick out one or even five authors that influenced me. And of course, TV was a big influence in my story-telling (I loved Bugs Bunny).

    Let’s see. I’ve commented before about finding a childhood favorite, Merlin’s Ring, by H. Warner Munn. I re-read it in the last couple of years, and was astonished to find how much it influenced my fiction! It’s not a great book, but I still loved it all these years later, because it talked about fairies, and love across time, and doing the right thing.

    Alice in Wonderland was also a huge favorite for me — both Wonderland books.

    I liked Twain and Piers Anthony so much that my first real “book” (co-written with a friend who was MUCH better at writing) was a mash-up of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and the first Xanth book. I’m afraid I didn’t love either one as much as I did when I was a pre-teen. But I did love the humor and the puns!

    Soap operas, watched during long, long summers also proved to be quite an influence. I like a dramatic twist, a case of amnesia, a daring rescue at the last minute, and love triumphing in the end (at least for a little while). I still write with entirely too many characters given the length of my stories.

    • I read Xanth for the first time about 12 years ago and really liked it.

      And I loved Connecticut Yankee, in part because it has such a great, snarky tone.

      And Bugs Bunny is my absolute favorite cartoon character. “What a maroon” is the best insult of all time.

      • Ah, yes, Piers Anthony, I was hooked on all those puns! My current kitty is Xanth, and his brother is Pern, nodding to another of my favorite writers as a teen, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern.

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