Who Are Your Favorites?
I recently realized when people ask me, “Who is your favorite writer?” I often trip over the names of authors that I have read extensively from. Who are my favorite authors? That is like asking me to pick my favorite pet or my favorite color, there are just too many beautiful writers to choose from.
So I decided to reflect on who do I feel has influenced me as a reader? Who has affected my reading experience? And I came up with a short list, but certainly not an exhaustive list.
1.) FANTASY – Neil Gaiman: Stardust.
I stumbled on him as a 14-year-old at a bookshop in Salem, MA. This was back when malls still had bookstores. I was camping with my family and saw Stardust thrown on top of a heap of books at a discount price. This was before the movie and before I had really sprung my fantasy loving wings. The book was good, but it wasn’t earth shattering. What changed in my life that day was that for the first time, I chose a story. Instead of reading my sister’s books or relying on suggestions, I found a story for myself. This also began my teenage love affair with Gaiman because he was the first writer I ever read who I felt was truly original. It didn’t feel like a remake of every other book I ever read. I felt inspired by him and fell in love with his creativity. I haven’t read Gaiman in a long time, but I still view him as one of the masters of storytelling who altered my reading world.
2.) HORROR/SCI-FI – Stephen Kozeniewski: Billy and the Cloneasaurus.
I was approached by Kozeniewski several years ago to review this book. I had never heard of him, but since we read mostly indie here he seemed like a good fit. The story was not what I expected at all. Kozeniewski is mainly a horror/sci-fi writer and while I dig the sci-fi, I am not really a horror reader. Regardless, I didn’t know this at the time I agreed to read this story, which I thought was going to be a comedy. This story was a ride for me. Kozeniewski was humorous and dark all at the same time and I found I was blown away by how creative this tale turned out to be. From that day forward, Kozeniewski has been an automatic YES for me. He opened the horror door for me and showed me what I was missing, but also he showed me his amazing mind. Every story he creates is vastly different from the last, and I find I am an eager beaver to read his work whenever a new installment comes out. He changed my perspective on an entire genre, and he changed my reading choices.
3.) CLASSICAL/ROMANCE – Charlotte Bronté: Jane Eyre.
Forced to read Jane Eyre in high school, I discovered a love for the classics. I laid awake at night crying into the rumbled pages of this twisted love story. My heart breaking for Jane, as she struggled to find her place in a world that found her so undeserving. Mr. Rochester’s gruff and peculiar courtship of Jane made me swoon and imagine my own classical romance. I was a teenager, and I was in-love with the idea of love. This story taught me the value of old stories and how relevant they still are today. I re-read this story every now and again, and I find I discover something new every time. As I age, my takeaway is always different and I see the many layers that exist in this story. It is not just a love story, but a story of a woman coming into her own.
4.) EROTICA – Anne Rice (pen-name A.N. Roquelaure): The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy.
I never finished the final book in this series because it just became too much. However, the first book and the second showed me the world of erotic romance, with a healthy side of bondage. This was my first foray into the genre and surprisingly not my last. I read it as a teenager, so once again it has had a lasting impact on my life. It has been a frame of reference for me for all other books that fall into this genre, and I find that I am always comparing. The first in the series was mesmerizing for me. I had never seen such naughty words written on a page. It was like losing my virginity to a book. You always remember your first.
5.) HISTORICAL FICTION/FAIRYTALE – Juliet Marillier: The Sevenwaters Series.
I’m a girl who when I was a child was obsessed with romance and finding your forever person. I also love fantasy and learning new things. So when you wrap that all up into one, you get the Sevenwaters Series. Marillier ranked as my top writer for most of my teenage and early 20s years, until I read one of her stories right after a break-up. Bad timing. And I have not gone back. Her stories are beautiful, but they are rather predictable and so over time, I have found I need to space them out. She was important for me because she was the biggest catalyst for continuing to be a big reader. I kept reading because of her ability to overwhelm me with the fantastical and magical possibilities.
6.) CHILDREN’S – Rafe Martin and David Shannon: The Rough Faced Girl.
This was a story I fell in love with as a child. It was about a physically ugly girl who truly was the most beautiful inside. And that beauty finally gets the chance to shine at the end. It was a Cinderella story that captured my imagination as a child. It was one of the first stories that I felt a connection to the character. There were times in my life I was bullied growing up, so this story struck a chord. She was a better quality person than those who shamed her. It helped me feel better about myself, when others were unkind.
Now when someone asks me, “Who is your favorite writer?” — I shrug and say there are too many to count, but I can share a few of my favorite stories because they helped shape me into the reader and person I am today.
Who has influenced you? What stories changed your reading experience?