A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Welcome to out monthly feature, Ask The Allsorts! This month, we asked,’What books influenced you (either in a good way or a bad way!)?‘ This is what the Allsorts said…
Abi Burlingham: This is a really tough one as there are a multitude of books that have influenced me over the years. As a child, the book that has stayed with me and that captured my imagination most, was C.S.Lewis’s, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe‘. I was captivated by the idea of stepping into a magical world, and with the idea that a writer could take their readers on such an incredible journey. As an adult, it would be the poems of Sylvia Plath, and a biography on her by Anne Stevenson, ‘Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath‘. Both were utterly inspiring and gave me the confidence to start writing with more intention and to start sending my work out to publishers.
Liz de Jager: The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour
I grew up reading westerns by Louis L’Amour but it was The Walking Drum that opened my eyes to the world. It’s a historical novel set in 12th Century Europe and Middle East. The world is vivid and vibrant, the writing is solid and I fell utterly in love with the story and the richness of the world. It took me away from my home in a suburb of Johannesburg in South Africa and it showed me how huge the world really was. I still have my original copy my dad bought me and it is one of my most precious treasures.
Moonheart by Charles de Lint
When my husband and I first started dating, I spotted a copy of Moonheart on his bookcase and I was allowed to borrow it. It was the first time I realised that something like urban fantasy existed and people actually wrote about mythical creatures living side by side with humans. I’ve never looked back and I’d say, CdL is singly one of the biggest influences on my writing! Along with Charles de Lint, writers of the same ilk who influenced me: Emma Bull (War for the Oaks), everything Jane Yolen’s ever written, along with Midori Snyder, Terri Windling, Holly Black, Ellen Kushner and Will Shetterley.
Fables – the graphic novel series by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
These comics are packed full of amazing stories, characters and a fully realised incredible world. I would definitely choose them along my Sandman graphic novels to accompany me on my desert island stay. Bill and Mark take the well known fairy tale stories and spin them on their ear and give us full flung histories for these “stock” characters we think we know so well, breathing a new life in to them. I highly recommend these to try out to those readers who are keen to get into comics but who aren’t sure where to start. Just beware, there is definite mature content!
Janet Edwards: A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on this site that featured a lot of books that inspired me. Thinking about it, there was another book I read as a child that probably had a strong influence on my writing. I won’t mention its name, because there were many good things about it as well, but part of the plot was that aliens chose noble and good humans and gave them artefacts that made them into superheroes. But not women. The artefacts were incompatible with the female mind! If my heroines are ever too kickass or too competent, it’s because I’m still reacting against that book excluding women from being superheroes.
Roy Gill: A tricky one to answer this… as a writer you are the sum of the things you read – as well as the life you’ve lived – it’s all in there, churning about somewhere. A couple of reviews of my first novel, The Daemon Parallel, drew comparisons with Diana Wynne Jones and Susan Cooper, and that pleased me rather! Although I didn’t set out to pay homage, both were important writers for me growing up, and if some of their style is detectable in my own, I take that as a huge compliment.
Rhian Ivory: Books which influenced me in a good way were all the Judy Blume books. I found her characters so appealing and easy to relate to because they were unsure, asking lots of questions and fighting their corner in the world. My favourite was Tiger Eyes which I am delighted to find has recently been made into a film by Judy and her son.
I also loved Jean Plaidy because she was the first writer I came across who combined great storytelling with a love of history.
I also read everything Roald Dahl ever wrote and am rediscovering him as I share his stories with my children, his writing never gets old or tired.
Sangu Mandanna: When I was younger, I read REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier and it got me started on all her other books. FRENCHMAN’S CREEK is my favourite, closely followed by THE KING’S GENERAL. I think her novels have had the biggest influence on my writing. She tells great stories, with phenomenal characters, but mostly her writing is so beautiful and poetic and moving! Her books made me want to write like that. (Not that I can. But they made me want to try!).
Rose Mannering: I think the two books that have most influenced me are ‘I Capture the Castle‘ by Dodie Smith and ‘To Kill A Mockingbird‘ by Harper Lee. I read the former when I was a teenager and used to write in my half terms. I felt like the main character, Cassandra, was me and I’ve since harboured the aching desire to live in a castle. I studied ‘To Kill A Mockingbird‘ for GCSE and it blew my mind! I thought it was so beautiful and lyrical. The end gave me goosebumps because it was so perfect. I think that both of these novels have shaped my own writing in their own way.
Zoë Marriott: I don’t think any books have ever influenced me in a bad way. I say that because even books that I’ve conceived a furious hatred for, and which I would have happily fed to a pack of raging adverbs, have still taught me things. For instance, a while ago I read a book which was so, so, so awful that I actually took to Twitter to proclaim it The Worst YA Novel Ever Written (and no, I didn’t name names – I won’t now, either). It was an urban fantasy which I had been really, really excited to read. But it turned out to be so incredibly badly written, so utterly derivative, so devoid of anything resembling a three-dimensional character or coherent plot, that it made me want to write my OWN urban fantasy just so that I could do a better job. Which may have been why, not long later, I got the idea for The Name of the Blade. Score!
In terms of books which have influenced me in a positive way, I’d have to name pretty much everything written by Tamora Pierce. Her books are fiercely Feminist and diverse, and usually offer you not only fascinatingly detailed world-building, but also unforgettable characters. I would probably not be a YA writer if it weren’t for The Song of the Lioness Quartet.
Fletcher Moss: One of my main influences was J Meade Faulkner’s classic swashbuckler ‘Moonfleet‘. It’s one of those books that stays long in the memory because of its mood and atmosphere rather than particular characters or themes. It’s a novel of place set largely at night; there are some lovely gloomy sections in underground caves and fissures, a great scene with floating coffins in a flooded crypt, a secret well down which the protagonist is lowered, and a candle in a bedroom window used as a covert sign or signal. The whole thing has that wonderful feel of Robert Louis Stevenson or Wilkie Collins – the kind of story that makes you want to sit down and write! If you’ve never read it, seek it out; you’ll be thankful you did…
Natasha Ngan: The books I read first as a child were what expanded my imagination, setting my mind on fire with distant worlds and engrossing stories and characters who were as real to me as my own friends and family. Among them were The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, and anything by Tolkein. Now, as an adult (just!), those books still inspire me.
Kate Ormand: Harry Potter got me reading daily again. Maggie Stiefvater’s books led me to discover YA. And The Hunger Games pointed me in the direction of dystopia, opening the door to a genre I fell in love with.
Dan Smith: Every book I’ve read has probably influenced me in one way or another – from the best to the worst. Books that made me think ‘I want to write like that,’ and others that made me cringe with every clunky cliché. But the ones that really mean something special? Well . . . The dark and fascinating Lord of The Flies has always been a favourite. The thought of those boys, alone with the beast, slowly becoming more and more savage as they hunt and kill and . . . well, it’s powerful stuff. The Old Man and the Sea is almost perfect in its simple, understated and heart-breaking brilliance. The Go-Between by LP Hartley is beautiful and cruel with its dreamy summer perfection that splits open to expose the rotten underside of genteel, Edwardian England. The Outsiders by SE Hinton, The Outsider by Albert Camus, True Grit by Charles Portis, The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks (not for the feint-hearted), pretty much anything by Cormac McCarthy (but especially the superb The Road), everything Elmore Leonard gave us and, of course there’s him – the writer who inspired a whole generation of writers. Stephen King. I think he probably influenced me more than any other writer when I first put pencil to paper as a young teenager. It was he who made me think I could write. His easy and accessible style made it seem so . . . possible.
Tell us what books influence you in the comments below!
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, will be published on 25th April 2013, followed by another stand-alone thriller for young adults in 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and dog in the North East Midlands.