The Writers Who Made Me Want to Write
It’s a massive commitment, writing a novel. You dedicate years upon years of your young life to people who never even existed before you dreamed them up. You stress over their fate, agonise over their decisions, lose sleep over their problems, and at times, their lives become more real to you than your own.
And with a fantasy novel comes extra challenges. You don’t just have to create these people, make them real, and write their story, you have to build a world for them to live in, too. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful world, but it does have to be varied, rich, plausible, and full. It’s hard, though of course, wonderful too. After all, when you build your own world, you get to pick the colour of the sky.
So what made me do it, this difficult thing? I guess I did it for many reasons, but today I’m just going to talk about one of them.
When I was a little brat, my mum would read to my kid brother and I every night, teaching us to love great books by great people. Later, as I grew up, I went out and found great writers for myself. These authors shaped my ideas, my taste and my imagination. My dream of making something as good as the works I admire has encouraged me to try to be as fearless and creative as I can.
Below are a few of my favourite writers in the whole widest world. Most of them I discovered when I was a kid, though some I found as an adult. All of them are insanely amazing, all of them have shaped me in some way. None of them are in any particular order.
Author of: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy among many others.
Why I love her: So many reasons. I love Karou and her blue hair, and I love the seeming limitlessness of Taylor’s imagination. But if I had to pick just one thing, one thing in particular, I would say her use of language. She writes some of the most crazily beautiful, otherworldly, love it to the moon and back prose I have ever read. Every other sentence I read, I think “I wish I’d written that.” She writes books about magical, wondrous things… angels, chimaera, fairies…and the strangeness, the unexpected beauty of her writing weaves a spell around the reader. An enchantment that pulls us out of our world, and into her prettier one. I could give a million examples. I’d make you read them all too, and you’d be grateful for it in the end. But, oh so sadly, I have to do other things eventually. So I will show you three.
“She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her.”
“She moved like a poem, and smiled like a sphinx”
“Happiness, it was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety, and pure sunbeam comfort.”
See what I mean? Gorgeous, no? If you haven’t read her, and you want to (and you should want to) the link for her amazon page is below.
Author of: The Anne of Green Gables Series (among others)
Why I love her: Because of Anne, because of Gilbert, because of Charlotta the Fourth. Anne was the first character I ever read who I truly identified with. An idealistic dreamer, who wanted so badly to be great at something, to find transforming love, and inspire the generations that followed her through teaching. She wanted these things, and sometimes she got them, but she fell down a lot along the way. She mistook infatuation for real love, and ignored real love for years when it was right under her nose. She got carried away, she over reached herself, she wrote bad prose, she messed up. In Anne, L.M Montgomery created a character that teenage girls everywhere, in any time, could relate to. Kind but sometimes a bit too direct, clever but naïve, a dream weaver with feet of clay. Really, how could you not fall in love with her? Or Gilbert, who grew up to be perfect. Perfect I say.
If you haven’t read the Anne of Green Gables series yet, do. You won’t regret, you have my word. Click here and bask in the Anne-y goodness.
Author of: The Lord of the Rings
Why I love Him: Because his world building makes me feel like an amateur, which is good for me, since I still am one. Because he wrote actual languages, with a grammatical structure, and vocabulary, that people can actually learn. Because Frodo and Sam have possibly the best friend-love story in the history of literature. Because of Gandalf. I love Gandalf.
But mostly because of the naming. I have always had trouble naming things. When I was four I had a goldfish. It took me a month to name him. I finally settled on Dogtanian (see British children’s TV of the 90s).Two days later the cat ate him. I never named a pet again. When I sat down to write my novel, I realised my world, my characters, my seas and rivers, my mountains and countries were all going to need names. I returned to Tolkien for inspiration again, because I knew that if ever a man knew how to throw down a noun it was he. Consider the Brandywine River for a moment. I mean, doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about the shire?! Just that one name! And the bridge at Khazad Dum! You just know something massive is gonna happen at the Bridge of Khazad Dum!
I have never yet been able to name things that well, probably I never will. But I can still take joy in returning to Lord of the Rings and saying the name Lothlorien out loud a gazillion times, just to hear the pretty sound.
I couldn’t suggest better use of your time, if you were to go and do the same.
Author of: All things Harry Potter. If you don’t know that you need to get out more.
Why I Love Her: I love Rowling for peppering her books with important and beautiful lessons. She taught us that loyalty and courage are more important than popularity. And she reminded children and adults everywhere that the slogan “you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide” is the most heinous of all lies that were ever told.
But mostly, I love her best for Severus Snape. I love an author with the courage to make one of her most seemingly unsympathetic characters into one of her greatest heroes. Snape doesn’t look heroic. He doesn’t act it either. He can be unjust, embittered and unkind, especially to Harry.
And yet, in spite of this, Snape becomes one of the very best, bravest and most poignant characters of the series. He remains enduringly faithful to his one love. It is revealed that he has endured great loss and great remorse. Finally, of all the characters in the book, he is the one who, besides Harry himself, shows the most selfless courage. He does the job he is asked to do, even though it’s the hardest and the most dangerous, even though he knows it will win him hatred instead of glory. He does it without asking for help or pity. And he does it well.
And in the end, Snape gets his due. Through Harry, Rowling acknowledges him to be one of the bravest men in all seven novels. Harry even names his son after him. And hooray for Rowling, for teaching us the best lesson of all. Never write off a human being … even if he has terrible hair.
And also, I love Hermione, book wielding warrior that she is. Without her, the boys would have been dead by the end of the first book.
Can I just assume you’ve read Harry Potter? If you haven’t…where’ve you been? Dude, go read it now!
Author Of: The Eagle of the Ninth Trilogy
Why I Love Her: Maybe the least well-known writer on this list, but among the most important to me. Sutcliffe was an invalid most of her life. She was wheelchair bound for decades, often able to explore the world only through her own imagination. I love her because her compassion for all those who struggle, either physically or mentally, is clear through all her books. I love that. I don’t think you should even try to wrie in full sentences, let alone a novel, if you don’t have compassion.
But, again, if I pick one reason, and, since this is a blog post, not a thesis, I kind of have to, it would be her scene setting. Sutcliffe made me fall in love not only with her characters, but with Roman Britain. She made me homesick for a place that stopped existing two thousand years before I was born. She makes that world seem beautifully real, and achingly not real all at once. I hope to do that. I hope to make people long to go back to a place they’ve never been.
If you haven’t read her, do. Here’s the link. Go feel sad you’re not a Roman.
Well, there they are, the writers who made me want to write a book. Of course, that’s not actually all of them. I could name another hundred easily; Phillip Pullman and Kazuo Ishiguro, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens, Steinbeck and Hemingway, F. Scott, Fitzgerald and Naguib Mahfouz, George R.R. Martin and P.G Wodehouse. Even that’s not all of them. I probably will write about all of these great men and women at some point, because I’ll want to. Maybe I’ll next I’ll write about Jane Eyre. God, I love Jayne Eyre.
But today I wanted to write about the man and women who had the most direct influence on me as I wrote my own book. I think it’s important to think about your influences. It helps you to remember what kind of author you wanted to be in the first place. It’s easy to forget sometimes, when you’re struggling to re-name a goddam fictional city for the ninetieth time. Thanks for indulging me while I reminded myself.
Now, I’m off to read Lord of the Rings, see if I can steal a name for a city.