Writing Heroes

| Friday, April 13, 2012
Like many writers, I have several writing heroes who I look up to and aspire to be like. Their books shaped me when I was young, inspired me to write, or spoke to some core part of me. When I look at the authors I admire most, I can see how they helped mold me into the writer, and the person, I've become.

Madeline L'Engle should be a given. I was in maybe the fourth grade when I first read A Wrinkle In Time, and I feel like that book is the one that forever impressed a love of speculative fiction on my mind. It was so fantastical and different and nerdy. I remember this book teaching me about the fourth and fifth dimensions and being so thrilled that it didn't treat me like a know-nothing little kid who didn't care about the entirety of time and space.

Neil Gaiman's books came to me later in life. I started with Sandman, then moved on to his short stories, then Stardust, then Good Omens, then his work for children. I relished in the delicious darkness of his narratives, wondered at his descriptions and characters. Such wit, such color, such dedication to the human interaction with both hope and pain. The way he takes a simple idea and turns it completely on its head and builds an entire twisted world around it enchanted me.

J.K. Rowling, naturally. The Harry Potter series grabbed me from the start and never let go. She showed me what truly immersive characters and worlds really are. Every character had a story, a purpose. The world was so vividly drawn that I have never wanted so desperately to be invited into anything else in my life. I am not a crier, but those books wrenched great, ugly, heaving sobs from me.

Christopher Moore for his wit alone. Humor is fantastically difficult to write. A lot of people can pull a smirk or a chuckle out of me. Few can make me literally laugh out loud at the words on the page. Moore is one of the latter. Lamb remains one of my favorite books of all time, not only for its unapologetic humor, but for its heart. The antics of Christ and his best friend were hilarious, but they were also deeply moving. Would that I could be so clever one day.

Lois Lowry, who I will forever love for giving me The Giver. I read this book before I knew what dystopias were, but I knew the moment I finished it that I would be a lifelong fan of them. I read this book fairly young, maybe nine or ten, and it took the floor out from under me. Not only were there twists that made my eyes go wide, but Lowry trusted me to be able to handle the hard things, like death and pain and ambiguity. I can't thank her enough for that.

Bruce Coville and his SF/F romps of hilarity and soul. These were the books that had funny names like I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X and Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, but those silly titles belied deeper themes, like kindness and fear and what it means to be human. Several of his short stories and novels have stuck with me for a long, long time. Coville has a way of taking ridiculous situations and turning them into something that speaks directly to your innermost spirit.

Barry Hughart didn't publish many books, but he did publish my favorite book of all time: Bridge of Birds. Think of The Princess Bride, then add several layers of mystery, a heavy dose of Asian-based fantasy, and an ending that will make you feel ALL OF THE FEELINGS. My life goal is to pack this much amazing into one novel.

Philip Pullman is a man who respects art and young people and intelligence. His stories are so carefully crafted, his worlds and characters so well thought-out, his philosophies so deep, that I can hardly stand it. He inspires me to think. Always think.

Kurt Vonnegut's dark sense of humor combined with his undeniable love of storytelling makes him a huge favorite of mine. His tales are off-the-wall, strange, and powerful. He knew how to structure plot and how a story is supposed to function, and then he did these wacky things that made me go HOW DOES THIS WORK. It just does.

Tamora Pierce gave me strong-but-tender-hearted girl warriors and magic users and law enforcers. She showed me characters who experienced sexual feelings without making it either A REALLY BIG DEAL or a shameful thing -- it was just sex, natural and simple. It was like she could look inside my head and see the fantasies I had, then she made them come to life. I wanted to be different, I wanted to be strong, I wanted to talk to animals, I wanted respect, I wanted cleverness, I wanted to cast spells and use swords and be awesome. I'll never forget THE IMMORTALS series and how much I related to Daine.

Who are some of your writing heroes? Why have they impacted you so?


{ Old Kitty } at: April 13, 2012 at 6:56 AM said...

Such an eclectic bunch here - yay!!!

I have so many writing heroes - far too many - all make me appreciate the beauty and power of the written word! Take care

{ Leigh Covington } at: April 13, 2012 at 7:41 AM said...

Wonderful list of amazing authors! Most I am familiar with, but some I haven't read yet. I am excited to find some of their books and check them out. Glad u shared :)

{ fairyhedgehog } at: April 13, 2012 at 10:39 AM said...

Some of those I know and love, some I hadn't discovered and I'll have to check them out.

I'd add Tanya Huff for her great sense of humour and the camaraderie between her characters; and Sherri Tepper's Gate to Women's Country and Gibbon's Decline and Fall for fascinating takes on gender issues. Oh, and Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness for similar reasons.

I'd better stop. I could go on all evening!

{ Prism } at: April 13, 2012 at 12:16 PM said...

I love that your favorite is Bridge of Birds. That's my favorite too, and its how I met my husband! We were both on a popular dating website, hated each other's profiles, but both listed that as our favorite book. The rest is history.

{ We Heart YA } at: April 16, 2012 at 11:46 AM said...

Hmm… Lucy Montgomery did a fabulous job with Anne of Green Gables. Definitely an inspiration for us. Also JK Rowling, of course. And, if we're being honest, Stephenie Meyer. She showed us how to loosen up, how to stop aiming for perfection and instead focus on telling a compelling, emotional story. We realize that not everyone thinks of her work highly, but it's less about idolization and more about realization: she helped us see what WE needed to see in order to make progress as writers.

{ We Heart YA } at: April 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM said...

*Lucy Maud Montgomery

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