This is a re-post of a guest post I wrote a while back, which first appeared here. It's so personal to me as a writer that I thought it worth sharing with you all as well.
I never received high praise from my high school English teachers for my attempts at using figurative or descriptive language, nor did I take creative writing classes in college. Instead, I’ve always been a voracious reader, and it was an eclectic mix of speculative fiction authors like David Eddings, Kim Harrison, Robert Jordan, and Roald Dahl who served as my teachers. From them, I learned everything I know about writing…and will continue to learn. Here’s a list of the top nine authors whose written words have helped make me the writer I am today.
9. Jasper Fforde (The Thursday Next Novels)
J.F. taught me the power of wit. He is a literary genius, and though I come nowhere close to him, I still try.
8. Deborah Harkness (The All Souls Trilogy)
D.H. taught me how a little, well-researched historical mystery mixed with the paranormal and mythological can add a new level of finesse to the paranormal romance genre. I absolutely adore the attention to detail she put into Diana’s research at Oxford. And then there’s Matthew…
7. Karen Marie Moning (The Fever Series)
K.M.M. taught me the art of anticipation, how prolonging the sexual tension can make a story SO much better. There were times during the series where I was thinking, “If Mac and Barrons don’t get it on in the next three chapters, I’m throwing this book across the room!” Which, would have sucked for me because I was reading the series on my kindle and I would have missed the awesomeness that is Shadowfever. But, my sister told me to stick with it, that it would be worth it in the end. K.M.M. built the tension up…and up…and up…and then she delivered. It’s masterfully done.
6. Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me)
T.M. taught me that authors are real people, both through her blog and by chatting with me at a book signing. That’s not to say I still wasn’t completely star-struck in her presence, but she helped me realize that, just maybe, I could really do this authoring thing too. It was actually on the car ride home from that signing that LP (Lindsey Pogue, co-author of The Ending Series) and I came up with the idea for After The Ending.
5. Kim Harrison (The Hollows)
K.H. taught me the power of using the first person to give your main character a strong, distinctive voice. Rachel Morgan is so extremely…Rachelly, that you can’t help but feel like you really know her. I was so upset when a certain man (who I won’t name for the sake of being spoiler-free) died, because I felt the loss along with Rachel, that I put the series aside for about six months. I eventually picked it back up and read the entire thing from beginning to almost end…because it’s amazing, and I love Rachel.
4. Roald Dahl (The Witches, Matilda)
R.D. taught me that sometimes the most magical things are those that could be hiding in our everyday world. I read both Matilda and The Witches early in elementary school and whole-heartedly believed that both stories were real. Honestly, his witches still scare me.
3. Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time)
R.J. taught me SO much—world-building, character-building, how to write from multiple perspectives without confusing the reader too much, and how to create hundreds of characters who are all individuals. His talent is sorely missed in the fantasy world, but his words live on.
2. C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)
C. S. Lewis taught me the importance of building a world realistic enough that someone could believe in the magic laying just around the corner…or in his case, through a puddle or a wardrobe. He made Narnia so real to me, that there were moments when I was younger—and some when I was not so young—when I would peek into my closet, hoping the wall wouldn’t be there behind the clothes and that I could enter a magical world just like the Pevensies.
1. David Eddings (The Belgarian Universe, The Redemption of Althalus)
I read Pawn of Prophecy when I was a sophomore in high school. I read the other fifteen books that take place in the Belgarion Universe (actually four series) before the school year was over. Since then, I’ve reread them twice and have read every other fantasy book D.E. (with and without his wife) ever published. D.E. taught me about the path of the hero, and that compelling characters keep readers coming back for more.
Honorable Mention: Joss Whedon. He’s a genius. ‘Nuff said.
There are many, many more authors and writers I admire and who have been my unknowing teachers, but by far, these have been the most influential.