Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: What writers and stories influenced you early in your life and/or writing career and how did they do so?
Julie Hennrikus: Nancy Drew was a huge influence on my mystery writer brain. I would say Carolyn Keene, but since Carolyn was several people and I don’t know who wrote which books, I can’t point to a specific Carolyn. I liked Hardy Boys, but didn’t read Trixie Belden back in the day.
Jamie Wallace: Since I started writing when I was a kid, I have to go back quite a way to find my early writing influences, and boy were they many and wildly varied! I was a pretty voracious young reader. I kept to myself a lot, often preferring to spend time with my German shepherd dog, Boomer, than with other kids. I read myself to sleep, often began my day reading (still in bed), and carried a book with me pretty much everywhere I went.
Mostly, I read fantasy – Tolkien, LeGuin, Peter S. Beagle, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander. I also loved more classic children’s literature like A. A. Milne’s tales from the hundred-acre wood, Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, and – a special favorite – The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. And then there were the books that were not quite fantasy and not quite children’s stories, novels like Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and Julie and the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. As I grew a little older I started to enjoy some science fiction: Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, Herbert’s Dune, and Heinlein’s world of Lazarus Long. From there, it was a quick leap to writers like Douglas Adams, Vonnegut, and Tom Robbins who taught me much about satire, social commentary, and general wit.
Looking over this list of first loves, it makes me smile to see so clearly how these childhood reading experiences have influenced the kinds of stories I like to read and hope to write as an adult. It’s no wonder I grew up to love books that blend real life with the magical, humor with sentiment, and include elements of mystery, surprise, and good overcoming evil. Most of all, I think each of these early influences inspired me to value stories that can not only capture our imagination and pull us into another reality, but also give us new eyes with which to see our own reality.
Lisa J. Jackson: I read a lot as a kid and am so grateful for that time I had! My first influences were series of books… Hardy Boys mysteries, Nancy Drew mysteries, Little House on the Prairie. And as I hit my teens it was J.R.R. Tolkein, Stephen King, and John Saul. And thanks to reading Jamie’s entry above, Wind in the Willows was memorable, as were stories about Rip Van Winkle. Time travel, mystery, and other worlds/alternate realities have always appealed to me.
Diane MacKinnon: My first writing influences were similar to my fellow writers. I loved the Nancy Drew books, but before those books I read and loved the Encyclopedia Brown books. Remember him? I just loved how you could figure out the solution to the mystery if you just thought about it enough, or did a little research. I also loved Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I started keeping a journal after reading that book when I was 11. I read (and reread) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein, but I also loved Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maude Montgomery.
When I was 9, I was placed in an advanced reading group and we read classic literature. I hated Pride and Predjudice, which I thought was just a bunch of silly girls who wanted to get married (I never really got into that book, not until college, when I loved it,) but I loved Jane Eyre.
Wendy Thomas: As far as writing goes, E.B. White – he is my great-Uncle and you can’t help but be inspired when your early reading material are classics in the making. I was also heavily influenced by the Sunday night TV Disney show (those of us who are of a certain age well remember that highly anticipated weekly event.) That show taught me how to pace a story, how to make it entertaining, how to include life experiences, and how to end my writing on a positive and hopeful note. To this day, I’m still a sucker for happy endings.