A few weeks ago, I attended Get Lit on the Beach in Cannon Beach. It’s a fabulous weekend where authors speak about their books, writing and the writing life. The weekend is geared toward readers and I love attending and remembering I was a reader long before I was a writer.
The Saturday evening event is a prime rib dinner at the Surf and Sand ballroom which overlooks Haystack rock and the Pacific Ocean. This year’s author for the dinner was Jess Walter, author of The Financial Life of Poets.
Jess shared how he asks his college writing students to list ten books which were important or significant to them in some way and then from those ten books select the three top most significant books to their lives. He shared his own top three and how they tied to his life.
This got me thinking about my own top three books and what I came up with was my list which is more a top three authors which have impacted me.
Danielle Steele and Barbara Taylor Bradford. I devoured Danielle Steele books in high school. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I had outgrown what we called young adult books such as those by Norma Fox Mazer and the all important Forever by Judy Blume. I didn’t care for the books we were required to read in high school–dry and dull literary classics such as 1984, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies. I could never relate to any of these books. Instead, I quickly latched onto the horror of V.C Andrews books–How could those children be locked in the attic? And how could that brother and sister pair fall in love with each other?
But the books which kept me reading under the covers late into the night and struggling to get up to go to school to discuss those dry literary books were the epic family sagas such as those by Barbara Taylor Bradford and Danielle Steele.
Although I write romance now, I was never a true romance reader myself. I didn’t latch onto Harlequin category books like so many romance authors. Instead, I latched onto the wealthy family saga stories.
Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte series was filled with glorious description and characters overcoming hardship to go on to become fabulous career woman running multi million dollar industries. In my own writing, description of my settings is something which is often remarked on as being significant to all genres in my books. I have no doubt that began with my love for the rich details in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s series.
In the same way as Bradford, Danielle Steele’s books also featured career women who fell in love with men and had gloriously wealthy successful lives. Families intersected and although not always a series of books, often characters spun off into their own stories.
As a reader, I was captivated by not only the romance in each Danielle Steele book, but the the strength each woman had in her careers and lifestyle.
And finally, my third significant author was one I discovered while teaching seventh grade. Jennifer Donnely published her award winning book, A Northern Light, during the years I was a seventh grade teacher. The story takes place during 1906 in an old hotel in the Adirondacks. The story resonates so strongly to me as my own fascination with the Elmheart Hotel on the shores of Lake Ontario began when I was a college student in Rochester New York. Years later, I wrote a series of three sweet contemporary romance novellas set in that hotel. Eventually when the rights return to me, I will reshape those stories and write more in that series.
I also discovered and loved Jennifer Donnelly’s adult series Winter Rose, Tea Rose and Wild Rose. These books are set in East London and span the time period between 1888 and 1914, one of my favorite time periods. The setting details are glorious and the female characters overcome great survival and hardship.
As I look at the top three authors which influenced me I see how each author inspired something in me as a writer–from series writing, to family sagas to strong characters surviving and overcoming great odds to become successful career women, each of my favorite authors gave me something to aspire to be in my own writing and my life.