The urge to tell stories began in childhood for me. My father was a great reader of classic novels and he passed this interest on to me. I was thinking about the books I’ve read throughout my life and the ones that inspired me to say “I want to do that!” So I made a list.
Some books that inspired me are long out of print and long gone. As my reading skills developed, I discovered a taste for mysteries like Secret of the Haunted Pool and things like that. I made up a story based on that at one time.
These books are not necessarily my favorites, but they were the ones that excited the Muse in me. They sparked my imagination in a way that said not only: “I want to do that!” but “I have to.”
Stories build up in your subconscious, you see, over time, then start agitating to get out. These books were the seeds, many planted deep in my consciousness as soon as I could read. Images attract me, and all of these authors have the ability to create iconic images in their stories that resonate for a long time.
What books inspired you to write?
Filled with drama and magic and mystery, I think these were the Harry Potter of our time. Disney helped, I suppose, but these stories were my constant companions as a child.
There were never enough faiy tales. I still read them. The illustrations were inspiring as well and I did a lot of drawing most of my life. My first dream was to become an illustrator of fiary tale books.
I wanted to be Jo. How many women writers have felt the same? Or is this just a New England thing? I used to sit in the big oak tree eating apples and writing in my notebook. Somewhere deep inside, I still want to be Jo.
The dark moody atmosphere of Oliver Twist, and the strange characters worked their magic on me early. On my first visit to London in 1997, these were the streets I explored. The characters were so varied and so real. I wanted to write a story like this.
I was haunted by the 1960s movie The Haunting and wanted badly to read the book. My tiny local library didn’t have it, but, by hook or by crook, I found this book instead. For some reason it reminded me of Alice Through the Looking Glass, but was more inspiring because the voice of Merrycat as she tells this murky little tale is so human. Only in recent years did I finally read The Haunting of Hill House. But I feel We Have Always in the Castle in the better book.
Sometime during my adolescence I challenged myself to read very book in our tiny Leicester Library. That was where I found this little gem filled with stories by Algernon Blackwood. MR James, Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker–all under one creepy cover. Short stories have been great Muse pokers for me. From fairy tales to scary tales, it was a straight line.
A little later in life, I found this book by Dickins to be a highly motivating. I loved the characters and wanted to create some of my own. Of curse, Miss Havisham is the Gothic Queen of cobwebby darkness. I love all the film versions of this book.
I knew I would never be able to write like the Bard, but I acted in many of his plays. I got to say those words, to be or not to be some of those characters. They filled me with story. Shakespeare’s influence is huge in my work because, while acting in his plays, his stories entered my blood.
Speaking of blood–its gets grimmer from here on. When I was first in college in Massachusetts, I had a frustrated poetry professor. He ran a lively class and encouraged me a lot. One day he complained to us that his best friend had just gotten a movie deal off one his books, Salem’s Lot, and he was jealous as hell. At the time I had no idea who that best friend was. Then I got the book. I loved the idea of a vampire moving into a small town. It reminded of the black house one of my friends had been to. Apparently the lady who lived there was a witch. They had tea. As my friend was sitting on the couch, she realized that the cat she was petting was dead. Taxidermied! Perhaps a mummy…
I wrote a book based on these elements, but it is long gone.
In a period when I was doing plays and reading mostly non-fiction, Dracula stands out. I read it every winter for years. It was my winter by the fire book. The gloom is filled with golden light, the mysteries are deep, like fairy tales and Shakespeare rolled into one. The first time I read it, I was surpirised at how good it was. I will say that after this time, I went back to university to finish my English degree and none of the books I was assigned to read, much as I liked many of them, made me want to write.
The dormant desire to write fiction was ignited to a painful degree when I found this book on the shelves of the University Bookstore. Carter’s use of language is equal to Shakespeare, but she uses it to tell fairy tales. Talk about things coming together for a perfect storm! I was writing a lot of poetry, quite successfully at the time, and it hurt me that I had no stories inside me. I thought I was doomed to a plotless existence. Taking a Creative Writing class didn’t help because the professor didn’t reach us anything. I carried this thing around like a talisman, as if I could absorb Angela Carter’s muses by will.
I was living in England when I discoverd Tanith Lee. The title story of this collection, Red as Blood, supercharged my desire to write. Tanith Lee was another Angela Carter, If she could do it. maybe I could. I’d been a prize-winning published poet after all, and these authors had such a remarkable fluidity with language. I also found, living in London, that my imagination was flooded with stories. I realzed how important place was to me. I could write stories in Massachusetts and in London, but Seattle left me cold.
This book, a fusion of fairy tale, romance and thriller is highly inspirational to me. It is the benchmark of the type of book I would like to write, a book that is high quality Gothic, and that excites readers’ imaginations worldwide. I’ve read it many times.
There could be more, but these were the sparks that set my Kindle career alight. I’d love to know yours. Leave a comment and share your inspirations with us.
In case you’re interested: