Monday, May 26, 2014

GUEST ARTICLE: Influential Authors

To kick off our week of Armchair BEA, we begin with a little piece from Suzy Turner of Fiction Dreams on influential authors.  Please give her a warm welcome, then let us know which authors have influenced you.


The Authors Who Have Influenced Me

When I first started reading seriously, I was probably about 10 or 11 years old. I devoured pretty much any book that you put in front of me. Whether it was a kids' book, a horror, chick lit, murder mystery, I loved it. I loved the simple act of reading and the fact that it could be done anywhere. I'd recently moved countries – from England to Portugal where we had a swimming pool. So during the summer months, there was nothing I liked better than to laze on a lilo with a book in my hands. If there were too many people around the pool and too much noise, I'd head on up to the roof terrace where I would wile away the hours hidden within other worlds. As I slowly went through my early teens, I went through phases of reading different genres – from Mills & Boone to Jilly Cooper and from horror to children's books and back. 

Jilly Cooper though, became a staple in my young life. I think I started reading her novels when I first entered my teens and I must say I was terribly influenced by her because I learned a lot about love and sex from the hilarious stories she produced. Imogen, Harriet, Emily, Octavia, Bella and Prudence were some of her early works that I read over and over. It's funny to look back at them now, because they were written in the 70s when I was just a baby. And the covers? Well, they're so cheesy! But I bet the stories have lasted through the ages. I really must get copies so I can re-read and see what all the fuss was about!

Then of course, many books that I read were ones that I had no choice in the matter: books that were to be studied for school and later, college. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, Waiting for Godot, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Antony & Cleopatra, A Bend in the River, Death of a Salesman, Cold Comfort Farm, A Handmaid's Tale and so on. 

Out of all the books I had to read in school, there was only one that had a profound effect on me and that was Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. Perhaps because it was most unlike anything I'd ever read. It wasn't one of the traditional classics – this was a futuristic dystopian tale, much of it about sex. But I could never forget it and I have always said that this book influenced me in some way. Perhaps it subconsciously drove me to become an author in the first place? Maybe. 

I should add JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer to this list of authors who really have influenced me though. Being introduced to their urban fantasy tales led me to imagine my own crazy worlds and made me believe that I can write too. Made me believe in myself and that is all I can possibly ask for.

What authors have influenced you? And why? I asked some of the Armchair BEA bloggers this very question. Here is what they said...

Stephen King opened my eyes to more adult literature and a whole new world.  His honest views of the world and his ability to capture characters better than anyone I had ever read before inspired me to search for more and varied writing than I had previously ever read.
Lisa See and Khaled Hosseini opened my eyes to worlds far beyond my own. They both inspired me to read more globally.
Gregory Maguire helped me to step into other's shoes, and remind me that everyone has their own story. 
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Veronica Roth really influenced the way I write. Her style is so straightforward and clean. She also writes excellent articles about writing that have helped me, like her piece on writing character deaths. She's a major inspiration for me.
Sophia C of
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The authors that have influenced me are Agatha Christie and C.S. Lewis - for different reasons. As a just a reader and being a horrible writer, they influence me in life events versus writing styles and cadence.  
When I was in Middle School my mom FINALLY got the point that I was a reader and she should let me be when I was reading or left the family for alone time with a book and Agatha Christie bridged the gap between my mother and I at that point in my life. My mom was also a casual reader so she bought me two A.C. books - The Body in the Library (Miss Marple mystery) and I believe the second was Curtain (Hercule Poirot mystery). She explained that she really liked this author and the books were fun and kept her on her toes. That summer and on I have continued to read Agatha Christie books, and they always make me think of my mom.
As for C.S. Lewis, I know most find him influential for the Christian overtones in his work but The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has always been one of my favorite fantasy books for the magic. Even before I wanted a letter to appear from Hogwarts, I wanted to step into another world through something so ordinary. Fantasy is probably my favorite genre at this point and it all started with the magic of the Chronicles of Narnia (read out of order because The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe was the first I heard of).
Stephanie Turner of Cover2CoverBlog 
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For authors that influenced me I decided to go retro (in other words, way back to when I first started working for Youth Services in a library in 1986).  
Susan Cooper-Up until the age of 28 when I first started working at the library I was not a fantasy reader, then I read The Dark is Rising. Talk about being the key to the opening of that genre's door!
Martha Brooks-showed me the power of short stories and how they can be successfully used with teens. It was her book the Paradise Cafe and Other Stories that went on many a school visit with me and the same book that was grabbed by teens after I was done. 
Beth Goobie-taught me that there is a diverse group of readers out there who need the dark and gritty books that are written for teens in particular and that as a librarian I should never judge what book I think a young patron may want. One day I was shelf talking some books for a girl who was about thirteen or fourteen. As I went through the paper back spinners I kept coming across Beth Goobie's book The Dream Where Losers Go. which I had just read. It is a book about self harm. I thought oh, this patron is too young and doesn't seem like this book would interest her. Well, after the fourth time of coming across this book as we went through the spinners together I thought oh my goodness, book talk it. I did. The young girl immediately grabbed the book then pushed up her sleeves to show me her arms. As I looked at her scars, she explained she too used to have the same problem as the girl in the book.  
Twitter Handle:  @debamarshall 


Suzy Turner has worked as a journalist, assistant editor, features editor and magazine editor. Early in 2010 however, she began writing full time and has since completed six books for young adults: The Raven Saga trilogy and The Morgan Sisters series and a chick lit novel entitled Forever Fredless. Although Suzy is a Yorkshire lass at heart, she left her home town of Rotherham, UK, to move to Portugal with her family when she was ten. The Algarve continues to be her home, where she lives with her childhood sweetheart and husband of 15 years, Michael, their two neurotic dogs and a cat who thinks she's a princess.


  1. Wow, what a great post. I can relate to the some of your favorites. I loved reading To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Antony & Cleopatra, and Julius Ceaser in school. When I was a child I was addicted to the Little House on the Prairie series, the Sweet Valley High series and William Shakespeare. I loved the way the stories spoke to my heart. I can still remember the time I was in 5th grade and our teacher had asked everyone to write a letter to their favorite author. I wanted to write to the author of the Sweet Valley High series but another girl chose that author first. Man I was so jealous when the author wrote back to Angie and had given her two free books of her current releases, a book marker and a personalized letter with her signature on it. That event had such an impact on me because my author never wrote back to me. I learned at an early age the effect an author can have on a young mind. I try to remember that every time I come across a young reader with a thirst for writing. We, authors, are their heroes or heroines.

    1. Allison Bruning ... What a great assignment! I think I might personally assign this one to my own kids one of these days!

      It's so sad that the author did not write back to you. You are right ... at such a young age, authors really can give quite an impression. Heck, even as an adult, I think they can!

  2. I think any author you read influences you in a way- for good or for bad. The influential authors from my childhood include classics like LM Montgomery, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien, but one of my favorite influential authors as an adult is Lemony Snicket. From him, I learned a book can be flippant but still amazingly good.

  3. Thanks Allison! I also remember reading some of the Sweet Valley High books and loved them. They were perfect for whatever I was going through at that time of my life - just light and fun reading. I'd love to read some of them again to remind of those days. I'm sorry the author never wrote back to you... I can imagine that must have have made you quite upset, especially when you really wanted to write to the other author instead!!

  4. One of my most special books also was A Handmaid's Tale. So different from everything else I was reading at the time. I now am a great dystopia fan.

  5. I have been meaning to read Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale for ages. I am moving it up in my summer reading list - now. I will also add some of Jilly Cooper's books too.

    Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner had me in tears - while listening to the audiobook in the grocery store parking lot. I couldn't get out of the car.

    Aww. I remember those Sweet Valley High books, Allison and Suzy. LOL! I used to get them at my school's book fairs. Occasionally, I'll accuse someone of acting all "Sweet Valley High" about something or having a "Sweet Valley High" moment. The person usually has no idea what I am talking about.

  6. Love this post so much! Great job. I love eveyone's answers. Books are so wonderful :)

  7. Terrific post and responses. In high school, I was also quite influenced by Margaret Atwood... that was, I think, the first "adult" piece of fiction that I CHOSE to read on my own, rather than was required to read for English class. As an adult reader, Jane Austen, Barbara Kingsolver, John Irving, and Geraldine Brooks have all played a part in shaping my sense of what makes a wonderful book. More recently, Karen Russell, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, & Chris Bohjalian.