Books can influence our reading, our writing, and our lives. When you open the cover of a book, you enter a new world; when you close it, you might have a new outlook on the world around you.
Want to know who inspired YOUR favorite author to become a writer? Keep reading!
I asked authors to name books they recently read and enjoyed as well as their favorite classic and contemporary authors. "Tell me whose books you devoured as a kid," I said, "or whose novels you collect now as an adult." I also asked each author whose writing career he or she would most like to emulate.
"Strictly speaking, Stephen King was a major influence
on my writing -- because reading his book On Writing
inspired me to actually finish the first draft of my
book. I've always loved Roald Dahl -- 'the ordinary
kid, otherworldly situation' aspect has colored my
writing tremendously. Stylistically, I love Paula
Danziger -- her characters are so honest, and her
writing is so clean and unaffected. I can't leave out
Laura Ingalls Wilder, either -- I re-read her entire
series about a hundred billion times, and from her
storytelling, I hope I learned a bit about
world-building and setting up scenes without going
overboard. Jane Austen brought out the romantic in me,
and Ayn Rand opened my eyes to the fact that a story
can be about an idea -- not just a chronicle of
events, but serving some larger purpose. My larger
purpose has turned out to be showing teen girls that
they don't have to drink, do drugs, diet, covet name
brands, act dumb, and pander to boys, just because
those things seem to be all that's expected of them.
At least I hope that's how it comes across!"
- Katie Alender, author of Bad Girls Don't Die (coming out in April 2009)
"The first book I truly remember reading was The
Outsiders by S.E. Hinton when I was thirteen. I
absolutely went crazy over this book, I think because
it was so far from what I knew in my very middle-class
upbringing. It was a whole world with struggles and
obstacles I knew nothing about. Today, I have a real
addiction to books and I basically stick with modern
stuff. For me, the trifecta of YA authors are Sarah
Dessen, Maureen Johnson, and Meg Cabot. These are
authors I wish I were like in different ways -Sarah's
heart, Maureen's wit and Meg's sass. These girls rock
my bookshelf. And, truthfully, I wouldn’t say one
author inspired me to be a writer. I read shamefully
little until I was in college, but writing was
something I always instinctively knew I was good at,
even when I didn’t know what to write."
- Taylor Morris, author of Total Knockout: Tale of an Ex-Class President
"My favorite author as a teen was VC Andrews. She
introduced me to dark and suspenseful fiction, and
created stories that made me feel. My favorite
contemporary teen fiction authors are Sarah Dessen and
Rachel Caine just to name a couple. I enjoy these
authors for different reasons. Sarah Dessen can bring
me into someone's life as if I know the characters
personally, and Rachel Caine has me speeding through
her adventures and always leaves me wanting more. And
really there are so many more I could list."
- Kelly Parra, author of Invisible Touch
"Francesca Lia Block [is] the queen of the modern
fairy tale. Without her and her words, a recent
discovery, I would know that my work has a place in
this world...and my memoir fairytale soon will be."
- Jennifer Sky Band, author of A Model Life: A True Fairy Tale (not yet published)
"Judy Blume was the one who inspired me. Sometimes I
wondered if she had a secret hidden camera following
me around. How else could she understand me so well?
Her characters were like the big sisters I wished I
had. They answered my questions, led by example, and
were just as imperfect as me. As an adult, I still
love Judy's books. I also love Kate DiCamillo, Jack
Gantos, Sharon Creech, and, more recently, Linda Urban
and Lauren Tarshis. My goal in writing is to honestly
portray kids, to make my readers laugh or cry, and to
help them see themselves or the world around them in a
- Brenda Ferber, author of Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire
"When I was 13, I wrote two fan letters. One to the
Nancy Drew author and the other to Margaret Sutton,
[who] wrote 38 Judy Bolton mysteries. Obviously
Carolyn Keene never wrote back, but Margaret did, and
I was so excited by her long typed letter that I
carried it around school and still treasure it -- plus
the 30 years of additional letters/cards. Margaret
came to my high school graduation party and years
later we co-wrote the 'one more Judy mystery' that
fans begged for. When I was 14, I wrote of my dream to
be a series book author, and in my early 30's, this
dream came true with my first original series. While I
would love to have a long series, I think I want to
create short series that excited readers like Tamora
Pierce, Scott Westerfeld and Margaret Peterson Haddix
and Meg Cabot. Also, that series book passion as a
teen carried over to a huge book collection from Anne
of Green Gables to Trixie Belden to Zanballer. When my
series collection hit around 5,000 books, I had to
create a separate room as a library in my home."
- Linda Joy Singleton, author of The Seer series
"My favorite classic authors are Jack London, Stoker,
Shelley, and Poe. I'm torn on Dickens. Some of it I
think is interminably boring, but then there are
things like A Tale of Two Cities, which I love.
Favorite contemporary authors - far too many to name,
but I can list a few. My favorite mainstream writer is
John Irving, hands down. Out of genre (though it's a
subgenre all its own, I think), I love Poppy Z.
Brite's G-Man and Rickey books set in the New Orleans
restaurant scene. In mystery: James Lee Burke, Dennis
Lehane, Walter Mosley, Ken Bruen, Don Winslow, Carol
O'Connell, early James Ellroy, and Joe Lansdale. In
fantasy, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Robert
Holdstock, Tim Powers, and Tolkien, of course, if you
count him as contemporary. In horror, Stephen King,
Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Graham Joyce, Mike Carey,
Joe Hill, and, again, Joe Lansdale."
- Christopher Golden, author of Poison Ink
"As a young reader, I was a great fan of Judy Blume.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was my favorite
of her middle grades, Tiger Eyes my favorite of her
YAs. Although I've used third person for younger
readers, I seem to always go with first person for
tweens-teens, and I'm sure Judy's writing is a big
part of the reason why. I also read most of the
Newbery books, and of those, my favorite was The Witch
From Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, a book
much about the love of reading. Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson was the one that probably most
influenced by own writing. Sometimes I think my [book]
Rain Is Not My Indian Name was a response to her
friendship/grief arc, asking what happens after that
first step toward healing. More recently, the YAs that
influenced me most were Thirsty by MT Anderson and
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause."
- Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize
"When I was younger, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume
were my favorite contemporary authors. An author I've
recently discovered who inspires me is Allison van
Diepen. As for classics, I adore Oscar Wilde and
- Wendy Toliver, author of The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren
"As a child, I LOVED Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.
Lewis Carroll was right up there, too. But I'd have to
say Stephen King was the author who made me really
want to be a writer. He had such a down-to-earth
style, and what a storyteller. Today I find myself
gravitating towards essay and memoir writers - David
Sedaris, Haven Kimmel, Suzanne Finnamore, Jen
Lancaster, Paul Feig; as for novelists, I adore
Jonathan Tropper, Shannon Olson, & Jennifer Belle."
- Jess Riley, author of Driving Sideways
"As a teen, I loved Robert Cormier, John Irving, Anne
Tyler and Stephen King. When I was younger, I adored
Katherine Paterson and Constance C. Greene."
- Jo Knowles, author of Jumping Off Swings (coming in 2009)
"Growing up, I devoured everything Beverly Cleary,
Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder . . . the usual
suspects. And later, Margaret Atwood and Stephen King.
Of the contemporary stuff, I love MT Anderson -- I
think he does a great job of writing very compulsively
readable stuff while still giving the story heft and
meaning. No easy feat. E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski,
Dan Ehrenhaft . . . There's so much good stuff out
there, there's no way I could fit it all into one
measly little comment!"
- Micol Ostow, author of GoldenGirl: A Bradford Novel
"As a kid, I loved Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh,
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop, Wait
Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn, Magic Elizabeth
by Norma Kassirer, and Anastasia Krupnik by Lois
Lowry. I also liked a lot of series I turn my nose up
at nowadays: The Baby-Sitters Club, Christopher Pike,
and Sunfire Romances. Now my faves tend to be authors
I admire as much as enjoy: Donna Jo Napoli, Richard
Peck, Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, Shannon Hale,
Gary D. Schmidt, Anne Lamott, Bill Bryson. I'm pretty
darn sure there isn't any one book that inspired me to
become a writer. (I have issues with the notion of
"inspiration" anyway -- it sounds too magical and
instantaneous somehow.) I am completely nuts about
Donna Jo Napoli's books, though. I think they showed
me there was indeed a market for the kind of stories I
liked best: the kind I hoped to write myself. As for
whose career I'd like to emulate? I sure wouldn't mind
following Richard Peck's path of writing perfectly
decent books and then suddenly writing GREAT books.
Lois Lowry's breadth of talent is amazing. She's
basically an ICON, so that's a nice daydream. How
about I bring up Donna Jo Napoli again: steady
writing, steady sales, devoted fans. Tough to beat."
- Sarah Miller, author of Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller
"My all-time favorite children's book -- the one that
I wrote about in my college essay and I swear, it got
me into Stanford -- was and is The Phantom Tollbooth.
I also loved Edward Eager, Maud Hart Lovelace - I love
Betsy-Tacy - Paula Danziger, and of course, Judy
Blume. My kids inspired me to become a writer. There
it is, plain and simple. My kids. And now, my readers.
Especially those who I've met at inner city high
schools who tell me that they really *get* my stories,
and that just inspires me to work even harder for
them. I think K.L. Going is our modern day
Shakespeare. She's so authentic and compelling. I
would buy anything written by her. It would be
wonderful to have a career as long and enduring as
Judy Blume or E.L. Koenigsburg, to be able to touch
generations of readers. And for me personally, to show
the kids who need stories the most that they can
author their own happy endings."
- Justina Chen Headley, author of North of Beautiful (February 2009)
"Oh! The Phantom Tollbooth. How much did I/do I love
that book? Read it a zillion times as a kid and read
aloud to my own kids a couple of years ago. From that
book I took the notion that stories can go anywhere at
all. And that language is a toy to be played with.
Other faves, then and now: A Wrinkle in Time and Jane
Eyre. Both center on extraordinary, flawed but deeply
principled heroines who prevail because of who they
are at their core, not because they are cute or
someone rescues them."
- Maryrose Wood, author of My Life: The Musical
"In childhood, I devoured Nancy Drew, Mrs.
Piggle-Wiggle, Miss Pickerell, The Wonderful Flight to
the Mushroom Planet, The Boxcar Children, and Island
of the Blue Dolphins. Then, during my teen years:
House of Stairs, Interstellar Pig, The Stand, and The
Thorn Birds. Who inspires me now? My fellow
readergirlz divas, of course: Justina Chen Headley,
Dia Calhoun, Mitali Perkins, and founding diva Janet
Lee Carey. Also, Karen Hesse, Kate DiCamillo, Ellen
Hopkins, Markus Zusak, and John Green. My latest rave
is Looks by Madeleine George. It's amazing!"
- Lorie Ann Grover, author of On Pointe
"As a teen, I was hugely influenced by Ray Bradbury,
Douglas Adams, Stephen King, Robert Heinlein and Anne
Tyler. I also devoured Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, and
Wharton. I didn't read many teen books as a teen,
primarily because my parents always let me read from
their collection - which is why I read Thomas Tryon
when I was in sixth grade! Ooh, I'm probably still
screwed up because of that. I still read everything
Tyler and King write as well as Elizabeth Berg, Binnie
Kirshenbaum, Michael Chabon, and Umberto Eco. When
they have new books out, I am all OVER them."
- C. Leigh Purtill, author of All About Vee
"I vote for E.L. Konigsburg, too. From the Mixed-Up
Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was absolutely
magical for me, and my twin sister loved Jennifer,
Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.
My neighbor is her relative, and she laughs at me
because when she tells me they're going to visit her
for holidays, I swoon."
- Julia DeVillers, author of How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller
"My favorite children's author and the one I'd most
like to emulate is Katherine Paterson. While I admire
so many of her books, including Bridge to Terabithia
and Jacob Have I Loved, the one I studied to learn the
craft of writing was The Great Gilly Hopkins. That
novel made me laugh and cry, what I hope my readers
will do too."
- Carmela Martino, author of Rosa, Sola
"I'm a re-reader, so the books I loved most I read
over and over again, and continue to read. I sometimes
worry they're buried so deeply in my head I'm
plagiarizing. Edward Eager was a huge influence, but
also Betty MacDonald - how I loved Mrs. Piggle
Wiggle's Magic! - and my absolute touchstone, James
Thurber's The 13 Clocks. Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis are
must haves - is there anyone who doesn't list those? -
as well as White's The Once and Future King. My
current favorites are Ellen Potter's Olivia Kidney and
Victoria Forrester's new book, The Girl Who Could Fly.
- Laurel Snyder, author of Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains
"As a kid, I loved A.A. Milne -- the gentle humor and
the plays on words in the Pooh books. As a teenager, I
loved James Herriot -- again, deadpan humor. And a
rich sense of place. Now one of my favorites is Terry
Pratchett. Quirky humor this time. And dead-on sense
of story and characters. Hmm . . .I seem to be a
lifelong Anglophile. I don't know whose career I would
emulate. I guess just any author who can make enough
from writing to be able to keep writing."
- Stacy DeKeyser, author of Jumping the Cracks
How about you? Have you ever read a book and then almost immediately written your own story - or been moved to create something like a song or a piece of art?
This piece was written in July 2008 for The Edge of the Forest, a children's literature monthly.