No, it’s not a Thursday thirteen, but then it’s not Thursday either. I’m blogging on a Tuesday so I’m working with the material I’ve got. I decided to do the twelve works of fiction I think have been most influential on my life and writing:
1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien – I read it while in college in the early 70s and it blew me away with the richness and scope of its worlds, the variety of its characters, and the intricately woven plot.
2. All of the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout – My father had these in his library and I devoured them in my early teens. I blame them for my lifelong interest in mysteries.
3. All of Agatha Christie’s books – ditto the above.
4. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke – The first science fiction novel I can remember reading, also during my teenage years. It was a mind-bending experience and was responsible for my enduring interest in that genre.
5. Madam Will You Talk, Mary Stewart – the rest of her books also, but this was the first one I read and I fell in love with the romantic suspense genre.
6. The Devil Vicar (later re-released as The Vicar of Moura - blech!), Virginia Coffman. A little-known and forgotten novel that introduced me to the world of Gothic romances, somewhere in my teenage years. Creepy atmosphere, strong heroine with a sense of humor, charming but tortured hero--with secrets, of course. Another genre to love.
7. Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen – Wow, real literature could include romance, humor, and irony, and just be fun to read!
8. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens – Loved the characters, the tone, the plot, and the fact that Dickens didn’t feel obliged to make it a tragedy. Sparked my discovery that I really liked the Victorian novelists.
9. Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope – Led to my reading all the Trollope novels I could get my hands on. Great characters, amazing plot depth, a feeling of real truth in the people and situations.
10. MacBeth, William Shakespeare. Read it in high school lit class where we were blessed with Mrs. Kane, an English teacher who knew how to make literature come alive. She read it aloud and we saw a performance of it that finally showed me what everyone saw in Shakespeare. Magnificent characters, terrible dilemmas, wrong choices, and dire consequences. And witches and ghosts, too. Who knew Shakespeare wrote paranormal?
11. Ammie, Come Home, Barbara Michaels. It was the first of her books I read but I then tore through all the others I could get my hands on. Gothic with a more modern twist. Strong, intelligent female characters who didn’t do stupid things for the sake of the plot. Brooding heroes with real problems. And paranormal elements! Ammie, Come Home remains one of the scariest ghost stories I’ve ever read, but it’s combined with a lovely romance (actually two, but one is less developed) featuring interesting and very different characters.
12. Only a Whisper, Gail Wilson. I’d all but given up on reading series romances until I found this gem. It breaks a lot of rules. The heroine (and readers) don’t get to see the hero’s face until halfway through the story. The h/h aren’t together for stretches of the book. The hero is morally ambiguous for a lot of the story. With all that, the story still grabbed me by the throat almost from the first word and refused to let go until it reached its marvelous ending. I’d rate it among the best romances I’ve ever read.
What books helped shape your current reading and writing?
-- Karen McCullough