One of the blogs I follow recently did a Bookshelf Tag (in her case, it was a Movie Shelf Tag), and it got me thinking about the power of stories and books, in particular. I discovered that the books that inspire me aren’t usually the ones that introduced me to a genre, while the ones that influence me are hopefully only the best.

Books that Inspire
Oddly enough, the books that inspire me aren’t always good books. They are often of poor quality, or flawed but with an interesting idea or characters, because they urge me to write, telling me “You can do better than this!” When I get frustrated with what other authors put out there, I turn back to the resources of my own pen. An example of this would be the love triangle of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and Queen Guinevere. It’s been done a great many times, but I still look at that story and the emotions and think “I need to retell this thing.”

Besides this, though, I generally get inspired by the flavor of the characters more than stories themselves, so much of my inspiration comes from music, which has distilled these flavors into auditory melodies: sad, desperate, gloriously happy, longing, poignant.

Books that Introduce
I am indebted to a number of books that introduced me to my writing genres. I’ve loved historical fiction ever since I was introduced to it as a girl (through the American Girl series), but it wasn’t until I read works like The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Phantastes that I embraced the fantasy genre. Ender’s Game was my introduction to science fiction, and The Green and the Gray tempered this with fantasy, showing me that you could mix the two into a fascinating story.

Books that Influence
This is a category that steadily grows, as I encounter more good books. My writing is hugely indebted to Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Charlotte Brontë, Georgette Heyer, William Shakespeare, and so many others for their love of language, their dialogue, and their use of descriptive language. For making me stop and listen when I might otherwise pass by, never bothering to understand why people act the way they do, or how people feel, or why.

Even classic authors that I didn’t especially love (Milton, Jonson, Richardson, Edgeworth, Burney, etc.) helped me understand the great creativity of my favorites, showing me the literary world in which they wrote, and for that, I am also indebted.

What about you? What books inspire you? Which ones introduced you to the genre you call home, and which ones influenced your writing?

Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren

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