“If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Reading inspired me to write. The discovery of exciting new worlds, memorable characters and epic conflicts made me want to create my own. I wanted to bring as much enjoyment and pleasure to others as reading had brought to me.
From the moment I learned to read, words captivated me. They offered me imaginary worlds, characters I knew better than my friends, and exciting stories that brought me every emotion you could imagine. From books, I learned about life, friendship, courage, good, evil, and love.
The first books to grab my imagination and feed it with possibilities were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories. I wanted to join their adventures, to fight the bad guys and defeat evil, making a difference to the world.
The short stories I wrote for English homework mimicked these adventures, allowing my imagination to flourish.
The Narnia series by CS Lewis took me to more mystical worlds, where the fight between good and evil was much sharper as the future of mankind seemed to be at stake. For the first time I discovered betrayal and consequences, further feeding my developing imagination. Sitting in the attic of the house, I longed for a magic wardrobe, but had to make do with pen and paper.
The novel that changed my life
To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee had such a profound effect of me, I still find it almost impossible to put it into words today. Let’s just say it transformed the way I looked at the world.
I couldn’t believe that such ignorance and prejudice could exist in an educated world. I felt angry, driven to write my own novel that showed how education and working together would always defeat evil in any form it took.
I was 16 at the time, with little idea of how complex life could be, or how to get a book published, but I had to speak out.
Intellectual – don’t make me laugh
Harper Lee increased my appetite for more literary novels to feed my intellect. Tolkien and Aldous Huxley led me to Somerset Maugham to DH Lawrence to Graham Green and finally HE Bates. I enjoyed their stories and their different styles, but none captured my imagination or inspired me to write.
But Tom Sharpe did.
He blew my socks off with Riotous Assembly, which satirised the Apartheid regime in South Africa and reduced me to helpless laughter, often forcing me to read under the bedclothes so I didn’t wake anyone, with Wilt. He inspired me to write a humorous novel of my own. Though I couldn’t find a publisher that would take They Laughed at Noah, it remains one of my favourite novels and often begs me to revise and rewrite it for today’s readers.
A Joy to read
I continued to write as marriage and building a home took precedence, but nothing fired my imagination until I chanced on Joy Fielding’s See Jane Run. This psychological suspense story pulled me in with its terrific opening sentence and never let me go.
While I tried to write my own psychological suspense novels, I struggled with the plotting, failing to generate the suspense needed.
Then Colin Dexter and Agatha Christie came to my rescue, though I never read their books at the time. The TV adaptations of Inspector Morse and Miss Marple ignited a desire to write crime fiction. The shows taught me how to develop taut, complex plots alongside engaging characters. I still watch the shows today, always learning, always enjoying.
Despite the desire to write crime, and my newly acquired knowledge of plotting, I still struggled to produce memorable stories. It took one more book, or should I say series, to inspire me.
It’s as simple as ABC
Sue Grafton’s alphabet series blew my socks off.
I came across the first three novels in a compendium by a book club, which I ordered for free as part of an introductory offer. I had no idea what to expect and I didn’t know at the time that this book would become one of my most treasured possessions.
When I started A is for Alibi, featuring feisty Californian PI, Kinsey Millhone, I had never read another book like it. The first paragraph not only captured my imagination, it compelled me to write my own murder mystery novels.
Sue Grafton created something quite different and unique and showed me what was possible. Sadly, she died recently, not long after the publication of Y is for Yesterday, but as my own lead character, Kent Fisher, is a Kinsey Millhone fan, this wonderful author will never be far from my thoughts.
In Part Two, I’ll talk about some of the current authors who inspire and delight me.
If you want a sneak preview of who they might be, take a look at the Reviews page on my website, where I offer my thoughts on the books I read. You may find some of your favourite authors there.
And if a book or author inspired you, please tell me about it by leaving a comment below.