Monday, June 4, 2012

28 Day Blogging Challenge: A Chronology of My Life by Author

Who are the writers you most admire? Who are your writing mentors?
I think every book you read has an effect on you.  The best books are the ones that change the way you feel about yourself and your world.  They teach you how to be human.  Here are 10 authors who changed my life and had an undeniable effect on the writer (and person) I grew up to be.  In roughly chronological order...
  1. R.L. Stine.  Oh man.  I still remember the very first Goosebumps book I ever read.  It was The Haunted Mask and I was in 3rd grade and living in Vallejo, California.  I ate that book right up.  I already loved horror movies (my favorite films as a 3-year-old were Aliens and Arachnaphobia, don't ask me why) and the realization that I could read scary books was mind-blowing.  I spent an astonishing amount of my allowance on buying R.L. Stine books over the next two years.  I finally donated my collection to a thrift store, but I had an entire bookshelf full of Goosebumps and Fear Street titles, and that's not even counting the ones I'd gotten from the library.  
  2. K.A. Applegate.  When I quit reading Goosebumps, I started reading K.A. Applegate.  I actually remember exactly how this happened.  I was in sixth grade and we were in Antioch, California.  We were at the supermarket, which had a whole aisle of paperbacks, and I used to peruse the books while my mom was shopping because I could usually convince her to let me have one book.  The only two options in my age group were Goosebumps and Animorphs, and there was nothing new for me in Goosebumps.  So I read Animorphs, and became so exceptionally addicted.  I read the entire series.  I also donated those books, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of the three "Chronicles" books because they're that good.  Words cannot express the hurt and betrayal I felt about the later books being "packaged" by ghostwriters.  
  3. Madeline L'Engle.  I think I first read A Wrinkle in Time in fifth grade.  I got a copy from the library in Ignacio, Colorado.  I pretty much devoured the book.  It didn't just entertain me, it introduced me to a whole wide world of knowledge and essentially restructured everything I had ever believed about reality.  It single-handedly fueled my obsession with time travel.  I read all of the other books in the series, and several of her other books as well.  
  4. Richard Peck.  I think I started reading Richard Peck in fifth grade.  The first book of his I read was Voices After Midnight and he had a massive amount of influence on my later writing.  He wrote these great books that were simultaneously heart-felt, scary and laugh-out-loud hilarious.  They were genre-defying and strange and I ate them up.   He compiled a book of poetry, Mindscapes, which was the first time I ever thought I could read poetry. 
  5. William Golding.  I read Lord of the Flies in sixth grade.  I got it from the library in Aztec, New Mexico, and I read it as a part of a Boys & Girls Club summer reading challenge (which I won).  I read a lot of great books for that, but Lord of the Flies was almost a religious experience.  I read it in three days, and as soon as I finished the last page I flipped back to Page 1 and started it all over again.  In the following year, I would check the book out of the library every few months, and I was always the last person to have had it. 
  6. Robert Cormier.  I think I was in sixth or seventh grade when I first read The Chocolate War.  It was another of those eye-opening, mind-blowing experiences.  I voraciously consumed every Robert Cormier book I could get my hands on.  I was very angst-filled in my middle-school years, and Robert Cormier's books validated and justified that angst while elevating it to high art.  I'm hard-pressed to think of anything more beautiful and tragic and brutal and real than a Robert Cormier book.  
  7. Stephen King.  It took me a long time to start reading adult books. Not because I wasn't reading at a high enough level -- I most definitely was -- but because my mom was very nervous about me reading "adult content."  I didn't have the heart to tell her about the rapes, language, violence, murder and general depravity in the Richard Peck and Robert Cormier books.  Anyway.  My mom decided I was ready for "grown-up" books in seventh grade, and she gave me a battered copy of Four Past Midnight that she'd gotten off the paperback rack at the Aztec Public Library.  I read the shit out of that book.  Then I found every other Stephen King book I could find in any library and read the shit out of them, too.  
  8. Neil Gaiman.  My freshman year of high school, I ended up in regular English, despite being over-qualified for the honors program, because I had been home-schooled and they didn't really believe that I'd be advanced enough.  Well, needless to say, I was really, really bored, and my teacher recognized that immediately.  She put me on "independent study" which meant I could read whatever I wanted in class and work on writing stories if I wanted to.  She also lent me a copy of Neverwhere and that was life-changing.  Neil Gaiman is to this day one of my favorite authors.  
  9. J.K. Rowling.  I was a late-comer to the Harry Potter world.  I somehow managed to miss the books entirely when they came out (probably because, as you can see, I was reading out of libraries and seemed unable to read anything published after 1989) and once it came into view, I didn't want to jump on the popular bandwagon.  Nevertheless, at a friend's urging, I read the first book my junior year of high school.  When I graduated later that year (I graduated early) I got a box set of the first four books with some of my graduation money.  I was totally hooked.  I re-read the series every year and despite having read The Deathly Hallows numerous times it still makes me bawl like a baby.  
  10. Barbara Gowdy.  I actually read The White Bone sometime last year.  I'd never heard of Barbara Gowdy before that, but she makes the list because I finished that book with the same mind-blown, "my life will never be the same again" feeling I had when I read all of these other authors.  I've recommended that book to everyone, and I can't seem to shut up about it.  I want to read her entire backlist, but it's surprisingly hard to find the books in the library.  It's a shame.  She does things with language that I think might be alchemy.  I don't know how the hell she does it but it's pure magic to read.  
Of course, there are countless more authors who I love and who impacted my life...but I've gone on quite long enough already.  


  1. I loved reading your list of authors and books (partly because I have read all of thesebooks and authors too). :) I found it really difficult to name specific authors and books because I read SO MUCH all the time. There are so many wonderful authors out there and you have touched on some of them here. :)

    1. I don't read nearly as much as I did as a kid, and I really regret that. I need to set aside more time each day to read more contemporary stuff. I'm very behind the times!

      Thanks for dropping by :) It's good to see other people with similar reading habits!