The Books that Made Me

Over time, much of what we read can’t help but impact our writing skills

Reading has been a big part of my life since I was able to do it. I don’t remember the exact age, but I remember the book.

The first book I read by myself

A Little Golden Book called Where’s Goldie was it for me. I could read it all by myself and I let everyone know it. I read it several times a day, day after day. I still have it, back cover and maybe the last page are missing. I read it to my little girl when the time came. It’s a special book and I hold it dear.

Now, it wasn’t much of a mind bender or a book that got you to think, but it did start that spark of wondering what other books were out there and what other adventure could I find?

Once I started school and was able to check out books from the library, I checked out the same book everytime. It was a book about kittens called Kittens Are Like That. Every library trip I’d check that book out until someone told me I couldn’t anymore. The absolute kicker of that story is my daughter brought the book home from the library last year and I laughed and cried at the same time.

Let’s fast forward a little to works that actual formed me as a writer. A lot of things have inspired my writings, but some books in particular left a large mark.

The Baby Sitters Club Series

Anyone who knows me personally knows I’ve had a decades long obsession with The BSC. I don’t remember which book got me first, but I do remember falling in love and reading as many of them as I possibly could. I’d save my allowance and buy nothing but the latest books. My Nana would spend summers up north and she loved going to flea markets and yard sales, so every year I’d make her a list of the books I needed. I’d wait on pins and needles for her to come home in the fall and see what books she brought for me.

Once I got a job – big goal alert – I had to own the entire series. I scoared Ebay for months and eventually bought every book in The BSC cataloge. And I love them. They are currently shelved in my daughter’s room.

Now why did these books shape who I am as a writer? When I read ( and now when I write) I love imagining myself within the story. As a tween I could easily relate to the baby sitters and imagine being in their world. It was easy and FUN to escape with them to camp at Shadow Lake or try and solve a mystery of a haunted house that had a ghost! It was so easy to jump right in and imagine the Baby Sitters Club as your friends. I think that has carried on with my into my writing; I want my readers to be able to relate and jump into the life of the character and play along.

The BSC books that had a little mystery to them were always some of my favorites and I’d read them over and over again. However, my favorite Baby Sitters Club book is MaryAnne and the Memory Garden. This book knocked me on my thirteen year old butt. The book deals with the Club and the sudden loss of a classmate in a car crash. Now, I’m not going to lie. This is partly where my taste for writing car crashes and tragedy comes from. I reread this book over and over again, back to back to back. It fascinated me, the intricate workings of losing someone at a young age – someone your own age! Huge, huge impact on me then and even now.

Jane Eyre

I got my hands on a copy of the classic novel, Jane Eyre, at some point in middle school and lost my mind. Imagine yourself as a thirteen or fourteen year old girl reading about the trials and tribulations of young Jane and how she fought and overcame so much! And, oh, she falls in love with this way older guy and oh (SPOILER ALERT) finds his crazy wife hidden away and locked in the attic? Hell yes! This novel took my mind to all kinds of weird places – maybe places it wasn’t ready to go, but it’s what happened. This will, hands down, forever by my favorite novel.

The back and forth between Jane and Rochester and the push and pull of the dialoge and relationship peaked my interest in the dynamics of a lead relationship. It may not be the best to form a foundation on, but damn it was a good one.

Sandra Brown

As a young twenty something, I worked in our local Dollar Tree store. It was an easy job for a decent amount of money. I was a cashier, then a third key manager for a few months until I got demoted back to a cashier. It wasn’t a particularly hard job, but I enjoyed talking with customers and my coworkers more than the physical aspects of the job.

One coworker was an avid reader and suggested I read a book she had just finished. She said it was right up my alley – a little bit of mystery, some intrigue, a star-crossed, albeit so, so wrong lead relationship. I was in. She handed over a hard back copy of Sandra Brown’s A Kiss Remembered.

I ingested this book in no time flat. It was the first I had ever heard of Sandra Brown and the first book I had ever read with that level of intesity. If you aren’t familar with Sandra Brown, her books tend to be spicy on top of spicy at points. For years I tore into every Sandra Brown book I could get my hands on.

She writes her relationships a little differently than I do, but I like how easily her characters related to each other. Most of the relationships she writes also have a form of a forbidden quality to them, which I love. I haven’t written much like that, but it does factor in to how I formulate the relationships I create.

Kate Morton

Another friend, in another job, my current job, gifted me a Kate Morton novel many years ago. I had never heard of Kate Morton or her work and when I read the book jacket, I thought “Hmm”. This had some mystery and intrigue, but also had historical threads through it and that wasn’t really on my radar at this time. I had been in quite a reading drought at this time in my past – like, I hadn’t read a book in a over a year. I know. Unacceptable.

The book I was gifted was The Lake House. I didn’t read it right away, but once I did, I was hooked. Kate Morton is my current favorite author. I own all her books and I have one left I haven’t read that I’m saving. Reading her work is a totally immersive expierence for me and I savior that. I get completely drawn into the story, the characters, to all that is going on. Her work is the type of book that you put down and you have to take a minute and THINK about where and when you are. Her novel The Forgotten Garden is my #1 for that reason – while reading it, I was in the novel, brushing aside the dust, feeling the excitement of unearthing this forgotten place, piecing together a mystery. Putting the book down was like gasping for air or coming back to reality. I aspire to transport readers like that. I want you to put down my book and not know where the heck you are because you were so wrapped up in this other journey.

Whether you read and write, or just one or the other, books affect the way you move forward. Good stories leave you giddy and excited to start the next. Amazing stories leave lasting marks that you may not even realize.

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