The Ten Books That Changed My Life
Let’s just get one thing straight here. I could never pick just ten. I’m not saying that every book changes my life, but it’s always something I’m aware of, when I pick up a new book: the shimmering possibility. And you never know which book has changed your life, until you look back on your life and see the pattern in it: where someone else changed the way you thought, changed what you wanted and what you did next. But I thought I could have a stab at talking about the books that changed my life in a way that influenced me to write the Lynburn Legacy series.
The Night World series by L.J. Smith
If I have to pick just one of the series I pick… Daughters of Darkness by L.J. Smith. (Three vampire sisters seek freedom! Their playboy vampire brother seeks them. Their next-door neighbor is not seeking him, but wouldn’t you know it.) In this series, you discover your soulmate through touching them, mainly, at which point you visualize a connection between you two or sometimes read their mind. It was the first but not the last time I saw reading someone’s mind be presented as romantic, and I thought to myself, eventually… I can see how it’s romantic. To be truly loved is to be truly known. But I can also see how it would be horrific. I wouldn’t want anyone to read my mind, ever. I certainly do not think anyone reading my mind would ever be able to keep any romantic notions about me alive. Imagine my beloved staring into my soul and thinking ‘SARAH! Cuddle Time is not meant to be the time you work out a plot twist!’ No thank you. I saw books and shows and movies where mind-reading was horrific, but I never saw the intersection between romance and horror that I wanted, where both the wonderful and terrible sides were shown, and where in talking about that you could talk about romance itself—how it sometimes swallows you up and sometimes saves you, how it can be toxic or true. And you know what they say: write the books you want to read. Now, Daughters of Darkness also mentions Pride and Prejudice, which is where we move to the books which have romances in them I particularly enjoyed…
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
(Awesome lady does not seek proud rich bachelor. Wait. Awesome lady is reconsidering based on extensive grounds at Pemberley.)
The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
(Your little brother is enchanted, so you go to the witch who is a prefect at your school. He is surprised you are not there because of his manly charms. His family are surprised to have a witch who has manly charms.)
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
(First you get turned into an old lady. Then you take up residence in a handsome evil wizard’s castle. This is a day full of surprises.)
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
(Crime-loving lady seeks innocent victim for scam. No, wait. Crime-loving lady seeks crime-loving lady.)
I may have even written up summaries of the romances of these characters here: http://sarahtales.livejournal.com/157724.html
Bet Me by Jenny Crusie
(A dude is offered a bet on whether he can sleep with a lady. He certainly does not accept the bet because he is not a LOATHSOME TOAD. However, when he approaches her, she heard the bet and thinks he has accepted it, and really, what does it matter what scheme she cooks up for a LOATHSOME TOAD?)
I talk a little bit about loving romance, and specifically the romance in this book: http://sarahtales.livejournal.com/143949.html
These are all stories which have romances between clever characters who have, from the start, really great dialogue together… but who need to learn how to talk to each other so they can both understand each other. Whether they’re deliberately deceiving each other or just coming from very different places, this move from wit between relative strangers (because I want it to be interesting from the first) to true communication is the best kind of romance, for me. Tell me about the fire in their loins… well, okay, I believe you, congratulations you guys, but I’m not that interested. Tell me the words, and I will come to understand what the words mean just as the characters do.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
(Girl meets house. House is full of secrets. Girl meets man. Man is full of secrets and bad ideas. Girl flees from house and man onto moors. Moors have fewer secrets but are not great places to live.)
My first Gothic novel that I thought of as a Gothic novel: a mystery, with moors, an old family home, old family secrets, and the fear of madness and being trapped.
I may have written my thoughts up on this further in Jane Eyre, or The Bride of Edward Crazypants Rochester:
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A book that I loved and then later realized was a Gothic novel (a mystery, moors, an old family home, old family secrets)… except perhaps because it’s a Gothic novel for children, there’s hope in it for everyone.
(Girl meets house. House is full of secrets and a screaming person. Girl leaves house sharpish and finds a super nice garden. Girl locates screaming person and takes him to the garden as well. If only Mr Rochester had been more into gardening.)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
(A famous detective meets an admiring doctor. Together, they solve a crime. It seems familiar but it’s not.)
As you can see from both this selection, and from a couple of others, I love the structure of a puzzle—solving a crime, working something out. I love characters who are dedicated to a cause (whether it be seeking truth and justice, vengeance, or the quest for a quick buck) and who are working toward it. I love a story that will surprise me but more than that, I love characters who will sweep me along as they charge forward in their stories. So, I wanted to write a series about magic, crime-solving, determined characters and romance that was both awful, wonderful and maybe a little thoughtful. I can’t say whether I succeeded. Only you can tell me that, dear reader! I do hope one of my books changes somebody’s life, one of these days. Might be yours.