View Full Version : The book/author that "started it all"?

10-18-2006, 05:20 AM
For me, I was about 9 and it was R.L. Stine's, "The Babysitter". I knew I wanted to be a writer from then on out.

How about you?

10-18-2006, 05:53 AM
This is a fav. topic here in the cooler. Comes up in various forms every once in a while. That's a good thing, since so many people visit.

The writer who started it all: ROALD DAHL. He gave me my ability to jump off the reality cliff. I wanted to give that back to somebody else. I knew when I was just old enough to read that I wanted to be a writer.

The books that started it all: The Chrysalids/Any Dahl Book/A Separate Peace

10-18-2006, 05:56 AM
Mercedes Lackey, Magic's Pawn I was about 13. It wasn't because it was the best book or she was the best writer in the world. It was just that it was the kind of book I wanted to write (gay romance + high fantasy) and there is was in my corner store in small town New Zealand. It showed me I wasn't a freak for wanting to read that sort of story, that women out there wrote it and big publishers published it.

10-18-2006, 06:13 AM
Raymond Chandler's "Playback".

10-18-2006, 06:59 AM
"The Borrowers" by Mary Norton. I didn't start writing down the stories until several years later, but after reading that book (maybe 5th grade) for the first time, I became obsessed with the idea of tiny people living around us. I drew maps of their homes, gave the families names, and made up stories about them in my head.

It was two years before I actually put pen to paper, but "The Borrowers" lit those first sparks.

10-18-2006, 07:01 AM
A Wrinkle in Time for me.
That made me interested in creating stories that could take the reader someplace else.

Soccer Mom
10-18-2006, 07:06 AM
I discovered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden when I was about eight or nine and fell in love with mystery/suspense.

Simon Woodhouse
10-18-2006, 07:36 AM
Mine's not a book I read as a child, but rather a novel I chose one day at random from a bookshop shelf – The Five Gates Of Hell by Rupert Thomson.

10-18-2006, 08:49 AM
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was in the second grade. I wanted to make people feel like she made me feel when I read that book. Also, the Betsy-Tacy and Tib books at around the same time. I lived in the library during the summers at that time.

10-18-2006, 04:27 PM
People here have already hit two of my three favorites that "started it all":

1. Little House in the Big Woods (actually, the entire Little House series, especially the food descriptions. Little House ignited my love for food writing)

2. Charlotte's Web

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

10-18-2006, 04:32 PM
I discovered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden when I was about eight or nine and fell in love with mystery/suspense.

Ditto. I was a huge Trixie Belden junkie, and wished I could have written some of them.

10-18-2006, 04:32 PM
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh started my journal writing.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch made me consider branching out my writing to an audience.

10-18-2006, 04:42 PM
To Kill A Mockingbird

Class Reading in 10th grade and to that point I wasn't really a major reader (and thus not a writer either). We started it and it was OK but nothing that lit my fire. But this thing drew me in, demanded to be read. Insisted that I care about this precocious kid, her brother and the weird kid next-door. Half the book left and I consumed it. I was moved by the compassion of Atticus, stunned by the court verdict and when the news came in from the prison I felt like I had been physically hit in the gut.

And even then I didn't get it.

It took me a second reading to understand it. To learn about themes. To get that the story you tell is not always the story you write.

In some ways, it breaks my heart that Harper Lee wrote just one book. But man, what a book!

10-18-2006, 04:53 PM
The Honey Bunch series by Helen Louise Thorndyke (or whoever was writing as Thorndyke)

I read them in 2nd grade and knew I needed to write.

10-18-2006, 06:54 PM
I don't have a particular story that kicked me off into the writing world. Before I could read and write my imagination created various stories, my mother read to me every night and I learned through her to love the written word. When I could read on my own I read as much as I could. In second grade I read over a thousand books for a book worm club. In third grade I read Trumpet of the Swan as my first novel length book and loved it. After reading that one I couldn't read smaller and simpler books as much, I wanted those fuller stories. I started reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, reading all but one in both of the original series and most in the newer ones. That's a lot of books! Then I delved into Anne McCaffery. I fell in love with dragons at that point with her Pern Series.

Then we read A Wrinkle in Time in fourth grade, the imagery in that book is a beauty in and of itself. After that I started ready Michael Critchon, John Grisham, and Mary Higgens Clark. And it spread out from there, I read widely, touching upon most genres and found I loved them all. I had been writing poetry and short stories, having one published when I was ten, as well as three composition books compliments of teachers. I started my first novel when I was twelve. I look back and it was a sad attempt, but it wasn't all horrible. I jotted down about 7 story ideas between that and seventeen when I finally got serious. I completed the first draft when I was seventeen, took the first sixty pages and made a 400 page novel out of it, which died a sad death through PA. As well as my second book completed when I was 21.

So one book didn't really do it for me. I have always been a writer and a story teller. It's part of who I am, always has been and always will be.

Soccer Mom
10-18-2006, 07:00 PM
Ditto. I was a huge Trixie Belden junkie, and wished I could have written some of them.

I think those books are the reason I'm writing Middle Grade mysteries today. Did you read the Meg Ashley books too?

10-19-2006, 01:31 AM
Don't know what book made me want to be a writer, but the first book I ever read, at about age 8 was called the Golden Pine Cone and was a children's fantasy novel and I lived and breathed it for at least a year as I reread it over and over again.

10-19-2006, 01:32 AM
David Gemmell's Legend.

10-19-2006, 03:53 AM
I have to agree with the "overactive imagination" part of it as well. I was always creating entire "universes" in my head as a child. I could have probably written at a lot younger or an age and produced some good stories for possible publication but I never had the discipline. Now, at the ripe old age of 27 *snicker* I think I can finally get my butt in gear and do this thing!

10-19-2006, 03:58 AM
When I read Poul Anderson's Virgin Planet for the first time, I was hooked like a fat carp on a worm. SF here I come. I wrote my butt off for two years and sold enough short stories in the big slicks to gain entry into the SFWA. Naturally I got all the addresses of the top gun SF and Fantasy writers. I wrote to Poul Anderson to thank him for inspiring me. From then on we exchanged letters for two years and he became my mentor. what a thrill it was!


10-19-2006, 04:08 AM
Hmmm. I remember writing stories when I was in kindergarten. I even remember what some were about, though it's too embarassing to admit here.
This probably sounds like strange inspiration, but as a teenager I read Golding's Darkness Visible and Clive Barker's the Damnation Game about the same time, and really loved both. About that same time I was reading a bunch of other books and found myself saying "Why didn't it go like...". After enough of that it's time to stop criticizing other books (even if just in my mind), and see if I could do better myself.

10-19-2006, 04:17 AM
No one book or writer inspired me to write; as stated in the post above this one by jbal, it's something I have done since I was quite small, that is, make up stories and draw or write them out, whether anyone noticed or approved or not. When I was four I had a library card. I liked books about science, and to relax I would read the "Curious George" books that my aunt bought for me. Different things inspire me to write at different times-- mostly it's visual cue type stuff. When I'm trying to write something out, I usually avoid reading because I don't want to subconsciously crib.

10-19-2006, 04:18 AM
Bit of an oddball here - my first fascination with stories (with no pictures) came from the Augustus series written by LeGrand probably in the 40's. My parents and older siblings read them to me before I could read myself, but let me tell you, wanting to be able to read as much of Augustus as I wanted in one sitting was a tremendous catalyst to get me to read quick. My fascination with mountain lions (and my name here, Puma) go back to Ol' Pi-sin, a mountain lion in one of the Augustus stories. Loved them! Puma

10-19-2006, 04:23 AM
As a matter of fact, this thread made me remember something. As a very young child, I had a bunch of stories I had written, and my dad (always pushing me toward entrepreneurship), had me go out and sell them door to door. I cleared them all out (the only existing copies). I must have been about six at this time, certainly no older than eight. I guess times have changed in twenty years or so. I would never send my son out at that age by himself, going door to door.

10-19-2006, 05:46 AM
I too have an overactive imagination, and I believe that's how I got started writing. Still, when I'm particularlly bored, I walk around outside and make up a story. If it's decent enough, it may make it to paper. When I try to sleep, I think of stories, or most often myself in the future doing different things.

10-19-2006, 05:56 AM
A Wrinkle in Time for me.
That made me interested in creating stories that could take the reader someplace else.

Ditto me. I remember writing L'Engle a fan letter and her writing back personally and saying I should move forward with my (then) childhood fantasy of being a writer.


Thomma Lyn
10-19-2006, 05:58 AM
A Wrinkle in Time for me.
That made me interested in creating stories that could take the reader someplace else.

Yes, A Wrinkle in Time for me, too! And tied with it would be Charlotte's Web by E. B. White.

10-19-2006, 06:08 AM
I've always loved reading. I was the kid with the book on her lap during dinner and reading under the covers with a flashlight. But I wasn't bit by the writing bug until I did a project in HS on James Thurber and the Algonquin Roundtable. The people who sat at that table still astound and inspire me. To this day I can still quote large sections of "The Catbird Seat".

10-19-2006, 08:51 AM
I used to devour books as a kid, I was reading Enid Blyton books (with help on the big words) while everyone else my age was still on picture books...no wonder I was allowed to skip a grade.

But oddly, they didn't inspire anything more than half-hearted ripoffs. (Goosebumps especially).

The first time I saw Star Wars (I was about 12) I knew I wanted to be a writer. Sad, I know, but true.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
10-19-2006, 02:55 PM
The books that started it all: The Chrysalids/Any Dahl Book/A Separate Peace

Sinc my last name in RL is 'Dahl', I appreciate that. ;)

10-19-2006, 04:13 PM
I started as a storyteller, writer of squiggles and illustrator of colourful stick people. I also watched lots and lots of cartoons, read a few books... went to school, worked, got married, had kids, etc., watched more cartoons (and Disney classics that I hadn't seen as a kid), and then became serious about writing after reading the first few pages of my son's Harry Potter book. *breathe*

I think the Walt Disney books inspired me the most. My first written/illustrated/bound book (I was about seven) was about the tooth fairy, and was styled like the Disney classics. My other childhood inspirations were the Little Women books and Trixie Belden series.

10-19-2006, 08:57 PM
The first time I saw Star Wars (I was about 12) I knew I wanted to be a writer. Sad, I know, but true.

What's sad about that?

That first jump to light speed was the best moment of my life at that time. I'm sorry that my kids are so jaded on special effects. Special effects just aren't special anymore, they are to be expected. And worse, they are unlikely to experience movie going like it happened on the truly BIG screen. Megaplexes make me sad somehow.

10-19-2006, 10:18 PM
Hmmm, I was a fan of R.L. Stine's Fear Street. I used to scare myself so much reading those books. And in elementary school, I loved the Baby Sitter's Club...probably the only person here who'll say that.

Kate Thornton
10-20-2006, 12:33 AM
At about age 9 or 10, my mother got me (and my little brother) a very large set of books. We moved to China and there was no television back then, and only 1 English speaking radio station. I read voraciously over the course of the next two years.

This is a partial list - I have looked up the authors that I couldn't remember. If you have children, these are for the most part classics now, and I recommend them. In fact, I am going to re-read many of them.

The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come - John Fox
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm - Kate Douglas Wiggin
Margaret Sidney's Pepper Books
Edith Nesbitt's Railway Children, Five Children & It and the Bastable Series (Th Treasures Seekers)
The Boxcar Mysteries - Gertrude Chandler Warner
Nancy Drew - Carolyn Keen (maybe 4 or 5 to start)
Laura Lee Hope's Bobbsey Twins Series & The Outdoor Girls
The Little Lame Prince by Miss Mulock (Dinah Maria Mulock Craik)
Little Women, Little Men & Jo's Boys - Louisa May Alcott
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum
Through the Looking Glass & Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

Kate - who had many childhood friends, most of them from books

10-20-2006, 03:17 AM
And in elementary school, I loved the Baby Sitter's Club...probably the only person here who'll say that.

I loved the Babysitter's Club. :D I wanted to be MaryAnn's best friend, and hid candy in my bedroom like Claudia.

10-20-2006, 03:56 AM
I never thought I could be good enough to write my own stories, even though I wanted to from a fairly young age. But it was Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates that finally made me realize that I wanted, more than anything, to make people feel the way his writing had made me feel.

10-20-2006, 07:24 PM
When I was 12 or 13, I remember wishing very hard that I would be able to write half as well as my favourite authors - Rosemary Sutcliffe, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault (all of them historical novelists).

The book that really started me off, though, was Little Women. Like many, many others, I wanted to be Jo March.

10-22-2006, 07:42 AM
Luckily, my mother is an avid reader, and she made sure I read the classics at a young age. As a result, one of the first books I can remember reading is The Time Machine by HG Wells. I loved that book, and I think I had probably read it twice before I was half way through elementary school. Not only did it inspire me to want to write, it also made me want to travel through time (well, one for two ain't bad).

10-22-2006, 03:11 PM
For me, I was about 9 and it was R.L. Stine's, "The Babysitter". I knew I wanted to be a writer from then on out.

How about you?

For me, the idea to become an author came from my dad. But if a book in my life started everything out for me so far as my writing style, that would have to be Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Much of my early manuscripts were written using Mr. Stevenson's style. In fact, I am pretty sure that some of my style still emulates him to some extent.

The other author that I have emulated quite a bit, is A.E. van Vogt. He was a Science-Fiction writer back in the 1930's and 1940's. His book Slan has inspired me for many years, as has The World of Null A. I have those two books in a Simon & Schuster volume called 'Triad', which was originally printed in the 1950's.

Mr. van Vogt's style, as well as that of Mr. Stevenson, has inspired much of how I write my manuscripts these days.

10-22-2006, 06:59 PM
I fell in love with the idea of writing somewhere between reading The Hobbit when I was 5 or 6 and Farhrenheit 451 when I was maybe 13.

10-22-2006, 07:12 PM
I've had my nose in a book since I caould read, but the book that first "floored" me, made we weep for days afterwards and made me understand the power of a good story to change a life, was My Friend Flicka. I was about 10.

I can repeat lines form that book up to this day though I haven't read it for a long time, and they still bring tears to my eyes.
And then the exquisite descriptions of the Wyoming landscape and the sky and the horses... it just swept me away.

eg: "I wanted a little girl too, Mom." Cheez, I'm crying!
Up to then I'd really only read - and enjoyed - Enid Blyton and co, and I realised how many more levels a good book can have.

10-22-2006, 07:23 PM
I discovered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden when I was about eight or nine and fell in love with mystery/suspense.

Same with me!

But I remember as a YA, when I read Anatomy of A Murder by Robert Traver. I was over the edge on mysteries then and shortly after that I thought it would be 'cool' to make a living as a writer.

10-23-2006, 12:11 AM
Poppy Z. Brite. I read the books, the livejournal, the short stories and essays. This is the kind of author I want to be. Brite is my role model and I can't write with several of her books at my side to alleviate my writer's block or give me inspiration or just show me how it's done.

Now I just gotta make sure I'm not plagiarizing. Don't wanna get sued. ;)

10-23-2006, 07:33 AM
Bruce Coville! I'd almost forgotten about him! I never read the ghost series, but loved the "My teacher is an Alien" series. I can honestly say that is the first series of books that had me totally hooked. I actually would buy each one the first day it came out. Looking back, he was definately a big influence.

10-23-2006, 03:50 PM
"The Cat in the Hat Comes Back." by Dr Suess. It was the first book I ever read, and the first book I ever owned. I was eight, and had just learned how to read.

"The Wishing Chair" and "The Faraway Tree." They and all the Disney shows and animal documentries got my imagination roiling. I wanted to be a children's writer.

At 12 I read "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. The premise, the themes, the characters and worldbuilding knocked my socks off. It still does.

Then I got hooked on Dr Who books (didn't see the show until I was 17), the Hardy boys, the Three Investigators, Arther C. Clarke, Asimov, John Christopher, John Whyndam, etc. (sp?)

So now I write science-fantasy.

10-23-2006, 04:20 PM
Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn. Not the most "PC" books ever written, but they had a profound influence on me when I was a kid. :)

10-24-2006, 12:01 AM
Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan and Jewels of Opar or the Ace/Lancer edition of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Adventurer (edited by Carter and deCampe).

Yes, I'd been reading for years prior to this but these two books SPOKE to me. They opened my eyes to larger-than-life heroes having larger-than-life adventures that I'd never read before.

10-24-2006, 12:05 AM
"Gorilla Adventure." Third grade. I had no idea what I was getting into. I remember that the cover was green and that I read the book every day until my head felt like it was going to burst.

You know those kids who make hide under their bed sheets and read with a flashlight? That was me.

Norman D Gutter
10-24-2006, 02:24 AM
The writer in me didn't break forth until I was close to fifty. The stories that most inspired me, and which left me wanting to write "something like that", have been the sagas of Herman Wouk (The Winds of War and War and Remembrance) and James Michener (Centennial and Space). Also a nudge came from reading The Hunt for Red October, which I finished in two nights in a hotel in Kuwait in 1988 while waiting for my family to arrive from the States.

This fascination with saga-length books is my current downfall, as no publishers wants a 156,000 word novel from a previously unpublished author.

Best Regards,

Writing Jedi
10-25-2006, 09:41 PM
I read everything as a kid, but it wasn't until I was 20 and started reading some Fyodor Dostoyevsky that I was really, truly blown away.

Of course, that inhibited me from becoming a writer for a while because I was just too intimidated by him (I'll never be able to write like THAT so why even bother?). But, eventually it somehow did turn itself into inspiration to be a writer and create stories of my own.

10-25-2006, 09:54 PM
I was 11 when my parents let me read my first Stephen King novel, The Stand. (The original, "edited" version.) This was a pretty big deal- I'd read some grown-up novels before, but I was easily scared, and my dad almost didn't let me read any King. Then he saw me with a copy of the novelization of Poltergeist II of all things, and decided I was ready.

I'd written stuff before then, but The Stand was the first time I ever thought of being a writer. Misery just confirmed it for me.

10-26-2006, 09:22 PM
Hey Spike,
I thought I was the only one who knew about the Honey Bunch series. I recently bought one of these books from Amazon and read it whenever I want to travel back to childhood. The books not only inspired me to write, but made childhood much sweeter than it was when I read them. Hooray for us!

10-26-2006, 09:35 PM
The two books for me were Bram Stoker's Dracula and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire.

After reading those books, I wanted to create my own world of vampires. :)

10-31-2006, 05:45 AM
For me it was Ben Bova, SciFi author. I read SciFi under cover of darkness in my bed with a flashlight. When I came to Bova, I realized any hack could write a book. How'd he do it? Get published, I mean.


11-03-2006, 01:29 AM
For me, I was about 9 and it was R.L. Stine's, "The Babysitter". I knew I wanted to be a writer from then on out.

How about you?

Andre Norton: the Time Traders... I read it when I was 10 or 11. It was pretty neato. It was written about 1960 and had complex simulations in it....which I thought sounded like more fun than Time Travel.

Plus the aliens were interestingly done. I knew I wanted to look at archaelogy and simulations from then on.

11-05-2006, 01:42 AM
I've been writing since I could write. The idea of writing professionally didn't occur to me until I was in high school, and even then it was an idea of writing on the side, or writing primarily journalism and fiction would be just a part of the job. It wasn't until I was in college that it occurred to me there were many, many people that wrote fiction and lived just fine without being Stephen King. Call me a late bloomer; at least I bloomed.

What woke me up to this? After reading Neil Gaiman's Preludes and Nocturnes, the first volume of his Sandman series, I wanted to discover everything about him. This led to reading his blog, which led to reading about the life of a writer, which led to...you can finish the rest. So I suppose that, even though my childhood is filled with memories of reading Goosebumps, How to Eat Fried Worms, The Indian in the Cupboard, and eventually more grown-up works (Star Wars novels turned into Michael Crichton which turned into other works of fantasy and sci-fi which turned into ANYTHING), it was Gaiman's work that "did it."