I was a voracious reader as a child. Reading was like breathing me. There wasn’t much I liked better than grabbing an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers for sustenance and curling up on the couch with a good book. It’s difficult to talk about author influences because I had so many at different times. After blowing through the entire Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene in first grade, I devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books followed by classics like Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and one of my all-time favorites, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. My first “novel,” written at age 9 on a cursive typewriter (yes, I’m old), was the equivalent of Nancy Drew fan faction.
Looking at that list of my earliest reading memories, there’s nary a paranormal creature or alien to be found, unless you count my favorite toddler book, Where the Wild Things Are. Then one day, on our weekly trip to the library, while browsing the stacks of books, I pulled out Dracula by Bram Stoker. One peek at the cover and back cover copy, and I was hooked. I had to read this book. I remember slipping into my stack of other books, hoping my mother wouldn’t notice it—she didn’t. She would have protested that I was too young for such a “scary” book. Reading Dracula was the equivalent of my parents buying my siblings and I cotton candy at the boardwalk, and us inhaling it in two minutes. I couldn’t put the book down, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
The other book I remember form those early years was my first sci-fi, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I still think about that book and own several copies of it. In fact, this past year, I was invited to read a few pages of a favorite book of mine to my 9-yo daughter’s class. The teacher warned me that the class wouldn’t be able to handle more than a few pages, and after having volunteered all year in there, I agreed with her. Yet the class went completely still when I began reading, and after I finished my planned pages, there was silence, until one of the kids I would not have expected turned to the teacher and said, “Can she read more, please?” I happily read more pages, and loved sharing Meg’s strange and fantastical world with another generation.
My sci-fi and fantasy preferences kicked into high gear in later years, and in high school through college, I read everything with the names Stephen King or Dean Koontz on them—I’ll admit that I still think about The Langoliers every single time I’m on an airplane. Sprinkle in some Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov and those are the books that made up my formative years.
Though I had multiple author influences throughout my childhood, I was so lucky to have access to all those books, and so fortunate to have a mother who took us to the library every week. It fostered a love of reading that continued throughout my life. Now, as an adult, I read a mix of everything, including a ton of YA and a fair amount of literary fiction in my book club. Yet what is closest to my heart, and what I tend to write myself, are the books where things are a little out of the ordinary, where unexplainable things happen, and where, if you look really closely, some of those things might be closer to reality than we realize.