The Debutante Ball Authors’ Most Influential Books
This fall, five more authors are donning their tiaras at The Debutante Ball, a blog where debut novelists have been chronicling their journey to publication each year since 2007. To introduce this year’s debs, they each have chosen (after much hemming and hawing) their most influential book…
“This was so hard to choose! But if I have to pick only one, here it is: when I read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson as a child, I remember being so enamored with the unlikely friendship between Leslie and Jesse, and the magic they created with their make-believe land of Terabithia. It was also the first time I remember crying, really crying, while reading a book. Paterson so beautifully balanced hope and heartbreak with that story, and now, as a writer, I try to strike that same balance in my own stories.”
— Karma Brown, author of Come Away With Me (Mira Books/Harlequin, July 2015)
“My most influential book is A Prayer for Owen Meany. Years ago, the first time I read it, I finished it on a Sunday night and called in sick on Monday so I could read it again. This was long before I started writing myself, but when I did start writing, I went back to this book again and again to learn from it. I love all of the flawed characters and the lengths they will go to for each other. Mostly, my heart went out to Owen with his huge heart and damaged body. He was definitely an influence for one of the characters in my own novel. I have a quote from the book pinned above my desk that I look to every time I would send my writing to anyone: “If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”
— Shelly King, author of The Moment of Everything (Grand Central, September 2014)
“This is always an easy question for me. My most influential read is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. My oldest sister read it to me when I was in first grade, then I read it back to her the next year. It sparked my imagination and passion for books as the first story I read without pictures. From the first sentence, “In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit,” I wanted more of this world full of creatures I’d never knew existed. I loved the magical elves, the wise and mysterious wizard, and the resilient dwarves. The scene between Bilbo and Smaug is still one of my all time favorites. I recently read it to my eight year old son, so the tradition continues.”
— Amy Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, Summer 2015)
“The first time I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, something changed in the way I looked at the world. I found the March girls and their hard-scrabble but utterly entertaining existence absolutely irresistible. I could see a little bit of myself in each of those four girls: Meg’s propriety, Jo’s impulsiveness, Beth’s introspection and Amy’s petulance. But already a dreamer, I could best relate to Jo. I, too, bristled against the metaphorical corsets and tedious household chores. Like me, Jo had big dreams and bigger ambitions. The more people told her she couldn’t do something, the more she wanted to. And of course, there’s the fact that she’s a writer. So when I read Little Women that first time, at all of 11, I held fast to Jo and her big dreams. I found in her a role model for the ages, someone who made me realize that, in the end, when you truly have a story to tell, you have to strive to get it out there.”
— Sona Charaipotra, co-author of Tiny Pretty Things (HarperTeen, May 2015)
“In high school, I was the type that loved getting the reading lists each year (read: nerd), and my most influential book was on one of those lists: Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie! Teacake! The passion! The pain! The first time I read it, I didn’t fully understand why I loved it — I thought it was just a tragic love story (and what 15-year-old girl doesn’t love a love story?) But when I re-read it again as an adult (and again and again), what resonated with me was Janie’s journey to independence. Her growth, her power, her strength. I love a strong female protagonist and I love how I find something different and more meaningful every time I read it. In short, I worship Zora Neale Hurston.”
— Colleen Oakley, author of Before I Go (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, January 2015)
What book has most influenced you? Share in the comments!
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