Returning to My Literary Roots, Part III
I found many books on the shelves at my grandparents’ homes. In my mother’s childhood bedroom, I discovered Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising and Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. At my other grandmother’s house, I found Agatha Christie and Arthur Ransome.
But the books that were most inspirational with regard to the directions my writing would turn came to me via my third and fourth grade teachers. In third grade, Mr Cross read Watership Down, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh and The Book of Three to the class, and I followed up with the rest of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles on my own. In fourth grade, Mrs. Voake shared Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and James Howe’s Bunnicula with us and introduced us to American Tall Tales. She also introduced me to the book that changed my understanding of what fiction could be: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
My current work is a fantasy (like The Dark is Rising, The Book of Three, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and A Wrinkle in Time) and has animals in important roles (like the other books I mentioned). Coincidence? I think probably not.
And, like A Wrinkle in Time, it features an intelligent, geeky girl as the protagonist. Reading A Wrinkle in Time was the first time I experienced true identification with the lead character of a novel. When I met Meg Murray, I knew I was not alone, that there were other freaks like me in the worlds – how else could an author have seen into my experience enough to write about it? And, it is that experience of feeling understood that drives me to write a book that might help a stranger who suffers as I suffered feel less alone.