Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Authorial Influences

Christine provided the question for our latest round of the blog chain and here it is:

“Which author or authors have most influenced your writing and how?”

I've been thinking about how to answer this question for several days now, and to be honest I was having some trouble with it. Instead of having the names of authors, and titles of different books floating around inside my skull there was this:

It seems no one can help me now / I'm in too deep there's no way out/ This time I have really led myself astray/

Runaway train never going back/ Wrong way on a one way track/ Seems like I should be getting somewhere/Somehow I'm neither here nor there

If you were a teenager in the 90's then surely you must at this point be - if not singing, then at least humming along - to Soul Asylum's hit song "Runaway Train". To say that I loved this song (actually the whole cassette - yes, I was slow to jump on the whole CD bandwagon - was in constant rotation along with Stone Temple Pilots and 4 Non Blondes) would be a misstating the case entirely. To say that this song expressed all of my teen angst in a sing-alongable format would be much more accurate and to the point.

Of course, having just turned 31, my teen angst years are pretty far behind me and it's been well over a decade since I've even seen that Soul Asylum cassette. However, a few weeks back I was listening to one of those "the best of the 80's, 90s, and today" radio stations and guess what song they started playing?

Thank goodness my children are not yet old enough to understand that their mother is a terribly painfully horribly embarrassing person, because I sang along with that song and every word came right back to me from where ever they had been hiding out in some far recesses of my brain for all of these years.

I know, I know - what does this have to do with books? Or the question? Or anything at all?

I'm getting there.

You see, ever since I became seriously addicted to books (which was somewhere during first grade, I think) I also became a big fan of the library. At least once a week I was at the library, returning one giant stack of books in exchange for another. And because of how fast I went through books, and because the books were returned instead of placed on a bookshelf in my house as a physical reminder, and because I just have a sort of crappy memory - well, I often forget the name of the book, or forget the name of the author, or forget the character's names, or forget the minor plot details, or forget the major plot details.

Usually I recall something though - my brain isn't entirely made of mush - and some essential detail would stick with me.

Like the book where the girl joined a band and she had this tense relationship with the main guy in the group and he made her shave her head and then she destroyed his toy train while on stage and while out of context those details make absolutely no sense at all, I remember really loving this book.

I have tons of half-remembered books like this. And then there are all the series books - Sweet Valley High, Babysitter's Club, RL Stine. Or the authors like Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume where I ripped through every book they had written. And then I got older and tore through every Mary Higgins Clark, Judith Krantz, and Sidney Sheldon on my Grandma's shelves. Then there was the required reading in high school and college and all the books I've read as an adult.

If you took all those books together it would kind of be like that picture at the top of this post. Layers of rock, all smooshed together so tightly that they all blend together. And I am constantly reading (Still mostly thanks to the public library system. Love you libraries!) and adding more layers. It's easiest for me to remember the books that make up those top layers, but the ones forming those bedrock layers are still important because even though they may be mostly forgotten, who knows when some small detail might come at me out of nowhere - just like a runaway train.

And now that I've brought this train full circle, I think it's time to hand things off to the rest of the blog chain. So make sure to check out Laura's post from yesterday and then tomorrow find out what authors have influenced Shaun.


  1. LOL. I love this. I still go find music from my awkward teen years. Sometimes I'm like, "What was I thinking?" Others I have stood the test of time.

    Great post!

  2. Reading your post reminded what it was like to ride my bike to the public library in the summer, then search the teen shelves for a Judy Blume or Paula Danziger I hadn't read yet. I know what you mean about the memory thing. I was organizing my GoodReads the other night, going, "When did I read that? And what was it about?!" But they're all part of us, right?

  3. Runaway train never coming baaaack!

    Sorry, you've got that tune stuck in my head now. But I suppose that was the point of the post, remembering those bits and pieces that stay with us throughout our lives, layering into a whole of who we are.

  4. LOL! I know what you mean. I was the same way with books. Devoured them and didn't even glance at the ingredients. oh well. Guess we're a hodge podge, huh? ;-)

  5. Love it. Layers building upon layers form a foundation and all blend together. I was thinking about it the other day. Like you, I've been reading since first grade and it all blends after a while. Yep, I remember reading all of Sidney Sheldon's books. Brings back memories of the time.

  6. I agree with you that all the books you've ever read influence you, even if you don't consciously remember many details anymore. They stay inside you like fossils waiting to be rediscovered.

  7. Nice post! I agree, certain details remain with us from the books we've read--those seemingly random and divergent thoughts all contribute to who we are and how we see the world.

  8. There's nothing like listening to music from my teenage years to turn me into a teenager again. And your music totally mimicked what I listened to as well. Great post, Kate!

  9. I loved that song too! All of that album as well. ahh memories.

  10. Your rambling is an endearing quality, not a detraction. Sounds like you grew up like so many of us, with music and literature affecting you greatly. Nice post.

  11. Love this post! And I love the comparison to the rock. I feel that way about my writing, but there's so much more in that foundation than just books. :)

  12. I miss the days of leaving the library with a huge, exciting stack of new books!

  13. Since I write YA I find that listening to songs when I was in high school help put me in that teenage angsty mood. So I know exactly what you're talking about. Currently, I have Fake Plastic Trees on repeat.

  14. HA! Great post Kate. Man oh man...songs really get be back to "the day", you know...

  15. Great post! And I really loved that song, too. :D

  16. I was a big fan of Nancy Drew when I was young.

    Happy blogoversary!