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27 March 2012 @ 11:18 am
The Book That Changed My Life  
I have always loved books. I was that kid who read books while walking to school every morning. I read through the 10 books weekly my mother allowed me to check out, and then worked through all the books that my (10) siblings checked out. I don't remember every missing a week at the library, even into my college years. So, a lot of books. And I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 5, which was when I wrote and illustrated my first very short children's book. But the doubts set in and by the time I was in college, writing was a far-off dream, something I would do someday.

Until I read SHARDS OF HONOR by Lois McMaster Bujold in 1992. My brother lent it to me. I remember him telling me that he and his wife had arguments every month about him spending over his allotted book budget, which was $100. A month. That floored me. That at the time was my definition of rich. But I read through SHARDS in a big gulp, all in one day, then drove to my brother's to get all the other books in the series. I devoured them all in a couple of weeks' time, lent them to my husband who read them, too, then lent them to my best friends at the time, who also fell in love. And I wandered around for a while trying to find other books that were LIKE THAT. I read a few that were supposed to be in the same genre, but didn't feel the same in my head at all.

I wanted: smart female characters who did stuff and were still somehow women, male characters who treated these women like equals, world-building that didn't take over the novel but felt smart, technology that mattered sociologically, romance that wasn't cheesy, gut-wrenching choices, tight as a drum plots, dialog that was snappy as Jane Austen, language that was transparent but also occasionally literary and beautiful and quotable, twists and turns that forced the characters to change and grow--dammit! I suppose that sounds like a list of everything every writer is trying to do, but Lois did it best. What followed were about ten years of me trying with feverish hopes to write something that was anywhere near as good, including something that I actually sent to Lois (with her permission) and she handed back with kind comments.

In the end, I had to actually stop trying to write like Lois in order to find my own voice, which was in some ways painful. I ended up finding that I wrote fantasy better than science fiction for some reason and that I tended to have a knack for fairy tale-style language. If Mira, Mirror and The Princess and the Hound succeed in my own mind, it is because they finally were up to the writing I found in SHARDS. I think I still am writing in some sense to that particular series, though I figured out how to steal what I like and wrap it up in paper that no one recognizes anymore. But that's the book that changed my life as a writer and gave me a target to shoot for.
Rosalee LuAnn: I knew I'd be in this story somewhererosaleeluann on March 28th, 2012 02:55 am (UTC)
LMB is awesome... I'd have to say that the author/book that changed MY life is Megan Whalen Turner with The King of Attolia. So awesome.