What influenced your writing?

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We all have our favourite books, films and TV shows, and they can change dramatically as the years creep past. I was in the loft the other day, doing a spot of de-cluttering, and came across a box full of my childhood books. We’re talking about Danny the Champion of the World, Famous Five, and my Sweet Dreams books. They were dog-eared, faded, but well loved, and I could remember every character, twist, and turn as I looked at the covers.

The next box I came across was full of VHS tapes (it’s clearly been a while since I de-cluttered that part of the loft!). Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Friends videos that I had nearly worn out because I watched them over and over.

It got me thinking about the kind of books I love today and the shows I enjoy watching. I began to wonder how my likes (and dislikes) have influenced the kind of person and writer I am. I thought it would be fun to share this and maybe tempt you to look back over your favourites.

My life in books and TV shows:

I’m going to start at junior school age because I’m pretty sure my earlier years where all about Janet and John.

8+ – The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I still have my original copy, in hardback, and could happily re-read this again and again. I remember hiding it under my pillow and getting my torch out for a sneaky read once mum had kissed me goodnight. This book started my love of fantasy and being able to shape my ability to use my imagination.

Mr Benn on TV. I adored this show. Mr Benn would walk from 52 Festive Road to the fancy dress shop, where the shopkeeper (can’t remember his name) would invite Mr Benn to try on an outfit. Once dressed, he would leave through a magical door and an adventure would start appropriate to whatever costume he was wearing. This show was probably responsible for my insane love of fancy dress parties.

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11+ – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I have my original copies of the full set of these books, and I just opened this one to take a look. ‘We’ve fallen on our feet and no mistake. This is going to be perfectly splendid. That old chap will let us do anything we like,’ said Peter to Susan, Edmund and Lucy. So old fashioned but it still makes me smile now. I can picture the wardrobe, Mr Tumnus, and Aslan so clearly. Again, there is a strong leaning toward fantasy.

Robin of Sherwood on TV. My all-time favourite show when I was a tween. Robin and his band of merry men saw me through my transformation into a teenager. My bedroom walls were festooned with posters of Michael Praed (and later, Jason Connery). My love of the myth and legend of Robin Hood began here and I’m still fascinated now. I took my children to Nottingham last year and visited Major’s Oak (where Robin was believed to have lived). I also devoured the books that appeared to compliment the TV series, and yes, I have the originals!

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My love of fantasy, myth and magic seems to have appeared at an early age, but I do remember enjoying ‘normal’ shows, such as Grange Hill, Home and Away, and Biker Grove.

13+ – As I ventured into my teen years I veered away from fantasy and hit the young romance novels. I collected the ‘Sweet Dreams’ series and became deeply concerned about the lack of Cowboys at my secondary school. My favourite book was P.S. I Love You by Barbara Conklin, and I still cry buckets when I re-read it now. Unfortunately, I think these books gave me a slightly skewed idea of what a teen romance was all about, but they were fun to read. My fascination with America began with these books, and I told myself that I’d move there when I was old enough. I’m still in the UK, but I did live in New York State for three months when I was in my early twenties – that counts, right?

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20+ – I got married on my twenty-fifth birthday and began my family shortly after. Unfortunately, my husband turned out to be a bit of a shit, so the nineties weren’t a happy time (apart from my eldest son’s arrival). There was a TV show that saved me from self-destructing. I lived my life walking on eggshells apart from one hour a week when I was left alone to watch TV without interruption. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was my BFF, she also rekindled my passion for fantasy.

Buffy, along with Mulder and Scully, gave me a much-needed escape from reality.

30+ – Raising my family as a single parent took up most of my early thirties, and my reading was almost non-existent. When I eventually returned to books, I had a thirst for non-fiction, self-help titles in particular. I collected a huge variety of books, from The Secret, to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. As I rebuilt my life, I also began to rekindle forgotten favourites. I was in my late thirties when I discovered young adult books. It was Maggie Stiefvater’s, Shiver that first enticed me to the teen section. Maggie’s fast paced writing hooked me in, and I developed my love of werewolves around the same time.

Interesting fact – in my YA novel, Guardians of the Dead, I named a character after Maggie. My way of thanking her for her awesome books.

40+ – Once I’d discovered YA there was no turning back for me. I stuck with this genre until I joined Twitter and discovered the impressive array of indie authors and authors of other genres that I hadn’t yet tried.

Young adult fantasy novels take the top spot, though, and I devour anything written by Sarah J Maas, Cassandra Clare, Jana Oliver, Veronica Roth and Josephine Angelini.

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The TV shows have also evolved over the years; Buffy has retired and Mulder and Scully also called it a day. Instead, I watch The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries, Falling Skies and Grey’s Anatomy.

This has been an interesting exercise for me. I write self-help titles for the mind, body, spirit genre, with personal development and well-being in mind. It was inevitable that I ventured into this category as I work in the industry, and can use personal experiences to add another dimension to my work.

I also write young adult fantasy novels, and it’s clear to see that this has been in my blood since I was a young girl.

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Do I have a chick-lit or a crime novel in me? It doesn’t look promising, so I think I’ll sneak off to the nearest graveyard and pen another fantasy tale.

Over to you – What, or who has influenced your writing over the years?

Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you enjoyed this post. Want more? Connect with me here:  Twitter @ShelleyWilson72, Instagram or check out my Facebook pages http://www.facebook.com/FantasyAuthorSLWilson and http://www.facebook.com/MotivateMeBlog. You can also find me on Pinterest

46 comments

  1. Great post, I’ll raise you on the Sweet Dreams, I had almost all the first one hundred Sweet Valley High books! (I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing, lol) But there was lots of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Adventure and Mallory Towers before that! And Narnia, of course 😉

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  2. What a fun post. For me it was all the horse books as I was growing up—Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley my favorites, and then as a teen I branched out to get my hands on just about everything. I came to Buffy late but am definitely with you on that one! :O)

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  3. So many memories in thus post! I will also a huge Robin of Sherwood fan, the music gets me to this day! I also loved Buffy! The books that inspired me most growing up were Stephen King and Point Horror! My Mother hit rid of all my books when she moved house while I was travelling 😦

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  4. Thanks for sharing this Shelley, and what a great idea. I loved some of those books too and it’s so interesting to see what has shaped your writing career. I really enjoyed your book Oath breaker so I can now understand your early infkuencers.

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  5. Whilst I’ve read fiction, I’ve always been more drawn to reading about people’s lives and experiences. I’m also interested in spirituality and particularly Eastern philosophy like Taoism and Buddhism. So, I enjoy reading books that explore these things, our place in the universe, and the meaning of it all. Nothing deep or anything. And, because I’m constantly asking myself these sorts of questions I guess it comes out in my writing. Because I work in mental health, I’m interested in the human condition and also the things which can help keep us ‘well’, so I tend to read things relating to that and bring that into my writing too 🙂

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    1. I can totally relate to that! I’m a self-help junkie and soak up as much as I can for my own personal development as well as that of my readers. We need to feel passionate about a topic to share it well 🙂

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  6. I loved this post the first time I read it and it got me thinking all over again now. Buffy, Point Horror, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Anne of Green Gables and Stephen King were all my influences when I was younger.
    Noelle that I’m older, they haven’t changed too much, but I probably watch way too much reality TV now. I still adore horror, fantasy and YA!

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    1. Thanks, Noelle. I chose to share this older post for the same reason – when I read it again it got the old brain cells working! I don’t really do reality TV (apart from I’m a Celeb). Although the way the world is going we might have a real ‘Hunger Games’ on our hands soon!!

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  7. Omg! Mr Benn! I got my kids to watch it on YouTube … They didn’t get it. I loved it! And Sweet Dreams! I remember readibg them!!!
    My influences for writing… I don’t know… butvatvthe moment it is very much my background and culture that influences my writing!!!!

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  8. Really interesting read for me, I have been pondering very similar things into why I write and blog and share too. I am living in the place (house-sitting) where Lewis Carroll got inspired for Alice stories… and, may I say, it is the MOST overwhelmingly, inspiring place I have ever experienced… Great sharing, thank you.

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  9. Oh I loved the Lion, the Witch & the wardrobe. Such a great fantasy story for kids. I was never into the Faraway Tree books as a child, but I’ve really enjoyed discovering them whilst reading them to my daughter. For me along with L, W & W, Alice in Wonderland and Little Women were big influences on me. In my teen years (after I got over my Virginia Andrews obsession). I was all about Jeanette Winterson and the wonderful Sue Townsend. Oh this is such a great idea for a blog post. I could go on so much, I should probably write my own post! Oh my gosh & I haven’t even mentioned Judy Blume. I LOVED her. See, I could really go on….

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    1. Ha ha, you absolutely need to write your own post on this – I’d love to read it! I can’t believe I didn’t mention Sue Townsend! What a legend. I did write a Monday Muse post all about her though so that let’s me off the hook, phew! 😉

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    1. I can understand that as the TV allows for some fantastic special effects these days. I remember reading my mum’s Agatha Christie books when I was a teen and wanting to write a who dunnit for a school project ha ha.

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  10. Interesting post, Shelley. I didn’t read many books until my late twenties I had a major motorbike accident and wasn’t able to do much else!! When I did read more, I enjoyed more war time stories British of course 🙂 Plus non-fiction, which is now my more preferred reading material, when I am not reading blogs 🙂 I am in awe of writers who write thousands of words a day. Seems so unattainable to me!

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  11. I really wish I spent more time reading as a youngster. I always found it to be a chore, and now that I’m older I really enjoy it!!! Thank you for your perspective!

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  12. The Famous Five and Mallory Towers. I grew up disappointed that I didn’t go to boarding school. I think these books gave me the idea that exciting things could happen to anyone. Dr Who must be an influence, although I’m not sure what form it takes. I’ve watched it for more years than I care to remember, and bought the books and DVDs. As a teenager I read a lot of crime fiction – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, Doyle. I must have got my love of endings which resolve everything (more or less) from them. Then I went to university and read French novels where people suffered and killed themselves or denied themselves if they thought there was the slightest chance of them being happy. That probably helps me to make my characters’ lives really uncomfortable.

    This is becoming a blog post in its own right. It’s food for thought, though, and I shall go away and ponder.

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  13. Shelley, your story inspires me. You prove that real-life self-development and fantasy are two sides of the same purpose: to experience the world in new ways and learn as we go. Reading about your influences at each point in your life gives me a window into understanding how you’ve built what I see as a life of balanced creativity.

    My own influences are varied. I’ve loved mysteries, and historical sagas, westerns, romance, and classics. Sometimes I feel like my influences are more flea market on a Saturday morning, than well-curated museum exhibit. I find a thing, and follow it–like Alice through the looking glass.

    Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed reading the comments of others, too! So many invitations to creativity out there, so little time to read or experience them all!

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    1. Oh, Angela! This comment was a work of art in itself! I loved it 🙂 ‘my influences are more flea market…’ ha ha, brilliant. I hate to shatter any well thought out illusion you may have about my balanced creativity, but I think most of it was just dumb luck 😉

      I do love watching the self-development and fantasy sides merge and intertwine. That’s probably how I keep myself sane as I can dip in and out depending on my mood. x

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  14. You’ve got me thinking now; I’ve never actually sat down and considered what might have influenced my writing, or even assembled something that could drag in past memories through nostalgic stuff packed in boxes in the loft.

    But Mr Benn, definitely in there and I also liked The Invaders too. I think they are all subconsciously logged though as when writing about Rose in walked a pub quiz question about The Prisoner!

    Loved reading this Shelley and I really must try doing something similar. I’ll bet it will drag out many positives and cast out the negatives that always seem to dominate things lol

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      1. Yes, I so need to listen to your positive side!! A few people have requested a post on how I write oddly enough. And, judging by some lengthy comment rambles subconsciously I think I must be too! Perhaps I shall put it on the “menu” (on topic ha-ha)

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  15. I loved reading books by Enid Blyton – Faraway Tree, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Mallory Towers. Plus some others that I can’t remember the titles of, my favourite was Secret Island. Dreamed of making a home like that! X

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  16. Oh my gosh the Magic Faraway Tree! I adored that as a kid – when the kids names were Connie, Dick, Bessie and Fanny… Did you know they have changed the names to Connie, Rick, Beth and Frannie now????

    An oh, Buffy, how I miss you…

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