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.
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. 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!
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?
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 debut 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.
The TV shows have also evolved over the years; Buffy has retired and Mulder and Scully also called it a day (although there are rumours they are set to return). Instead, I watch 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.
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.
What, or who has influenced your writing over the years?