Sara Letourneau asks: Who Were the First Five Authors You Read in Your Favorite Genre?
As a child, I read a lot. I remember the trepidation with which I checked out my first long book (Ramona and Her Father in green-colored hardback) in kindergarten and I asked my parents, but what if I don’t finish it before I have to give it back? (Thus did I learn about renewals)
In the second grade, while trying to check out a Mandie book , I remember having to demonstrate to a skeptical school librarian that I was indeed checking it out for the sake of reading it. She opened to a random page and instructed me to read aloud from it. Bewildered, but compliant as ever, I did so.
Much of what I read was in the endless-series category (i.e. Goosebumps, Animorphs, Baby-Sitters Club), which was great because my appetite was pretty insatiable and it helped me discover that you could request any book in the regional library and it would be delivered and held for you at the local branch. I read a lot of those, and they probably gave me the reliable interest that I continue to bear in both sci-fi and regular old fiction.
Like Letourneau, my actual favorite genre became fantasy. Although I have managed to skip over reading some of the well known authors in the genre (whose names linger yet on my “to-read” list), some of my earliest exposure does tellingly inform my later proclivities.
To begin at what I think is the beginning*…
C. S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia
I know that I was in elementary school when I read The Chronicles of Narnia, and my character crush was Prince Caspian. I’ve been looking for portals to other worlds ever since. My earliest ideas were all centered around a person being transported from our mundane to some fantastic like Narnia. As I worldbuild, I am still trying to decide whether to allow a permeable barrier between the world I build and my interpretation of the one I inhabit. I am inclined toward yes.
Narnia is absolutely a classic, and I’m thinking it might even be not only fun but also informative to re-read these old faves.
Lloyd Alexander – The Prydain Chronicles
The Prydain Chronicles all take place within the world as built by Alexander with strong ties to Welsh lore. It’s the story of the coming-of-age and simultaneous ascension of and Assistant Pig-Keeper to High King of Prydain, a rise naturally fraught with danger and adventure.
I’m pretty sure I was in the 6th grade when I read this, and it’s a classic to me in the same way that Narnia is, although I think I liked it for different reasons. This was my first real contact with a mythology of this scope.
Robin McKinley – The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword
This duology again whet my appetite for medieval-type worlds,with the addition of strong female main characters. I loved Aerin best, but in reflection, I’m appreciative of the idea of setting two stories in the same world many years apart – to the effect that one main character regards her predecessor as something of a legend.
Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising series
I know that I read when I was 12 years old, and I know this because the main protagonist is 11, so I felt like my imaginary relationship with him was pretty legit. Character husband, Will Stanton.
The Dark is Rising transports its young protagonists to another world without ever leaving this one (as is implied by the title, the other is invading ours). Magic, danger, and adventure again made this a fantasy series beloved by young me.
Geraldine Harris – Seven Citadels
Seven Citadels, which I always think of as the “Prince of the Godborn series,” is a lesser known set which I finally tracked down in recent years (thanks, internet!). Images and themes from the book had left deep impressions whether because of the strangeness of them, or because of my personal impressionability at the time of reading. This was the first books series that made me want to write something just like it. It had just the right level of plot twisting and otherworldly imagery to capture my young attention.
Those are the most accurate “First Five” I have come up with, but below are a few that got bumped down the list as I recalled earlier reads.
- Vivian Vande Velde – A Well Timed Enchantment, User Unfriendly
- Janet Taylor Lisle – Forest, Afternoon of the Elves
- J. K. Rowling
- Phillip Pullman
- J. R. R. Tolkien
*So I thought I had my first five, but as I wrote I kept remembering ones I needed to reel back and insert previous to the ones I had already listed. Oops!