Hello and welcome back to Imagination Mansion.
Today I thought I would talk about the things that have inspired me to write and what I write over the years. In this blog, I will focus on the books that have influenced my ideas throughout my reading life.
The first book in my list, which I think started off my deeper love of storytelling is a book that I have had since I was young. And that is Thora by Gillian Johnson which came out in 2003. Now this is a story about a girl who is half human half mermaid who has to navigate the human world with the help of her elderly guardian and the various characters around the village and when a rich businessman starts doing shady stuff in the village, it’s up to her and her new friends to stop him.
This book really sparked my imagination and its twisting of commonly accepted myths and creatures fascinated me as well as the creative roster of characters, each as individual as the next captivated me and I didn’t want to put it down. It is a fairly short read nowadays, being a children’s book, but it still holds the same thrill every time I read it. And it made me want to write something as creative yet interesting and enjoyable of my own.
Another book that was bizarre enough to capture my imagination was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol. The slow degradation of a fairly logical character slowly accepting the crazy stuff happening around her was fun to read and the fantastical nature of the story definitely held my attention (if it’s weird or uncanny, a book will tend to interest me – unless it’s clearly trying too hard or doesn’t make it run smoothly so I’m brought out of the text).
I actually wrote a ‘missing chapter’ for my creative writing a-level in 6th form and apparently I nailed the writer’s voice and the level of logical absurdity. I think I got decent marks for that so clearly Carrol influenced me enough to be able to write like the man.
Another book which will surprise nobody who knows me either in real life or online, is Harry Potter – mainly the first one, because Philosopher’s Stone is the book that creates this elaborate world under our noses and constructs these characters for the first time, introducing the reader to events to come in future novels. Though it is not perfect by any means, it constructed locations, characters, events, and even creatures and, again, different interpretations of common myths, into a novel which has inspired multiple generations. It gave another version of fantasy that, before this, I hadn’t properly experienced before – Fantasy ingrained with reality.
Before Harry Potter and the wizarding World, to me, fantasy was something that happened in a separate world, whether sent there or starting there – like Narnia and Lord of the Rings. But this was one that a hidden percentage of people from a possible ‘real world’ lived in and there was, in the mind of a mini Hannah, a possibility of this all actually existing somewhere. And I think that element more than anything got my creative cogs whirring – if wizards could exist alongside us normal folk, what else could? And this ‘what if’ genre was expanded again when I came across the Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl series’ – another two worlds part of but hidden from the rest of the world.
As I got older, new genres of fiction began to spark my imagination. Such as horror/thriller. And the one that sticks out in my mind was Die For Me by Karen Rose – a gift from a friend in about year 8 or 9 (so probably too young by some people’s standards but I’d already started reading heavier books by then). The split between the killer and the detectives in separate chapters throughout the novel fascinated me and the grit and tension throughout the story enthralled me and kept me reading. I now have several Karen Rose novels on my bookshelf (though said bookshelf is unfortunately separate from me at my parents’ house) and, though the others haven’t stuck in my mind as strongly as Die for Me, they were still wonderfully written and brilliantly gripping as thriller novels.
Dipping back into fantasy, but more adult fantasy this time, another major player in the imagination landscape of my mind is the Poison Study trilogy by Maria V Snyder. The overall world has many more books, but this trilogy is the one I was introduced to (and I need to hunt down the other novels at some point). My Grandad was actually the one to introduce me to this series (as well as others such as Eragon and, surprisingly, Divergent and Game of Thrones – though I gave up with the latter as the switching timeline and giant cast left me confused). Getting back to Poison Study, this was a book that had the fantasy elements such as pseudo medieval or historical based world, a world map, and of course, magic. But, compared to the other fantasy I had read, there was an adult grit and darkness that hadn’t really been present in the ones I had read before – I’m not saying that the other fantasy series I had experienced weren’t dark or scary at times, they were, but this was within the writing and there were more lowkey, everyday dangers. Instead of Wizard Nazis or an Evil King, it was a corrupt system and the hunting of the ‘other’.
The book starts with a trial and follows the main character Yelena as she learns that she has this power that is illegal in the North and the allies and enemies she makes as she tries to stay hidden and/or alive. It almost felt more real than the books which could have been based in a form of reality like Percy Jackson – because this was a book powered by individual struggle rather than overarching dangers. And it taught me another form of storytelling.
I could talk about more than these but if I went through every book that I loved and inspired me in any way, this would be pages long. Though, some runners up that I cherish and reread to this day are the Young Bond series by Charlie Higson, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, 200000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne, and The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven.