My Top 10 Favorite Books and How they Influenced my Novel

My Top 10 Favorite Books and How they Influenced my Novel

I’ve been on a two-week Blog Tour through Chapter by Chapter, which means Moonburner is being featured all around the web! I had a lot of fun writing guest posts for the various blogs, but my favorite was this post on The Silver Dagger Scriptorium, which asked me to list my ten favorite books!

Any nerdy book-lover will know that it’s near impossible to narrow the favorites list down that far, so I did favorite books/series. As I was writing, I realized how each of these influenced my writing style, and in particular, my first novel Moonburner. If you haven’t read some of these, do yourself a favor and check them out!

Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan

This is the series that kindled my love of fantasy. I still have all my paperbacks from when I was a teenager, so dog-eared that the covers have fallen off the first seven of them. They are sprawling, epic and complex. Even though the series sags a bit towards the middle, it is worth it to push through, and the end is SO satisfying.

Harry Potter series, JK Rowling

Well, obviously these are on the list. This is the series that kindled my love of YA. It taught me and the world that a story can be magical and silly but still be powerful and poignant. That a story about chocolate frogs and flying brooms can capture the hearts of adults everywhere. If I was trapped on a desert island and could only pick one series, it would be this one.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, Laini Taylor

This series taught me the importance of a good hook. As soon as I started reading the first book, I HAD to know what was up with the teeth. (If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about!). And her blue hair. And the wishbone. And her strange monstrous family. The mysteries in this book pulled you in and demanded to be solved. I tried to emulate this great hook with “The Gleaming” in the prologue of Moonburner.

Graceling, Kristin Cashore

This book showed me the importance of a kick-ass heroine. Katsa has such a tough exterior, but somehow maintains her innocence on the inside. Or longs to. I loved reading her story, and I tried to write my main character, Kai, with as much of a dichotomy.

First Law trilogy, Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie’s books taught me the importance of a good anti-hero. His characters are pretty terrible human beings: torturers, mercenaries, cowardly soldiers. But you LOVE them despite all of this. These books are dark and messy, but so engrossing. I didn’t get to write in much of an anti-hero into Moonburner, but I am looking forward to tackling this trope in one of my future works.

The Magicians trilogy, Lev Grossman

These books illustrate the importance of fun and humor. These are hilarious and irreverent; I frequently found myself laughing out loud. They feel modern, like they are written to the millennial generation. It turns out fantasy doesn’t have to be old-timey and stuffy! I tried to incorporate humor into Moonburner, especially in the character of Quitsu, Kai’s fox companion. It’s important not to take yourself too seriously!

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

This book is the least like the others on the list. But I loved it because of the incredible level of detail he reached in describing the world. I don’t really know anything about the 1980s or video games, but I felt like a pro after reading this book. It was such a fun romp through someone else’s passion; I strive to create a world of such detail in the books I write!

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

So, I am basically in awe of this series, and he’s only two books in! It is my aspirational series on the list. The creativity of this fantasy world and magic system, and the sheer number of plot lines, is astounding. I don’t think I could write 500 pages about men hauling a bridge and keep people engrossed, but Sanderson does. This series is going to be EPIC when it is done. So impressive.

Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins

Of course I get warm fuzzies when I think of this one. This is a series that sucks you in and won’t let you put it down until its 3 in the morning and you’re finally done. I tried to make Moonburner a page turner like The Hunger Games: fast and furious but still with characters you adore.

Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo

This is the newest addition to my list, I just read it a few months ago, after Moonburner was written. It’s not often that you find a book that is action-packed but ALSO has great character development, but this one does. This Ocean’s Eleven style heist tale had such a great world and a great crew. I hope to create such great depth of character and inter-character dynamics in all my books!

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Magic Systems

I have been making good progress on my novel outline. I have a high level outline completed, and I have started to write a more detailed outline that walks through the book chapter by chapter. There are so many elements that I need to figure out.

Starting a novel feels like a chicken and egg problem to me. I can’t decide whether I should spend more time at the beginning figuring out the details of the world, the names, the culture, the magic system, the animals, etc., or to worry about the plot first, and let the other things come later. I have taken the later approach, and I am trying to spend time developing the details of the world and characters as I outline. Even this can be hard at times, because the boundaries of the world an author creates, especially the way magic works, will play a critical role in the story. I can’t get too far ahead without working through these details. But I also don’t want to spend all my time picking the characters’ names in order to avoid the more difficult work at hand.

I have found the hardest piece so far is to come up with the magic system that governs the world. Fantasy books are heavily influenced by magic, and in doing some research it seems clear that there is a large divergence in approaches. Some authors meticulously explain the intricacies and rules of magic (Wheel of Time), while in other world, it is a vague and unexplained running in the background (Lord of the Rings). I lean more towards explaining my magic system in detail, particularly because the disappearance of magic will be a central theme in the book. I don’t want it to feel old or plagiarized, though. I think I have come up with a system that walks the line of being familiar (spellcasting, etc) with feeling somewhat new (magic will be breathed in like air and there will be certain natural gifts in the magical community).

As a side note, I was bummed this week to find out that my novel writing class was cancelled due to low attendance. I wondered going into it how many foolish souls would would actually sacrifice five rare warm Seattle summer nights to sit in a classroom, and I guess the answer is: Two. I am disappointed, but I am finding a lot of value in the book I am reading, and I am plugging along in my outline. I might see about taking some classes at Seattle’s Hugo House when I am a bit further along. www.


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