I’ve been thinking about doing a series of posts on authors/books/series that have influenced my writing the most over the years … those are the sorts of series I always enjoy reading from other people, seeing what has gone into forming their writing style. And sometimes it helps me discover authors or books I otherwise might never have known!
So, to begin: I considered doing, for this first post, something on the first writer who influenced me, but instead I decided to look at the writer who has been the biggest influence on me, my writing and my life. That writer is …
I can’t remember, exactly, which of Alexander’s books I read first. It was either a Vesper Holly or The Wizard in the Tree. Whichever it was, I was immediately hooked. I read voraciously through all of his works in our local library. The Westmark trilogy, though I know many people don’t care for it, was the one that affected me the most, however. The very fact that there was no magic in it, that though a fantasy it was very real, and very grim, brought it much closer. Theo’s struggles with morality, especially in Kestrel; Mickle’s journey to finding herself and her place; Sparrow and Weasel and Keller … I don’t think I’d ever read something that touched me quite so deeply. (Oddly enough, I found myself mostly unaffected by Florian and his children.)
Alexander is best known for his Prydain Chronicles. I only started reading those after I’d already read most of his other books. Not by design – simply because our library didn’t have all of them, and I hate only reading partial series. It wasn’t until I started visiting a different library, which had the entire series, that I read them and fell in love with the Assistant Pig-Keeper and opinionated Princess Eilonwy.
For my own writing, Alexander’s use of humor, and his ability to tell a full and rich story with only a few well-chosen details, have been what I have studied the most closely, and tried to incorporate into my own works.
As a human being, the ideas he portrays about heroism, sacrifice, love, and life have been what I have tried to incorporate into my daily living. The very best writer does not just present a good story, but through his story inspires you to be a better person, and that is what Alexander has always done for me.
His final book, finished right before his death in 2007, is The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio. I usually prefer to buy books in paperback, but I pre-ordered that one, in hardcover, to come as soon as it was published. As with all his others, it blended humor and truth in perfect proportions, and never came close to preaching. It was a fitting epitaph to his life.
Every time I go into a bookstore these days, I find myself drifting hopefully over to the “A” section of both children’s and YA, wistfully thinking that perhaps they will have discovered some previously unpublished works among Alexander’s papers, and be able to offer us just one more story from him. Alas, I think we are destined to only be able to re-read the books already published, but at least they are well worth the journey. There are very few writers of whom I can say this, but every time I read one of his books I find something new in it.
From all I understand, Alexander exhibited those traits in his life he showed so well through his writing – humility, humor, kindness, practicality, and a keen zest for the adventure of life.
He has been a tremendous influence on me, both as a writer and human being, and I can only hope that someday I might be able to carry on his legacy in my own writings.
Are you familiar with Lloyd Alexander? If so, which is your favorite book, and why? (I think The Arkadians just barely tops my list, but I love them all too much to choose just one favorite!) What was the first book you read of his, and what do you remember most about it?