Books, influences, writing

Influences: LM Montgomery

I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t acquainted with Anne Shirley. I can’t quite remember now which came first, watching the movie or reading the book, but they certainly happened close together. Thankfully, the movie never ruined the book for me, and while these days I have to grit my teeth through parts of the sequel (and I refuse, utterly and completely, to ever watch the third), even knowing and loving the books as well as I do, I can still watch the movie without flinching.

This fellow might have something to do with that. Oh, Gilbert!

I’ve never been as big a fan of the Emily books – I adore Emily of New Moon, but the later two books of the trilogy get under my skin in parts. Frankly, Emily herself infuriates me the older she gets, as does Ilse.
However, as one who grew up in an extended family that can only properly be called a clan, with aunts and uncles and cousins galore, as well as second cousins and the like (my father is the oldest of eight; his father was also the oldest of eight, and his mother was one of five), my favorites out of all of LMM’s works would have to be the Story Girl books. And not just because my sister and I watched Road to Avonlea every week on CBC when we were growing up! The books are so different from the show.
For one thing, the books didn’t have him. Oh, Gus!

I love LMM’s writing style. I even love her “purple prose.” I’ve been writing LMM fanfiction since 2005. I started it as a bored and lonely newlywed, while Carl was at work and I needed something to distract me from my loud and inconsiderate neighbors, and the fact that I had no car or any way to get away during the day. Escaping to PEI, and a simpler time, more romantic way of life, an era I’ve always loved … well, it just might have saved my sanity. It certainly brought me some wonderful friends (hi, Adrienne and Cathy!) who shared my love for LMM and her works. 
Thanks to LMM, I learned how to explore different genres of writing besides just YA fantasy. I learned to play with different styles, to change my tone depending on what type of story I was writing. I learned that, as Mr Carpenter tells Emily, “pine woods are just as real as pigsties, and a darn sight more pleasant” – meaning, don’t let other people force you to write ugly things just because they are “realistic.” I learned how to write gentle romance (romance of any kind always having terrified me before).
I also developed a mad, passionate love affair with adjectives and rambling descriptions, which I am now desperately trying to combat. Not all influences are good!
I recently started my eleventh LMM fanfic (yes, for those of you who follow my LMM stories, that would be Gwen’s WWII story). I am not exactly working hard on it, having a few original projects that are taking most of my attention, but it is growing in my brain and a little bit on paper. No matter if I ever get published, or wherever my writing takes me, I suspect I will always have some LMM story brewing on the side.
It’s the least I can do to honor the woman who brought such magic to my childhood (and adulthood, if I’m honest).
Did you grow up reading the Anne books? Did you have a crush on Gilbert Blythe (or Gus Pike)? Is there a book that you have read for so long that you can’t remember a time when it wasn’t part of your life? Do you write or read fanfiction at all?

8 thoughts on “Influences: LM Montgomery”

  1. I was writing LMM fanfiction as a child, before I even knew what fanfiction was or that other people did it. I was actually embarrassed to write it and I always destroyed it immediately afterward. Probably just as well as it was mostly Mary-Sue self-insertion fic, full of anachronism and undoubtedly awful – thank God there was no internet then by which to subject the innocent public to my foolishness.I lived in a constant fantasy peopled with the characters from Avonlea – and, later, from Glen St. Mary, as my crush of choice was Jem Blythe (he and Walter being possibly the most three-dimensional male characters in the entire series; but Jem was a boy's boy while Walter's passivity bored me). I didn't read Emily until I was in high school, and I concur that her stubbornness is annoying, but I find her more realistic (and empathetic) for that trait. Ilse I have no use for by the third book, and it doesn't seem like LMM had much for her either by then, as little as we see her! But then she often seemed not to know what to do with side characters as they aged, particularly the boys. Gil and Teddy are near nonentities by their adulthood. It makes me think sadly of how unhappy LMM must have been in her own marriage. She should have married a Perry. He had personality at least.

  2. I loved Walter as a child, but reading him as an adult, I often just want to shake him and tell him to get over himself. Some of my friends and I have a theory that the reason he became friendlier with Rilla during the war instead of Di is that Rilla encouraged his self-centeredness, while Di would be the type to tell him to grow up and stop whining all the time.Teddy – spineless. I think another reason I don't care for the Emily books as much is that Teddy is such a jellyfish. As you say, at least Perry had personality.With Gil, it surprises me, looking critically at the books, how very little he was developed as he grew up. For as much as he is so many girls' crush as a lad, he really grows up kind of bland. I guess that just leaves us free to imagine him with every trait we find admirable!

  3. I loved all the original Anne books. (*Oh Gilbert!*) Even now, I still love her purple prose. It just belongs in her world. Period. All this Anne talk makes me want to reread the whole series. I don't write or read fanfiction, mostly because I don't have time. If I'd known there was such a thing way back when, I would have written AOGG fanfic, I'm sure.:)

  4. You're right, the purple prose does belong in her world. If I ever get my long-anticipated trip out to PEI, I fully expect to talk like she writes the entire time, without even trying!

  5. I will definitely take you up on that. We're also hoping to use Andi as our tour guide if she's still in the Maritimes at that point. Fanfic friends FTW!

  6. See, I know you've already read me gushing about how much I adore Anne and how I am indeed in love with Gilbert, but YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY anyway! The biggest influence I've noticed in myself is the frequent use of certain phrases such as "kindred spirits" and "bosom friends." I do tend to freewrite a bit like Anne talks when I am excited about something… Anne IS purple prose. She makes purple prose FUN!

  7. Yes, kindred spirits is certainly a phrase that is an everyday part of my vocabulary now. As is bosom friends, and depths of despair, and (one of my favorites" "That's what!" Good old Mrs Rachel Lynde …

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