Friday, 30 January 2015

The Child Behind Every (Grown-Up) Writer by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

The other day I shared a picture on Facebook, a selection of classic Ladybird children's stories. It prompted the sort of response that led me to think, Ah FB isn't so bad, after all. It isn't just a bunch of people shouting out random things and being ignored. I suppose I was becoming a bit too cynical. Anyway, it got me thinking about books and childhood and the stories that shape us as we grow up.

Here at Novelistas Ink we're a very diverse bunch of writers. 

As you can probably tell if you're a follower of our blog. We're all good friends, though, and our lunches are infamous throughout North Wales. OK, slight exaggeration, but then we do write fiction. The common thread we share is our passion and love of writing. We're besotted with it. Head over heels. Can't get enough of it (or perhaps we can when we've got a deadline looming, or edits-from-hell to wade through, but on the whole we enjoy it).

Our genres range from witty romantic comedies to moving war-time sagas. From atmospheric historical novels to sparkling Regency romances. From plot-twisting, cliff-hanging romantic suspense to modern, grown-up fairy tales. And all that wonderful stuff in between such as contemporary YA or straightforward novels about relationships and marriage. I'm not sure anyone's written a spy thriller yet, but give us time and we just might.

But what steered us to write in our favourite genres?

What made us the writers we all are today? Was it the books from our childhood or the books we've read as adults, or maybe a mixture of both? I believe it's a mixture, but I also think we can't deny the power of those stories we've carried with us most of our lives. Those treasured tales that lodged in our hearts and never left.

As a girl, I spent hours in my small local library...

It was just round the corner from our house, so I often hid away in there after school or during the holidays. Sometimes with similar minded friends, but often alone. If I wasn't reading I was writing or researching. I've written stories since I first learned to misspell words, aged four. There was also a bookshelf in our house full of novels that looked like this, no dust jackets or blurbs, just the bare bones of a cover:

As an only child, I spent hours entertaining myself reading. My parents still own most of those books, and my own children's shelves still hold the favourites I loved to read over and over again.

A beautifully written and illustrated anthology
This anthology of classic fairy tales from around the world (see photo) is probably mine and my daughter's current favourite. I owe a great deal to this huge collection of stories. It was given to me as a gift by a family friend. Little did they know how much it would shape me and nurture a love of fairy tales that's stronger than ever these days.

Of course, I loved Enid Blyton, too. I had all the Famous Five and Secret Seven books.

I think those taught me how to pace a plot and keep a reader turning the pages. Those were the ones I read under the covers with a torch. Come on, admit it, we all did that. Maybe some of us still do.

Now admittedly, if you write erotica, you probably didn't read it as a child. Or maybe you used to sneak down the more adult books from the shelves at home when your parents weren't looking, and thumb through them for those, er, interesting bits. As a teenager in the 80s, I can still recall all those mini-series on TV based on the doorstop sex-and-shopping novels that were so fashionable...

Lace, Mistral's Daughter, Princess Daisy, etc.

These are the books my friends and I consumed and tried to emulate in our stories (I wasn't the only one of my gang who wrote fiction back then). It was a glitzy world we knew nothing about apart from what we read or saw on TV, but boy did we have fun trying to write about it! Then there was Virginia Andrews and Danielle Steele and Barbara Taylor Bradford... The list is quite lengthy and I could probably rattle on all day, but then this post would be too long, and the whole point of it was to provoke a discussion.

Do you think the books you read as a child have influenced your writing as an adult?

If so, to what extent? I think it's a fascinating subject to consider, both for established or aspiring writers.

Every now and again it's good to examine why we write what we write. Because doing it for the market alone will never truly make us happy if we don't pen (or type) our words with love, honesty or joy. We need to find that balance in our work in order to be healthy and well-rounded. We owe it to our readers as well as ourselves. They can always tell if we're short-changing them.
Just a small selection...

So maybe, if you're stuck in a rut right now, and don't know where to turn or what genre to aim for, it might help to travel back in time and remember the tales that inspired you and made you want to be a writer in the first place.

I can tell you, hand on heart, a few short years ago this is precisely what helped me.

Please leave a comment if you have something to add, I'd love to hear your views on the subject.

All the best,
Valerie-Anne x

Valerie-Anne Baglietto's latest release is the full-length novel FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY.

Romance, magic and vintage fashion in the sleepy Cheshire village of Fools Castle, where a young fairy-godmother who normally gets things very right suddenly starts getting them disastrously wrong.

A modern, grown-up fairy tale perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Cecelia Ahern.

Amazon US - view here
Amazon UK - view here
Twitter: @VABaglietto
Facebook: Valerie-Anne Baglietto Author

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