Behind every writer are stacks of books as tall as they are. These books were authored by people who touched the writer, either in-person, in the written form, or both.
Creativity inspires creativity, and so I believe it’s important to absorb as much content as possible. And so as to not stay a consumer, I believe it’s important act upon those inspirations and to honor those who inspired you.
And so, it is with great fondness that I present the five authors who have been my greatest inspiration as a writer!
My very first Christian historical fiction book was The Patriots by Jack Cavanaugh. I’ll never forget the fourteen-year-old version of myself who had this 540-page book thrust into my hands by an excited friend, albeit, under a five-day deadline.
For someone who was used to 200-page Trixie Beldon mystery novels, this was a step into a rabbit hole I never recovered from.
Did I finish all 540 pages in five days? Yes. Was I hooked on “Uncle Jack’s” books from that moment on? Yes. Within a few short years, I’d read almost every novel he’d written.
I went through a phase in my writing development years of reading as many classics as I dared. I devoured everything from Les Miserables to Little Women. I nibbled on Shakespeare, and snacked on Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
But the historic authoress whose writing most echoed within my soul was Charlotte Brontë. Not to be confused with Emily or Anne, who had styles beyond my threshold of enjoyment. (Wuthering Heights and Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Need I say more?)
The Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette author had a direct but deep style that I appreciated. While her sister Emily had a dark streak, I never sensed that in Charlotte’s work–no, not even with Jane Eyre‘s abusive teachers and relatives, the mad wife, several deaths, and…am I missing anything? Whereas Wuthering Heights was full of vengeance and bitterness, Jane Eyre presented difficulties as circumstances to rise above.
As I said, direct but deep.
As an older teenager, I discovered Lynn Austin. It was like meeting the long-lost aunt you always knew was surely out there somewhere. As soon as she appeared in my life, I felt a kinship.
I read her Civil War novel Candle in the Darkness at least five times, not only because it was engaging, but because I’d finally found a novel that also included historic Richmond landmarks–namely, Libby prison–which I had researched in-depth for my first novel prior to discovering Lynn Austin.
Every time I pick up a Lynn Austin novel, I learn something either about writing or history. It’s always a sweet adventure, and I fall in love with her characters every time.
To date, I claim “Aunt Lynn” as my #1 favorite author because not only do I enjoy her stories, characters, and preferred time periods, but I trust her storytelling, her content, and her dedication to God and truth. She has a special talent and message.
Jerry B. Jenkins
Little did I know when I was twelve and starting the Left Behind series that the author would become a mentor figure in my life.
If I did know, I probably would have planned a way to tell him how my family and I developed a line of succession each time a new Left Behind book came out. It would always start with Mom. No question. When she finished the book, the next fastest reader acquired it…usually me, but sometimes respect had to be maintained in the household, and Dad would inherit it. This produced groans from my brother and me, as we all knew, despite Dad’s dedication, how slowly his toilet paper bookmark would move through the chapters. (Sorry, Dad. But you know it’s true!)
I would have told Mr. B-Jenkins (as he came to be known among his students) that we developed very strange ways of getting through a book under the intensity of peer pressure. Yes, I developed a way to wash dishes and get a few pages read. Thank goodness I wasn’t driving yet, or else the temptation might have gotten me in trouble at stoplights.
When I entered the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and advanced to the Craftsman level, I got to attend a residency program with Jerry and other CWG mentors/teachers. Through this program and one-on-one interaction, I observed Jerry’s heart to build up proficient writers who created stories that impacted God’s kingdom. He truly poured so much into my life by way of the Guild, which has forever impacted my writing journey.
I saved the best for last.
Throughout the two most advanced levels of the Christian Writers Guild, DiAnn Mills was my mentor. She writes romantic suspense, and even though our genres and styles are very different, her approach as a mentor covered any differences our writing had.
A couple years after I finished the Journeyman level, I met DiAnn in person at a writers conference. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I was just honored that she remembered the teenager-now-young-woman who had emailed assignments from New Zealand.
DiAnn encouraged me to take the last level, Craftsman. Little did I know at the time, I got into the last official class of Craftsman that DiAnn would lead.
During the year of Craftsman courses, DiAnn and I met via Skype every two weeks. During these interactions, conferences, and the residency intensive, I caught DiAnn’s enthusiasm for not only being a professional writer, but also for teaching and encouraging others in the craft.
She helped me navigate a publishing offer, strengthen plots and proposals, and overcome my fear of failing in my calling. Even today, I know I can write DiAnn any time and fill her in. She’s like a literary grandmother to me, and I am so grateful she came into my life during those important years and still cheers me on from a distance.
Your turn! Who are your top figures of inspiration as a writer?