Everything I needed to know to be a novelist, I learnt as a book nerd kid – Lauren Bird Horowitz
By Lauren Bird Horowitz
As I release my very first novel Shattered Blue, the first of The Light Trilogy, I want to give thanks to the quiet nerdy girl I once was (and still am), and to the benevolent employees of my neighborhood mecca growing up, Kepler’s Books, who pretended they didn’t see me curled up in their stacks, devouring the books gleaming brightly from their shelves. Below is a list of my favorite childhood books, which now that I think about it, probably taught me everything I needed to eventually become a writer myself. Starting from when I was youngest, and moving up….♥
IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura Numeroff
Sure, when I was little I think I loved the fact that there was a cute mouse (I loved animals) and a big cookie (loved those more) right on the pretty green cover, but what I didn’t realize was I was also learning the hugely valuable lesson of carefully plotted cause-and-effect stories. As any reader of Shattered Blue will quickly discover, I am a planning writer: my plots are intricate dances of dominoes, twisting and turning in ways that may shock at first, but later, you realize, were carefully planned. And there are a lot more surprises to come in the next two books, planned in advance with clues and foreshadowing along the way — and I owe it all to my love of furry creatures and yummy treats!
I’M NOBODY, WHO ARE YOU? COLLECTED EMILY DICKINSON POEMS FOR CHILDREN (alas, I cannot find this specific edition online, it must be out of print)
Now that I’m older, I see how very odd it is that someone thought to compile Emily Dickinson’s poems “For Children,” and use one of her most haunting pieces, “I’m Nobody” as the title — alongside a watercolor illustration, no less, making it seem like a lovely make-believe game. But I am so glad they did. Not only did this book introduce me to one of my all-time heroines at a very young age, but it allowed me to see how poems can change and grow with you. As a kid, I loved the rhythm, the images, and now I appreciate Emily for her melancholy, almost frightening power to pin down troubling things. She also taught me the value of economy in writing, especially in poems: choose your words carefully. Sparse can be powerful.
FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg
I will never, ever forget the brilliance of “Oh, baloney!” in one of my first, and still all-time favorite, chapter books. This oft-repeated catchphrase of Claudia’s little brother Jamie showed so much of his voice and character — and then suddenly, like an exploding firework you didn’t even know you had, unlocked the novel’s biggest mystery! E.L really showed me the power of echoes and voices, and how dialogue itself can become a metaphor, a catalyst, the key to it all! Not to mention, hiding out and living secretly in a museum? AMAZING.
THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB by Ann M. Martin
Yes they were variable, and I felt utterly betrayed when, somewhere around #120, I realized that different authors were writing them and not Ann M. Martin (though that did explain why some were great and some terrible). I admit the quality wasn’t the highest, kind of my kid version equivalent of guilty pleasure gossip blogs or Fifty Shades — BUT they did teach me two important things: 1) Lovable characters are essential and 2) if your characters rock, tell as many stories as you can! I definitely planned, ahead of time, to tell three novels about Noa, because when I was thinking of her, I knew I wanted to give her a lot of time and space to develop and grow, and I wanted to watch her adventure and explore. I hope everyone finds her (and Callum and Judah and Sasha) interesting enough to ride with them through the series — there’s a lot more in store!
FALL ON YOUR KNEES by Anne Marie Macdonald
Ok I admit I didn’t read this one as a kid. But since I still consider myself a kid in many ways, and it is my now and forever favorite book in the world, I have to include it on this list. Macdonald is a writer whose talent I absolutely covet. Her writing is muscular — with a single word, she can change your entire perception and perspective. She shifts effortlessly through perspectives, creates worlds with her imagery, makes her characters breathe, and always has me wanting more. The very first time I read this saga of Francis and Lily, I re-read it immediately when I’d finished, and loved it even more the second time. Now I re-read it at least once a year. It’s genius, and everything I aspire to achieve as a novelist. A gal can dream!
Lauren Bird Horowitz’s debut novel, Shattered Blue, is now available, and is the first in a series called The Light Trilogy. She calls both Los Angeles and Kauai home.