Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Last week I wrote about reading to write. I wrote about how I learn most of my writing skills from simply reading a lot and picking up on what writers do well and what I personally do not enjoy in their books.
But what books do I actually read to inspire me? What books have had a real impact on the Once Upon a Tome series that I have been creating?
I have read and loved fairytale twists for a long time (in fact, a lot longer than I have been writing this series) so many of these books were already on my shelves even before I began to develop my characters, plots, and world. These books are inspirations to me and my work. I love them for their words, for their characters, for their plots, for their amazing ability to twist the fairytales into the novel, and for their ability to look beyond the original fairytales to what could have been.
Once Upon a Time:
Obviously, the Once Upon a Time show is not a book, it is a TV series. All the same, there have definitely been moments I have been watching the show and have been inspired by the characters and plot. No, I was not inspired by the name. "Once Upon a Time" is obviously a book (and particularly a fairytale) phrase and I loved it for my books outside of the show's name but as a pun person, I actually wanted to do a twist on the name (not because I wanted to avoid copyrighting the name of the show but because I actually preferred the name I chose). A "tome" is an old book. Thus Once Upon a Tome. ::giggles:: I don't actually recall what came from this show as it has been quite a while since I have watched it. I suspect when I originally planned to do the Snow White story (which I am not now), I had some inspiration from the show there. I also likely have some Rumplestilkskin inspiration in my character in the way she (yes, she) is both good and bad in ways and even down to the nickname "Rumple" (which really can't be copyrighted because what else do you call Rumplestiltskin? The name is way too long to always say out and do you want to go with "Stiltskin?" "Skinny?"). I think, though, the thing I have most in common with Once Upon a Time, is the crisis crossing of family trees. Be on the lookout for that as you begin to read the stories.
The Land of Stories:
The Land of Stories is a Middle-Grade book so I haven't read it in a while but I think it is probably the one you will see elements of in my first book The Criminal the most. The Land of Stories is less a retelling of a single fairytale and more a "Land of Stories" as the title implies. In that way, my book is somewhat similar as each of the books do incorporate different fairytale characters because, after all, they do all live in the same four kingdoms. But that's not really where inspiration comes from. In The Land of Stories, Goldilocks is a Criminal. Where that is largely where the similarities end (she runs off with Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and doesn't have an abusive father) I do think reading this book as a kid helped me to see the story from that point of view: that someone breaking and entering and eating someone's food would become a criminal. The name Hagatha is also used for a witch of some sort and I think I simply loved the name and had to have it so there is that as well. Oh, and Red Riding hood is called "Red" which put me on the path of the royals of the kingdom having red shades for names.
The Lunar Chronicles:
I don't know that there are any specific things that The Lunar Chronicles lent to me. This, I think I have mentioned, is my favorite series. The amount of times I have read it, I think has allowed things to simply seep into my writer's brain. I have post-its in all of the books and a document that guides me as to where the notes on the post-its belong (which of my books) but rather than the items being super specific, they are more "I like how she described this thing, it flows really naturally" or "she shows how well she knows her character here" or "look how she integrated the fairytale here!" There are very few specific notes but rather notes that inspire me. Each time I read the series, I am more and more inspired by what is in it and by her writing style, well-developed characters, beautiful scenery and description, and plot (including how she twists the fairytales into it).
As Old As Time:
I don't want to discuss the way I was able to look to As Old As Time for inspiration (and things to avoid re-doing) too much because I really don't want to spoil too much about The Beauty which will be my Belle twist and the book that I will write next. The thing is, I had planned out the majority of my Belle twist before I read this book (I had even named my character Annabelle Charmant but the writer uses the word "Charmant" to describe magic creatures in her book and I think I might change their last name now). Then I saw something on the front cover of this book that caught my eye and made me think "hmm, perhaps I should read this book because it seems like they may have had the same idea as me." I did, and in some sense, they did. I have not totally rearranged my plot but it has recently been a struggle to ensure the plot I so carefully laid out is not too close to the Disney plot nor to this plot nor to any other Belle rewrite. Despite the frustration, it was a good read and it made it clear that despite the knowledge that my idea is not totally original like I thought (but to be clear, I had it before I saw the book so it was not inspired by the book), it does excite people. And the book is, in some ways, the Disney plot in a YA book form so it is a good way to see what not to do to avoid infringing on Disney rights.
There are other books that inspire me. I love The Red Queen Series and I have found inspiration in Sarah J. Mass's books. Marissa Meyer's other books are excellent and Cursed has thrilling sword fighting moves that are great to learn from. Plus there are more I cannot think of at this moment. The books (and shows) mentioned above are those that have contributed the most to my series. But I continue to read and learn and write every day.