Ever since we started the current blog topic of the books and authors that inspired us to become writers, I’ve been wondering exactly how to approach it. I’ve been a reader since I was three, and a writer of stories, poetry, and embarrassing handwritten fan fiction for almost that long, it only occurred to me to try writing novels fairly recently. What flipped that switch was an intersection of some ideas, a creative itch, and a summer full of free time. I’m a visual person. I love stories that draw me into their world, that make me feel like I’m there–and I strive to achieve that in my own work. Also (and you may not believe this about me), I’m a talker. I love to tell stories. It’s probably this desire to entertain people as much as anything else that made me a writer.
There are so many authors that I love and have read religiously for years, but if I had to choose the most inspiring one, it’s the incomparable, late, Ruth Rendell. She was the epitome of the lifelong author, publishing her first novel in the 1960s, and she continued to write up to her death this past May… and in her later years, she did it while also being a Member of Parliament. She’s deservedly one of the queens of British mystery, because of her long-running Inspector Wexford novels, but my personal favorites are the more psychological studies she creates in her standalone books, both as Ruth Rendell and the more Gothic/Literary ones penned as Barbara Vine. Seriously, folks, there are more good books written by this lady than I can count! Do you like dark humor? Do you like razor-sharp insights into the stranger aspects of human nature? Do you like getting into the mind of the villain or weirdo character? Plots that weave the lives of random strangers together with shocking consequences? How about being immersed in London’s neighborhoods and atmosphere? If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, my friends, then you owe it to yourselves to get on closer terms with this legend!
It all started innocently enough, about fifteen years ago, with A Sight for Sore Eyes. I found it on the shelf of the public library, where I was looking for some non-algae based reading material (I was in the midst of writing my Master’s thesis at the time…now that was riveting prose, let me tell you). I meant to read a few pages, take a little break before getting back to the scientific journals and my computer. Later, I realized the day was gone, it was the middle of the night, and I’d done nothing but read that book and pee since coming home from the library!
Her prose is cool and spare, no extra words anywhere, but you are right there in that story, witnessing the making of a sociopath. And sort of understanding him, if not actually rooting for him. And OMG, the hooks! Hooks at the end of every scene! The creeping dread and ominous buildup–and the absolute creepiest of poetic justice at the end! All bow down to the Queen, people.
Even though my light women’s fiction is about as far away as you can get from what you might find in the pages of a typical Ruth Rendell book, she still inspires me. Her hooks, her settings, the absolute realness of the inner and outer worlds of her characters…. if my stories could achieve half for what she did on the daily, that would be a lifetime achievement for me.
So what do you think? Have you ever read any of her books? If you’re a writer, do you have a favorite author who writes in a completely different genre? And most importantly, do you need any more awesome Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine recs? Hint: A Dark-Adapted Eye is just as awesome as ASFSE, but with added WWII intrigue!
Happy (and creepy) Reading!