Late YA Bloomer by Sarah Noffke
What literature inspired my own writing? What literature can I credit with inspiring my YA series, The Lucidites? All writers have to answer questions like these and I’m a little hesitant to divulge the truth here.
I have a confession. As a child I didn’t read a lot. Yes, that’s right. I’m a writer who started off by breaking the cardinal rule. Everyone knows that to be a writer you have to be a reader first. The truth is, I wasn’t a very good reader. I didn’t have a learning disability, I just hadn’t fallen in love with literature yet. Still I had a crazy imagination and so without knowing anything about the craft I wrote furiously as a child, scribbling down plays, poetry and short stories in my treehouse. And guess what? Because I hadn’t read a lot, my work sucked. Well, it probably also sucked because I was ten and a poor speller and had horrible grammar. All of that changed though…very slowly.
I did start to read more as I grew up. Assigned reading lists. Poetry. Self-Help. Yes, that’s right I was reading Oprah’s recommended books for the soul before I’d even read my first MG or YA sci-fi fantasy. I think I was born forty and have regressed as I’ve grown up.
I’m about to make a confession that I hope doesn’t earn me too much ridicule. I didn’t read my first MG/YA novel until after I graduated from school…grad school, that is. With no more papers to write or textbooks to read, I was finally free. And somehow Dan Brown or Nelson DeMille didn’t appeal to me on a particular day. On that faithful day, a different book found its way into my hands.
The Golden Compass.
It’s the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. I don’t recall the words that sprang out of my mouth when I finished that book and quickly went on to the next, but I remember the feeling in my heart. Longing. I was inspired by this magical story and characters who weren’t my age, but rather a much more impressionable one. And I was envious of a writer who had used science and fantasy together to create an incredible series. That’s right. I was downright jealous. And when I finished that series I do remember thinking something very clearly: I want to write YA.
And that’s where my love for YA started. I went on to read more. A lot more. At first I was a little jaded that I spent the first twenty-four years of my life reading books with characters who didn’t have special powers or magical tools. Don’t get me wrong, Jay Gatsby is a magical character in his own right, but he definitely doesn’t save the world or destroy a battlefield of monsters with his pet dragon.
My love affair with YA fiction was the beginning of an important journey for me. It’s when my ideas really started to spin, the very same ideas that later would create my own series about a special race of people who dream travel. Whereas before my stories had flat characters with mundane missions, under the inspiration of YA literature they took on fantastical features. They came to life. I’m definitely a late bloomer when it comes to YA. But I’m grateful I did find my genre. It continues to inspire my writing. And Pullman’s tales continue to keep me striving to be a writer as half as excellent as him.
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