Cooking up a storm.
Inspiration and influences.I always think that I was blessed growing up in a home where reading was endlessly encouraged and bedtime stories were a delightful trip into dream world.
Only a few books stand out in my mind from that pre teen time, but I am sure that these have been an influence in my own writing. Whatever your age, being swept up in a story is the key to a brilliant read. The best are where you finish the book with maybe a tear in your eye or a smile on your lips, but always with a heave of your chest and a huge satisfied sigh.
Although I write mystery and suspense romance, I read all genres of books, (except horror - yes, I am a scaredy pants!) and in my fulltime work I as a pearl stringer, I am lucky enough to be able to indulge my reading passion. I have strung pearls for over 30 years and I am now like one of the Shreddies grannies; I don't need to look at what I am doing while I knot up necklaces. Every day I set out my work, open my beloved Kindle and become lost in someone else's imaginary world. I have a voracious appetite for the written word and normally read at least a book a day.
In my youth I loved an adventure. The Three Investigators by Robert Arthur kept me turning the pages as Jupiter, Pete and Bob investigated themselves into and out of one scrape after another. Another of my favourite books was Walter Farley's 'The Black Stallion'. First published well before I was born, the book never felt old. I remember lying in bed imagining the wind racing through my hair as I was carried away over the island sand on the back of the magnificent Shetan.
I was a little older when I discovered Alexandre Dumas. I thought I had died and gone to heaven after reading The Count of Monte Cristo. The epic adventure of love, revenge and hope is one of my favourite books and I devoured The Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers shortly after. I loved the way the author wove the intricacies of his tales, but it was only recently that I discovered that Monsieur Dumas was even cleverer than I had first supposed. Apparently he wrote the books in instalments for a weekly magazine. The brilliant man immediately saw how to make an income for life and added chapter after chapter, often going out on wild tangents in the stories to increase the amount of instalments and thereby keeping up his steady income!
I first dipped my toe into romance when my older sister became misty eyed while reading an intriguing, cloth bound, gold leafed book. She coveted it and wouldn't let me see what it was, but after a few days irritation at her smug smirks and deep, heartfelt sighs, I managed to discern the title and author. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The words didn't mean much to me, but I was impressed that a lady had apparently written the book and undaunted by my sister's reticence to share, I bided my time. One morning before school my sister foolishly left the book on the bedside table and that was it...I scooped it up and ran for the bathroom. Locking the door behind me, I reverently thumbed the cover before opening the fine, almost silky pages.
On first sneaking a peek into her book I wondered what she had made all the fuss was about. Long words, unfamiliar surroundings, strange ways of addressing your father and a lot of chattering women, but by the end of the chapter I was completely hooked. The arrogance of Mr. Darcy...Oh my! How could a man so rude be so heart thumpingly attractive? Forget all the TV versions, the book is by far the most thrillingly romantic read ever! (Though the film version with Mathew Macfayden is rather swoon worthy!) The book barely left my hands until I had finished it and I'm not even sure that my sister ever had it back!
Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontÃ« soon followed and I was quickly seduced by these wonderful Regency romances. All the diaphanous silk and navy superfine! The cravats and corsets were soon doing it for me. I have loved reading hundreds of them that there are now too many to mention.
I feel sure that these early encounters with adventure, mystery and romance have influenced my own stories, but writing a book feels a little like inventing a perfect recipe; a dash of this, a pinch of that, all mixed with a good dollop of something else to enhance the flavour before serving up your best attempt. I call it cooking up a storm.
Though I could never profess to reach the standard of Robert Arthur, Walter Farley, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, I only hope everyone enjoys my recipes for a good read as much as I enjoy writing them.