I'm honored to be asked by the lovely Lena Coakley herself to be part of this blog tour! For a full list of the tour stops click here. I actually reviewed Worlds of Ink and Shadow on the blog last Tuesday, so check it out if you're interested!
First off Lena will talk about the books that influenced her and then at the end of this post there will be a giveaway!
An Autobiography of My Early Life Masquerading as The Five Books That Have Influenced Me the Most
by Lena Coakley
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
What a lucky thing that I had parents who read aloud to me. This book is one of my earliest memories. The part I love most is when Peter puts a snowball in his pocket before going to bed and doesn’t know where it’s gone in the morning. It’s the first time I remember having that delicious feeling of knowing more than the main character. I still love it when an author is able to give me that feeling. As a child, I don’t remember thinking much about the fact that The Snowy Day has a black protagonist, but I’ve often wondered (as a white girl who lived in a mostly white neighbourhood) if this book influenced me—and thousands of other children—in subtle and positive ways, and I’m grateful I grew up in a time when Ezra Jack Keats was helping to make picture books more inclusive.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
My grandmother read this book out loud to me when I was in second grade. I’d been through a lot. Both my parents were ill and unable to take care of me. Due to moving around, I was in my third school in six months. I hated reading and didn’t think I was very smart—but my grandmother knew kids and she knew how to make them readers. This was her philosophy: Human beings are addicted to story. If you want to make a child a reader, remove all avenues to story except books—and then provide lots of those. In practice what this meant was, no TV. At first I was appalled. I resisted. We had a radio that got TV stations and I remember watching the movie Xanadu by listening to the radio and using binoculars to look through the window of a neighbor who was watching it. (My cousin Ray—also raised in the church of no TV—would slip away to the local Laundromat and watch soap operas.)
Eventually, though, that human need for story won out, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was my watershed book. The pure magic of the story was irresistible. After it, I was a reader, and I devoured the rest of the series myself.
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
For a too-brief four years before he died, my father was well enough to take care of me, and I went to live with him again. He was, let’s be frank, a huge nerd. He loved comic books. He collected electric trains and set them up on our dining room table. He had no idea how to raise a girl by himself. He also loved genre fiction, something my grandmother disdained. Ray Bradbury was my father’s favourite author and I still remember him reading Dandelion Wine out loud to me. Since he was a drama teacher and ham, every chapter was a performance. He used accents and different voices and would pace back and forth across the floor.
It turned out to be a very lucky thing for me as both a reader and a writer to have a lover of science fiction and fantasy in my life. At the time (grades 4-6) the fiction I was reading was still full of magic and wonder, but as I grew older the books that were considered literary had fewer and fewer fantastic elements. If it hadn’t been for my father and Dandelion Wine, I might have come to believe that the fantastic was something you grew out of.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
I went back to living with my grandmother, but now, instead of needing her to read to me, she needed me to read to her. My grandmother, who adored books, had eye problems that only allowed her to read for an hour a day. That would be plenty for some, but she felt the loss of her reading time keenly. When we read David Copperfield, she would read the first two pages of every chapter and I’d read the rest. My grandmother and I didn’t always have an easy time with each other during my teen years. We were both strong willed, bossy, and opinionated. There were some screaming matches. But somehow we could always put it all aside to read some more David Copperfield. It took us years, but I remember us getting to the end about two days before my senior prom, tears streaming down both our faces. I reread this book about every ten years now, and whenever I do, I start to hear the words in my grandmother’s voice.
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
I never stopped reading, never stopped loving books, but somehow, when I was about twenty, I found that some of the wonder had gone. I came to think that I’d never again be blown away by books the way I’d been blown away by them when I was twelve. Oh, jaded, jaded twenty-year-old girl. I don’t think I studied one science fiction or fantasy book in High School or university, so my education was giving me a clear message: adult fiction is realistic fiction. Don’t get me wrong, there are many realistic books that I love, but my reading world had narrowed. It had narrowed much more than it needed to. Magical realism wasn't on my radar yet. I tried reading fantasy and science fiction but—and this is just because I wasn’t reading the right books—it seemed to me they didn’t have the complexity and great writing I craved. I pulled this collection off a shelf at random while on vacation. I read the first short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. Mind blown.
Ficciones was the first book I read as an adult that convinced me I could read with the same deep sense of awe and amazement I had experienced when I was eight reading the Narnia books or ten reading Ozma of Oz or twelve reading A Wizard of Earthsea. If I had pulled a different book off that shelf, I might have drifted away from reading, and that would have been a sad thing.
Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Daisy!
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Thanks so much for writing this lovely post Lena! And now for the giveaway:
10 winners: A Copy of WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW curtesy of Amulet Books, Harper Collins Canada or Lena Coakley
5 winners: A black Brontë bonnet!
1 Grand Prize Winner:
A Copy of WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW (Canadian or US edition dependent on country of winner)
A Hardcover Everyman's Library edition of JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë
A Hardcover Everyman's Library edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Brontë
A softcover Penguin edition of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL by Anne Brontë
A softcover Hesperus edition of THE SPELL, juvenilia of Charlotte Brontë
Toasty Almond Tea from Tealish
A cloth ornament of Charlotte Brontë's childhood hero, The Duke of Wellington, inspiration for her character, Zamorna
a Rafflecopter giveaway