The Books That Inspired Me To Write…

What are your Desert Isle Keepers? Which stories stayed with you long after you closed the cover?  Do you have comfort reads?  And the last question for writers, which books made you say, “I want to do that!” 

Here’s my list in no particular order….

1.  Christy by Catherine Marshall.  I was twelve when I read this story of a young woman going to the Appalachian mountains to be a teacher. In the town of Cutter Gap, Christy Huddleston experiences life in a whole new way, and she learns to see and love people for who they are.  Her friendship with Fairlight Spencer is both glorious and heartbreaking. The story is fiction, but it’s based on the life of Catherine’s mother. It’s also considered the book that gave birth to the Inspirational market, and the Christy Awards are named after it.

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Love this story!  The movies first brought it to life for me, namely the Hallmark movie with George C. Scott and Susannah York. A romance writer was born the night I saw the made-for-TV movie. Later I read the book for a Women’s Fiction class at UCLA. Forget symbolism and literary stuf, this is a story of redemption, transformation and romance. My favorite film version is the one with Timothy Dalton as Rochester.

3. The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley. Alec Ramsey was my first crush.  I read this series over and over, mentally riding in the races and taking on whatever challenges came Alex’s way.  They fed my child’s imagination in a big way.

4. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.  We’re getting off the beaten path with this one.  I read it as a college freshman at the recommendation of a teaching assistant. In short, it’s about a woman trying to make sense of a chaotic world.  The title is derived from structure of the book.  It’s made up of narrative, four “notebook “sections–each a different color and about a different part of the main character’s life–and finally a Golden notebook.  I’m now light years away from the content of the book, but it made me want to write.

5.  Hawaii by James Michener. I read this in middle school, around the time I read Christy. I thought the beginning was a bit dull, but I plowed through and discovered the joy of historical fiction. Does anyone else miss the days of long books? Some of my favorites by Michener are Centennial, The Source, Space and Chesapeake.

6. Captains and the Kings by Taylor Caldwell. I read this shortly after my first son was born. What a wonderful mix of history and drama!  In the coming years, I read every Taylor Caldwell book in the Thousand Oaks, California library.  

7. The Outsider by Penelope Williamson. I will never forget reading this book for the first time. It’s a mix of violence and faith, love and hate, guilt and forgiveness. I finished it at 3 a.m., blinked away the tears and thought, “I want to do this . . . I want to write books like this one.”  That’s a lofty goal and I don’t think I’ve met the challenge, but I intend to keep trying.  No one uses language like Penelope Williamson.  This book doesn’t just tell the story, it sings every word.

So those are my favorites.  What about you?  What’s on your keeper shelf?  I don’t think any of us could pick just one.


P.S. My current release is available now at Amazon  . . . Marrying the Major . . . Check it out along with the other titles in the “Women of Swan’s Nest” series!

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33 thoughts on “The Books That Inspired Me To Write…”

  1. Victoria – I loved Christy and also enjoyed the TV series based on this book. Jane Eyre is another all-time favorite as well as the movie with Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester.

    For my keeper shelf, your book West of Heaven is one that I love. Other keepers include Joe’s Wife by Cheryl St. John, Winning Jenna’s Heart by Charlene Sands, Her Dearest Enemy by Elizabeth Lane, Sweet Annie by Cheryl St. John just to name a few.

  2. Hi Lori, “Joe’s Wife” was the book that made me want to write for Harlequin Historicals. I loved that story (waving at Cher!) So glad you enjoyed “West of Heaven” … It’s a personal favorite 🙂

  3. Now there is a book, Christy, that I just loved reading. It stays with you for a long time and Of Captains and King. Great epect tale..

    I think one of the books will always be with me would be The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. And another would be North and South by John Jakes.

    So many wonderful books, I could go on and on…

  4. Hi Kathleen! The love story in “The Thorn Birds” is gut wrenching! I loved it. “North and South” is another favorite. Do you remember the TV miniseries? I thought they did a good job on it.

    I’m off to the dentist… be back soon, hopefully with no cavities and a new toothbrush 🙂

  5. Vicki – you’re a reader after my own heart. I, too, read Christy as a young girl and fell in love with it. I still have my copy. I loved horses as a kid, too, and read all the Black Stallion books. I bought my daughter the first one for Christmas a couple years back and finally got her to set aside the Harry Potters and Percy Jacksons long enough to give it a try this summer. She read them all!

    And Jane Eyre? Well, that is just my single favorite books of all time! In fact, I found a free audiobook app and downloaded a recording of it and am listening to it a chapter at a time as I exercise. I’m falling in love with it all over again!

    I remember Michner’s Centinnial being a TV mini-series when I was in high school. Loved that!

    As a girl, series like Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie helped me fall in love with historical fiction. My first grown up western romance books were the Wagons West seires by Dana Fuller Ross. Then I fell in love with Julie Garwood’s Scottish highlanders. Ah – so many good memories.

  6. Books I love, what a topic. I could fill eight comment boxes!!!!

    Favorite book ever To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I have re-read this book so many times and it never loses it’s depth and charm and power.

    Second favorite and to me, the most powerful emotional experience of my life, A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich. I haven’t read this in a while because I always cry so hard it’s wrenching. But I love that book. LOVE IT!!!!

    Favorite fun book ever, Mischief by Amanda Quick. This is the book all romance authors need to read to see it done just right. The hero and heroine are a complete mis-match that ends up being perfect for each other.

    Just funny and oh, so romantic, the dialogue, the suspense, the passion…sigh. A strong woman. A stronger man who ends up tying himself into knots for the woman he loves. Regency romance.

    I’m also just in love with a book called Matchmaker by Jude Devereaux, the second book in a three in one novella collection called The Invitation. The heroine is a novelist and the whole thing is a rant against all the things that drive this little novelist crazy. It’s very, very funny. It felt like maybe Jude was getting a lot of stuff off her chest. LOL

    I have shelves of beloved books that I take out and re-read.

    Cheryl St. John’s ‘Land of Dreams’ is a personal favorite and as I type this I realize I haven’t read that in a while. I need to do that.

    Though I had “The Truth About Toby” (also Cheryl) in my hands a few days ago–a nice touch of paranormal before it was all the rage…love that book.

    Have any of you read Blood of Heaven by Bill Myers? It’s reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon. In Flowers for Algernon a man goes from stupid to smart to stupid. In Blood of Heaven a man is given cloned blood found on a crown of thorns that is believed to be the blood of Jesus. The man goes from evil to good to evil.

    Fascinating. Love that book.

  7. Tough question, Vicki. There are so many. The early romances by writers like Phyllis Whitney, Nora Lofts and Mary Stewart…Anya Seton’s CATHERINE, the James A. Michner books…M.M. Kaye’s India books…
    Somebody stop me!

  8. I had a big sigh ready to comment on your listed books and then read the comments and now have a big OH MY! I’m amazed that my books are in this category. And so blessed. Thank you!

    Mine are Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer and The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory (Candace Camp). Also Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers before it was edited and reissued for the inspirational market. I read all of the early HHs by Laurie Grant (now Laurie Kingery) Mary Burton, Elizabeth Lane (hey sister Filly), Theresa Michaels, DeLoras Scott and Anna Seymour.

    I met DeLoras Scott at a HH dinner at conference after I’d sold and was in awe of someone I’d read and loved.

    I loved Anne of Green Gables too and so many books I enjoyed as a girl.

    Oh, I almost forgot Flowers From the Storm and those great books by Laura Kinsale. Oh and PAMELA MORSI! Loved those first books by her–couldn’t get enough.

  9. Hi Karen, Aren’t the Little House books wonderful? My favorites are “These Happy Golden Years” and “The Long Winter.” Listening to Jane Eyre would be wonderful, especially if Timothy Dalton did the reading 🙂

    Hi Mary! You just added to the list of books I want to read right now. I’ve heard of “A Lantern in her Hand” but haven’t read it. The Devereaux novella sounds hilarious 🙂

  10. Hi Elizabeth! The list goes on and on, doesn’t it? Didn’t MM Kaye write “The Far Pavillions”? Big meaty historicals are such a joy to read.

    Hi Cher! Yep, you’re on my list . . . big hugs! One of my favorite “writer” moments was being asked to be in a HH Christmas anthology with you and Carolyn Davidson. Definitely a Snoopy dance moment!

  11. Gracious, this is a hard one. Kind of like accepting a major award (not that I’d know from experience) but you don’t want to leave anyone out.

    I’d agree those who’ve mentioned Julie Garwood and Jude Devereaux who both have the wonderful ability to match a hero with a heroine who have no business together and by the end of the book you couldn’t see them apart.

    Also loved “North and South” both books and movies (except for the third in each).
    Liz Curtis Higgs’ Lowlands of Scotland series is one I’ve read until the covers are falling off. And Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series is outstanding.

    Louis L’Amour traveled from my dad’s keeper shelf to mine when I “borrowed” a few books. And your book “The Outlaw’s Return” joined others of yours on the shelf to be revisited. Really all of the Filley sisters join you there (and I’m not just blowing smoke).

    I know I’m forgetting someone… :o) And I’ll come back and think “Oh yeah, that one and that one, how could I forget those?” But I think every book and every author I’ve read led me to the moment when I said “I want to do that.”

  12. I love books as much as you since I read all of the ones you did.
    My keeper shelf is small since I don’t have much room but these are on it…
    Gone With The Wind-I read in the 8th grade and loved the historical novel. Also that year I got 100 points in my English class for reading Pearl Buck’s book The Good Earth amd A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
    Lloyd C Douglas’ Magnificient Obsession
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    The Scapegoat-Daphne du Maurier
    Red Sky At Morning-Richard Bradford
    Twice Loved-LaVeryl Spencer
    Mirror Image-Sandra Brown
    Shana-Kathleen Woodiwiss
    Sweet Savage Love-Rosemary Rogers
    So many good authors … so little time to read.

  13. Vicki, thanks for sharing your list. Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower is the one that inspired me to first to dream of writing and then to write. And then I read Angel by Johanna Lindsay and I got the first nudgings to write western romance. Later, after I heard Jodi Thomas speak to our writing group and introduced me to The Tender Texan, I was positive that I’d chosen the right genre and I haven’t looked back. It’s been an incredible ride.

  14. Great post, Vicki! I’m seeing some new reading material in my future here from the comments and your post. (like I need more!) LOL Anyhow, my favorite book of all time is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I don’t think it gets any better than that. Favorite romance, and the one that got me thinking about writing one of my own was SWEET SAVAGE LOVE. I bet I have re-read that book 10 times or more. LOL Now you may think I’m crazy on this one, but I really loved THE STAND by Stephen King. He is so masterful at taking several subplots and a ton of characters and creating a world that is so realistic for the reader, drawing it all together and bringing it to a final magnificent ending. That book was his masterpiece. Another keeper of mine is ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN by James Fergus. And I also loved THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE by Forrest Carter. My favorite western of all time is SHANE, by Jack Schaefer. Hope I spelled these names right. So many great books out there. And I’m loving these books by my filly sisters, too–I’m reading your THE OUTLAW’S RETURN right now, and can I tell you again how much I just love that cover. I’m a sucker for a man who loves a dog.

  15. Jane Eyre, Sixth grade. The Lowood School stuff still haunts me.

    Centennial, James Michener. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that I never wanted to end.

    Gone with The Wind and Little Women: these speak for themselves.

    The Da Vinci Code: I’m reading his Lost Symbol again right now because we just went to D.C. but it doesn’t compare to DVC.

    The Bride of the McHugh: Yummy Scottish laird.

    and Christy: I just bawled when Fairlight (SPOILER ALERT) passed away. What a beautiful name.

    Thanks for the trot down Literary Memory Lane, Vicki. oxoxox

  16. Hi Kirsten! I’m honored to have “The Outlaw’s Return” mentioned in the same post as those fabulous authors! I read the “The Mark of the Lion” trilogy just a few years ago. Why oh why did I wait? It’s amazing, just amazing. Excuse me while I gush! And yes, my Filly sisters are awesome!

  17. Howdy, Joye! You’re list is awesome! “Gone with the Wind” is blog worthy all by itself, both the movie and the book.

    Hi Linda, I’ve got to get caught up on Kathleen Woodiwiss. I’ve read just one of her books, and she’s a legend. So is Jodi. Another author who inspired me to do westerns is Roseanne Bittner.

  18. Oh James Michener and Taylor Caldwell are two of my favorite authors. Love those huge, long sagas. One of my other favorites is Jean Auel and her Earth’s Children Series and the John Jakes series and Kathleen Woodiwiss and Julie Garwood…and, and and lol.

  19. Hi Cheryl! The hero in my current project is named Shane. I just love the name, especially for a hero. You have some unique choices on your lists. It’s great to trade ideas! And thank you, too, for the kind words for “The Outlaw’s Return.”

    Howdy, Tanya. The scenes in Christy with Fairlight Spencer are magical. My husband and I visited Gatlinburg in the Smokies a few years ago. “Christy” came even more to life. DC is a great city to visit, but living there? Ugh! Glad you’re back 🙂

  20. Hi Catslady! The list really does go on and on, doesn’t it? I miss those big historicals. Another author, if you haven’t already tried her, is Susan Howatch. Her books are older now, but they’re magnificent.

  21. Oh there are so many books that I loved. Gone With The Wind is what got me started reading so its always a favorite. Kaki Warner’s Blood Rose series, Constants O’Banyon’s Rebel Temptress, Elaine Levine’s series, a lot of the westerns are on my keeper shelve or books during the Civil War because they are my favorite reads. Joanne Sundell is another great author that is on my keeper shelf.

  22. May I go with keeper authors as many whose books I cherish wrote many worth keeping?
    Corrie ten Boom, most notably The Hiding Place;
    Rosamunde Pilcher, especially The Shell Seekers, Coming Home, and Winter Solstice;
    Taylor Caldwell;
    James Michener, particularly his early works;
    Pearl Buck; and
    Leon Uris.

    Best wishes for success of Marrying the Major.

  23. Hi Quilt Lady! Awesome book / author list! I see some new names, particularly Joanne Sundell.

    Hi Liz, “The Shell Seekers” and “Coming Home” are both favorites. So is “Exodus” by Leon Uris. Thos long historical sagas are like Thanksgiving dinner. You can eat them for days!

  24. Back in the early 70’s, the book that inspired me to write was Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare.

    As I grew older, I books that stayed with me were:
    Kathleen Woodiwiss – Shanna, The Flame and the Flower
    Rosemary Rogers – Sweet Savage Love
    John Jakes – The Kent Family Chronicles
    James Michener – Centennial, Chesapeake, Hawaii
    Zane Grey – The Call of The Canyon, Riders of the Purple Sage
    Louis L’Amour – The Sacketts

    And more recently:
    Lavyrle Spencer – Forgiving
    Cheryl St John – Heaven Can Wait, Joe’s Wife
    Vicki Bylin – Abbie’s Outlaw, Of Men and Angels
    MaryLu Tyndall – The Legacy of the King’s Pirates
    Francine Rivers – Mark of the Lion series
    Dee Henderson – The Marriage Wish
    Carla Capshaw – The Gladiator
    Roseanna White – Jewel of Persia

    … how much time have you got? LOL

  25. Hi Anita Mae! I have all day when it comes to talking books! Well, sort of. Life has a way of interfering with the fun stuff. Many thanks for mentioning Abbie’s Outlaw and Of Men and Angels. I’m honored 🙂 When I look at our list, I realize how many great books I haven’t read yet. So many words! So little time!

  26. Vicki, the books I remember are based on their emotional impact. I’ve read that Zane Grey wasn’t a great writer. Well maybe not, but when I think of his books, I get a hitch in my heart. He knew romance and I’ve always put more emphasis on the tears and fears of the story itself.

    It used to be a joke in our house when people looked at our bookshelves and they saw the Louis L’Amour collection alongside Zane Grey. They thought they were all Nelson’s. But Nelson preferred the action first and romance second while I was the other way around. I’d exhausted Zane Grey’s booklist before I read even one Louis L’Amour and then it took several before I got hooked on him.

    I have to add that the only part of writing I don’t like is the tarnish it’s put on my reading. I now find myself critiquing as I go along. In essence, I’ve lost my innocence of reading for the pure enjoyment of the story. 🙁

  27. Hi Anita Mae! I hear on that “loss of innocence” when it comes to reading. I’m too aware sometimes, but there are other times where a story captivates me and it’s just the best thing ever 🙂 Either way, it’s all good.

  28. I didn’t find CHRISTY until my mid-thirties. I too enjoyed it and wanted to give our first daughter Fairlight as a middle name. The nurse wouldn’t let me, she said the whole name would be too long and not fit on the forms. Too bad. At the time we were living in Maine. Life is funny, that daughter now lives in Asheville, NC not far from the setting for Christy.

    The first books that really stuck with me were Mary O’Hara’s trilogy: MY FRIEND FLICKA, THUNDERHEAD, and GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING. I discovered those in high school. Now that I think of it, I guess that last one was my first romance.

    My senior year my American History teacher had us read an historical novel. I chose LYDIA BAILEY by Kenneth Roberts. That book was an eye opener and was responsible for my love of historical fiction. It covered so much and gave such detail on the who, what, and where of what was happening. I need to reread it now that my perspective has changed to see what I think of it.

    Next was THE SOURCE by James A. Michener. It was fascinating. I was overseas in the Peace Corps, no TV or radio, so I got to really concentrate on the book. A friend has said that what Michener needed more than anything was a good editor, but I liked the length and detail. In college I was fascinated with Egypt and the Middle East, so this book was really interesting. One thing I liked about the book/style was the sections of the story were pretty much self contained and could be read and enjoyed on its own. They were all held together by the story of the archeological dig. Another one I need to reread. It has been 40 years.

    I do have these books on my keeper shelf (except for GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING, I’m still looking for it) .

    There have been many keepers since but these were the early ones that really made an impression.

    Best of luck with the release of MARRYING THE MAJOR. It sounds like a good story.

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