Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Influences: Danielle Steel

When I was a kid, it seemed like my mother always had at least one partially-read Danielle Steel novel lying around the house somewhere. My parents both worked a lot and didn't get much down time, so I don't actually remember her sitting down to read very often, but the books were always there.

I grew to be quite an avid reader myself, so it was only a matter of time before I picked one of them up. I don't remember what my first Danielle Steel novel was, but I know I got completely hooked pretty quickly. I remember spending one summer plowing through my mother's entire bookshelf, devouring one after another after another, until I'd read them all.

Hmmm... I haven't actually read a Danielle Steel novel in a while. I think I'm behind.

*adds "Correct TBR" and "Raid library" to today's to-do list*

The beautifully rich love stories and fascinating glimpses at history kept bringing me back over and over again. I've read so many novels in my life that it's hard sometimes for me to pluck out individuals, especially from the ones I read as a kid. But several of Danielle Steel's made such an impression that I still catch little bits and pieces floating through my thoughts decades later.

And when I sit down to write these posts and think about the stories I want to tell and the reactions I want to inspire in my readers, one of the first examples that jumps to mind is my own experience reading Danielle Steel's Fine Things.

I could tell you that remember reading Fine Things specifically because it made me cry, but cry is really too small a word for what happened. I wept while reading that book, in the most dramatic sense of the word. Even decades later, I'd still feel a little tightness in my chest just thinking about that story. And when Long-Suffering Husband was diagnosed with cancer, Fine Things was one of the first things that came rushing into my head.

(And then I had a major anxiety attack and cried myself to sleep for days. Because, you know, things didn't go so well with regard to the whole cancer thing in that book. But happily they went well for us here in reality--yay for over three years in full remission!--so it's all good.)

You can argue the merits of fiction up and down and back and forth and never really come to the end of the debate. Genre fiction, and romance in particular, gets slammed as frivolous and pointless quite frequently. But I hear all of that literary criticism and all I can really say is that I'm sitting here writing a blog post about a romance novel I read a lifetime ago and I'm still moved by the memory of it.

Because that's what great books do. It doesn't matter if it's a love story or a ghost story or a dramedy about sisterhood. Great books jump right off whatever shelf they happen to get stuck on. They get inside and grab us by our emotions and burn themselves into our memories.

And I want to do that. Maybe this is going to be one of those things that says bad things about me as a person, but I really want to make people cry someday. No, I want to make them weep, in the most dramatic sense of the word.

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