Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WRITERS: What are YOUR Great Expectations?

For me, Charles Dickens made me want to be a writer. In the first chapter of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Dickens describes how Pip makes up images of his dead parents in his head, by nothing more than the shape of the letters on their tombstones.

In every book, Dickens always manages to capture my attention from page one, something I find wonderful and vital. There is nothing worse than having to struggle through the first chapter of a book.  We've all done it. When I read a shiny new book and see the images in my head right away, I know I'm hooked--immediate connection. I want to connect with readers like that!

I've told you my "road to publication" tragedies and triumphs. What are yours and what are YOUR great expectations?

1. What book and/or author inspired you to write?

2. Why did you feel so inspired?

3. What is the hardest and/or best part about your road to publication? Where do you see your writing future going?

xoxo -- Hilary


  1. Funny, I just stumbled upon a "journal" in a box the other day and sat down to read a few old entries. One of them was from when I first starting writing what became The Ninth Avatar. I said things like, "I want to write dozens of books, I want to write books that make people think," but the last line of the entry was, "I just want to write."

    More than anything, I think what inspires me is that I've finally found my greatest method of communication. I didn't used to understand "themes" and "high concept" in books until I started seeing them play out in my own work with no conscious effort to include them. But, frankly, what is important to me as a person is what I examine and experiment with in my writing... just with a Fantasy edge.

    As for expectations, my measure of success is that people read my work. I'm not in it for the fame or the fortune. As Henry Rollins once said, "I'd rather have your time than your money."

  2. Maybe Ferdinand the Bull when I was a kid. It was my first book report ever.

    And I like how it did unexpected things...

    I think Roald Dahl played a huge part in inspiring me to write...and Maurice Sendak...
    and later JK Rowling. And of course, all fairy tales.

    They inspire me because they make me want to read them....like stop everything and read. I think it is the imaginative quality of their writing I love best. How I don't have to be in my world anymore, but can live in theirs for a bit.



  3. Anonymous3/23/2010

    I too like Dickens, especially "A Tale of Two Cities" although I suppose that's almost cliché.

    My favorite Victorian author is Victor Hugo. Ayn Rand referred to him as the greatest writer of all times. And although I love the unabridged version of Les Miserable, Ninety-Three may exemplify his work even better.

    I do like 20th century writers, Graham Greene, Robertson Davies, Taylor Caldwell, John Updike and others.

    No particular writer influenced me to write, but many have influenced me to read. In fact, I don't do fiction all that well.

    Thanks for the opportunity to express my opinion.

  4. 1. What book and/or author inspired you to write?

    Dean Koontz, first. I used to be into thrillers like no other and then I discovered more authors and more genres and now there are so many writers who inspire me.

    2. Why did you feel so inspired?

    I've been writing since I was 15 and I've always had stories running around in my head, so best get them down on paper.

    3. What is the hardest and/or best part about your road to publication? Where do you see your writing future going?

    I'm still a newie on the road, but the hardest thing was putting down my last novel after numerous rejections, but I'm optimistic and a fighter, so I moved on to the next one.

  5. I'm going to be a rebel and not answer your prompts - do not question The Tart! - but I find this interesting. The very first time I read your fiction, I said you reminded me of Dickens, and that I found your writing more literary than most MG I'd read. So congrats! If your mission was to emulate your source of inspiration, I'd say, verily, you succeeded.

  6. I've heard from too many readers & writers that they don't like Dickens. That makes me so sad. Great Expectations is my favorite work of my favorite classic author. But the book that really made me want to be a writer is On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which was given to me when I was 7 by my grandmother. It was the first *big* book I read.

  7. You want cliche, try Anne of Green Gables. But I loved everything Anne, and then everything L.M. Montgomery. Did she ever write a character who didn't want to write? I'm sure I got my drive from there.

  8. Ray Bradbury. In high school, they gave us a collection of his short stories and I was amazed. I wanted to write like that. But I was also intimidated. I didn't think I was any good a fiction before the end of high school. I didn't pick it up again until recently.

    The roughest bump in the road to publication has been the realization that it requires some business sense as well as creativity.

  9. T.D. "I just want to write." I think that sums it up for me too! I'm like you; I didn't know I had any themes running in my stories until other people read them and told me I did! I still write that way and will hopefully never stop! :)

    Shelley, Ferdinand the Bull is awesome! Yes, later on like JK inspired you, Gregory Maguire inspired me. The world he created in Wicked was somewhere I wanted to live!

    Hal, there is noting cliché about liking A Tale of Two Cities! I think if an author can inspire us to read, then maybe they inspire us to write in a roundabout sort of way. Who knows! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    Crimey, shelving a novel is tough! I don't know if it's true or not, but I read somewhere most published authors don't get their first MS published. I have a friend who wrote and queried 8 different manuscripts before she got an agent. On a side note: She will be published soon! :)

    I actually haven't read Dickens in years and years! I think, for me anyway, his style of writing gives me that warm and cozy feeling, which is what I want my readers to have when they read my books. If that's what I accomplish, then yes, I'm as Dickensian as they come, which is not a bad thing! :)

    Karen, I had that book too! My mother gave it to me. I haven't thought about until you brought it up. It was wonderful and now I must re-read! Thanks for putting it in my head again! :)

    Janet, Anne of Green Gables empowered me when I was young, so maybe it had an influence on me too! I gobbled up those books and I hope my daughter will too.

    Amanda, Ray Bradbury is fantastic! I think he actually got rejected more than me, if that's possible! Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite novels of all time!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  10. Yeah, I think the second you try to shoehorn a "theme" in and break that 4th wall (when the narrator stops being transparent) it really takes away from the fact that you're writing fiction. If you want to write essays, write essays.

  11. Oh, I don't read classics. For me, it was Scott Westerfeld. I read So Yesterday first, and thought, Wow! I need to be able to write like this. That's why I gravitated toward YA. Then when I read his Uglies series, I was hooked on dystopian. And it's been all downhill since then...

  12. Great Post!
    I've always written off an on, but one book that blew me away and really made me want to write for other people and not just myself was David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty Someday. Love the voice, and he made it accessible, somehow. Errm--having a hard time explaining what I mean. I'll just back away from the keyboard slowly...

  13. Anonymous3/23/2010

    i'm a jane austen lover...the beauty of the language..how it's written..always captures my interest!

    ciao bella

  14. Wow, that's a tough one--I really have no clue which book made me want to write initially, just that I've been an avid reader since..forever. But the book that made me try again after a long hiatus was....wait for it...

    (why do I feel like everyone is staring and pointing right now, lol?)

    Whatever the faults, I just really got sucked into that emotional intensity, and wanted to replicated it somehow in my own story.

    As far as publication road--well, I'm only halfway there. I have an agent and am hoping to go on sub within the next few months, once revisions are done. Let me check back in later. :D

  15. That's funny... none of his books were able to keep me interested at all!

    That's the great thing about opinions... they are unique to each individual. Some people will like it and some won't.

    As for a book that inspired me to write, honestly I don't know if any one book pushed me. I've always wanted to write a novel as a dream of mine.

  16. Thank goodness for this post - SO many writers and readers tell me they can't stand Dickens. Sometimes it seems like the only author it's cool to like in this scene from before 1950 is Jane Austen. I've been inspired by many authors, but no one hits me harder than Dickens. I breathe better when I'm reading him. And I borrow from him quite a bit; there are references (sometimes big ones) in all of my books. No reviewer has ever noticed, to my knowledge.

    "Tale" is sort of underrated. Maybe because it's the most commonly assigned book, and isn't as epic and sweeping as some of the "major" works, like Copperfield and Bleak House. Then again, Great Expectations is short, too, and THAT'S certainly no minor work.

  17. Jk Rowling did it for me. I loved that she was a mom and published despite the odds. And I thought, I could never do that, I have no ideas. And then one, an idea popped into my head. And that was the beginning of my obsession. I keep going because I have a vision of how my WIP is supposed to be, how it will read, how the characters will be alive. And I can't stop till I fulfill those expectations I set. Not sure if I exactly answered the questions, but there you have it!
    Great post!

  18. Anonymous3/23/2010

    1. What book and/or author inspired you to write?

    In my high school years, Stephen King and V.C. Andrews.

    2. Why did you feel so inspired?

    Their writing was moving and entertaining. They made me understand the power of reading and writing.

    3. What is the hardest and/or best part about your road to publication? Where do you see your writing future going?

    The hardest part was getting my foot in the door. The best part is that I'm enjoying the process of being a debut author. I'd like to get a book published every year or two. *fingers crossed*.

  19. Oh there are so many great authors that have inspired me. It's hard to only name a few. But yes, I'd love to capture readers from the first page. That's a great thing to aspire to. I'd also like to make a few readers cry. Happy tears, but still. It would be great to have someone connect that deeply with one of my books.

  20. Super post, Hilary! I love Oliver Twist! You're right Dickens takes you there...
    1. HOMEPLACE by Crescent Dragonwagon
    2. It's a picturebook that takes you back to your childhood...exploring and imagining who used to live in a deserted rundown home...
    3. I think the hardest part in this journey is taking the time to research who to send your work to and waiting...

  21. Reading the first Harry Potter book inspired me. It rekindled my love of fantasy. I had an idea, started writing, and got hooked.

    After about 6 and 1/2 years, I am almost done with my manuscript and am hoping/scared to start querying agents.

  22. I think it was lugging around my big ol' copy of THE STAND in 10th grade that solidified two things for me: 1) Stephen King told stories I wanted to read and
    2) I was gonna try like hell to do the same.

    So far, I'm still thumbing it on the road to publication, and cars are still whizzing on past. But my writing is cleaner and stronger every day, so it's alle gut!

  23. T.D. NO essays! :)

    Elana, I don't think you know what downhill means!!! ;)

    Merissa, sometimes it's hard to put into words why we loved a book so much (which is ironic, since we're writers), but I know exactly what you mean! What's the expression? "I don't know good art, but I know what I like." :)

    Carmelina, If she only knew her books were being turned into zombie mash-up novels...hmmm. ;)

    Congrats on going on sub!!! How exciting! As for Twilight, I've never read it myself, but know a lot of YA writers who adore it, even it the writing style bugs them! You are not alone!

    Yes, I know what you mean. No particular book pushed me, per se. It was more of a feeling I got from the writing. Dickens writing just takes me to some other place, where I'd like to stay for a while. :)

    So happy to meet another Dickens fan! My writing has been called Dickensian many times over. I think Hope even mentioned it in an early comment. My book comes out in October. I'm wondering if reviewers will pick up on it, and if so, will that be a good or bad thing? To me, it's very, very good! :)

    Lydia, I'm so glad you became inspired! JK's story is really amazing! It proves hard work really does pay off! :)

    Medeia, wouldn't that be incredible! A book published every year! That's my goal! Of course, I write fast, so I'll take every six months!! Ha, ha! :)

    I cry in the sad spots of my own writing! Is that bad? Not quite sure! For the books I truly love, I remember crying while reading them and/or laughing out loud! :)

    Sharon, I've never read Homeplace. I'll have to check it out! The waiting never ends! Even after you land an agent or a book deal! It's good waiting though! :)

    Natalie, that's amazing! 6 1/2 years! Wow! Good luck with querying! I know your hard work will pay off! My rats feel it in their tails!

    Your the 2nd or 3rd person to mention King! He is awesome and he was rejected A LOT! Note to all kids out there: Do NOT read IT until you are all grownup and maybe don't read it after that! Scariest book ever! ;)

    xoxo -- Hilary

  24. Hilary--I'm glad someone is having good waiting. :)

  25. I read tons of fairy tales growing up. Loved any story with a knight in it--especially if that night was a girl. The adventure of it all inspired me, the idea that life is more than daily responsibilities. :)

  26. Samantha,

    I'm totally going to plug my buddy Dawn Lairamore's book! It's called Ivy's Ever After! It debuts this May! It's a beautiful fairy tale that I'm sure you will love!!! :)

    Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Ivys-Ever-After-Dawn-Lairamore/dp/0823422615

  27. This is a great question. I always wanted to write, but didn't think I could because I didn't major in it. After ignoring it for too many years, I heard another author speak at my school's library. She spoke about hiding her writing for years. I hadn't written much, but each time I did, I hid it too. So I began to write, thinking about the whimsical world that J.K. Rowling created. I wanted to reach out to young readers like she did.

  28. Theresa, I have a bachelors in painting, yes, painting! I didn't tell anyone I wrote until I had an agent. Looking back, I feel silly about that, but I usually feel pretty silly, so no biggie! ;)

    JK created an awesome world! I would love to live there!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  29. Wow, so much good stuff to think about. I have been inspired by too many books and writers to count. The ones that stand out: All the Narnia books, Jane Austen, especially Sense and Sensibility, Katherine Paterson, David Eddings, Robin McKinley. They are inspiring because they carry me away. I just love disappearing into a book and finding myself changed by the experience. I also love the feeling of connecting with a character from another time and place, and finding that we share a feeling or e sense of the world, even though we are only connected by those words on the page. Finding the universal in the personal, that's what I love about it.
    The journey to publication is hard, and it feels slow. But that also feels right. I wouldn't want it to be too easy. I like knowing that the publishing world has high standards. It will bring out the best in me and my work.
    GREAT post!

  30. Black Beauty of course
    now after saying that, that book is written in first person... the POV of the horse and I can not write first person... or rather I can't write anything worth reading in first person. My writing future is here in Zip City Alabama if I don't get off my behind and finish one of my three manuscripts. All are in different stages and I would like to finish one before I die, or lose my mind ... which ever comes first.
    I would be a liar if I said my ego doesn't whisper vane notions to me every day but in my heart I write because I can't stop. I'm a story teller and I live and breathe telling good stories.
    My one secret wish... Y'all don't tell anyone...I want to write a picture book, wait I have written several let me edit my statement... I want to write a picture book and get it published. And I will one day.

  31. I absolutely love Dickens as well. I Think I felt inspired by authors like Mary Shelley. Frankenstein was so interesting to me because it was both horrible and moving (kind of like Dickens). I love a good story where the characters are fighting against the accepted morality of the day. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo. The classic greats!

  32. Not really so much a book as movies. I love action and amazing twists and turns. But a few books have made me insanely jealous, as I wish I could write something just as good. Such as "The Men I Didn't Marry" -Janice Kaplan, The Georgia Nicolson Series -Louise Rennison, The Nancy Drew Series -Carolyn Keene, "The Outsiders" -S.E. Hinton, "The Yellow Wallpaper" -Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "she being brand new" -e.e. cummings. These are some amazing authors, but movies really sparked my interest in writing amazing plots.

    Writing has become a passion of mine ever since my Junior year of high school. I had an english teacher who was a douche bag of a person but a very good teacher. I learned a lot about writing and get no less than a B on my college papers now. Also, I have a vivid imagination. That inspires a lot of my writing.

    The hardest part is sharing my work with others, because once you give it someone else to read, you subject it to their opinions and judgements. That is very scary to me. In fact -- I can't tell anyone what my story is about out loud, I let them read the synopsis or manuscript. It is a bit easier inquiring agents because they aren't people you have to see everyday, but friends and family are different. The only thing that scares me with agents is rejection, even though I know there is a lot of it, I can't help but feel small. I would like to have at least one piece of work published.

  33. #3 - hardest part for me is finding the patience to wait and the courage to slow down.

  34. Anonymous3/28/2010

    Hello. I left a blog award for you on my blog.

  35. Hi Hilary. Great post and great blog. I love the sound of Nightshade City, can't wait to pick up a copy.

    As to your question it was Tolkien who made me want to write, but it wasn't until I read the story behind Christopher Paolini's getting Eragon published that I actually realized I could be a writer too.

    The hardest part for me is finding representation. Writing the novel was easy. Visit my blog to find out more about my own query hell.

  36. Honestly, I can't remembe who or what made me want to write. I've been writing stories since I was very young--I used to write plays, actually. But I've always been inspired by Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, two very different love stories--both moved me so much. I always wanted to create characters that felt as passionately about one another as Heathcliff and Cathy and Jane and Mr. Rochester. The hardest thing about writing thus far has been maintaining my patience and my confidence.

    Love Dickens, btw. Classic work that has inspired so many other great works.


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