Welcome to the fourth tea party! It’s all about books this month, and we’re excited to share (or fangirl) about some of our favorites. Grab a cup of tea and settle in!
Do you remember your first favorite book? What about your favorite author?
I remember Loving the Anne of Green Gables book and the first few books of the series when I was young. Young Anne was my role model because she had a fiery temper, read a lot, and lived in her own world #goals. I also loved the Nancy Drew series, and I remember for one birthday asking my friends to only buy me books from that series. Also Jane Austen was a staple at our house. I started by watching the BBC series adaptations and then switched to reading Austen in middle school.
My first favorite author was Avi, in elementary school. He had a series of books about animals that lived in a forest or something and I used to always check them out from the library at school. I also read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by him in middle school, and I could never forget that book. I even bought a copy of it at a warehouse sale when I was in college so I could read it again later, and I think it held up pretty well. I also really liked Andrew Clements.Either in late elementary school or middle school, I read the book The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke and that’s one of the earliest books that I remember falling in love with enough to criticize critically.
I can’t remember the title, but I remember that my first favorite book was this farm one that was more animal noises than story. It had little windows and barn doors you could open and felt over the animals like fur. I mostly remember it because my mom would do voices for all the animals, and she likes to remind me that I made her read it many, many, many times. To this day, though, aside from my super talented friends, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to narrow down my list of favorite authors to just one person.
Are there any books or authors you remember that had a profound influence on the stories that you write or the way that you write?
Jane Austen was a big influence. She was so good at dry narrative humor, which I was obsessed with. Rick Riordan also inspired me to have more humor and sarcastic characters.
I imagine everything that I read had some impact on what I’ve written. I remember I used to think that writers should write with the very detailed, flowery type of language you see in Victorian novels, but I don’t know where I got that idea from. Obviously that didn’t last long. My dad was an elementary school teacher, so I actually read quite a lot of middle grade and YA literature and that may have helped me lean into a simple and concise way of writing.
Maybe not a specific book or author, but I think the way I’ve always loved reading different genres will often show up in the way that I write. Like, I might write a fantasy romance, but the side plot will be a thriller, and there will be sci-fi elements alongside the magic system. It’s so cool that while books are usually labeled as one thing, they can also be tons and tons of other things that don’t make it into the blurb on the cover.
Whose authors’ writings do you admire?
Obviously Pineapple and Apple! Honestly I feel like a quack sometimes putting my writing up next to theirs! Pineapple is so good at descriptions, and I could never come close to her creepy vibes that seem to haunt me after reading. Apple is the queen at creating memorable characters, and her stories always read so flawlessly. Like, someone please get these two book contracts already.
Oh SO many! Of course, my friends’ Raspberry and Apple! Raspberry has a humor I could never achieve and her subtlety is phenomenal. Every time I read something of hers again, I realize something new. I’ve said this before, but Apple’s pacing is amazing. There’s a reality in her work that I really admire–even in the fantasy, there’s something so tangible about it. And both of their characters are just so easy to love, lol.
I also really like what I’ve read of Cherie Priest. Her work that I’ve read has been so fun and enthralling. The a-ha moments of her books give me chills. One of my favorites is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. More than the story, the prose is beautiful and the way the framed narration is so satisfying.
I am regularly in awe of Raspberry and Pineapple’s work! Raspberry writes characters with such distinct voices and fun dialogue. You can’t read Gran’s witty one-liners in Cat and the Cryptid Summer or Colin’s hilariously high self-esteem in Tied to You and not have these characters living in your brain rent free afterward. It’s impossible.
And Pineapple’s writing reads like a liminal space in the best way. Settings straight out of everyday life become unsettling and sinister, like a childhood home found antiquated and empty, while her characters go through these gripping transformations. Even when the stories technically end, the conclusions are something you’re left to think about—if you’re like me—for the rest of your life.
A book from your past you can’t forget?
Almost every book I’ve ever read? One of the reasons I love reading so much is because stories just stick with you forever. I feel like I’m connected to every character I’ve read, and it sometimes just takes a random spark like a candle scent or coffee flavor for me to remember their story.
I mentioned it before, but The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi is a book I read early on and couldn’t forget about. There’s another book I know I read, but can’t remember about a ghost, a beach, and a ring. I remember vividly there was a scene where a kid finds a ring on the beach or something and realizes the old man has the same ring in his cabinet. My memories of this book are vague, but it haunts me to this day that I cannot remember it.
My mom has always wanted to write children’s books, but she brushes off the idea whenever I’m like, “Do it! You would be amazing!” When I was little, though, she wrote a book about me as a tiny flower fairy, and it’s always made me feel so special and loved.
A book you think every kid should read?
I don’t have any specific recommendations, but I think every kid and every person should read a variety. Read about MCs who are boys, girls, or nonbinary. Read about people of color and people from cultures unlike your own. Step into someone else’s shoes and experience new points of view!! Some of the most interesting books I’ve read were when I tried out a new genre or new type of MC.
I think most kids have and do read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expuery, but less so in America. More American kids should definitely read less America-centric books, but I don’t know that many aside from The Little Prince, unfortunately. I read a lot of Allen Say growing up because of my dad’s family. I think Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli was a pivotal book in my childhood that taught me about nonconformity and being true to myself.
I think a book every kid should read is one they’ve chosen for themselves. There’s always going to be a ton of required reading for school, work, and life in general, but the thing that made me love reading as much as I do now was getting to pick out my own books. My family would let me roam the library and bring home stacks of books—picture books, chapter books, cookbooks, comic books, biographies. Whatever I was interested in or curious about, I got to learn how to find it on a shelf. Books became my favorite adventure, and I’d love for every kid to get to experience that magic.
Thanks for joining us again this month! What are some of your favorite books? Any authors we must add to our #tbr list? Let us know in the comments or @jaamwriting on Twitter!