Member Rara Avis
This is a little troubling, but I actually don't remember a time when writing wasn't a big part of my life. I honestly believe I started thinking of myself as "a writer" before I discovered real literature. The first "story" I wrote was about Dick and Jane, and that perennial favorite, Spot.
The first real novel I recall reading was Peter Pan, by Sir J.M. Barrie. I was still at that age when the entire universe revolves around self, and I was stunned to discover that something "not real" could evoke such powerful emotions. I cried at the ending, and for the first time in my young life the tears weren't for myself. Someone had actually made me care about other people, people I had met only in the pages of a book.
Strangely, the Nancy Drew series came next, probably just because they were easily available, followed quickly by O Henry, Mark Twain, and Edgar Rice Bourroughs. Later, I discovered Heinlien, Asimov, Andre Norton, and a score of science fiction authors writing for the younger market. I don't know if any of those influenced my writing, but they certainly sparked a lifelong love of science. By the time I reached my teens, I was reading just about anything and everything I could find, from Orwell to Vonnegut to Bradbury to Harold Robbins. I even read at least a dozen of Danielle Steele's early novels. Go figure. Incidentally, the first poet I read was Poe and I can still feel the influence his style had on my own, at least in my metered verse.
Today, while there are many writers I enjoy, two in particular impress me and for much the same reasons. Guy Gavriel Kay has only a handful of novels under his belt, all in the fantasy genre. Dean Koontz, on the other hand, has a score or two of published novels, though not all are of equal caliber. Indeed, I started reading Koontz many years ago, mostly because he lived a mile or two from me and all his stories were set in our Laguna neighborhood. It was kind of cool, but I wasn't all that impressed. Just a year or two ago, however, I picked up one of his books, discovered how much he had grown, and eventually read all of his more recent work. These two authors, in my estimation, combine the best of prose and poetry. They don't just tell a good story (a skill I think is quite different from writing, by the way), but do so with beauty and a care for words. You'll find metaphors and even meter masked as paragraphs and scenes, quite unlike most modern writers, and when you close the covers you'll reverently put the book on a shelf for safe-keeping - knowing you will return to it again and again.
Ah, the wonderful memories. Makes me want to go write something!