Thursday, August 5, 2010

How To Choose My Favorite Author

by Anita Mae Draper

For someone who’s read and loved books for over 4 decades, picking a favorite author is a daunting task. Especially since my tastes and some of my favorite authors’ genres have changed during that time.

My childhood attention was captured by the irresistible antics of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s characters, Anne Shirley, Diana and Gilbert Blythe.

As a teenager, I became hooked on the readily available Harlequin romances, and the western stories of Zane Grey. What followed was a couple of decades where I read practically everything I could either buy or borrow.

This was my period of big name authors like John Jakes, Arthur Hailey and James A Michener and although I enjoyed the entertainment value of those novels, it was the romance writings of Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen E Woodiwiss who satisfied my emotional cravings.

Ever the historical lover, I even read my husband’s Louis L’Amour collection. Nelson and I have always been a bit competitive and it was always a joke between us that he read Louis L’Amour while I read Zane Grey. Because of that, we’d been married at least a dozen years before I snuck one of his western books to read. Guess what… Louis L’Amour became another favorite.

At the time, the closest to inspirational fiction I read was Ruth, a novel by Lois T Henderson (Christian Herald Books) and Esther The Star and The Sceptre by Gini Andrews (Zondervan). These books were eye-openers for me because it was the first time I’d read where the author combined truth and fiction. Actually, that’s not true because both John Jakes and James A Michener did the same. But this time, the story was based on biblical scripture and it made me realize there were books out there that didn’t tout the sex and violence like the ones I’d been reading.
Christian fiction was hard to find and what followed was a time where I didn’t bother to read. I kept my hands busy with handcrafts like counted cross-stitch, knitting and crochet both during my hours at home and during quiet hours at my job where I was a teletype operator on shift work with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

After retiring from the CAF, hubby and I ran a commercial greenhouse for several years. I’m not sure if poking my fingers in the cold, damp soil contributed, but I found myself unable to hold the needles required in handcrafting. Unable to just sit and stare at the television, I once again turned to my favorite pastime – reading.

It was the early 90’s and I stood staring at the shelves in my local library, wondering what to read. The huge tomes of my yesteryear no longer interested me—probably because my fingers couldn’t grip them. So, I settled on the ones that had emotionally satisfied me all those years ago – the Harlequins – but oh, there were so many lines to choose from now.

Still, I chose the ones from lines I’d read and liked before—Harlequin Romance, SuperRomance, and newer American Romance and Silhouette Special Edition. As a natural progression, I began to collect books by those authors who touched my heart like Brenda Novak, Christine Rimmer, Darlene Graham, Judy Duarte, and Debbie Macomber.

My first love – the historicals – called to me and I discovered Lavyrle Spencer and Mary Balogh followed by Harlequin Historical authors Cheryl St John and Victoria Bylin.

And surprisingly, Harlequin now had an inspirational line as well – Steeple Hill. So, I read all the Love Inspireds in my small local library and couldn’t’ve been happier when the line expanded to Love Inspired Suspense and then Love Inspired Historicals.

I realized that some of my favorite ‘secular’ authors were actually Christians. Some wrote for Steeple Hill, like authors Kate Welsh, Linda Goodnight, Cheryl St John and Victoria Bylin. And others were lights shining in a secular darkness, like Debbie Macomber, Linda Windsor and Judy Duarte.

While perusing the library shelves, I found other inspirational authors like Janette Oke, Dee Henderson and Lori Wick who’d been quietly offering their stories in Christian bookstores which I didn’t frequent at the time. And more recently, I’ve discovered fascinating stories by MaryLu Tyndall, Mary Connealy, Janet Dean, Cheryl Wyatt and Julie Lessman.

And after hundreds of books, I’ve come to the conclusion that my favorite books aren’t all about redemption, salvation or forgiveness, but they all leave me with the satisfaction of knowing there is hope for everyone to find love. My favorite authors all write in my favorite genre of romance with a Happily Ever After (HEA). Some are Christian and some aren’t, but all have the ability to put a hitch in my chest as I read their stories.
Other than those I’ve spoken about, there are too many names to mention, but suffice to say if you write for any of the Love Inspired lines, you’re probably on my list of favorites. And, if I’ve ever told you that you’re one of my favorite authors, you really are… it’s just that there’s so many of you.

Readers… can you put a number on your favorite authors? Or are you like me, with so many you can’t choose just a few? I mean, how do you choose between Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour?



  1. Anita, I am SO honored to be on your amazing list of favorites ... you happen to be on my list of favorites, too, my friend, so THANK YOU!!

    My all-time favorite, of course, is Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, two incredible authors who sadly enough, never published another book. As far as modern secular, Diana Gabaldon is my all-time favorite. WOW ... can that woman write! So well, in fact, that I cannot read her books while I am writing my own because it makes me want to puke on the keyboard. :)

    In the Inspy realm, there are too many to mention since all I read now are Inspies for the most part. But the ones that hooked me into the genre are Francine Rivers, Liz Curtis Higgs and Kristen Heitzmann, so I am forever indebted to these amazing authors, a real "Force" for luring me away from the "Dark Side." :)


  2. Anita,

    You had me at Anne Shirley. ;) *sigh* Oh my, how I loved Anne.

    What a wonderful post. What fun to follow your reading journey. And just as you predicted, it's nearly impossible for me to name my favorite books/authors outside of The Bible, Pride and Prejudice, and Anne of Green Gables. I love reading so much that, even in a "bad" book, I find much to enjoy.

    Have a wonderful day!

  3. Hi Anita! So far no Inky has actually chosen a favorite author. Of course not. It's impossible.

    Kristen Heitzmann's name has come up often and you know what? I've never read her work. So I think I found a new author!

    Hey Julie! Great to see you this early morning and I sure see your name come up a lot when people are discussing their favorites!

    about Margaret Mitchell--have you ever found out if she had even a few scratching of another novel somewhere? But what a legacy she left.

    A few of us Inkies have been talking about Diana Gabaldon's work. I think she's THE master storyteller, but it's a very personal choice for readers because of the content. I THINK that one more book will finish out our relationship with Claire and Jamie who I've known now for what 15-18 years?

    Kathleen Woodiwiss seems to be on a lot of lists. And I'd also add LaVyrle Spencer too.

    Hi Gwen! Your writing is so beautiful that you'll be on someone's list one day soon. I'm calling you on it!

  4. Oh my word, Anita! I read both the Ruth book and the Esther book as a teenager! In fact, I still have the Esther book, though I haven't picked it up in years!

    Thanks for reminding me of those. They were very important in my reading life in those days!

  5. Anita, how did you manage to put into nice, concise words what I tried to explain on Monday about that 'certain something' all my favorite books have??? Book magic, or whatever it is. I STILL can't put my finger on it. Maybe I'll just hire you to write my next post. LOL!

    Deb, wanna borrow my Kristen Heitzmann books? I'd trust you with my little collection. : )

  6. Hmm, subcontracting blog posts. what a concept!

    Niki, I might have to take you up on that. I'll have to wait till my newest addiction wears off. I'm browsing for my favorite authors/new authors and books ya'll have recommended, through Kindle. I just got Roseanna White's for $2.99. Don't you just love a bargain?

    PS, I'm collecting ideas for back listed books set in Ireland, Scotland, know, Celtic. I suppose I could throw in Cornwall. That should be a lot of books.

  7. Hey Julie, you know I can't stop gushing over your books! LOL

    I didn't include Margaret Mitchell because I never read her book and I didn't think watching the movie counted because I don't know how much of it was her actual writing.

    I'm not sure how it was in the U.S., but up here in Canada, To Kill a Mockingbird was part of our school curriculum.

    Of course I've heard of Diana Gabaldon, but I've never read her. The thought crossed my mind that maybe she's the secret to your writing but nah, God's given you a wonderful talent that no one else can lay a claim on.

    I can't wait to read A Hope Undaunted.

    Thanks for visiting, Julie.

  8. Hey Gwen, thanks for mentioning my reading journey. I tried several times to change my post so that it didn't read like that but it always came out the same, so I guess that's how it was meant to be.

    With all the Jane Austen fans here, I was worried about admitting this, but I never read any of those classics except for Wuthering Heights and only then because I wanted to know about this Heathcliff character. I try to watch the movie versions of them, though.

    And speaking of the Bible, I haven't read through it from beginning to end for years but I had several times while growing. What continually amazed me then-- and still does--is that no matter how many times I go through it, I still read stories about people that astonish me. I don't think there's a single plot line that's missing from that Book.

    Thanks, Gwen.

  9. The movies based on Jane Austen vary but most use her dialogue b/c it can't be improved. For my Emma post a few weeks back, I watched all three within a few days and so I caught that clearly.

    I would be remiss not to warn you and our other readers that Diana Gabaldon's books are secular and may contain things you wouldn't want to read nor would suggest read by everyone. Just like other NYT bestsellers.

  10. Kristen Heitzmann's name has come up often and you know what? I've never read her work.

    Me either.

    As for Diana Gabaldon, I checked her out when I was looking for an audiobook one day and my writing group had raved about her, but after reading the content of her audiobook offerings, decided she wasn't what I was looking for after all.

    I wanted to add the book cover for Kathleen E Woodiwiss' Shanna because that's the one I remember the most, but it was just too risque for this blog. LOL

    Anita Mae.

  11. Hey Anne, I was a bit disappointed when I went searching for both the Esther and Ruth book covers to post here and couldn't find either. What you see are photos I took of my own copies hence the ripped/wrinkled parts. After all, I've touted them around for 30 yrs through numerous moves.

    It's nice to know Zondervan's been publishing this type of fiction for all those years, as well.

    And yes, I'm going to settle down and re-read them again, too. I'm curious about the writing styles as well as the emotional content. Will they be as I remember? We'll see.

    Thanks, Anne.

    Anita Mae.

  12. Niki said, 'Anita, how did you manage to put into nice, concise words what I tried to explain on Monday about that 'certain something' all my favorite books have??? Book magic, or whatever it is. I STILL can't put my finger on it. Maybe I'll just hire you to write my next post. LOL!'

    Oh, what a nice endorsement! It's funny that you say that because as I was writing it, I wondered how to say that 'hitch in your chest' thing that you get when your emotions are engaged as you read. It's been said so often in novels that it's a cliche and everyone is trying to find other words to say it. And yet, that's exactly what it is... that piercing ache when the hero or heroine does or says something that you know will hurt or repel the other. And you know it's been done because of the need to protect your heart.

    That's the main reason I enjoy the newer style of Harlequins better than the older ones - because we get to read both POV's and know that what the characters say isn't always what they mean.

    Thank you, Niki and sorry for going off topic.

    Okay, I'm not sorry, just thought I should say I was. LOL

    Anita Mae.

  13. Deb, you have a kindle? Or are you using the kindle app on your iTouch?

    Amazon has some great promotions where they give kindle books away for free but even if it's free in the US, up here we have to pay 2.99 to download it. No fair! Of course, if I was in desperate need of reading material, I wouldn't begrudge the money, but with over 400 books in my tbr pile, meh.

    About your Diana Gabaldon warning - I hope I made it clear in my post which books were secular and non-inspirational.

    Anita Mae.

  14. Anita, I think you did make it clear, but with our recent 'behind the scenes' discussion about such things, I thought I'd add that in for the benefit of our readers.

    I have the kindle for mac on my ITouch. I actually enjoy reading on it much more than I thought I would.
    And I will just look once in awhile for specials. I think awhile back Jen's book was 2.99, for example, but I hadn't upgraded my software yet.

    "there's an app for that"!

    So, the Shana cover was racy? Can't recall. My fave is Ashes in the Wind, because after Gone with the Wind, I was a sucker for anything Civil War related.

  15. What a wonderful post, Anita. You brought back many memories of searching for authors and reading anything I could get my hands on as an adolescent and teen. Still now, as a Grandma, too. I'm not fond of biographies, most sci-fi, or horror, but other than those, I read in all genres. And there are always exceptions, aren't there? Even now I'm adding new 'favorites' as I learn more names.

    Take care.

  16. Connie, I'm thrilled to see you here. I think the thing about reading all genres is that it keeps your mind young, although it seems hard to choose the 'good stuff' these days.

    And although I say I only read romance, I enjoyed being a beta reader for Patti Lacy's new book which is women's fiction, as well as Max Lucado's book on Freedom.

    Thanks for the visit, Connie. Will remember you in my prayers.

    Anita Mae.

  17. Uh, Anita Mae, let me give you just a litttttttle warning about Diana Gabaldon, okay, sweetie? If I recall correctly, you were a little daunted by the number of pages in A Passion Most Pure when you finally received it from me through a contest win. You told me at that time that you were used to reading mostly LIs and Heartsong-length books and were just a tiny bit nervous about tackling 470 pages.

    Ahem ... if you think I'm verbose, just try and tackle one of Diana Gabaldon's books. Her debut book, Outlander, is over 1,000 pages long, if I'm not mistaken and the sequels go up from there with one of them being as many as 2,000 or 2,500 pages!!! The woman has three college degrees and does so much research that it takes her three years to write a book!! Fortunately for her, they do realllly well (NY Times Bestseller well), so that money keeps her afloat between books.

    Keep in mind they are NOT Christian books, but the sexual tension in them (at least in book 1) is between a hero and heroine who are married to each other, so that makes me feel A LOT better since I do not think adultery is romantic under any circumstances. And, whoa baby, talk about romantic tension -- WHEW!! The woman KNOWS how to write a hero, trust me.

    And, Deb, unfortunately Margaret Mitchell never wrote anything else. Boo! But maybe that's just as well because where do you go after your first novel wins a Pulitzer Prize???


  18. LOL Julie - you remember that? It was the first time we met, too. Haha. Yes, I was daunted by the size because I do most of my reading lying on my side in bed and it looked too hard to hold like that. But your wonderful writing spurned me on and after 3 of your books, I can't wait for your 4th.

    1000, 2000 and 3000 page books? How do people hold them? I can see them as being okay for eReaders but not physically holding them.

    I've bypassed many very cheap books of exceptional authors in 2nd hand stores because they were just too big.

    And thanks for the Diana Gabaldon info. I suppose I could skip all the parts I'm uncomfortable with because I want to see what all the type is about where her writing is concerned. I'll keep an eye out for her tomes to use as reference.

    Thanks for coming back, Julie.

    Anita Mae.


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