Monday, August 2, 2010

The Writers We Can't Do Without

by Niki Turner

My kids all had blankies when they were small. Those bedraggled bits of fabric went everywhere with us for years, offering my little ones comfort and security and a soft place to rest a weary head.

Luke. The blanket survived. The
sock monkey has disappeared.
A new book by a favorite author has the same effect on me. Once that book is in my possession, even before I've tucked myself away for uninterrupted reading time and thumbed through the pages to chapter one, I have the same sense of security an addict has when their secret stash is fully stocked. A blissful escape from reality awaits...

The first of my comfort authors, whose books I devoured one right after the other as if they were jelly beans, was Jude Deveraux. From Highland Velvet to A Knight In Shining Armor, I loved the romance, the characters, the strong heroes and likeable heroines. 

When I came to Christ, He asked me to lay aside my fiction addiction for a season. It was a long season - ten years, to be exact. Ten years of taking children to the library and roaming coffee-scented bookstores without picking up any fiction for myself. Instead, I read my Bible. I read Christian non-fiction and devotionals. And I'm thankful for those years, because that season of sowing the word into my heart produced a foundation for my faith I couldn't have found in my fiction selection.

When I had a release to return to fiction, I began a quest for Christian fiction that would create that same kind of escape, the same rush of blood through my veins, the same overwhelming need to keep reading long past bedtime. I stumbled painfully through Grace Livingston Hill like a child first learning how to read. And then I picked up the first of Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series. Ah. THIS was more like it.
But, this was before the Internet, and our small hometown Christian bookstore was sorely limited in its supply. It would be a few more years before a friend handed me a copy of Redeeming Love. I read it all in one night, alternately laughing and sobbing.

Lori Wick's books came next. Like a starving woman, I ran through everything I could find. (The Princess remains one of my favorites.) Since then, I've soaked up Frank Peretti's imagery of the interaction between the spiritual realm and the natural realm, chewed through second-hand boxes crammed with Steeple Hill and Barbour category romances, lost myself in Russian history with Susan May Warren, explored the beaches and coves of Hawaii with Colleen Coble, and thrilled to M.L. Tyndall's pirates and Dee Henderson's contemporary romantic suspense.

But Kristen Heitzmann is my "go-to" Christian author of choice. Her books are among those that aren't given away, aren't passed on to the church library. No matter the genre, the setting, or the theme, I'm guaranteed the peculiar satisfaction that comes from getting "lost" in the story, identifying with the characters, becoming engrossed in the turns and twists of the plot, and sighing contentedly at the book's close. It's almost intangible. Trying to explain it is like asking a three-year-old to explain why his or her blankie is different from every other piece of fabric in the house.

It's what we seek as readers. And what we dream of accomplishing as writers. 

Who are some of your favorite authors? 
What sets their work apart for you? Can you define it?

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  1. You're killing me, Niki! I'm supposed to post this week and I don't have any better answer for who my favorite author is than I did when we first proposed this theme.


    I'll keep thinking, but I have a feeling I won't be able to narrow this down any more effectively than I was able to narrow down my favorite movie.

  2. Niki, I truely do love this post. As of currently I would say that my favorite author would Gail Gaymer Martin. I just really fall in love with the characters of her books.

  3. Niki, you've definitely hit on many of my favorites here. I need to read more Kristin Heitzman. I've only read Rush of Wings, but I loved it.

    Some other go-to authors for me are Karen Hancock, Kathy Tyers, and Lisa Samson. And I can never fail to mention Roseanna White. Can't wait for her books to get the full recognition they deserve.

  4. Picking a favorite author is like picking a favorite child! I just can't do it!

  5. I know what you all mean! Even after I finished my post I kept wanting to go back and add more names, thinking, "I can't forget about so-and-so!"
    It's a good thing. I've been in the place of having only ONE particular author I wanted to read, and when I'd run through her repertoire and no new releases were available, it was like going through some kind of literary detox program.

  6. CBA Authors mentioned that I haven't read:
    Kristin Heitzman
    Karen Hancock
    Kathy Tyers
    Lisa Samson
    Roseanna White
    Colleen Coble
    M.L. Tyndall

    CBA Authors mentioned that I have read:
    Gail Gaymer Martin
    Grace Livingston Hill
    Lori Wick
    Dee Henderson
    Francine Rivers
    Frank Peretti

    When I was in HS, I read almost anything and everything. Well, not erotica becuase it hadn't become an "acceptable" genre yet. Then I got married and heard all sorts of warnings about being a good example because my husband was a pastor, so I decided I ought to only read CBA fiction.

    Lori Wick and Dee Henderson were my go-to authors. But when I stared learning the craft of writing, their stories lost their appeal, as did most CBA fiction. So between 2000-2008, I read one CBA fiction for every ten ABA fiction. Lots of genres, lots of studying the craft, some just enjoying the story.

    The more I focused on learning to write, the less and less I read fiction. In the last five years, I've read way more non-fiction than fiction because I could rarely enjoy reading without picking apart the novel and that goes for ABA or CBA fiction.

    I hated that.

    But something happened in 2010, and I've finally be able to read an enjoy books without focusing on what I didn't like about them.

    Well, except one. And I'm reviewing it on Saturday.

    Anyhoo, my New Summer Resolution is to read more CBA fiction. And not just a select few authors who I like. My "hold" list of books to check out from the library reacted capacity. LOL.

    Up next for me is...
    Angel's Den by Jamie Carie, An Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman, several Mary Connealy novels, and Cathy Marie Hake's Whirlwind.

    And a slew of other CBA fiction that I put on hold at the library.

    Oh, one book I intend on buying is Melanie Dickerson's The Healer's Apprentice.

    Most of the CBA fiction I buy, even if I like the book, goes to the public library near where I live. I've probably donated close to 30 CBA novels in the last three years.

  7. Here we are complaining about the theme. It's a killer, huh? No way I volunteered for it, you notice?

    Be prepared: Secular book alert!
    For go-to books I go with my favorite mystery authors: J.A.Jance, Elizabeth George.
    Love histories by: Philipa Gregory and James Alexander Thom.
    Just for enjoyment: Alexander McCall Smith and Diana Gabaldon.

    And nothing is better than getting these on audio--CDs for my commute.

    Just so you know, I haven't read any of the Inkies' published books. I don't buy more than 2-3 books a year, and I try to limit those to books in my genre. If they're not in the library to borrow...
    I'll catch up one of these days and have autographed copies of everyone on my shelves! (PS, be jealous - I've read Patti's next book).

    Some of the books I crit are better than many published books I've read.

  8. Niki, Niki,
    I also have too many to list but I'll give you a few:
    Kathleen Woodiwiss
    Francine Rivers
    Amanda Quick
    Dee Henderson
    James Patterson
    Kristen Heitzmann
    Bruce Alexander
    Sir Arthur Conon Doyle
    James Scott Bell
    Mary Stewart

    And the reading adventure continues . . . :)

  9. Deb, I'm kind of in the same boat. Limited funds, no bookstore for 100 miles.

    I download the free Kindle inspirational fiction when it's available. Some of it has been great (Lisa Wingate!). Others, not so good.

    I read a lot of stuff from the library, too. (Nora Roberts/JD Robb is my not-so-secret vice.)

    This has been my summer of YA fiction, and I've really enjoyed it.

    I love the idea of books-on-CD, but some of them are so cheesy I have to turn them off. However, I just listened to Hard Truth by Nevada Barr, who is new to me. (Language alert for the sensitive.) Scary suspense!

    I parked in the dark garage just as the chapter ended with "something snaked out from under the bed and wrapped around her ankle..." It was a LONG walk from the garage to the back door. : )

  10. Jill, I love Amanda Quick. I remember reading her stuff when I was in high school, particularly the series of one-word titled historicals. She has toe-curling heroes.

  11. Oooh, Niki. That does sound scary. Reminds me of when I used to watch CSI and THEN walk in the dark to take my garbage out to the road. (we're talking a 7 minute walk through the woods).

    I stopped watching CSI but not for that reason!

    You must tell me how I can find out about some of these 'sale' or free Inspy fiction downloads available for Kindle. I just put Kindle for Mac on my ITouch. I thought it would be too hard to read, but it's fine. In fact, I love it.

  12. Francine Rivers, Lisa Samson, Mary DeMuth are my all-time favorites.

    I agree Roseanna White should get more attention, I loved A Stray Drop of Blood.

  13. Hey, give me five, Julia. I love Francine Rivers too, just figured that goes without saying for most of us. Need to check out Mary DeMuth.

  14. Oh, yes, Mary DeMuth is a must if you like truthful stories filled with grace.


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