Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, urban fantasy author PATRICIA LESLIE shares with me the books that have changed her life…
Patricia Leslie, author of Keeper of the Way, A Single Light, and The Ouroboros Key, is an Australian speculative fiction writer blending history, magic, and fantasy in novels that explore hidden and untold stories, giving a voice, through fiction, to those in our past who have too often been rendered voiceless. Patricia hails from southern Sydney where she fills her fast emptying nest with books, writing projects, and a chicken named, Edna.
BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE
I don’t even know why I liked this story so much as a child. Perhaps it was the first book that I truly read on my own. Perhaps, it was the inevitable sadness of the cat’s journey, it’s connection to its owner. I still have this book though, tattered around the edges somewhat, but always close to hand and in memory. Elizabeth Coatsworth wrote The Cat Who Went to Heaven in 1930 and subsequently won the 1931 Newbery Award for children’s literature.
I started reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in late primary school and have been hooked ever since. Here is true fantasy with all the trimmings! Magic, dragons, Elves, and wizards. And of course, hobbits and the Dúnedain. The solitary ranger, brave and strong, wise to the natural world and the ways of magic yet gritty and down to earth… having Strider portrayed by Viggo Mortensen was just the icing on the cake!
Another series with all the magical trimming and with extra dashes of the mystical and history is the Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart. I absorbed these stories about Merlin and Arthur and they have shaped my life and my writing as did Marion Zimmer’s novels. It was these titles in particular that showed me the influence fiction, particularly historical fiction, can have on a person’s internal knowledge; that ingrained knowing that comes from experience. I can read the facts, but it is influential reading like this that forms the foundation of my knowledge of English history. I see people from history as they were described in the historical fiction I’ve read. When I write now, I do my best to present real history as accurately as I can with thorough research. This is the power in writing fiction, it’s believability and influence over readers. Not everyone will fact check nor do they want to. It’s the writers responsibility to ensure they speak truth in every way they can.
Stephen King books have always gripped me from Carrie to The Stand and The Dead Zone, and The Dark Tower series. I could list all his books, but these are probably the main titles that have influenced my world view. In every story I write there is probably a little bit of Stephen King present, hiding around corners, in the folds of imagination, and layers of reality. I love the everyday character faced with the edge of horror and supernatural. The often solitary nature of King’s lead characters and the journey they undertake as they learn to rely on their own nature and to trust (or distrust as the case may be) the people they let into their inner circle of friendships.
But these are all books that I read as a child and teenager (when I should have been doing homework and studying, no doubt). More recently, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath (plus parts of East of Eden), have reached me in ways that are hard to explain. Steinbeck was a master of character description delivering understanding of each character in round about ways, often through the eyes of others, and then using a few words to show you hidden depths of character and meaning.
Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series is a cross between Tolkien and Stephen King mixed with the originality of Donaldson and contains a main character who is entirely flawed and entirely shaped by that flaw. How does a person cope when everything they know about their self, externally and internally, changes? How do they come to terms with things like belief when everything they thought was true in the world is skewed? When everything and everyone they loved becomes corrupted? Character development plus magic and tinges of horror, and an individuals normal world turned upside down.
I love reading so much! More than writing even, which (let’s be realistic here) is what I do so I can read more. There are many more books that have influenced my life and my writing in ways that can be surprising. Many I read repeatedly; so often that I sometimes pick them up just to catch up on how the characters are doing, refresh my memory on how they handle the life their writer has thrown at them, or just to re read a particular turn of phrase and way of experiencing the world. Story (whether it be fictional or non-fiction) shapes the way I approach every single day and the way I respond to what life throws at me from the mundane to the major crises, and in guiding my children through their worlds while I learn to live in mine. Reading sustains me, teaches me, reminds and welcomes me, and enriches my life in ways that little else (apart from writing, which I find releasing) does.
About Patricia’s book, KEEPER OF THE WAY
After news of grave robbing and murder in Dun Ringall, the ancient stronghold of Clan MacKinnon on the Isle of Skye, Rosalie realises it is time to share her family’s secrets. Descendants of the mystical Ethne M’Kynnon, Rosalie tells of a violent rift that occurred centuries earlier, splitting Ethne from her sisters forever and causing relentless anguish and enmity between ancient families.
Meanwhile, Algernon and Clement Benedict have arrived in Sydney searching for the lost relics of their family. They are driven by revenge and a thirst for power, and will take what they can to reinstate their family heritage. Their meddling with ancient magic will have far-reaching effects, as they fail to realise ther role in a far greater quest.
In the grounds of Sydney’s magnificent Garden Palace, danger grows as an ages-old feud of queens and goddesses heats up. The discovery of arcane symbols bring the distant past in a foreign land to Australia and will cause a profound struggle with tragic results, a surprising new recruit from an unknown world, and the complete destruction of the palace.
Set around stories and characters in 1882 Sydney, Keeper of the Way includes current affairs, people and buildings long gone, and gives a voice to people history doesn’t always listen to.
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT PATRICIA