“This is embarrassing for a writer to admit, but I’m not a book saver. There is only so much space for books in my house, so I give many away. However, there are several books I devoured, loved and studied when I first began writing fiction, and I hold onto them like old friends. Here are two of my favorites.
White Horses, the fourth novel by Alice Hoffman, was published in 1982. I stumbled across it in a bin at my grocery store. I’d never heard of Hoffman (few people had back then) but I fell in love with her style of writing and her unusual story of a young woman influenced by a folk tale of brave men on white horses. After reading this book, I sought out Hoffman’s earlier novels and wished there had been more of them. When I reread my first novel, written while in my “Hoffman phase,” I can see her influence in certain paragraphs and turns of phrase. I will keep White Horses until they cart me away!
Another book that influenced my writing is The Female of the Species by Lionel Shriver, published in 1987. I learned a great deal about point of view as I read–and reread and reread–this novel. It’s the story of a 59-year-old female anthropologist who falls in love for the first time. What made her story so fascinating to me is that most of it is told in third person through the eyes of her younger assistant, Errol. I studied how Shriver accomplished the telling of one person’s intimate story through the eyes of another. She does a brilliant job of it, and as with White Horses, The Female of the Species is a book that I will keep always.”