Ground floor, as a child, I would have become a non-reader if not for Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. As a horse crazy kid in love with the outdoors, those books gave me a reason to read, and opened the gates to a lifelong passion, though as a third grader I had to sneak into the teen section after school hours to check them out. Fairy tales and myths were my first introduction to magical reading, and I could not get enough of that.
After that, I literally read the fiction library in the small town where I grew up. Every sort of fiction: thrillers, historicals, mysteries, authors from every walk of life and background, if the printed page had a story, I devoured it. I read everything from Irving Stone’s Agony and the Ecstasy to Costain, Mary Stewart, Howard Pyle, Robert Louis Stephenson, Mary Renault, Morris L. West, Dick Francis, and everything naturalistic by Daniel P. Mannix. I read Rosemary Sutcliff, Lindsey Davis, romance authors, poets – the gamut. I swiped my father’s books and read the likes of John D. MacDonald, Conrad, Clancy, Hemmingway, and mixed those up with Jane Austin and Ngaio Marsh, and signal works of nonfiction, like Cry, The Beloved Country and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
I did not grow up reading SF and fantasy because the library did not carry those titles, although, rare for them, they did shelve Roger Zelazny. That was my first brush with SF, and it was a thrill beyond the pale of anything I’d ever encountered. I immediately started collecting his work.
The JRR Tolkien smashed the glass. I was transported by the idea that stories could be told in made up worlds, and that shifted my perspective permanently. I fell in love with fantasy before everything else, and after that nothing ever connected the same way again. I pursued Norton, LeGuin, Stephen Donaldson, Tanith Lee and Jack Vance with a will that burned up the pages.
Along the way, there have been other significant milestones. My encounter with Dorothy Dunnett’s historical Lymond Chronicles left a major impression, to the point where I am still in awe. Her way of depicting events, places, and above anything, depth of character and shattering plot twists opened the floodgates of deeper possibility. Joseph Kessel’s very fat The Horsemen immersed me into another culture and world view in a stunningly vivid way. Edith Pargeter’s The Heaven Tree and the shaded nuance to her characters involved in the building of a cathedral sketched an antagonist whose downfall memorably earned the readers’ sympathy.
Today, I stand on the shoulders of such giants. They taught me the ropes, and gave me the enriched vocabulary for precision I use in my writing today. While fantasy and SF continue to be my first love, my reading still wanders all over the map. I read debut talents as readily as older classics, and every encounter sparks the insatiable, maverick urge to continuously break the envelope.
Check Out Some of the Books Mentioned by Janny
About the Author
Janny Wurts is the author of War of Light and Shadow series, and To Ride Hell’s Chasm. Her eighteen published titles include a trilogy in audio, a short story collection, as well as the internationally best selling Empire trilogy, co authored with Raymond E. Feist, with works translated into fifteen languages worldwide. Her latest title in the Wars of Light and Shadow series, Destiny’s Conflict, culminates more than thirty years of carefully evolved ideas. The cover images on the books, both in the US and abroad, are her own paintings, depicting her vision of characters and setting.