Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last day to enter

Short notice, but there's a great interview up on Cynsations between editor Elizabeth Law of Egmont and author Allen Zadoff. Check it out here (and win a 30-page critique as well!).

My favorite books

I just finished reading A Wrinkle in Time aloud to my girls, and afterwards we talked a little about favorite books and what makes them our favorite. My all-time favorite books would be A Wrinkle in Time, Narnia, and Harry Potter. My younger daughter (who is only six) says she likes realistic stories best—Penderwicks, Little House on the Prairie, etc. She likes stories where the people could really exist. While my taste runs more to the fantastical, I do agree with her on that point—I want characters I could almost believe are alive. So I started thinking about what else makes these particular books my favorites. A lot of books resonate with me, but these are ones I’ve read too many times to count, so they’re sort of a part of me now. And I think the common themes are

1. loyalty and love—of family, friends, etc.
2. personal sacrifice for others and/or things that are right
3. deep spiritual themes
4. magic/miracles
5. read-aloud-ability, and
6. a strong plot/storyline.

I’d add one two more things that make a book resonate with me as well: emotional honesty of the main character (this is what I like about DJ Schwenk in Dairy Queen--I find myself thinking about her as if she was one of the teens I've worked with in the past) and immediacy (this is what I like about Hex Hall). I don’t connect as well to books that draw too much attention to their structure, whether it’s so much attention to prose that it strangles the story, or a style of telling that keeps reminding the reader that it’s only a story, and I am the Narrator, so listen up, missy!

I don't know that my own writing lines up exactly with all of this--after all, most people read much more widely than they write, for practical time reasons if nothing else. But I do notice--after the fact--that a lot of things I write center around loyalty, moral choices, and family relationships of all kinds.

What about you? What makes a book your favorite to read? And how closely do the books you write come close to that?