Posted by: Phil Anderson | January 13, 2013

Influences – Books

This is probably bad marketing, but when I write I don’t aim for a target audience. I don’t include something specifically for the middle school boys who might be reading, and I don’t think to myself, “Parents will really enjoy this scene.” I basically just write stuff that I would like to read.

So what kind of books do I like to read? When I was younger and had more time to read for fun, it was almost exclusively fantasy adventure. If I found a book at the library with a map in the front, that was the book I checked out.

I had four fantasy worlds that I especially enjoyed, and read over and over again in a consecutive alphabetical rotation: MNOP.

  • M is for Middle Earth – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy are the pinnacle of epic fantasy. J.R.R. Tolkien developed numerous cultures, created multiple languages, devised detailed histories, and even composed literature that he referenced in his stories. His world is so intricate it’s almost daunting. I made several attempts at working my way through The Silmarillion, but invariably found myself lost. Middle Earth is so elaborate that it just has to be real. If my work could be half as immersive as Tolkien’s I’d be happy.
  • N is for Narnia – In The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis describes a fantasy world that’s deep in another way. The talking animals and mythical creatures, the Calormenes and Marsh Wiggles, the characters and their adventures are all enjoyable on the surface, but there’s a deeper meaning behind so many things. Sometimes a talking lion is more than just a lion, and Turkish Delight is not merely a tempting treat. It influences me to add extra dimension to my writing, even if I’m the only one that recognizes it.
  • O is for Oz – The MGM movie version of The Wizard of Oz is what most people think of, but L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen books about the Land of Oz, and his successors filled out the series to forty. Many of the later stories are out of print and hard to find, so I still haven’t read them all. The Land of Oz isn’t as well-developed and cohesive as other fantasy lands, and many of the plots (but not all) are simplistic. But the creativity and inventiveness of the Royal Historians of Oz still influence me even a hundred years later.
  • P is for Prydain – Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, based loosely on Welsh mythology, take place in another enchanting fantasy world. But in this series, I am drawn more by the characters than the setting or plot. Taran is a boy with aspirations and insecurities. He has ambitions, failures, acceptance, and perseverance. He struggles to know what’s right and to do it. He’s a very real person in an imaginary world.

I’ve enjoyed visiting many other fantasy realms, including Pern, Xanth, Redwall, and more recently Barsoom, and all have things to teach me as a reader and as a writer. And as people continue to enjoy adventures in these fictional kingdoms I hope that someday someone will add Theran to the list.


  1. […] an earlier post I wrote about books I read when I was young that still influence my writing today. Lately […]

  2. […] slightly less blatant example of allegory is The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, which I listed earlier as one of my favorite book series and an influence on my writing. In the first book four children […]

  3. […] responsibilities, I have several books by my bed (or on my iPod) that I want to read, and a good book can be inspiring to a writer, so I tell myself it’s okay to stop and read for a while. And because I am still […]

  4. […] started, but I think that I need to do more research into the genre I’m working in. Novels by my favorite writers are all decades old, and my potential audience is very different from theirs. I need to look at […]

  5. […] myself, some of my favorite books and series are set in fantasy worlds like Narnia, Middle-Earth, and Prydain. I like books with a good map and […]

  6. […] not opposed to magic in fairy tales and fantasy stories; you can tell by looking at the list of my favorite books. But in some writers hands, magic can be a sort of deux ex machina to provide an easy way out of a […]

  7. […] responsibilities, I have several books by my bed (or on my iPhone) that I want to read, and a good book can be inspiring to a writer, so I tell myself it’s okay to stop and read for a while. And because I am still […]

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