Friday, August 19, 2011

WHAT CAME FIRST… the Author or the Egg?

It's my pleasure to welcome author, Jerri Corgiat, to OVER COFFEE. Jerri is the author of Love Finds A Home series which she originally wrote and published through Penguin Signet and is now available in ebook format from Istoria Books.

As readers we fall in love with authors and the worlds they create. Some of these authors influence what we write. Jerri shares some who have influenced her and why.

So the other day, my epublisher, Istoria Books, asked me if there were any books in the public domain by authors who had influenced my writing. I took a gander at Project Gutenberg (link at end) and turns out there is. Louisa May Alcott.

This got me thinking about books I’ve read, public domain or not, that have influenced what I write. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Little Men and Jo’s Boys. All the books by Janet Lambert. And Georgette Heyer.

Louise May Alcott needs no introduction. Who doesn’t know Little Women, right? To my mind, the much less famous Janet Lambert, a prolific young adult writer from 1941 to 1969, should need none, either.
What they have in common is they wrote—and wrote well—about families. Big families. They also wrote series. Little Women was the most famous of a trilogy.

And Janet Lambert… fifty-four books, most interrelated.  In 1941, in Star-Spangled Summer, she gave readers Penny Parrish, daughter of an Army officer… and for the next twenty-eight years, she doled out books about Penny’s siblings and Penny’s children and Penny’s friends and people who spun off from those books and by the time she was done, Penny was a forty-something actress… what a body of work.

Whether it was Orchard House or an army post in Fort Riley, Kansas, these authors created a world.

As an adolescent in the late 1960s, I stumbled into these worlds. I visited them time and time again. And, in an example of imitation as the best form of flattery, I wrote the Love Finds a Home series, creating, I hoped, a contemporary world where the characters grow and change, move, age, and recover from or celebrate major life events. Even the town doesn’t stand still. To date, there’s a book for each of the three sisters, one for the sister-in-law, and then the fifth, which features the mistress so scorned in the second. And now a sixth is in the writing, starring one of the nieces—only nine when the series started and now twenty-eight. They all have a romance at their center, but family dynamics and topical issues all play a part in shaping the stories.

I’d loved what I’d read in my childhood, so I consciously set out to do something similar. In short, the authors I’ve loved dictate what I write. Or do they?

Although I acquired a stepsister when I was seventeen, I grew up an only child in a big city, a state or five away from extended family. I was introverted and shy, timid in new situations (all very hard to believe now!), and I idealized big families. I idealized small towns. I wanted to be a courageous heroine. I especially wanted to be a gutsy heroine who had the undying love of a valiant man.

So then, nature must have had the edge in determining what I write… or at least that’s what I concluded until I considered the third author I endlessly read as a young woman.
Georgette Heyer.

Readers of romance know her as the Mother of All Regency Romance Authors. She published near-fifty books, beginning in the early 1920s. The last was in 1972. She is a huge favorite of mine; I still have all of her books, dog-eared from the numerous times I’ve read them, which is saying a lot as I’ve shed hundreds of others over the years. I have rarely met an author who could draw a character better than, or even as well as, Georgette Heyer. She illustrated not by telling, but by gesture and action and speech and with such a delightful and subtle, sly wit, I periodically pause in reading her work and want to applaud.

But unlike my aspirations to be the Janet Lambert of contemporary family-saga romance (Louisa May Alcott? I don’t even go there), I don’t want to write Regency Romance. I don’t want to live in that age, or to be bound by convention as her characters are. But I’d be thrilled if I could create one who lives and breathes the way hers do.

Personal predilection likely drew me to reading and writing about big families in little worlds and the intrepid heroine at the center.

And Louisa May Alcott, Janet Lambert…and Georgette Heyer…showed me the best way to do it.

  • I’d love to hear who your favorite authors were when you were young. And, if you’re also a writer, which were the most influential on your work?

Sing Me Home, book one-Love Finds a Home series Jerri Corgiat

Lilac O'Malley Ryan doesn't even recognize country music star Jonathan Van Castle when he bursts into her store. And she's bewildered by what seem like tongue-tied attempts at charm. She just wants to make a sale-and get him out the door. But it turns out to be a lot harder getting that to-die-for smile out of her mind...

And once they put their rocky start behind them, Jon and Lil will discover what happens when two unlikely lovers hit the perfect note... Excerpt (you will find the excerpts to all her series in her website sidebar)

When you’re ready to leave here (but not before!), here are some fun sites to visit: So much fun to browse among favorite stories for girls published from the 1930s through the 1960s. Gave me warm fuzzies! Lots of enjoyment for Heyer fans or simply if you’re interested in the Regency era. Original book covers, quizzes, bio, tone of information on the era, a fan listserv, suggested books. Tour the rooms of Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott lived, wrote, and set her stories. books (in the public domain) for download.


Jerri Corgiat’s five romances in the Love Finds a Home series (Sing Me Home, Follow Me Home, Home at Last, Home by Starlight, and Take Me Home) were originally published by Penguin are now available as ebooks through Istoria Books  Visit Jerri website  or on Facebook 



~Sia McKye~ said...

Jerri, pull up a chair and be comfortable.

I read all of Alcot's and Heyer's books. I was enamored by another writer who had a long running series, Elswyth Thane--romance novelist. She wrote a lot of books, but is most famous for her "Williamsburg" series of historical fiction. The books cover several generations of two families from the American Revolutionary War up to World War II. I read that series so many times. She was also great about characterization and family dynamics.

Another one who has been and influence on me with regards to family love and dynamics is Nora Roberts. Dead on with the way she writes siblings and close friends who are like family.

Jerri said...

I just went to look up Elswyth Thane and another author has been added to my list of "books to read." I'm not sure whether to thank you or not, Sia. LOL

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Definitely Terry Brooks.

Jerri said...

Oh, wow. Haven't thought of Terry Brooks for a while. Sword of Shannara was a long-ago favorite - I read the original trilogy, but not beyond. That genre is my husband's fave...he's currently re-reading George RR Martin in prep for the newest book.

Isis Rushdan said...

I have to say Anne Rice and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Jerri said...

Good choices.
I have to confess to reading only The Scarlet Letter and The Interview with the Vampire. Do you have other favorites?

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jerri!
Hi Sia~ again two of my favorite people together. How could I resist?

I think Laure Ingalls Wilder is my all time influential writer. Crazy, I know but I always go back to her.

Cheers my friends!!

Talli Roland said...

I always find it fascinating when I hear about writers' inspirations. I loved LM Montgomery when I was growing up.

Jerri said...

Ohmiyes, Nancy (hi there!) - how could I have forgotten. My mom gave me a Little House set when I was in my forties just because I'd loved them so much growing up. And Anne of Green Gables - good pick, Talli. I loved that one, too. Sheesh - too many books, too little time. I now want to read all of these again!

jowake said...

I just wrote a long comment which got deleted. I love Georgette Heyer and I too have all her books. I also loved Isaac Asmimov and Ray Bradbury. When I was very young I treasured a book called The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Many of my favourites never made it across the pond to the North Americas.

Jerri said...

(I did the same first try with a comment!) Fahrenheit 451 might have been the first scifi book I ever read. With Georgette Heyer - I think those are the only books I've read and re-read over the years - maybe 4-6 times each? (I think it's about time to do it again.)

Laurie said...

When I was a teenager, I had a book called (I think) The Mystery of the Lost Mine. Don't remember the author's name, but the book had everything -- an exotic (to me) setting, a dash of romance, danger, a possible ghost. What wasn't to love.

My other fave was Jane Aiken Hodge -- tomboy Regencies, sort of.

Jerri said...

So many authors I haven't thought of in so long - this is amazingly fun hearing about them - I used to read Hodge, too.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Been out most of the day, sheesh.

What a lot of authors mentioned. If we're talking sci-fi--my other love, I read and reread Andre Norton's and Isaac Asmimov's books, Loved Foster. I think what drew me to them was the worlds, the touch of magic and abilities beyond normal humans and animals who were also more. There was one series,and I can't remember who wrote them, but it was set on a planet with a feline race as the dominate race. All this is probably why, as an adult, I love a good paranormal.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anyone else read, as a young girl, the Bobsey twins and Elsie? I read those in grade school, along with Nancy Drew--like maybe 4th or 5th grade.