Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Books that Made Me M.L. Rio

Today I welcome M. L. Rio to the blog to tell us all about some of her favourite books in this week's edition of The Books That Made Me.

The first book I have distinct memories of is The Hobbit. My mother read it out loud to me and my brother when we were too young to read it ourselves. It was what we did after dinner instead of having dessert, and we looked forward to it the same way other kids probably looked forward to ice cream or Oreos. I still have a soft spot for Tolkien, because he was the first author who really captured my imagination and invited me into a new world. Middle Earth, with all its mythology and all its tangible detail, was where I lived and got lost in the long afternoons of elementary and middle school. Sometimes I still go back to visit.
Around the same time I embarked on The Lord of the Rings on my own, I discovered Shakespeare in my parents’ library. The first play I read was The Comedy of Errors, and though it’s not the best play, I immediately wanted more. I tore through the Complete Works, and by the time I turned thirteen I had read every play and every poem, most more than once. A year later I appeared in my first Shakespeare play—I was Feste in Twelfth Night—which only fueled the fire of Bardolatry. I was captivated by the language. It’s so rich and complex that ten years later I still discover new things hidden between the lines every day. You might say Shakespeare is my muse. His works have not only been the focus of my graduate degree but the inspiration for my first novel, If We Were Villains (which takes its title from my favorite play, King Lear). Miraculously, I’m not any less in love with Shakespeare now than I was when I read him for the first time.
Like Shakespeare, John Knowles had a significant impact on my reading and writing habits. I first read A Separate Peace in a sixth grade English class (I was eleven), and then proceeded to re-read it almost every year that came after. It was my first campus novel, my first war novel (in a way), and the first novel that really upset me. Up until then, I hadn’t realized that fiction could be so unfair. I had grown accustomed to happy endings and moral absolutes and Knowles ripped the rug out from under me. It is a brutally beautiful book, and it will always have a place on my shelf, wherever in the world I may be.

M.L. Rio is the author of the phenomenal thriller that everyone is talking about this summer If We Were Villains, it's been compared to Donna Tartt's The Secret History and has won widespread critical and popular acclaim. Available now from Titan Books (UK).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Widdershins Blog Tour The Books That Made Me

As part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Helen Steadman's first novel I asked Helen to tell me about some of her favourite books as part of my new series The Books that Made Me. Helen responded with three of her favourites from her teenage years and insists that she must have been a contrary young reader as they are rather surprising choices for a writer of historical fiction, nonetheless as the wonderful Meg Ryan said in You've Got Mail "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does" So on with the books.

The Books Made Me: Helen Steadman The Teenage Years

1984 by George Orwell
‘Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.’
This was the most striking book I had ever read, and I don’t think any other book has ever had the same effect on me since. It was the first time I’d read a book underpinned by such enormous ideas. Sinister concepts like thoughtcrime and newspeak were terrifying, as was the totalitarian setting. This book made me think about the world in a different way. It should be compulsory reading for everyone.
Mort by Terry Pratchett
‘Alligator sandwich,’ he said. ‘And make it sna—’
One Saturday afternoon, I found a Discworld book lying in a puddle of beer in the Haymarket, a much-missed Newcastle watering hole. I was a bit bored, and it didn’t seem appropriate to whip out my knitting, so I read the book. It was hilarious and I was immediately hooked on Terry Pratchett. Of all his books, I have a soft spot for Mort, because I love Death as a sandwich artist. Finally, I owe Terry Pratchett because it was in his Discworld books that I first heard the word ‘widdershins’.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
‘Man, when you lose your laugh, you lose your footing.’
This book broke my heart when I first read it because it was so shocking that people should suffer like this, and it was my first real inkling of there being such a thing as mental illness. Beyond the shocking and upsetting subject matter, though, was Kesey’s writing. It was unlike anything I’d ever read previously, making me feel as though I was inside the head of someone mentally ill. He also captured language perfectly, so it felt very real and immediate.

In case you missed my review of Helen's outstanding book you can find it HERE

Thanks so much to Helen for taking part in The Books That Made Me 
Helen's book is published by Impress Books and thanks to Natalie for an early reading copy
The blog tour continues details below.