Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Gone Visiting with Mary Stewart

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Today I am visiting the rather fine Normblog with a post about what the supremely wonderful Lady Mary Stewart means to me.

I am a firm believer in the power of books on the developing mind. I read hungrily, greedily, but never to satiation point in my early teens. Three of the authors I discovered then who shot straight into my soul and set up house were Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer - and Mary Stewart. This is just possibly why I currently write light-hearted Regency romances with a dash of adventure and a sprinkling of humour.

Do read the article and then come back and tell me your early influences.
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8 comments:

Talli Roland said...

Off to check it out!

Debs said...

I shall go there right now.

Nicola Cornick said...

I enjoyed this piece so much, Jan. Thank you! I came across Mary Stewart in my teens as well and she has remained one of my favourite authors ever since. The way she grabs you with that first line... For me it was The Gabriel Hounds and "I met him in the street called Straight." I've wanted to go to Damascus ever since!

Jane Holland said...

I have been HUGELY influenced by MS's Merlin trilogy, but was never a big fan of her other books. Perhaps now I'm older I can look at them with fresh eyes, but fantasy has always been a large part of my imaginative make-up. Anne McCaffrey's novels about Pern were another influence, as was almost the first 'proper' book I read after learning to read very late at about the age of 9, which was The Lord of the Rings.

I ought to have become a fantasy writer, really, and indeed the first two novels I wrote, aged 10 and then about 14, were both fantasy. The agent Caradoc King very kindly looked at the second, a highly complex 'other world' fantasy novel, and suggested I lose a few characters!

But of course historicals were also high up there on my list of influential works: Heyer, Plaidy, Mary Renault etc.

Amazing, really, that I went on to become a poet rather than a novelist for my first three decades.

What most influenced me with Mary Stewart was her sentence structure and her deftness with character. She had the ability to conjure a person with a few words, and to utterly convince you of their realness and solidity, and best of all, their humanity. Writing my own historical novel now, stuck on a tricky scene, I often go back to something like The Crystal Cave to look at how she builds sentences and paragraphs.

For me it's always about rhythm and pattern - that's what fascinates me, and that's what I see in her books. Not sure about being shaped by our reading though. I would feel uneasy crediting the books I read as a child with having created the person I am as an adult. Perhaps it's rather that we instinctively seek out the kind of reading that fits and reinforces our nascent sense of self, rather than reading something and being moulded by it.

Jane Holland said...

Just looking at Wiki, I'm amazed to see that MS is still alive. Can this be true?

She is apparently 93. Coming up to 94 this month. Well done, Mary!

There's hope for the rest of us yet, then.

Nicola Slade said...

Great post, Jan. Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer are two of my major influences too: My Brother Michael is THE perfect romantic suspense story, though my favourite is The Ivy Tree (probably because it's a little like Brat Farrar, and Josephine Tey is another early influence.)

I started with Enid Blyton's fairy stories, graduated to school stories, specially the Abbey Girls and the Chalet School, and then discovered Georgette Heyer et al. I love GH's 'love story with a crime' novels and my Charlotte Richmond novels are based on that format, albeit brought into the mid-19th century.
And somewhere in there I discovered Albert Campion and Miss Silver, (Peter Wimsey came later), and that started me off on a life of crime!

Jan Jones said...

Thanks, all. Yes, Lady Mary Stewart is still with us, living in the Highlands of Scotland.

The Romantic Novelists' Association gave her a Lifetime Award in 2006. There will also be an appreciation of her work in the RNA Recollections (published October 2010).

Lesley Cookman said...

My mate Paul Magrs has just blogged about her, too. Maybe there's something in the ether? Will now have to go and read again. which one to start with? Choices, choices...