Friday, July 2, 2010

First Friday Favorite Authors: Charles de Lint

Ten years or so ago a nearby town put on an annual writer's conference, bringing in authors in a variety of genres to discuss writing, give readings and sign books.  It was an impressive event considering it was free and the authors that they brought in weren't just NC area authors, but nationally known writers as well.

I was working on an MG story at the time and was so plagued with self-doubts and how awful my writing was coming out that writing anything at all was becoming extremely difficult.  I'd sent out a number of picture book manuscripts, only to have them returned in short order.  (Very short order.  I swear one came back so fast the publisher must have made a deal with the local post office to automatically return anything addressed to them)

In the midst of this, I attended the annual writer's expo.  I attended group sessions on writing for children, writing mysteries, and writing fantasy.  The person who was the head of the fantasy session was a kind, bearded guy who was being treated with great reverence by everyone else in the room.  I had no idea who he was,  but he seemed very approachable.  When he asked if anyone had questions, a scattering of hands went up.  When he called on me I asked something about how much time and effort he put into creating his settings.  Did he create a street map?  Did he know what buildings were on each street?  And how did he know when it was time to stop creating the world and start writing the story?

Sensing newbie panic, Charles de Lint asked, "Are you a writer?"

Hedging my bets, I said, "Well, I'm getting a lot of rejections."

He smiled and said, "Then you're a writer."

That simple confirmation, from a stranger, lifted a burden of uncertainty from me.  Writing didn't need to mean being published, it simply meant writing, trying, and having the courage to submit my work.

Shortly after that conference I looked him up at the local library and found a collection of his short stories.  They were a type of fantasy story that I'd never considered before -- fantasy elements appearing within an urban downtown area.  It was as if a subsection of New York was cracked open and all of Fairie poured out into the streets, only they remained hidden from those who could not or would not see them.

Even more impressive was his writing style.  It was emotional but succinct.  Each of his stories are written from a different character's perspective, meaning each story is told in a slightly different voice.  But, through each voice, de Lint's own voice is heard, woven into them like background harmony singers.

I think each of us have writers who speak very directly to us.  Charles de Lint, with his quiet sense of the sad romantic and infusions of celtic music, is one of those writers who speaks directly to me.

-- Tom

Who are some of the writers who speak directly to you?


  1. Tom. I found you on NB's forums. I guess I'm your first follower.

    Nice ta meet ya!

    I can already tell you know what's up from your blogroll so hit me up if you want to get to know each other better.

  2. Hi, Tom! I wanted to thank you for your compliment on my entry in the first lines contest on Adventures in Children's Publishing (#11).
    I can't say I've had an author really *speak* to me, but Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, was ultimately the one who made me believe I could write.
    The first books I remember reading as a kid(about 10-12 years-old), besides required reading for school, was Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and I've been hooked on vampires since.
    When I read the Sookie books, it's was like she's revived the supernatural for me. She created this world that existed inside our own, where the vampires weren't hidden. They lived openly with humans. Sookie is such an awesome character;a down home southern girl, who happens to be a telepath. It was those books that got me into writing.

    I hadn't heard of Charles de Lint but I will check him out!

  3. wow. three posts in and already i'm no longer writing just to myself.

    matthew: what do you write? what's your name on NB's Forums?

    LJ: i really like your opening lines! they combine a great hook with a distinctive voice. i'm very interested in reading more.

  4. I have to say, I really feel close to L'Engle. Mostly from A Wrinkle in Time, and her autobiographical journals. Oh, and everything in between. Welcome to the blogging world! We'll pull you into the fold soon enough!!

  5. Heather: I read "A Wrinkle in Time" in the late sixties. My mother bought it for me as a Christmas present (I still have it, without the dust jacket). I've read it a few times over the years, most recently listening to the audio version on my way to and from work. I never read any of the follow-up books, are they as good?

    Which of her autobiographical journals to do you recommend? I'd like to give them a try as well.

    Thanks for the welcome as well. I've kept a personal blog for... well, LJ says 2003, although that doesn't have all of the entried I deleted eariler in that year going back to 2002 at least.

    Writing on writing, though, that's new. : )