Saturday 18 July 2015

Guest Post - My Life in Five Books by Liza Hoeksma

All of us avid readers must get through thousands of books in our lifetimes but which stand out the most? I've often thought about my favourite five books, the ones that I have recommended, leant and bought for many friends, but having recently published my first novel I started thinking about which five books shaped me as a reader and as a writer…

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

They say you never forget your first love and mine was Dogger, a simple, sweet tale about a small boy, his beloved toy Dogger and his big sister Bella. It still brings a little lump to my throat when I read it to the little ones in my life. My parents are both big readers and indulged me in the way that good parents do by reading it to me over and over… and over again. 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 

When I started reading by myself Anne of Green Gables quickly stole my heart. It may be old fashioned having been written in 1908 but that just shows that a really good story stands the test of time. L.M. Montgomery sweeps you up into Anne’s world that’s full of kindred spirits and poetic names like the Lake of Shining Waters. All the characters are beautifully drawn from the headstrong, romantic and adventurous Anne to her nosy old neighbour Rachel Lynde. And then there’s Gil of course; in my book he’s still fiction’s ultimate romantic hero. 

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Studying this book at school sparked a change in the way that I looked at writing. My English teacher encouraged me to really study and analyse the text so, as well as being gripped by this  teenager’s tale of angst, I began to understand how rich the English language is and how using one word can dramatically alter a sentence and someone’s perspective of a situation. 

Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes

As a young adult I got stuck. There was nowhere near the quality of YA fiction then that there is now and I got out of the habit of always having a book on the go. Thankfully, in my early twenties, a friend leant me this Marian Keyes novel while I was on holiday and suddenly everything changed. Here were characters I could relate to, written in such an entertaining and gripping way that I couldn’t put the book down until I knew what had happened to them. That was the book that gave me back my reading mojo and opened me up to all the amazing fiction that was – and is - around for women. 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Since then I've I rarely gone a day without reading but after I finished Me Before You, and duly sobbed my heart out, I couldn’t look at another book for days. The thought of reading anything else felt like I would be cheating on Lou and Will; it would have been disrespectful to move on so quickly. As well as being one of those rare books that cracks your heart wide open, Me Before You also reminded me why I wanted to be a writer. It takes an issue that we often see in the news but that few of us have any real life experience of and makes you care, deeply. I love the power that story has to help us see a totally different perspective and get under the skin of a situation outside of our own lives. Great stories like this make you feel like you’ve known the characters involved and lived alongside them, feeling everything they feel.  

I also loved reading more about JoJo Moyes as a writer. I’d written two novels at this point and was getting great feedback from agents but none were in a position to represent me. When I read that JoJo Moyes had her first three books rejected, it really encouraged me to keep going. I've heard it said that dreams come true but they don’t come cheap; sometimes you just have to keep persevering before everything falls into place.

Author info

Liza’s first novel More Than Enough is out now on Kindle for Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Smashwords. She lives in Hertfordshire, works part-time for a charity, can easily lose hours on Pinterest and spends much of her life helping people spell and pronounce her Dutch surname (think Hook-smar).

Follow Liza on Twitter @LizaHoeksma

Thank you so much to Liza for this fascinating insight into her reading life. My review of More Than Enough will be posted tomorrow, so please come back to see what I think of Liza Hoeksma's debut novel. 

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