Victoria Walters: ten books that inspired me
Victoria wrote a fantastic piece for the blog at the end of last year that detailed her transition from bookseller to bookseller/author. The following is, essentially, her life in books. Victoria's debut, The Second Love of My Life is out now.
1. Little Women
Every writer is a reader first. Growing up, I was always a bookworm. Being an only child, I had a strong imagination and reading allowed it to fly, as it still does today. Little Women was a strong favourite of mine particularly because of the character Jo March – she dreamed of being a writer and I identified with her dream entirely.
When I was twelve, the BBC adapted Pride and Prejudice and it was my first taste of Austen – I’ve been hooked ever since. The romance at the heart of this book, and at the heart of all of Austen’s novels, has influenced every story I have ever written. Although love has always been an ingredient in my writing, it took a while for it to become the key ingredient.
When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with this series. I read every title, which was a huge number as the series has so many spin-offs. It was a complete guilty pleasure and I loved to escape to sunny California with twins Elizabeth and Jessica. In fact, it inspired my first novel, which I handwrote when I was sixteen.
This book was probably my first foray into a contemporary adult love story and I fell in love with the distinctive first-person narrative. Bridget’s voice is instantly recognisable and I definitely think I ended up writing from the point of view of my characters – because I love reading books like this.
As I got older, there were two more series which prompted me to want to be an author more than ever before. I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone after the fourth book in the series was published, and subsequent books came out whilst I was at university, where I was starting to consider that most perplexing of questions – ‘What do I want to be when I’m grown up?’. I thought being an author was just a dream and so I decided to pursue a career in publishing; at least I’d be around books.
When I read Twilight, there was no Young Adult section in bookshops but that would soon change. I inhaled this series and it made me want to write something that would pull the reader in just as these books absorbed me. I fell in love with YA and read everything I could get my hands on. I wanted to write something people would love to read. I started to write more seriously than I ever had before. But I struggled to find my own voice; my early books were too strongly influenced by witches and vampires.
7. Jane Eyre
I went through a stage of reading all the classics. Some I loved, others I didn’t, but I was captivated by the voice of Jane Eyre. I wanted to make readers root for my main characters in the same way that readers root for Jane. The more I wrote, the more I developed my own voice and I soon realised that romance was my biggest strength. But I didn’t want love to become the only part of the story.
Like Jane Eyre, I Capture the Castle features a wonderful voice and is essentially a coming-of-age story. I love reading books where the main character grows in some way by the end. My novel, The Second Love Of My Life, is a love story and hopefully the romance in it will warm even the coldest of hearts, but it is also about the journey of my main character, Rose.
People have told me that they have cried reading my novel. I didn’t set out to write a tear-jerker but I’m sure I was influenced by books that made me cry. I love stories where you feel so much for the characters, you can’t hold your emotions in, which is how I felt when I read The Fault in Our Stars. Writing a book where the reader really cares about your characters is so important, and if you tell me you’ve cried reading my book it’s one of the biggest compliments you could pay me.
10. The Help
Reading is such a pleasure and I love to escape with the books I read but I also enjoy a book that inspires you, and that might even change the way you think about the world. I loved The Help; I found it such an inspiring story of three different women battling against prejudice to live the lives they wanted to live. I would be so thrilled if anyone was inspired by something I had written.
What I love about being a reader is that there are always wonderful books to discover. I will continue to be influenced as a writer by the books I read. As a bookseller, I discover books I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up otherwise, and reading new genres definitely helps make you a better writer. Of the novels that didn't make my top ten, I have loved A Little Life and Station Eleven.