Monday, October 14, 2019

Who Do You Write Like?

RHYS BOWEN: One of my favorite stories was Robert Crais telling about his experience signing books in a Costco store. (Can you imagine it?) A man came up to him and demanded "Who do you write like?"  Bob replied, without batting an eyelid "Michael Connelly."  Then the man said, "Who is he?" which is reassuring to all of us who have experienced someone saying "Should I have heard of you?"

So I've thought about this. Who do I write like? I'm not sure. In my early days of mystery writing I was always compared to M.C Beaton. But I'm not sure who else does a historical humorous mystery series. My stand-clones are, I suppose, is the same vein as Kate Morton--at least I like to think they are!
And more than that. As I approach a lifetime of having written: which of my books might possibly endure. Wouldn't it be nice to have that one definitive book, that one "To Kill a Mockingbird" for which one would be forever known. Oh, Rhys Bowen, didn't she write The Tuscan Child?  I can't think that any of mine are more than entertainment. None of them delve into the depths of the human condition, and let's face it, none of them are depressing enough to be called great literature!

 Which leads me to thinking about the book I wish I had written. Pride and Prejudice?  The Lord of the Rings? The Handmaid's Tale? These are my absolute favorites. Would I like to have written the first Poirot? The first Miss Marple? All of the above.  And how about Winnie the Pooh? That's certainly one book I wish I had written, but then my son was not Christopher Robin, and having seen the movie, I would not have treated my son the way he was treated.


So I'm throwing out the questions to the Reds. Who do you write like? And which book do you wish you had written?

HALLIE EPHRON: At my best, I like to think that I channel Ruth Rendell. If only! And the book I wish I'd written? Definitely GONE GIRL. Word for word, sentence for sentence, Gillian Flynn is a terrific writer. And that story was so original. Though truly nasty -- that part I could never do, but I wish I could make that kind of money off a single piece of work. Imagine!

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh I love the idea of Winnie the Pooh or The Wind in the Willows! Those creatures were so wise and I still remember and treasure entire scenes from those books. I would have liked to have written Barbara O'Neal's THE ART OF INHERITING SECRETS, or Juliet Blackwell's THE PARIS KEY, or Ann Mah's THE LOST VINTAGE, or Ann Cleeves' RAVEN BLACK. And it goes without saying that I would happily be compared to any of the Reds' writing! I certainly haven't and never will write high-brow literary fiction. If I can develop a character whom readers love and feel touches their lives in some way, then I will be happy.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Who do I write like? Ah--huh. One wonderful reviewer said:  "If John Grisham and Lisa Scottoline had a book baby, The Murder List would be it." SO, yeah, those two.  Scott Turow.  Edith Wharton. Yes, I know, it's crazy, but if you read The Age of Innocence, now, its astonishing. Powerful, and sinister, and shocking. That's what I'm going for, at least. I wish I had written PRESUMED INNOCENT. Can you imagine writing the first Poirot? Or Sherlock Holmes? Brings tears to my eyes.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: My books are often compared to both PD James and Ruth Rendell, but although I'm flattered, I honestly don't think I write like either. I would like to think my writing was half as sharp and witty as Dorothy Sayers, or that my prose was as brilliant as A.S. Byatt's or Reginald Hill. As for books I wish I had written, Lord of the Rings would probably top the list. I'd add in Sayer's Gaudy Night, and Reginald Hill's On Beaulah Height. And Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches!

RHYS: Thank you for reminding me of two of my favorites, Debs. On Beulah Height--one of the best mysteries ever written. I'd put it right up there with Dreaming of the Bones by a certain Red!
And A.S Byatt. Brilliant! I wish I'd written Possession.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Who do I write like? Debs! Seriously, you'll find her books and mine on many "read-alike" lists. Which is the only way I can answer the question - I have no idea what my writing, per se, is like, so i can only suggest "If you like my books, you'll like..." Kent Krueger, Steve Hamilton's Alex McKnight series, and Jenny Milchman's stand-alone thrillers, in the "Places where the weather can kill you" genre. If you like the strong romantic storylines in my novels, try Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series, Dana Stabenow's Liam Campbell books (which also fall under the Terrible weather umbrella) and of course, the grandmother of us all, Dorothy Sayer's Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane novels. I'm so glad I never read them until after I had launched by own series; I would have been too intimidated to even start my first book.

And what would I have liked to have written? Richard Russo's EMPIRE FALLS. Decaying mill town, complicated romantic relationships, a mystery...it's just like my books, except, you know, it won the Pulitzer.

HANK: Julia! That is so brilliant. I just went to amazon, and it says: Customers who bought The Murder List also bought: Shari Lapena, Ruth Ware, Lisa Scottoline. YAY. Love that.

So dear fellow writers and readers: What book do you wish you had written?

88 comments:

  1. What book do I wish I had written? The ones that immediately come to mind are children’s books: “The Velveteen Rabbit” or “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” or “Charlotte’s Web” . . . .

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    1. Charlotte's Web, definitely, but the Velveteen Rabbit was soooo sad!

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    2. Charlotte's Web is such a great choice. Close to a perfect book, IMHO!

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    3. Charlotte's web was pretty sad, too.
      Some Pig.

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  2. Sorry I missed this post! Paris has been a whirlwind in the best possible way! I’m in multiple genres, so I get compared to Kate Carlisle (mys) and Kristan Higgins (rom) quite a lot - both are enormous compliments for me.

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    1. Yay for you in Paris Jenn! You certainly deserve a week off with the fam!

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    2. Okay, I suppose Paris is a good excuse! Have fun

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    3. Loving your Instagram pics, Jenn! I hope you're having a terrific time!

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    4. Jenn, yes, you and Kate Carlisle are similar. I agree.

      Diana

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  3. Wow, what a question. Seriously, I have told people, "If I could write like Julia Spencer-Fleming or Louise Penny, I could die happy." (Minus the POV sliding in Louise's books, which still drives me nuts...) Which book do I wish I'd written? ... I've been pondering that for five minutes! It's seven and I have to get to work now, people. If I come up with one (among thousands) later, I'll pop back in.

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    1. I don't like the sliding POV either Edith, but it sure hasn't held her back! We'll be waiting for your book...

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    2. Re: Louise Penny: When you're that good, you can break all the rules!

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    3. You know, I pulled a recent Louise Penny off my shelf recently, LOOKING specifically for that sliding viewpoint... and I really couldn't find it.

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    4. I have read all of Penny's books and I must admit I have no idea what you are talking about. Sliding POV? Someone please explain.

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    5. She switches the character we are following. While Ruth did this, Oliver was doing that. Usually we have one POV character in one scene

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    6. Not only "following" but she's inside their heads, so we know what they're thinking. Which is a total no-no for beginning writers. But of course, even though Louise breaks the rule, she pulls it off.

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    7. I am a real stickler for keeping to one viewpoint per scene, but happily read Louise. And Kate Atkinson, who also floats a bit.

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    8. Debs, you get full marks for saying Kate Atkinson “floats a bit.” ❤️

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  4. What book do I wish I'd written? There's a ton of books that would make me happy to have written.

    Would I want to have written a book that I loved on a personal level or would I want to have written a book that had an impact on the world giving it a long life beyond that initial cycle when said book hits shelves?

    If I went with a book that I loved, I would say John Sandford's 'Rules of Prey'. When I received it in a bag of books that my grandmother gave to me, it made an immediate impact on me. I'd venture to say that it was the book that jumpstarted my renewed dedication to reading mystery and thrillers.

    If we are talking historical impact, I wish I'd written the Lord of the Rings books.

    If we are talking arrogant self-interest, I wish I'd written my own book that I have pretended was ever going to happen for a number of years.

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  5. Anything by Dorothy Gilman--and if you only know her through her Mrs. Pollifax series, then you should check out her other works. Or anything by Mary Stewart. And The Blue Sword.

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  6. When we had a store, we were asked this question all the time, "who writes like so and so" - our answers often were...for Julia, Louise Penny and Kent Krueger, something about the passion. Deb, Eliz. George, Peter Robinson. And Rhys ended up being so prolific, we'd just recommend a different series by her! Read Molly? Try Georgie! Hank and Hallie...a slew - Ruth Ware and G. Flynn were good.

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    1. That is so fascinating! And of course, you would get that question all the time… And hey, thank you!

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  7. I can honestly say that I wish I had written the Harry Potter series - not for the money (although I certainly wouldn't say no to that) - but because of the impact. Can you imagine how J.K. Rowling must feel, having inspired a whole generation of children to not just read, but to find excitement and anticipation in the act of reading. She is one of a kind!

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    1. I'm in the middle or rereading all of the series... and so enjoying them. Again.

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    2. Yes, quite astonishing. And such an origin story, too, you know?

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    3. Oh Kristopher, how could I have left out Harry Potter! She created a whole world

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    4. Oh, I want to read them all again! And I might have added under "books I wish I'd written," her Cormoran Strike books (as Robert Galbraith) which I love, especially the last one, Lethal White. I wonder if she will write any more of them...

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    5. I have not heard any rumors about the end of the Robert Galbraith/Cormoran Strike books, so I fully expect we will see another one eventually.

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  8. There are so many wonderful books out there, but honestly, I wish I had written Anne George's Southern Sisters mysteries. To me, her combination of well developed, sympathetic characters, a mystery strong enough to fuel each story credibly, and laugh-out-loud humor stands out from all the other excellent books I have read. Those books gave me intense joy and I'd love to have that affect on readers.

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    1. Love the Southern Sisters!

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    2. Until you mentioned her I had no idea what I wish I had written. But you are right - I wish that I too had written all of Anne George's books!

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  9. Can't say who I write like, but I do have a list of books I wish I'd written:
    The Guernsey Literary etc Society
    The Bean Trees
    Crow Lake
    A Town Like Alice
    Anything by Mary Stewart

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    1. I enjoy Mary Stewart but I can't see her as a literary genius! But I loved the Guernsey book!

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    2. Rhys, I recently reread My Brother Michael, and I thought it was brilliant. Maybe not "literary genius" but certainly very good writing.

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    3. Deborah, I agree--very evocative--and she doesn't need 500 pages to do it.

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  10. There's so many that I wish I had written, including many by the Reds. I am so often filled with writer's jealousy when reading. The one that comes to mind right now, though, is The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth George. I so wish I had invented Emerson and Amelia and could write historical mysteries set in such an interesting place!

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    1. I think you mean Elizabeth Peters.

      And I completely agree with you; her Peabody and Emerson books are thoroughly brilliant.

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    2. You're right, Karen. Thank you! Reading above about Elizabeth George and Anne George, I had the George on my brain. I do admire Elizabeth George's writing as well.

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  11. What an interesting question! Enjoying the answers so far and will come back later to see more. I'm pretty good at the "if you like this, then you'd like that." It's the librarian training and it's lasted long after the career changed. But who do I write like? I have no idea. What would I like to have written? Where I actually said those exact words to myself, not "I wish I could write a book that good" but "I wish I could write THAT book." Yes. Some of Penelope Lively's.

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  12. AND Last WEEK'S WINNERS ARE:
    Of Vanessa Lillie's Little Voices: Judi
    Of Tracey Phillips' Best Kept Secrets: Katharine Ott
    Of Catriona's Stranger at the Gate: Reader Kay
    Of Graveyard Bay: Joan Emerson

    CONGRATULATIONS! Email me at h ryan at whdh dot com!

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  13. Oh wow. As you know, I love all your work and read it all but what I was trying to do in my Mercy Carr series is be “Julia Spencer-Fleming with dogs.” I was beyond thrilled when Library Journal said A BORROWING OF BONES was a “read-alike” for fans of Julia. So when it comes to mysteries I wish I had written IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER. Outside the crime genre, I would pick Marilynne Robinson’s GILEAD.

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    1. Paula, "Julia Spencer-Fleming with dogs" is a brilliant tag! It certainly makes me want to read your books!

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  14. I know I will revisit this question throughout the day, and probably for a long time, because it's thought-provoking.

    I'd be enormously proud to be able to write so many well-plotted and crafted mysteries like those of Julia, Debs, Catriona, with the charming characters of Rhys, and so many others. But I just finished reading John Green's YA novel, Turtles All the Way Down, and it blew me away. He was writing from the POV of a sixteen-year old girl with massive mental issues, and it's so brilliantly done.

    Years ago an older British woman we met in Florida had a saying she applied to many things, regarding envy: "If you saw her house you'd burn yours". That's so often how I when I read excellent writing; how could I ever write anything so fine.

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    1. Karen, that is a spot-on analogy, and I'm stealing it from you. And yes, John Green is amazing. I read quite a few of his books in years past, when my teens were devouring them, and his ability to fully repossess those years is amazing to me.

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  15. First of all, Rhys, M. C. Beaton only wishes she could write as well as you do!

    As for me, I wish I could write romantic comedy as well as Jenn, children's fantasy as well as Dianna Wynne Jones, and swashbuckling adventure as well as Rafael Sabatini. And mysteries? As well as Debs, of course. But, in the end, I'll settle for writing the best possible G. S. Norwoods in any genre.

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    1. Gigi, I'm happy to read any G.S. Norwoods! And you have a wonderful voice which is not like anyone else.

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    2. Thanks, Debs! You know I'll hold you to that.

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  16. Rhys,

    Agatha Christie has always been my hero. She was truly a master at her craft. What I love the most is that Christie conceived such deliciously wicked and ingenious plots that appeal to the reader’s intellect. Her stories endure to this day because of her astute insight into human nature and all its foibles. I would like readers to be talking about my books long after I’m dead. I try to leave readers wanting more, like Christie did with such consummate skill. I hope I’m succeeding.

    As for which book I wish I had written, I would have to say "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier. I have always loved the sea and the rugged Cornwall setting immediately attracted me. Du Maurier skillfully ratchets up the suspense by writing the story in first-person. As with all such narratives, the reader only gets one viewpoint. But in this case, the narrator is unnamed which only enhances the mystery. The book left me breathless.

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  17. Of current books, I wish I'd written WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING. I can't remember when a books has been on the NYT best seller list for so long, more than a year now, and most of it in the number one spot. I hope Delia Owens is getting paid well.

    All time books? THE CAT IN THE HAT! Or anything by Dr. Seuss. There was a time in the distant past when I could recite all his books by heart.

    And not to leave out the Reds, I think DREAMING OF THE BONES is a masterpiece, just sayin'.


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    1. Thank you, Ann! That was me wishing I'd written Possession!

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    2. I totally agree, Ann. It was one of the few mysteries that took my breath away

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  18. I volunteer at the library, and my favorite thing to do is help people find new authors to read. I have recommended Rhys' books (Lady Georgie) to someone who had enjoyed Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple series, and that was a success. I don't think anyone has run out of Rhys' books yet, but if they do, I'll suggest Jacqueline Winspear for someone who likes Molly Murphy or Kate Carlisle for someone who likes Lady Georgie.

    For a reader of Julia's books, I have recommended Faye Kellerman, but I don't yet know how that one turned out.

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    1. That's an interesting comparison I hadn't seen before, Cathy. Let me know if your patron did, in fact, like Faye Kellerman's writing as well - that could be another author I can pass on when readers ask who they might like.

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    2. I can totally see a correlation between Julia's books and Faye Kellerman's Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker books. The religious aspects, plus previous relationships and blended families, all there. I would never have thought of it, but it works.

      Good job, Cathy.

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    3. Yes, I have read novels by Faye Kellerman. And I look forward to reading Julia's novels.

      Diana

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  19. Thank you, Cathy. Yes, I think I'm close enough to Carola or Jackie. I enjoy both their bookd

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  20. As I've mentioned before, I am a late-comer to the mystery genre. So far, I haven't even begun to get through all of the Jungle Red Writers books, but I am branching out. Deborah Crombie's excellent mysteries brought me here to this group. It is wonderful to read about the authors that all of you admire, and I confess that I've found most of my mystery series through reading about your website guests and your suggestions. I just love the literary discussions that you have here and I am thrilled just to be in a seat on the side-line, hearing what all of you have to say.
    On another note, I have been really busy with the High Holidays and just had some time yesterday to read some of the blogs from the past two weeks. Jay, your generosity and thoughtfulness at Halloween is remarkable, and I was sorry to miss that day's discussion because surely I would have told you then how much I admire what you do for the kids who come calling!

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    1. Thanks Judy.

      It's funny that I take part so enthusiastically in Halloween these days considering when I stopped going out myself, I wanted nothing to do with the "holiday" for a number of years.

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    2. Thank you for joining us, Judy, and I'm so glad we've been helpful in adding to your TBR stack!!

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  21. Like Deborah Crombie, I wish I had written Gaudy Night! One of my favorites of all times.

    But I also wish I had written The Royal Spyness Series. Georgie is probably my all time favorite detective. She's the perfect package of everything I love, right down to having her own tiara. :D

    @Rhys: You said some times people say you write like MC Beaton...I have to agree. Not because your books feel the same but because you are two of the funniest living mystery writers. I would say you have taken the lead. Humor is so much harder to write than anything else, including a tightly knit plot. And your humor is perfect. I really can't say enough about how much I love your writing.

    I suspect I write like Christy Barritt, but only because our readers often say she's their favorite and I'm their second favorite...Good thing she's a lovely woman or I'd get a complex! I'm not writing a Christian series currently so it will be interesting to see who the pen name makes people think of. :D

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  22. Thank you for the kind comments, Traci! What a nice way to start the week

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  23. I spent a few hours musing "who do my Red's write like?" 1. Rhys = Elizabeth Peters /contrasting with the Molly Murphy series/ both so beautifully researched (haven't read Georgie yes) 2 Julia = David Gutterson (Snow Falling on Cedars) for her understanding of historical periods, and for her lyrical prose 3. For Lucy = Leslie Karst or Barbara Ross (provides a strong sense of setting and are reliably food based. 4. For Hallie = Meg Gardiner (both explore the boundaries between ethics and wrong doing) both have protagonists who are caught up in crimes. 5. For Hank = Sue Grafton, with a soupcon of Barbara Cartland = conversational writing style, short chapters (Grafton). Attention to setting description of clothing and furnishing to show character through implication (Cartland) 6. For Deb = Anne Cleeves for strength of setting, Katherine Hall Paige for her understanding of family interactions. 7 Jenn = for her library series = Laurie Cass/ for her cupcake series = Laura Childs (she does for tea shops what Jenn does for bakeries)

    Finally none of you have ventured into the world of paranormal mysteries.. maybe the next book?

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    1. David Gutterson is a darned strong compliment, Coralee - thank you!

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    2. thanks so much Coralee to take the time to think so carefully about each of us! xox

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  24. Julia, we are often together on "read-alike" lists, which I love. And I often find myself saying at signings, "If you like my books, you will love Julia's." I'm looking forward to a whole series reread before Hid From Our Eyes comes out, so it will be fun to read with an eye to the similarities.

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    1. I think I had heard your books linked with mine before we even met, Debs!

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  25. Rhys, I remember asking you if you and Jacqueline Winspear had the same writing teacher. Although your stories are different, I noticed that your writing and language are similar to JW's writing.

    Diana

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  26. Julia and Debs, what a wonderful comparison!

    And I often write in my book reviews that if you love this author, then you will love this new author.

    Diana

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  27. Hallie, your books reminds me of Ruth Rendell. Similar scary style too.

    Lucy, I get what you mean about not writing high brow literary novels. When I tried writing, I wanted to write like my favorite authors and I noticed that my writing style is more like Danielle Steel. To me, Danielle Steel's novels are very easy to read and I always finish her books within a day! I think perhaps I need to follow the advice of my college professor who suggested that I write daily to improve my writing. I always feel that my writing needs improvement. LOL

    Diana

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    1. Oh Diana, I think lots of us would say we hope our writing improves--me certainly!! Danielle Steel did pretty well for herself right?

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    2. Lucy, Danielle Steel did very well. I often see her books at airports when looking for a book to buy /read. I liked some of her books.

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  28. My husband loved Ross Thomas's writing. Me? There are so many I admire. Louise Penny is on that list. And Dr Seuss. I wish I'd written those books! I loved them as a kid.

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  29. Which books do I wish I had written? I would have loved to write the novels that Alexander McCall Smith wrote. I just love his style. I also call his novels my "happy books".

    Diana

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  30. I have to echo Kristopher's choice as my first choice, too. Writing the Harry Potter books, creating a world of characters and stories that would inspire children all over the world to love reading and continue to read after those adventures. Wow! How much more epic can it get than that? Sharing the Harry Potter books with my children was one of the greatest reading pleasures of my life. Going to the bookstore at midnight with my son to celebrate a new Harry Potter book was as magical as the books themselves. Seeing all the children (and the adults) so excited about a book, about reading, was a thrill like no other. And, the bonus was that I loved reading them as much as the kids.

    This topic was delightful, as it got me looking at my favorite books list and reliving the wonder of each one. I do remember telling someone at the tea for Debs last week who was talking about Louise Penny's books that if she loved those, she would love Debs' books, too, and then we went on to talk about Elly Griffiths and Julia's books, too. Then, of course, there was mention of all of the Reds' authors and this blog.

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    1. Kathy, you know how much I love Elly Griffiths, too.

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  31. Harry Potter, for sure. The amount of time and thought put into them so that years later she's still revealing details and connections she had written out but never made it into the books...amazing.

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  32. A friend always says, when people are doing that "who does this baby look like" thing, "She looks like herself." (or he/him) The individuality of voices is part of what makes reading wonderful. I love discovering new writers through association with those I already love, but I'd be disappointed if you all sounded alike.
    Debs, I just finished A BITTER FEAST -- thanks for an amazing journey! <3 (Mary Garrett/storytellermary)

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    1. Reviews posted! Amazon, BookBub, Goodreads . . . now the wait begins for the next. <3

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    2. Love that Mary--who does she write like? Like herself of course!

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  33. "Pigs is Pigs", by Ellis Parker Butler
    Letter from Sakaye, by Beverly Mitchell (From The Fiddlehead)
    these two are complete on my Facebook page under "Notes"

    and of a number of essays by George Orwell
    Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John LeCarre
    The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame
    Many Moons, James Thurber

    I know it's late, but I had to get my two cents in. Most of references above by you all, are unfamiliar to me, but what I have read I agree wholeheartedly. I remember what is now a very long time ago, a line in Doylestown of children and their parents at midnight. Not an author signing but simply to buy the latest in the then Harry Potter series at the time. I've still while owning a few have not read them yet. Yes they are on the list.

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