Guest Blog: Carol James Marshall

BIO: Carol James Marshall is a science fiction and horror author that loves the things that go bump in the night and the mysteriously creepy. A California native Mrs. Marshall now lives in Warner Robins with her husband, two boys and a very loud chocolate lab known as Molly the Loud. When Carol James Marshall is not writing she enjoys audiobooks, exploring Georgia, and playing survival horror video games. 

Q:  Who is your greatest literary influence?

I believe the question “Who’s your favorite author” is incomplete. I think the question should be “Who’s your favorite author, at the moment.” Let me explain myself. As the baby of my family, whose siblings were already out of the house when I reached elementary school, I never had that sibling experience. My siblings being older almost all acted like parents. At that stage in my life, The Beezus and Romona series by Beverly Cleary enthralled me. I found joy in reading the Beezus and Romona books. I often thought, “Is this what it would be like to have a big sister at home?” Mind blown! I could bug someone to death and they would tolerate me? All because I was their “little sister?” I was hooked. At that time in my life, Mrs. Cleary’s series was everything to me that my life wasn’t. 

As I got older and the changes that come with age started to happen to my body, I found a tattered, worn-through copy of Are you there God, it’s me Margaret by Judy Blume in my school library. I must have read this book three times in a row! My mother, bless her, believed that keeping me ignorant of these changes would actually kept me from being “naughty.” 

Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret was an encyclopedia of knowledge for me when it came to going through “the change.” How could Judy Blume hit the nail on the head so thoroughly when it came to what young girls needed to hear? As a writer I’m bewildered by the brilliance in the simplicity of Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret. That book taught me what my mother, or sister, for that matter, would not. Judy Blume was the hero of moment. I still believe I should write her a thank-you letter. I just might.

My freshman year of high school a classmate introduced me to the Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal. This series intrigued the heck out of me. It was a revelation. You might be wondering why a book about two teenage twins in high school was eye opening. Well, I’m a Hispanic girl from Los Ángeles California. I did not speak English till around fourth grade.

These very blonde twin girls living (in my eyes) an American Dream of high school football games, friends, “normal parents” along with the possibility of handsome boyfriends was “like wow” to me. Reading the Sweet Valley High book series felt like being a secret agent. I had files on how the “other half” lived.

In my junior year of high school, I discovered Tolkien. As a child and young adult, I was a bit of a library loiterer. My parents were very over protective, which lead to a childhood of long boring days. Books were my escape, and the library was the one place my father would allow me to roam free. When I say “discovered,” it was truly that. I found the book on a shelf, just waiting for me.

You can cue up an image of a young girl, long blond hair, shorts, plain t-shirt absentmindedly walking down a library aisle, touching the books as she went along hunting down her next read. When this girl rounds a corner, there it is, “my next read,” sparkling in the florescent lights as if blessed by the library gods. That is exactly how I found Tolkien, true story.

I spent that junior year wrapped up Tolkien’s world. I read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings series and The Silmarillion. 

Tolkien’s view of possibility blew my socks off. The idea that the normal wasn’t necessary struck me. The concept that a person can expand their thinking and situation with words written on a page finally after years of being a reader really sunk in. I could escape into a life of magic, orcs, wizards, and adventure. Yes, please, and thank you.

My senior year of high school I read The Catcher in the Rye and from then on, I felt okay about all the weird thoughts traveling around my brain. Thank you, Salinger, for letting me know I wasn’t a freak. I’d write him a thank you letter as well, but I don’t think he wants one.

In my twenties, after years of being a journalism student in high school and college, I knew there was a writer in me. At that point in my life I was struggling not only with being a new adult thinking adult thoughts, but also with doing adult deeds and then wondering if I had implemented those things correctly. I didn’t know what kind of voice as I writer I wanted. Most importantly, what kind of voice as a writer I organically had.

This is when, at a book store somewhere in downtown San Diego, I picked up a copy of Suicide Blonde by Darcey Steinke. This book hypnotized me. I bought two more copies of it. There is always one or two copies of it in my house. I didn’t understand why till my 40’s when I finally started taking my writing seriously.

Darcey Steinke’s writing in Suicide Blonde was the closest thing I’d ever read that when it came to the rhythm, flow, and feel of the story was where I wanted my stories to be. I had found a soul sister in Steinke’s work. When she accepted my friend request on Facebook I had a true fan girl moment.

Let’s see that’s seven favorite authors so far and I’m not even close to being done. Our tastes in reading evolve as we evolve. As far as I’m concerned, there is no one favorite author for the bookish. We have a lifetime of favorite authors that have blessed us with their stories.

Go ahead, ask. I know you want to. I’ll go get a drink while you ponder asking me that weighted question.   “Who’s my favorite author at this moment?”  Be warned I will gush. I truly mean gush over Margaret Atwood. Many of her books are truly terrifying in the greatest of ways. I read The Handmaids Tale shortly after watching the television series and fell (not kidding) head over heels in love with her voice as a writer. I am currently reading every single one of her books. I hope to one day be a decent enough writer to stand in her shadow.

However, if you ask me that question in three years, you might get a different answer.  I am sure Ms. Atwood will understand.

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