Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Authors Pick Five: Bree Despain

This week I had the pleasure to review Bree Despain's latest book, The Savage Grace (see my review here) and as part of that blog tour, she is guest posting here today by answering the following question (you know the one!):

What five books are most important or influential to you?

Here's what she has to say:

First off, asking me to pick only five important books feels like asking me to decide which of my children is my favorite--you cruel, cruel, woman! :) But I will do my best . . .

I think I'll go with the 5 books that have had the most impact on me as a writer.

1. The first book is one that I am not actually quite sure of the title. I believe it was called DUCK TALES (not the Disney Ducktales). It was a chapter book I found in my Easter Basket when I was about 8 years old. My reaction was probably something like, "A book? That's a dumb thing for the Easter Bunny to bring!" I struggled a lot with reading as a child and even though I enjoyed the bedtime stories my father used to tell me, I thought at the time that reading was boring and hard. However, this was the first time anyone had ever given me a chapter book to read, so decided to give it a try despite thinking it was going to be too difficult. But within a few pages, I was completely enthralled by this story about a little lost duckling trying to find his family. I found myself staying up late, reading under the covers to find out what happened. And then asking for more chapter books when I was done with this one. This was the book that turned me into a real reader.

2. JACKAROO by Cynthia Voigt. Even though I still struggled with reading through most of my childhood, I continued to enjoy it and always sought out new books to read. When I was in middle school, I found this book in my older sister's collection. I read it and fell in love with this story of a girl who must pretend to be the famed hero/bandit "Jackaroo" in order to save her town. I became so enthralled by the story, I started writing my own little stories and poems about the characters. Then I started writing my own stories about my own characters. This is the book that turned me into a writer. It also had a strong girl-power message that gave a me a confidence boost as a 13 year old.

3. HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY by Elizabeth Peters. In high school, I found myself bogged down by all the assigned reading I had to do for my honors English classes. I was a very slow reader and and I had to work very hard to keep up with my homework--which means I hardly ever got to read for fun anymore. It wasn't until I was in college that I got back into reading for pleasure. My sister introduced me to the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters and I pretty much became obsessed with it. It is a long series with several books, and I spent a lot of time combing the dusty stacks of my college's library (that was being renovated at the time) to find the each next book in the series. I remember once wading under what felt like miles of plastic sheeting in a dark library basement--with a flashlight--because I HAD to get the next book! My favorite book in the series was HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY. This was the book I was reading when I came to the realization during my junior year of college that instead of being an attorney, archeologist, or actress, I really wanted to be an author.

4. At the time that I decided that I wanted to be an author, my roommate was student-teaching a third grade class. She told me all of her students were really getting into this book called Harry Potter. I was a volunteer reading tutor at a local elementary at the time, and I was always searching for books my students might enjoy, so I decided to check the book out. I enjoyed the first one, so I read the second one. Both were really good, so when HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN came out a few weeks later, I ran out and bought it--and I LOVED it! It is still my favorite of the series and still one of my all-time favorite books. This is the book that made me decide to enroll in a series of "writing for children" classes at my college.

5. When I first started taking those writing classes in college, I thought I wanted to write middle grade books like my beloved Harry Potter. However, during one of my writing courses, I was required to read a few Young Adult novels and then write the first chapter of a YA novel. One of the books I chose was THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot. I loved this book! And when I took a crack at writing a first chapter of a YA novel, I realized that YA was where my voice really belonged, and that's what kind of books I wanted to write. Princess Diaries was the book that made me want to write YA. And if I can sneak a 6th book into here, I would say that reading SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson solidified me as a YA writer for sure. I find so much inspiration in that book.

Thanks for the interview! It was fun to talk about some of my favorite books. I find myself wanting to re-read them again.

Thanks Bree for a look into your book inspiration to becoming a writer! I want to re-read (or read for the first time) some of these books too!

Bree Despain is the author of the Dark Divine trilogy which includes The Dark Divine, The Lost Saint and the new book The Savage Grace. She became interested in writing during college days where she at first thought she would be a lawyer. But she really started writing after a car accident when she realized life was too short to not do what you love to do. Bree lives in Salt Lake with her husband and little boys. For more info, click here for her website and you can read her blog here, and follow her on Twitter here.


  1. Who knew a little duck story could inspire a reader and a writer. ;) I love it!

  2. Yay for reading! Yay for Bree! (Okay, attending her Writing for Charity panel total makes us on a first-name basis, right?) Anyway, I hadn't heard of the first three books. I need to remedy that. It's lovely to hear about people's formative books.



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