There were always books in my house. My parents are both voracious readers, and they imparted that love of words and stories on to their children. I can remember, when I was still very young, listening to my mother read us The Jungle Book and Bambi (the original novels, not the Disney versions), as well as Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, among others. The idea of being able to write and influence the world, even after death, was an amazing idea to me. The fact that I could tell a story and, hundreds of years in the future, someone else could read that same story was, to me, the true proof of
The books that truly fired my urge to write, though, was the Dragonriders of Pern series (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon) by Anne McCaffrey. My parents introduced me to them when I was about 9 or 10, and it was love at first read. Even now, the line “Lessa woke, cold” sends chills down my spine. After devouring Dragonflight, I knew I was going to write stories like that someday. I had written before, but this book cast my destiny in stone. She
wrote about strong girls who didn’t just kowtow to the men in their lives, or need to be rescued. They had adventures and saved the world! Just the kind of heroine I wanted to write about.
I wrote a letter to Anne McCaffrey soon after I finished Dragonflight, telling her how much I loved the book, how I was going to write and sell exciting stories too someday, and wishing her a happy birthday. We actually shared a birthday, which I also told her in the letter (in fact, I believe I asked for a fire lizard for my birthday that year, which I did not get, and am still a little sad about).
When I mailed it off, my parents warned me that I might not hear back from her – she was, after all, a busy author. I didn’t care. I just wanted to let her know how big an impact her books had made on me.
She did write me back, though – a lovely letter telling me she knew I would be an excellent author, because our birthday was a magical one,
and thanking me for writing. Moreover, she told me to never stop telling stories, because the world always needed another good storyteller. I still treasure that letter, and the books that got me through so much in life. If I had a bad day, I would retreat into those books, that world. And when I left to go to college, those books went with me, my link with my home and my family.
There were other books, of course – fantasy, sci fi and mystery – that influenced my writing, but the Dragonriders of Pern are the books I return to again and again. My nieces are 5 and 1 right now, but I can’t wait until they’re 10, so I can pass those three books on to them as well.
Val Griswold-Ford is a dark fantasy writer who dabbles in all sorts of things, from epic fantasy to horror to paranormal romance. Her first novel, Not Your Father’s Horseman, was released by Dragon Moon Press in July 2005. It made ForeWord Magazine’s finalist list for the Best Fantasy novel of 2005 and started the Apocalypse Cycle. She writes about her version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the StarChild and the Elemental Lords that populate her alternate Earth. She is also a Pirate Queen of the highest order.
To learn more about Valerie and her work, please visit: http://vg-ford.com/.