On my Instagram today, I shared the above image of some of my collection of Wuthering Heights editions. This is my favourite novel and, although I have multiple copies of lots of classics, I actively collect different editions of Wuthering Heights.
As I was happily looking at my beautiful editions and reminding myself of scenes in the book (do you have that reaction too? When you pick up a book you’ve enjoyed and the scenes run through your memory like a movie reel?), I realised just how much Emily Brontë has inspired my own writing.
If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram for a little while, you will know that I am a huge fan of the classics and, in particular, classics written by women. Reading these books have, without doubt, made me a better writer and so today I wanted to share with you the female authors of classics whose books I love, and whose writing inspires me.
My debut novel, The Hellion, will be released on 18th March 2021.
Given my introduction, I will have to start with Emily Brontë. Wuthering Heights invokes one thing for me – atmosphere. It is full of gloom, wild and windy moors, ice and darkness. The mood of the book perfectly matches the bleak setting, and I love the hints of ghosts and madness.
The themes of people struggling (and, mostly, failing) to live lives as they choose is highly emotive.
Wuthering Heights is a book that I have read many times, and each time something new shows itself to me.
Daphne du Maurier
The queen of the thriller! Daphne du Maurier’s gothic mystery Rebecca truly took my breath away (I finished it, opened it at the first page and began reading again). It may be unsurprising that I adore both this and Wuthering Heights – they are both books which are, ridiculously, often labelled as love stories or romances, when they are nothing of the sort.
I have read many of Daphne du Maurier’s works, particularly enjoying My Cousin Rachel and the creepy short story Don’t Look Now, but Rebecca is my favourite of hers. The horror that she manages to evoke simply with a choice of dress is astounding.
Shirley Jackson managed to make the every day frightening. Her book of short stories, The Lottery, opened my eyes to just how twisted the mundane can be. One of the stories is about a man who lives in a little flat that he has tried very hard to make perfect. His neighbour invites herself in for dinner, brings along a friend and pretends that the flat is hers – to the extent that the owner has to leave his perfect flat with his perfect things. The storyline sounds simplistic, but Shirley Jackson’s writing made it riveting and frightening.
Then there is We Have Always Lived In The Castle, with the terrifying Merricat. You are never sure whether to pity, despise, love or run from the unique narrator. Shirley Jackson knew how to keep a reader on their toes with pace and unease – something I try to work into my own writing.
I am sure it is difficult to find a writer who has not been inspired by Margaret Atwood – she is simply a genius. The breadth of her writing is inimitable, she is a master at both short stories and novels.
My favourite works by Margaret Atwood are The Handmaid’s Tale, for its darkness, its depth and its glint of hope, and her short story collection Stone Mattress; a weird, interlinked set of yarns. She inspires me with her craft, her wit and her incredible volume of output!
Mary Shelley is best known for her novel Frankenstein, well known for its view into the human psyche with man as the monster. I love her gory take on this. But my favourite Mary Shelley novel is The Last Man. Published in 1826, and set in 2073 onwards, it’s the story of a dystopian world where most people have been wiped out by a deadly disease (sound familiar?).
Mary Shelley was writing dystopian and science fiction before anyone knew what it was, and I am constantly inspired by her dedication to her craft despite her desperately tragic life – if you have a chance to read up on it, I would definitely suggest you do.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is here simply because of her short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. I haven’t actually read any of her other works, though writing this has reminded me that I should and if you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments.
Written in 1890, her story of mental illness resonates as strongly today as it did then. It is one of those stories, despite being short, that places you directly in the head of the character where you become entirely trapped. Charlotte Perkins Gilman made this list because that story stays with me constantly. It is scary, it is obsessive and it is a feminist masterpiece. She showed me that you can create something incredible without it needing to be 900 pages long.
Do you write? Which authors inspire you? Let me know in the comments.
You can find out more about my debut novel on my blog post here.