1. THE UNFAITHFUL WIFE BY LYNNE GRAHAM
This book introduced me to my favorite breed of heroes: Greek billionaires. In hindsight, I also realized that this book - and LG's succeeding books - also made me unconsciously adapt a formula when writing my books. When I first realized that I was using a formula to write my books, I CONSCIOUSLY attempted to stay away from it. Because I didn't want to be predictable, didn't want to cheat my readers, etc. Well, the end result was SHIT. That was when I also realized that when I buy books from my favorite authors, it's because I KNOW what to EXPECT. And I think many of my readers are the same - they buy my books because they know what to expect. This realization was LIBERATING - now, I more than happy write according to formula - my formula. And because I'm doing this, I still end up crying whenever I read my books. I forget that I'm its author. I'm my own target market with my books so if my own stories make me cry or make my heart pinch - that's a good thing, don't you think?
2. UNDEAD SERIES BY MARY JANICE DAVIDSON
I'm not sure if I read this from an article or straight from her book ESCAPE THE SLUSH PILE (Another must read!) but MJD's been described as a pioneer, someone who carved a niche all on her own in paranormal romance. She was the first to write paranormal rom-coms back in the day, and her humor was uniquely her own. I really, really love her snarky wit and though once in a while I try my best to create funny snarky heroines, I know it's not my forte. What I did learn from MJD was that it's okay not to be like the rest. Different does not mean bad. Different just means different.
3. Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Nobody writes sports romances like SEP does. Nobody writes funny sexy romances like she does. She's my goddess, and I'm not ashamed to say it. If you've read any of my books or reviews of my books, you'd notice that most readers mention how my endings are so very dramatic. Yeah, well, I learned it from SEP. She always, always makes me cry. Always! And that's what I want from my readers - if I got to make them cry, then I know I've done a good job.
Another thing I love about SEP's books is how her heroes aren't too serious. Look at Gideon Cross from Sylvia Day's Crossfire series. I love her books. I am in love with Gideon Cross. But I know that I won't be able to write something like Gideon coz one way or another, even my heroes would end up doing something funny and silly - something that you definitely would not catch Gideon Cross doing.
Basically, I've learned that heroes don't need to take themselves seriously all the time to be alphas. And I really like it that way. :)
4. TWILIGHT BY STEPHENIE MEYER
Yep, I know a LOT of people don't like Twilight or the way S.M. writes. Yeah, well, I'm not one of them. S.M. for me is a really, really good storyteller and I love how she wrote Twilight with so much abandon. I can only hope I can write like that with every book I put out.
Twilight was the reason I devoured YA paranormal romances like mad years ago. It got me to read Lauren Kate's Fallen series (also a great read!) and other similar books. It's because of SM that I discovered that particular sub-genre, because of her I got to discover my own love for writing YA. Last but not the least, it's also because of her that I rediscovered my love and passion for writing - I was so disillusioned with how my writing career was turning out in the PH that I really turned my back on writing faction and just focused on article writing, which is at least a job that PAYS. But when I saw how millions of people loved SM's books and flocked into theaters to watch the film adaptations - honestly, it made me realize that SM got to where she is now because she DIDN'T give up on her dream.
I gave up on my dream - and I paid for it. I won't do it again - and I hope, if you're serious about writing, you don't give up, too.
5. FIFTY SHADES BY E.L. JAMES
The Werewolf Prince and I was my FIRST adult romance. It had NO intimate scenes when I first shared it on Girltalk's forum. However, I have always read - and loved reading - steamy romances. I just didn't think I could write it because I'm Filipino, Catholic, I come from a conservative family, etc. etc. All sorts of inhibitions held me back.
Reading Fifty Shades (which I also enjoyed, by the way) made me (belatedly) realize one thing: SEX SELLS. I mean, I know, duh, right? That's why the porn industry will never go away. But for women, though, sex sells - especially if it comes with the feels. And Fifty Shades definitely came with a lot of feels.
When I upped the heat level of TWPAI, it was solely because I wanted the book to sell. But after writing the book, I discovered that I actually enjoyed writing steamy scenes, mainly because steamy scenes revealed secret sides of my characters and made them connected in a way that no other type of scene could achieve. I loved how intimate those scenes were and how it made me - as a reader - feel privileged to see those secret sides of them.
After TWPAI, the rest was history.
6. THE CALL OF CTHULU BY H.P. LOVECRAFT
H.P.'s stories were the first "non-contemporary horror" I've ever read and they stayed with me for a long, long time. I love the tone of his works, and I think that's what I always to recapture when I'm writing horror - I want to see if I can make the present-day world as dark as he did. I love how he always had all these historical texts included, all sorts of academic stuff playing important roles in his books and I did this, too, with Death Loves Me Not (my only published work in horror).
In this entire list, this is probably the one that affected me equally more as a reader than a writer. When I think about it, I realize that it could also very well be one of my loftier goals - to write a story so good that it shuts down the "writer's part" of an author's brain. :D
7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
If E.L. James taught me how to write steamy scenes with lots of feels, SP taught me how to write YA love without any explicit stuff. I love how she made Etienne so yummy - to the point that I didn't realize how, umm, short he was. Hehe. My takeaway from her books is simple: good guys can be helluva sexy, too. I've only written one book where the guy is basically good (Catch You If I Can) but I hope I can write more.
I also love how the city of Paris played a role in the book - it made everything so much more romantic and real. I don't know if I can ever do that with Manila, but maybe one day...
8. Gabriel's Inferno by Sylvain Reynard
Confession time: I tried reading Dante's Inferno in college. I found it boring. But now that I've read SR's books, mmm...I'm thinking of giving it a try. =D I know that's one of SR's goals - to make readers like classical lit. Usually, I shy away from the classics because they're too depressing and serious for me, but the fact that he's actually made me reconsider Inferno....
I want to be like that, too!
Actually, I had a similar goal when I wrote Drawn. Aside from wanting to create a "younger version" of Fifty Shades minus the BDSM and kinks, I had also hoped that Drawn would encourage more readers outside Asia to try out shoujo manga. Based on the most highlighted quotes for Drawn on Amazon, I think I've succeeded somewhat and that really made me happy.
SR's books stayed with me for several reasons.
First, I loved how he made something like classical lit sound really cool. That's the power of writing at work!
Second, I loved how he created the hero Gabriel. He's a really smart professor and most of the time, he talks about intellectual stuff that should have made me puke, but instead it just made me more dreamy-eyed and wishing we had really hot professors like him in CSB haha.
Third, he made me want to write about forbidden romances between teachers and students. Hopefully, one day I'll get to that. =D
9. Angels' Blood (Guild Hunters, Book 1) by Nalini Singh
Most of the beautiful writing I've gotten to read is from YA romances. Most of the adult romances I've read use really casual or gritty language. But this series - oh, this series. I am SO in love with this series. Her words are so pretty. So, so very pretty it makes me want to act like Gollum and call them "my precious". It makes me imagine her words are this really cute baby and I want to pinch his chubby cheeks so bad.
NS' books taught me how you can still write prettily even when you've got lots of blood and gore in your books. Even her steamy scenes are pretty - really hot still but pretty, too.
I'm not quite there yet, but her books have given me a really great goal to aspire for.
10. Belgariad Series by David Eddings
Mm...I think this series is like H.P. Lovecraft's. It's affected me more as a reader than a writer. After reading this series, it made me want to read more epic fantasies. It got me to discover books by Anne Bishop and Elizabeth Haydon. It taught me the importance of world building and how world building can make books so much more beautiful, vivid, and richer if it's done correctly.
However, it's also important that you DO NOT CLOSE YOUR DOORS completely. Never say never. For instance, I recently developed a fascination over the works of F. Sionil Jose. If you had asked me weeks ago who he was, I'd tell you that I have no idea who he is. I definitely didn't know he was one of our National Artists. However, last week, I saw a photo of him attending this year's NJLA and from there, I found myself reading articles about his life and works. I found myself fascinated with his life's journey, so much so that it made me really want to read his books. He's currently top of my TBR, and I'm hoping to read his books when I'm done with my deadlines.
One book that I didn't include in the list but I feel deserves special mention is THE BIBLE. For me, it's worth reading and re-reading and it's definitely influenced my writing, too. While I make sure I do not preach with my books, I like having my characters pray and lean on God. For me, having good triumphing over evil is also proof of God's work.
Writers write for different reasons. For me, it's simple - I want to make people smile and fall in love because being happy and in love is one step to being closer to God. I don't think the way I write will ever win me any accolades, but I'm hoping the way I write will get readers to read more, get them to be happier and not lose hope.
Every writer must have a purpose - if you've found yours, then whatever it is, stick to it because that's probably what God needs you to do. :D