When I was younger I couldn’t name who my favorite authors or books were. I just read whatever I could get my hands on. When I got to high school a lot of the books I read were the ones I was being told I should be reading; in other words, the classics. I did, though, start picking up other kinds of books like historical fiction and fantasy enjoying those immensely. Still, if you asked me who my favorite authors were, I couldn’t really tell you. I just knew I liked what I liked.
Now that I’m an adult, I can more clearly answer the question of who my favorite authors are and why. While these are my favorites it doesn’t mean that everything they’ve written I like. In each case I’m still working on getting through all their works. Still, these are the authors who when I hear they have a new book out or when I discover an older title in a store or library, I happily grab it.
Ken Follett: Known primarily for writing historical fiction, he has also written novels set in contemporary times as well as a modern, sci-fi thriller. He’s best known for The Pillars of the Earth, which in addition to being a best seller, what turned into a mini-series and spawned the sequel World Without End, which was also turned into a mini-series.
The reasons why I enjoy his books are because I think he does a great job creating complex characters, has just enough historical details to envelope the reader in the world, and provides new insight into well-known time periods.
I also think he creates exceptional villains. These are people who don’t realize they are bad people or if they do, believe they are justified and even entitled due to their station in life. It’s hard to sympathize with many of Follett’s villains but never do they ever come across as cartoony or over-the-top. By the end of the book, you really, really want these people to get their comeuppance and for the good guys to win out. Follett usually delivers this yet it never comes across as formulaic to me.
Follett also creates smart, courageous, resourceful, and feisty female leads. These women provide insight into what a woman may have felt and thought during different time periods. It helps the reader make draw parallels between modern time and history maybe even to be thankful for how far things have come along.
Deanna Raybourn: I became a fan of hers upon reading the first Lady Julia Grey mystery Silent in the Grave. The Lady Julia Grey books are set during Victorian England, a time period I enjoy, and like Follett, she strikes a great balance between thorough research and making sure it is the story and characters that shine through. Sadly, the Lady Julia Grey books are coming to an end but this doesn’t mean I haven’t tried some of her other works.
In addition to doing a great job with setting, she, too, has really well-formed characters. Besides having feisty, strong female leads, the male leads are usually different from what many female writers tend to gravitate towards. Lady Julia Grey’s husband, Brisbane, is part Gypsy, part English so he is constantly at war with those clashing backgrounds along with battling really bad migraines (I sympathize). Another one of her male leads I enjoyed reading about is Ryder White in A Spear of Summer Grass and Far in the Wilds. Initially he comes across as the typical male lead; he’s rough and rugged, promiscuous, and egotistical yet he is a loner, loyal to his aunt and best friend, respects the various cultures around him, and doesn’t put up with nonsense from people no matter how much money they have.
Another thing I enjoy about her writing is she injects quite a bit of humor and a touch of ridiculousness that comes across as cheeky rather than immature.
Ngaio Marsh: I’ve just discovered Marsh this year and have already gobbled up five of her books. Unlike Follett and Raybourn, Marsh did not write historical fiction. She wrote detective murder mysteries and was a contemporary of Agatha Christie.
What I love about her books is being thrown into a different time period, struggling with some of the vernacular, and guessing who the killer is. Her books are filled with dark characters from all walks of life. Even though the books are set in the ’30s up until the late ’70s/early ’80s, a time period I think is usually portrayed as more innocent, drugs are apparently easy to get and people can’t wait to con others. In her books, ugliness lies in every corner of life.
Again, her characters also fascinate me. The women aren’t damsels in distress and often times have just as good of a motive as the men for murdering the deceased. Some are matriarchs married to a loony husband, some are single women living on their own, and some are lonely widows seeking companionship. The men, of course, run the gamut to conned vicars to intentionally stereotypical wannabe Lotharios to Lords with way too much money and time on their hands but not enough brains.
Those are just a few of my favorite authors. I’m looking forward to adding more to this list over the course of my life. Who knows, maybe someone will put me on their favorite authors list. Well, besides like a family member or a good friend or something.