10 Books that Changed my Life by Anna Campbell
Thanks so much AusRom Today for inviting me to be part of your 10 Books that Changed my Life series! I love talking about books. The only bit I didn’t love about this was cutting down my list to 10 – I could have put in 100. Anyway, here goes:
Book 1: The Rockingdown Mystery (The Barney Mysteries Book 1) by Enid Blyton
This was definitely torch-under-the-blankets material when I was about 7. I’d read a few children’s classics before this like Heidi and Black Beauty, but this is the first book I can remember gripping me to the point of obsession. I also remember glomming 100s of Enid Blytons over the next few years and deciding that I was going to grow up to write books like her. She’s come in and out of fashion since, but she turned me into a voracious reader and she inspired my lifelong dreams of becoming a writer, so this book definitely changed my life!
Book 2: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Cue another book obsession! I stewed over a couple of classics – War and Peace, Middlemarch, and Jane Eyre nearly made the cut – but this is the one that I was obsessed with to the point of mania, so this is the one that got onto the list. I was 17, in senior at high school, and this was our set text. I went absolutely bananas over this passionate, strange, disturbing story, and I was madly in love with Byronic hero Heathcliff. Now? Now I think he needs some help (although I still think Cathy was a little cow). But there’s something special about that wholehearted book love when you’re that age and you’re swept away into a new universe of BIG emotions. Kate Bush’s fabulous song was number 1 on the charts too when I was doing my final exams. It was like the universe was conspiring to send me to 19th century Yorkshire and find my own dark, dangerous hero.
Book 3: Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
Oh, my Lord, I was obsessed with this book! I picked it up at the big newsagency on the highway in Surfers Paradise when I was taking a week’s holiday on my own at the Gold Coast. At the time, Queensland was having major floods so it wasn’t beach weather at all. This was back in the pre-internet days where you really could be surprised by books you bought. I devoured the story in one gulp, then went back to the start and read it all over again. I must have read it at least 20 times over the next few years. The story sweeps you away, and you fall in love with the characters, and it’s breathtakingly romantic. All round, a romance classic! It was also one of my late mum’s faves so it brings back lovely memories of her as well.
Book 4: The Game of Kings (Lymond Chronicles Book 1) by Dorothy Dunnett
The Lymond Chronicles, The Game of Kings, Queen’s Play, The Disorderly Knights, Pawn in Frankincense (sob!), The Ringed Castle, and Checkmate are my favourite books. They’re whole-universe-between-the-pages reads and feature one of the most charismatic characters in literature, Francis Crawford, Master of Lymond. Oh, man, I was in love with Frank C! I learnt so much from reading these books, not least how rich historical detail could help build emotional punch. Also how no character was safe – many of my faves bit the dust as the series progressed. It’s also an exercise in use of unreliable narrators and limited point of view to create a multi-faceted picture – Francis Crawford may be the main character, but mostly we see him from the outside. We’re always trying to solve the mystery of who he is and what he wants. The complex plot weaves its way through the 16th century from Scotland to Turkey and Russia and back. And the love story will break your heart. I could continue to rave but take it from me, if you like complex historical fiction, give these a go!
Book 5: Collected Poems by T.S. Eliot
There was a stage in my life when I read The Four Quartets, especially “Little Gidding,” obsessively (clearly obsessive is the adjective of choice in this blog!). Exquisitely beautiful, wise, horrifying, frightening, ultimately reassuring, full of heart and joy and tragedy. A book I go back to when I need clarity.
Book 6: Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I read this during my hiatus as a writer (see The Lady and the Unicorn below). When I was in my late 30s, I decided that wanting to be a writer was a childish dream, a bit like wanting to dance at the Bolshoi (I’d had that one when I was a little girl too!). I’d spent most of my life working in dead-end jobs, usually part-time, so I could write, and I decided that it was time I grew up and joined the real world. So I gave up writing. An absolutely vile 18 months followed, and this book helped me to get through them. It uses women from mythology as guides for how we should take control of our lives. I haven’t read it since that first time – looking at it takes me right back to my slough of despond – but it definitely changed my life back in the late 90s.
Book 7: The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
I picked this book up when I was about 14 at the Queensland Book Depot in Brisbane, one of my book-buying haunts back then. I didn’t know anything about it, but the blurb sounded like what a romantic-minded teenager might like. Like it? I LOVED IT!!! I must have read it about 50 times. It was another one I read for the first time, then read all over again. Woodiwiss’s books established the historical romance market that has since provided me with my career, and the fortune publishers made on her books (and a couple of other romance pioneers like Rosemary Rogers) meant they were willing to publish lots of romance in the future. I loved the story’s focus on the hero and heroine. I loved the characters. I loved the love scenes! After that first reading, I said to myself, “I want to grow up to become an Avon author like KEW.” It took me a lot of years, but I did eventually make that dream come true!
Book 8: The Lady and the Unicorn by Isolde Martyn
If you’ve stuck with me this long, you’ll have seen I decided to give up writing because it was a silly dream. This was the book that broke the drought! After eighteen months of feeling very grey and pointless, I picked up an Australian-published historical romance that mesmerised me. When I finished it, I thought, “I could do something like this.” So I went back to writing, but I went back smarter. That soon started to pay off in contest results, finding an agent, and eventual publication. One of the people who encouraged me in those baby steps towards establishing a career as a writer (while I’d written all my life, I wouldn’t say I was thinking like a career writer until after my hiatus) was the wonderful Isolde Martyn, so I owe her a double debt of gratitude.
Book 9: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
I hadn’t read historical romance for a few years when in the early 1990s, I walked into a great book exchange on a holiday down at Coolangatta (Gold Coast holidays seem to play a part in my fate). In my time out, a whole stack of great new voices had joined the genre. By chance, I picked up two books there, The Lion’s Daughter by Loretta Chase and The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale (LK’s Flowers from the Storm nearly made the list of 10 here), and I was in love with historical romance again. Loretta Chase is one of the best writers out there, and she showed me ways back into writing and reading historical romance that continue to inspire me. This was another book I was obsessed with – I kept re-reading it to try and work out how the magic worked. Brilliant characterisation and wonderfully witty dialogue are only part of it!
Book 10: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell
This one really DID change my life in ways nobody can disagree with. I’d wanted to be a writer since my Enid Blyton obsession days. Many, MANY years later, I came up with a dark, sexy and emotional idea for a story featuring a tortured Duke and the courtesan mistress he wanted to marry to stick it to his vile family. Of course, that’s not REALLY why he wants to marry her, we’re all romance readers here! The problem was I’d finally decided I’d found my place in the world, and it was writing Regency romantic comedy in the Julia Quinn/Amanda Quick mould. This courtesan/duke story was definitely not a comedy. But nor would it leave me alone. I sat down on Australia Day in 2002 and wrote the first chapter just to prove it to myself and those pesky voices in my head that I couldn’t do this – and that ended up being pretty much word for word, the first chapter of my first published book. At 14, I’d dreamed of being an Avon author and in 2006 that dream came true when Avon bought the book at auction in New York as part of a three-book deal. I’ve been a full-time writer ever since.
Which leads me to my current release, The Laird’s Willful Lass – as you can probably tell from the title, a few more jokes have snuck into the books as I went on. This one has an emotional heart (I hope) but there’s lots of fun along the way as well. It’s Book 1 in my Lairds Most Likely series and it’s out this week!
I’ve loved this trip down memory lane. Thank you again for having me as your guest. I’d like to offer one lucky AusRom Today readers a Kindle download of The Laird’s Willful Lass – no geographical restrictions. Just tell me in the comments about a book that changed your life. I’m looking forward to seeing your choices.
The Laird’s Willful Lass
An untamed man as immovable as a Highland mountain…
Fergus Mackinnon, autocratic Laird of Achnasheen, likes to be in charge. When he was little more than a lad, he became master of his Scottish estate, and he’s learned to rely on his unfailing judgment. So has everyone else in his corner of the world. He sees no reason for his bride—when he finds her—to be any different.
A headstrong woman from the warm and passionate south…
Marina Lucchetti knows all about fighting her way through a wall of masculine arrogance. In her native Florence, she’s become a successful artist, no easy feat for a woman. Now a commission to paint a series of Highland scenes promises to spread her fame far and wide. When a carriage accident strands her at Achnasheen for a few weeks, it’s a mixed blessing. The magnificent landscape offers everything her artistic soul could desire. If only she can resist the impulse to smash her easel across the laird’s obstinate head.
When two fiery souls come together, a conflagration flares.
Marina is Fergus’s worst nightmare—a woman who defies a man’s guidance. Fergus challenges everything Marina believes about a woman’s right to choose her path. No two people could be less suited. But when irresistible passion enters the equation, good sense soon jumps into the loch.
Will the desire between Fergus and Marina blaze hot, then fade to ashes? Or will the imperious laird and his willful lass discover that their differences aren’t insurmountable after all, but the spice that will flavor a lifetime of happiness?