The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
And it blew my socks off. I can think of few other books that have rocked me as much as this did--a book that's so unique you are immediately inspired to think and write in a new way, to tell new kinds of stories. It's historical fiction, but it's based around a heart-rending romance, without descending quite into the 'historical romance' genre of bodice ripping and so forth. It was a romance that felt real instead of idealized and the author let bad things happen to the characters and the ending feels fought for (it's a trilogy, so it takes awhile to get there, but it's there all the same!).
Which then led me to dally with another series I heard was awesome in similar ways and I'm shocked that I never read until now:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
More giantly epic romance, and horrible things happening to the characters, and intense struggles and love that both surprises and redeems. I'm so stoked to hear this is being made into a TV series, because, YES. Seeing Jaime Fraser for hours and hours on the small screen spells out a whole lot of YAY. Cannot wait. So then after I read a few of these books I was in the mood to just devour absolutely every amazing book like this I could find.
Which led me to the fabulous Jennifer Donnelly and the trilogy below. I'd read her YA books, but I really enjoyed these.
And then I couldn't find any more perfect books like these melding historical struggle, love stories (the kind that may involve tragedy but don't leave you there), and realism. I'm still looking. Please, if you know any, send them my way because I WANT MORE. Which of course leads to the next logical decision, well, if you're a writer anyway--to write my own epic historical saga. I'm about halfway through an ugly first draft right now
People ask me where inspiration for stories comes from, and here it is--the question that starts my process:
What am I currently absolutely obsessed with?
Sometimes it's been the storytelling of Doctor Who. Or Jane Eyre. Usually it's books or TV shows that I can't stop thinking about, that get me obsessive, that make me feel intensely. And then I take that buzzing bug of inspiration as a catalyst and start plot, plot, plotting away. Halfway through the draft, I'm still obsessed with the story, which is always a good sign. It takes over like a fever. I'm thinking about the story almost non-stop all throughout the day and it keeps me up a night. Sometimes I think the key to writing (at least the kind of writing you love) is obsession.