Like many people, I read a lot. However, there are three authors who have had a huge impact on my life.
My childhood was defined by Enid Blyton and the Famous Five. I collected almost the complete set and spent hours marvelling at the maturity and audacity of those kids and the amazing grown-up adventures they had.
When I was eleven I discovered Tolkien–first the Hobbit and then Lord of the Rings. I was blown away. A whole new and detailed world was opened to me, so totally unlike anything I had ever experienced. Tolkien gave me my absolute love of fantasy, magic, the natural environment, language and linguistics. And possibly also my enduring fear of what lurks in the dark–those Black Riders scared the bejeezus out of me.
The thing about Tolkien and Blyton, though, is that they both died well before I was born. I never felt a truly personal connection to them. Unlike them, the third author–the one who had the greatest impact on my life and self–lived during my lifetime and so was a part of my world. As you probably should have guessed by now, that author was Terry Pratchett.
I discovered Pratchett’s Discworld when I was 13 or 14, just when I was beginning to strike out on my own, develop my own personality and question the world around me. Pratchett taught me how to think for myself, to question generally accepted knowledge and, most importantly, to laugh at the beautiful madness that is humanity and the world. I read his books over and over again every year from the moment I found them. I even met him once at a book launch. He read part of his new novel, Carpe Jugulum, and afterwards he signed a book of mine and spoke briefly to me.
When I found out yesterday that he had died, I cried for a while. At first I was surprised that I was so affected by the death of a man I’d only met once for a few minutes. But then I realised that I had spent so much time over the years with him through his books that he was like someone I was close to–even if that wasn’t who he was in real life. Not to mention the impact his writing had on me as a person.
As sad as it is to lose such a skilled writer, it has also made me more determined to become a published author myself. Not because I believe I am in the same league as Terry Pratchett, but because (to paraphrase the man himself) what makes us human is that we are Pan narrans, the ape that tells stories.