Favorite Authors

Authors can captivate a reader, maybe more than a genre does, but to keep their loyalty, an author needs to keep delivering.
on Jul 15, 2019 · 13 comments

Speculative fiction readers often have favorite genres. Fantasy lovers, love fantasy; sci fi readers love sci fi, and so on. But what about favorite authors?

I find myself gravitating to authors I love, and generally gobbling up anything they’ve written. Until I find a clunker or two.

I read Narnia as an adult and fell in love with the world but also its author, so I began reading everything I could by C. S. Lewis. That’s how I discovered books like The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, his space trilogy, and Til We Have Faces. At one point I even read as many of his nonfiction books I could get a hold of. Notice, I was willing to cross over from fantasy to science fiction (and from fiction to nonfiction) without batting an eye. I cared more about what the author was saying than what tool he was using to say it.

At one point, I began a search for “another Lewis.” I think that’s how I came upon A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. The thing was, when I read the next two in the series, I didn’t find then of the same caliber and never sought out the last two of the quintet. Nor did I discover any of her other, many books.

In my quest for another Lewis I also found Lloyd Alexander and his Chronicles of Prydain—like L’Engel’s series, a five book set. This one I stayed with and loved and thought I’d found what I was looking for. But when I finished, what came next? I read one other, or bought it and started it. I don’t remember which because that was the last of Alexander I read.

The point is authors can captivate a reader, maybe more than a genre does, but to keep their loyalty, an author needs to keep delivering.

Here’s another example. After I read J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, I began a search for another author, similar to the one who had penned a story I loved. This pursuit was particularly necessary because there were no other Tolkien books on the horizon at that time. A friend suggest I try Stephen Donaldson’s Wounded Land trilogy. After a false start with the first book, I was hooked.

When that series ended, however, a second trilogy came out. Because I was a Donaldson fan now, I dived in. And kept reading because the trilogy was like one long story. But I was disappointed with those books and especially the last one. So when I heard, years later, that an author I’d loved had a new trilogy, set in the same world, I was enthusiastic, but not so much that I’ve done more than read a bit of the first book, then put it down.

So what about you? What series of books have you fallen in love with and consequently followed the author into another novel or another speculative world? And what about the ones that initially grabbed you but didn’t live up to the promise in the next book or so? Any of those?

Or maybe you’re not a reader that particularly cares about the author. You want to follow the characters or dive into the worlds (so, for example, Narnia written by anyone else would be just fine, as long as there was more Narnia).

How important is it for authors to Keep getting it right? Are you willing to overlook one clunker? Two? Are you like me, looking for authors who write in a way that reminds you of another you’ve loved?

I’m curious what you all have to say in the comments or at Spec Faith’s Facebook page or at another site where this article is shared. Let other readers know your thoughts.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. Travis Perry says:

    Lewis for sure. Also Tolkien.

    Also I read a lot of Robert A Heinlein, Larry Niven (especially with Jerry Pournelle), Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Lester Del Rey, Andre Norton, and Isaac Asimov growing up. A bit older I read a pile of Michael Crichton’s books and Tom Clancy. I occasionally read Dean Koontz or Stephen King, but I read more non-fiction science than science fiction any more and more ancient and medieval history than fantasy…

  2. I became a big fan of Ursula K. Le Guin’s writing after reading A Wizard of Earthsea. I read the rest of the Earthsea books, and found them to be highly varied in their flavor. Partially due to the extremely long time period over which they were written. Everything Ursula writes is good. I just don’t love it all. I think that’s ok.

    I also loved Howl’s Moving Castle (the book). And read the rest of the series. Liked it all, but Howl’s Moving Castle was the best. Dianna Wynn Taylor is wonderful.

    • notleia says:

      Le Guin is a complicated one for me. I was underwhelmed by Wizard of Earthsea — but it was A Thing before all the other young wizard stories came out. I liked Tombs of Atuan better, but I found Tehanu challenging.

      I did like The Left Hand of Darkness, but there were some related short stories that I read before this one that I think I missed some context by not reading Left Hand. I need to find them again. I did not like The Lathe of Heaven (tho apparently this drove her to retranslate the Tao Te Ching, which I’d like to find.)

      • A Wizard of Earthsea held all the feels I looked for my whole childhood in fantasy books. It filled a gaping hole in my nerd-brain. I loved the Tombs of Atuan. It’s my second-favorite of the series. I like the rest, but to a lesser extent and for different reasons. I agree on Lathe, though the writing itself was spectacular. Hard to chug through.

    • I adore Dianna Wynne Jones books, have you read “The Darklord of Derkholme” or any of her other books? I’ve got almost all of the books she’s written, and love almost all of them.

  3. notleia says:

    Mercedes Lackey writes my Happy Nice Time pulp. (I think she’s married to Larry Niven? Niven seems familiar.) It’s mostly fantasy, but she does different flavors. I think Ann Leckie has a non-sci-fi book out, not in her Ancillary universe, but I think I’d be pretty far back on the list if I tried checking it out at the library. I also like Naomi Novik, but I got less and less interested in her Temeraire series as it went on.

    • I felt the same way about the Temeraire books having diminishing returns, but now Novik is writing Russian fairy tale-inspired fantasies like UPROOTED and SPINNING SILVER I couldn’t be happier. Her writing is gorgeous.

  4. Hm, well, I don’t necessarily have to have even read any of an author’s books to decide they’re one of my faves. Haven’t gotten around to any of Brandon Sanderson’s books yet, but he’s one of my favorites because of his lectures and writing seminars. With authors that are favorites of mine because of their stories…I dunno. That won’t guarantee that I’ll gobble up everything they’ve written, but often enough I’ll at least take a glance at most of their projects.

    If they write a few books that are kinda meh to me, that won’t make me avoid their work all of a sudden. Writing is hard, especially under tight publishing deadlines. There’s no way anyone can write pure gold all the time. But, if an author consistently writes stuff that disinterests me, my enthusiasm will wane.

    But, a lot of times if an author becomes a favorite for me, it’s because there’s something extra to them outside the brief little bio at the back of their book. There seems to be two main ways to facilitate reader engagement: be a good resource, or be beloved/entertaining. Some people can even end up being both. Bryan Davis probably leans more into the category of being a resource. Brandon Sanderson is probably at least a bit of both.

    That seems like it can be pretty hard in some cases, at least depending on the author’s personality and the ‘culture’ their fandom takes on. Deciding how one wants to interact with their fans can be challenging, at least for those that are worried about how others see them. Sometimes it looks like authors need either the ability to curate a perfect public persona(perhaps being unauthentic in the process of pleasing everyone). Or, they have to figure out how to judge whether any criticisms they receive are valid concerns felt by the majority, or just angry complaints from a small, furious minority.

    Maggie Stiefvater seems to have dealt with this recently before she deactivated her Tumblr. Leaving Tumblr was partly because it’s harder for her to maintain while also dealing with her health and scheduling concerns, but maybe another part of it was criticism she received from some of her fans. At the very least, it might have cemented her decision:


    • notleia says:

      I haven’t read much of John Scalzi’s actual work, but I do follow his blog — or I follow his cat pics on his blog.

  5. I was hooked on the Mitford Series by Jan Karon for a while. Led me to the Harmony series set in my home state.

    The reason I first read Karon’s novels is I heard her compared to Jane Austen whom I also like.

  6. Lewis and George MacDonald were huge for me as a kid and continue to be a strong influence on my writing now, but I don’t love everything they’ve written (don’t get me started on Lewis’s “The Shoddy Lands” or “The Dark Tower”; and I keep trying to get into MacDonald’s adult fantasies Lilith and Phantastes and … just can’t).

    Robin McKinley’s BEAUTY and her short story collection THE DOOR IN THE HEDGE were major formative influences for me as a teen, but the rest of her books have been hit and miss. I liked THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD and PEGASUS and absolutely loved CHALICE, but SPINDLE’S END and ROSE DAUGHTER left no real impression on me, and I didn’t enjoy DRAGONHAVEN or SUNSHINE at all.

    More recently (well, for “in the past ten years” value of “recent”) I loved Catherine Fisher’s INCARCERON and its sequel SAPPHIQUE so much that I eagerly bought and read everything else she’d ever written before that, and then bought her next fantasy series book by book as it came out. However, although Fisher’s prose is consistently lyrical and her imagination is fantastic, I didn’t connect with the characters or worlds of her other books the way I did with INCARCERON. I kept waiting for lightning to strike twice and it never quite did for me.

    An author who has never let me down yet, however, is Megan Whalen Turner. At this point I would cheerfully read Gen’s laundry lists if she chose to publish them, but I’ll just have to wait for THE RETURN OF THE THIEF to come out next year (if it does, which I really hope it does!) to find out how he and his friends are doing instead.

  7. Leanna says:

    Shannon Hale and Brandon Sanderson both have reached the status of I’ll read anything they write.

    I have wondered if there is something about the specific beliefs of Mormonism that fuels really compelling fantasy. Maybe related to themes of power and choice and morality since Mormons believe we become gods of our own universes (so far as I understand their theology anyway)?

What do you think?