J. R. R. Tolkien
I adore Tolkien. I've read The Hobbit seven or eight times, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy six times. Tolkien's rich world-building, filled with themes of life, loyalty, linguistics, and longing play heavily into my outlook on life, and thus, slip into my writing.
C. S. Lewis
I became infatuated with Lewis’s book Till We Have Faces when eleven years old and read portions of it every day for a year. Most enrapturing were its unique portrayals of different twisted human ‘love’ juxtaposed with true love, and the lifelong change of the main character, Orual, from jealous, life-draining affection to beautiful, selfless love for her sister. Orual found that the god, far from stealing away her sister, made her a yet more beautiful person. Until Orual could forsake her jealousy and hate of the god, she could not receive or fully recognize the god’s beauty. This book portrayed pivotally to my younger self that affection without acceptance of fault is not love, but idolization, and idolization suffocates both the subject of affection and the giver.
Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich shows the mundanity and resilience of a convict’s life in the gulag. This man, unjustly cast into a Siberian prison for twelve years, finds ways in which to survive and feel fulfilled doing so. Reading it at eleven years old, I was struck by humans’ adaptability to their situations, and how even the starkest of realities can become mundane and survivable.
I love mythology from around the globe and have steeped myself in studying as many as possible, including that of the Greeks. Mythology seems to me to be a capsule from the past, conveying universal truths of human nature and experiences. The quality and poignancy of mythological imagery surpass that of most modern storytelling, tapping into the essence of human nature through stories of the supernatural, bizarre, and surprisingly mundane. In particular, Norse Mythology’s constant dread of the inevitable Ragnarok, and the persistence of the Norse gods in maintaining their way of life and attempts to change fate in the face of it, strikes me as a beautiful picture of bravery despite impending doom.
I garden a good deal and have had a lifelong enjoyment of contemplating trees and growing medicinal and edible plants. Being in the soil, tending the plants, I am struck by the immensity of life all around me, the differences of chemicals in the plants affecting their medicinal (or opposite) properties.
I love learning languages and tracking their linguistic evolutions, having attained competence in Spanish and German, and building up my knowledge of French, Swedish, and Russian slowly in my free time. Detecting similarities in the languages eases learning them—a trick I learned from neuroscience!