Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who Is Your Favorite Author?

We've covered a lot of ground on the weekly You Tell Me. We've talked about the future of e-books, whether reviews matter, how you like to write, and whether Justin Bobby will someday find it in his heart to forgive Lo for calling him Justin Bobby (ok, well, we didn't talk about that one, but only because I restrained myself. Which wasn't easy.)

So, now that the blog is back (no, really this time), I thought I would ask quite possibly the hardest, most difficult, most agonizing You Tell Me OF ALL TIME.

Brace yourself. Are you ready? It's going to be tough. I bet you're dying to know what the question is going to be. Oh, er, I guess you already know what I'm going to ask because of the subject line. Curse you, subject line!!! Curse you!!!! Ahem.

So You Tell Me: Who is your favorite author of all time? Whose body of work do you wish was yours? Who makes you throw away the pen because you could never hope to write as well so you might as well just give up (only to pick it up again because writing is kinda fun)? And remember, you can only pick one!

My favorite novel is MOBY DICK, but when we're talking body of work, as much as I love THE CONFIDENCE MAN and TYPEE, I'd have to go with William Faulkner (sorry, Ghost of Herman Melville! You can stop haunting me now! You were on some boats, I get it!).

What about you?






119 comments:

Church Lady said...

Katherine Paterson

(Jerry Spinelli is a close second)

A Writress said...

Stephen King is indeed the king...

helengranberry said...

Right now, it would have to be Neil Gaiman. I am simultaneously inspired and discouraged by reading his work. He wows me beyond belief with his imagination, characters, world building, plots and beautifully written prose. Anything is possible! Then I sit there and think, why bother? I'll never be that good.

Ten years ago my answer would have probably been Ayn Rand.

Not a novelist, but I'd give almost anything to craft dialogue like Joss Whedon.

sunjunkie said...

ONE? Just ONE!?! Oh! Arg! Ack! Should I say Franz Kafka ? Or Christopher Moore? Or maybe John Irving? (Ok, so I cheated a little.)

I think I'm going to have to go with... Moore. That's my decision, and I'm sticking with it. For today anyway.

Onovello said...

PhilipRothPhilipRothPhilipRoth.

Goodbye,Columbus, Defender of the Faith, The Ghost Writer... I had more fun teaching Deception and Operation Shylock than I can say. Can't wait to read Exit Ghost.

calendula said...

Neal Stephenson, hands down, without hesitation!

And, Stephen King is also a pretty damn good writer, despite his being all wealthy and famous and all.

Jenny said...

Jane Austen.

Pride and Prejudice is the most perfect novel ever written.
She pretty much single handedly invented the modern novel.

Her prose is spare with no self-indulgent "poetic" writing, just the details that make her characters come to life. Her wit is devastating and yet there is an emotional depth in her work, too, which makes the wit that much more powerful.

Though she wrote centuries ago, you can still learn all you need to know about writing fiction from her books.

David said...

Thackeray.

But I write with a computer, not a pen, and I'd never throw it down. I'd just spend all my time reading blogs, instead.

C.J. said...

james joyce fo' sho'

K.C. Shaw said...

Diana Wynne Jones.

Hands down, without a doubt, no hesitations, she's my favorite writer. If I was stranded on a desert island, I'd want at least Dogsbody, and preferably Deep Secret and all the Chrestomanci books--but mostly, I think I'd want How to Build a Boat Out of Coconuts, although I'm pretty sure that was written by The Professor and not DWJones.

If there ever comes a day when I can look at my own writing and think, "Yes, I believe Diana Wynne Jones couldn't have done much better," I'll die happy.

Anonymous said...

I have many, many faves, but the one who makes me want to "throw down the pen"? The one and only, my TGO - John Steinbeck.

Yes, Mr. Steinbeck is The Great One.

J.F.Constantine

Anonymous said...

Flannery O'Connor. No question.

The Bag of Health and Politics said...

I think it's pretty clear that Shakespeare was the best English author. No one has had their work endure like his work.

As for American authors, Hemingway and Melville are probably the two best.

I think that the best modern author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

All this said, my favorite writer of all time is Abraham Lincoln. He wrote some incredible speeches (and he wrote them by himself, no speech writers). His second inaugural address is probably my favorite piece of writing.

Katie Alender said...

I'm with Jenny -- Jane Austen all the way!

Conduit said...

James Ellroy for his intricate plotting, dense characterisation, and his ability to make the most ignoble man seem heroic. See The Black Dahlia or American Tabloid for examples. I pick him because of the consistency across a body of work.

My favourite as a kid was Stephen King, and he's still right up there as a story teller, though his work has been patchy since the early nineties.

If Thomas Harris had stopped after Silence of the Lambs, he would have been top of the list. But he wouldn't let it lie...

Anonymous said...

Poe.

Graham said...

C.S. Lewis. Hands down.

Derek said...

John Irving.

There are many authors whose work I admire, but Irving was the one who made me want to write.

Other Lisa said...

Ask me if I've read something and I liked it, I'm happy to spout off with my 2 cents. But favorites? I've never had one. My memory doesn't keep lists well at all.

Christa M. Miller said...

Madeleine L'Engle, may she rest in peace. Her writing informed my beliefs about the world in many many ways.

Anonymous said...

Another one for John Irving

JaxPop said...

Have to go with John Steinbeck. I agree with Conduit on Stephen King. Great in the good old days but tough to read lately.

original bran fan said...

Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends. There is none other like him.

R.J. Anderson said...

Apparently I am going to have to fight Graham to the death for C.S. Lewis. *draws rapier and strikes a martial pose, Reepicheep-like*

Heidi the Hick said...

Guy Gavriel Kay. Loved him for 20 years now. I tried so hard to write fantasy but I've settled for reading it instead. I have his newest, YSABEL, on my shelf and I'm saving it for a nice quiet time when I can soak it up!

I'm seriously on a Neil Gaiman phase right now too. I can't believe it took me this long to find him. I have some catching up to do.

jjdebenedictis said...

I throw away all claim to having sensitivity and good taste when I admit this, I'm sure.

Terry Pratchett.

Colorado Writer said...

Toss up between Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary...okay if I have to choose one.

Judy Blume.

Kathleen said...

Virginia Woolf. no question.

Anonymous said...

Lewis Carroll- Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There..next fave would be C.S Lewis

Jess said...

This is hard because there isn't a single author whose body of work I've read in its entirety. Since C.S. Lewis has a duel going for him that I wouldn't want to interrupt (I've only ever dueled with a foil, never a rapier, sorry folks!), I'll have to pick someone else!

I've read most of Jeffrey Deaver's books, but I wouldn't want to claim him as my favorite. Tamora Pierce made me want to be a writer, back in the day, but again, hesitant to claim her.

Although the book I read that sticks out as a fast favorite, and if her other books are anything like it, I would be happy to say Naomi Novik.

The only question that could be harder is, favorite book?

Precie said...

George Eliot (Marian Evans)

Marva said...

Neal Stephenson. Blast him!

Before Neal, it was Mark Twain and I might still go back to Mark some day.

Anonymous said...

George R. R. Martin

Anonymous said...

Diana Gabaldon

cynjay said...

I can't believe nobody has said J.K. Rowling! Anyone?

I'd have to say Muriel Spark. Her short story collection is insane.

Marlene Dotterer said...

Lewis Carroll. What an imagination and what an incredible way of expressing it.

Gina Black said...

Mark Twain. No contest.

Anonymous said...

The lovely imagery of Alice Hoffman.

Coll

Scott said...

Just one? That's tough. I have a four-way tie. So, here is my one favorite author (yeah, one for each cardinal direction, but together they make one literary godhead):

North: Halldor Laxness
South: Mark Twain
East: William Shakespeare
West: John Steinbeck

Jenny said...

I note that Nathan cheated by listing a favorite book AND a favorite author. So I'm going to cheat too and say that while Pride & Prejudice is my very favorite book, if I had to pick the novelist working today whose works I wish I'd written, it would be Laura Kinsale.

Flowers from the Storm. It doesn't get any better than that.

Oh crap, I forgot, there's also Dorothy Dunnett.

melospiza said...

Ursula K. Le Guin

She can write anything she puts her mind to: novels, short stories, poems, essays, SF, fantasy, YA. She has imagination, humor, conscience, wit, and can write sentences that stun me with their precision and care. And she makes it look easy.

Luc2 said...

Whose body of work do you wish was yours? I'd have to say George R.R. Martin. He has the most compelling characters, who you despise and admire at the same time.

Lauren said...

Another Faulkner fan here. I reread his novels pretty obsessively, to the point of memorizing some passages. Somewhere on my hard drive, there's a photo of me bowing down in front of the Faulkner home in Oxford, MS.

Kimber An said...

Just one? Isn't that a little like eating only one chocolate chip?

H.G. Wells
Lucy Maud Montgomery

Okay, maybe that's weird, but I also like Weird Al and opera.

Kathryn said...

My favorite novelist is Jane Austen, but I wouldn't wish that her body of work be mine. That distinction would probably belong to Elizabeth Peters. But if we're talking about forms besides the novel, then I might well say William Butler Yeats. And then there's always Shakespeare....

Darn, what a hard question to answer!

The Anti-Wife said...

Easy! Agatha Christie!

Chiron O'Keefe said...

The only way to pick one is to ignore all but one facet of my being. Seriously. There's different faces we wear, and each mindset has its own unique craving.

Literary: Herman Hesse

Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Robert Heinlein or Anne McCaffery (depending on my mood).

Humor: Janet Evanovich or Sophie Kinsella (above disclaimer).

Children's: L. Frank Baum or Edward Eager (yada-yada).

There's just too many things I'd want to write!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Heidi the Hick said...

I have to mention that reading Susannah Clarke's JONATHON STRANGE & MR NORRELL kind of made me want to give up. It is just incredible. I felt like I could never write something that imaginative and poetic and scary and beautiful and creepy.

Anonymous said...

Another vote for Flannery O

WendyNYC

Anonymous said...

Poe, put the pen in my hand.

H.G. Wells is my hero!

David de Beer said...

Kurt Vonnegut

Katie said...

I'm going to go with Lynn Kurland because I always enjoy her stories... because I fall in love with her characters... and because her writing style is similar enough to mine that I can delude myself into thinking that I might write as well as she does someday! :-)

Robbie H said...

Fiction? Dan Brown. No, wait...Ernest Hemingway.

Non-Fiction? Philip Yancey

Miri said...

Hmm. I have individual favorite books, but as for a full body of work...

Garth Nix. He is continually DA BOMB kaythanks. The Abhorsen Trilogy, The Seventh Tower, The Keys to the Kingdom, his stand-alones, he's just win win win win win all over.

Lisa E. Balvanz said...

I have by no means read all of their work... but Charles Dickens always surprises and enchants me, and Ray Bradbury has a way of opening my mind to new ideas.

Other Lisa said...

And along with an inability to make lists of favorites...I don't know what book inspired me to write. I've wanted to write since I was old enough to realize that there was such a thing as books. My first novel was to be an epic story of cats on a camping trip. Unfortunately I did not know how to spell "tent."

Thus my first case of writer's block.

RED STICK WRITER said...

Stephen King is one of the best storytellers of all time. I like the way Pat Conroy writes. He peels away the onionskin in which his characters and places are wrapped with drama and beautiful language. Greg Iles weaves great tales around very creative premises.

Tammie said...

uuggghhh 1 is so hard. For a body of work I have to say Stephen King.

When reading the question - Is it possible for 2 names to come to your mind all at one time? Cause I swear I heard John Irving's name as well :o)

I write women's fiction and looking at their names makes me wonder if perhaps that is why my writing is a little on the dark and morbid side? Weird.

tkersh said...

Not to start a flame war but I read a CS Lewis boxed set to my son and all but LWW seemed, well, dull. On the other hand, Professor Tolkein's phenomenal feat of mythology, world-weaving, characterization and storytelling puts him at the top of my list for "Body of Work", although I don't read much fantasy.

I'm still dreaming about the language in Michael Chabon's Summerland. Who can top "Great slow wheels of crows?"

Otherwise, Steve Erickson's earlier work is phenomenal, Alice Hoffman's earlier work is luminous, Neil Gaiman's earlier work is amazing...

Which brings up a topic for a future You Tell Me: Why do some authors do their best work early? My own theory is that frequently too much success = too little editing, and there's nothing wrong with the above author's later works that a few more drafts wouldn't have fixed. But I digress...

Subservient No More said...

Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I mean, I figure if I'm wishing someone's body of work was mine, I should pick something that won the Nobel Prize and all.

When I read One Hundred Years of Solitude I thought repeatedly, I am really, really, really not a good writer. At all.

But I kept writing anyway.

Nathan said...

Kurt Vonnegut.

God bless his soul.

Spartezda said...

P. C. Hodgell.

Oh, God. Of only I had Tai-tastigon and rathorns and the Master's House with its green-veined stone and golden-eyed shadows. Hodgell's the only author whose world I've wanted to write fan-fic in, but I won't do it because I could never never never be half as good as she is.

Barbara said...

Barbara Hambly, I think. There are books by other authors that, individually, I love more, but for sheer body of work, it has to be her. If I see a new book from her, I know I'm going to love it.

Sophie W. said...

I have to pick one!?

I don't know if I can do that. I'd like to have Libba Bray's amazing ability to tune into primordial emotions, Terry Pratchett's wit, John Steinbeck's way with words, Dickens's mad skills (in general), and Garth Nix's ability to world-build like there's no tomorrow. But I don't think there's one end-all favorite. There's too much variety out there.

sylvia said...

Gah, order in which they occurred to me:

Scott Turow
Mark Twain
Terry Pratchett
Kurt Vonnegut

I am going to have to choose Twain for "body of work" that I most wish was mine. But wow, what a rough choice!

julief said...

This is hard. I could probably pick dozens of favorites. But the one whose work I wish was my own would probably be Gloria Naylor.

Subject to change.

Shana said...

Margaret Atwood

Liz said...

This is a toughie because I have favorites in different genres. Because I love paranormal, I have to go with the gal who gave the world Lestat: Anne Rice.

Kate said...

Jane Austen. She's the one I go back to again and again and am never disappointed. If at any time in my career someone were to compare me to Jane Austen--even, as it would inevitably be, to my detriment--I would feel I had succeeded as a writer. And the best thing about having her for a favorite is that I admire her as a person as much as I admire her as a writer. Not many of my lesser favorites can I say that of.

Lora T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lora T. said...

I would definitely have to say J.R.R. Tolkien. Of course, C.S. Lewis is pretty darn close.

Phoenix said...

But Nathan, you asked 3 questions and want only 1 answer?!

She's not my favorite author, nor does she make me throw my laptop against the wall because she's an incredible writer. But I do wish her body of work were mine. Novels, filk songs, toy lines. If I could midlist and headline cons like her, I'd be doing the happy dance daily. Mercedes Lackey.

Anne-Marie said...

Denis Lehane. I wish I could write like him.

Angelle Trieste said...

I don't have one. Mine changes every so often. :)

Neptoon said...

Others may have entertained me more, but...James A. Michener, took me to places around the world, before I could get there myself.

sylvanwords said...

Ooooo, tough one! Hmmm, lemme think...Anne McCaffrey is high on the list, Stephen King, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Mercedes Lackey...hmmm, Terry Brooks maybe? What a stumper! I would have to say Melanie Rawn.

silverlorelei

A Paperback Writer said...

Wow. 76 comments and only 3 people mention William Shakespeare?!!!
I am stunned.
To paraphrase Burt the Chimneysweep:
"The tip of the top, the cream of the crop is William Shakespeare, and there we stop."

I can't think of anyone who could top Will for 400 years of mastery and beauty in the English language, although I have respect for those who voted for Mark Twain and all his incredible wit. Still, the Bard was far more versatile, although less sarcastic.

2readornot said...

Madeliene L'Engle

(with George MacDonald as a close second)

Marina said...

Flannery O'Connor-Patricia Highsmith-Laura Kinsale-Janet Fitch.

They're the same person aren't they, Nathan?

Ello said...

I want to be J.K. Rowling when I grow up please.

ORION said...

I think blogger ate my comment-
JOHN IRVING
he is the master...
A Prayer for Owen Meany

Aden said...

Cormac McCarthy. Haven't read The Road yet (but am starting it this weekend), but good God would I have liked to lay claim to Blood Meridian and Suttree.

Redzilla said...

sooo...hard...to...choose.
Okay, fine, okay.
Ursula K. LeGuin

A. Jonathan Cox said...

P.G. Wodehouse

Jason said...

Peter F Hamilton

The man is a sci-fi god.

mkcbunny said...

Several choices of mine have been mentioned. Although I'd kill to be able to break new ground with the simplicity of H. G. Wells, I'm going to cast a vote for Tennessee Williams. Because I would also kill to write dysfunctional characters as well as he did.

SW said...

ONE? On whose planet?

Fine. Larry McMurtry. Or maybe William Styron. Although I loved Betty Smith. Oh, and J.M. Barrie. C. S. Lewis. And Margery Williams. Who can resist that Velveteen Rabbit? One?!!? Really. As if. *Huffs off, muttering to self. That guy is crazy.*

Lafreya said...

Walter Mosley, or Zora Hurston,

Love both.

Karen

FrostIntoFire said...

Whose body of work do I wish was mine? I think probably George Macdonald. With Neil Gaiman in close second place. Although neither of them wrote my favourite book, they've written the most things that I've truly envied.

Josephine Damian said...

Two words: Alice McDermott

Ah.... the Irish.

Used to be John Irving.... Garp.... Owen Meaney... and even Widow, but his books seriously jumped the shark starting with The Fourth Hand.

But having met him in person, I can tell you he sure is easy on the eyes - *sigh*

Does anybody think Roth will receive a phone call from Stockholm today?

Kate said...

Lewis Carroll...

Who else could write a sad tale that is actually printed in the shape of a tail. (Alice in Wonderland)

Anonymous said...

Lora Leigh (erotic)
Sasha White (romance)
Susan Alvis (young adult)
Stephen King (horror)

That's one for each of my favorite genres

cheryl said...

Fine, I'll say it:

Dean Koontz. I love that man.

Onovello said...

Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel in Literature.

Lupina said...

C.S. Lewis meets Michael Chabon meets Thomas Hardy meets Cornelia Funke.

Sparteza: You are spot on about P.C. Hodgell. I am proud to say she is a close personal friend. She knitted me a great wacky hat straight out of the streets of Tai Tastigon when I had cancer...what more can I say?

Vinnie Sorce said...

James Michener can spin a tale like no one else...

Jennifer L. Griffith said...

I would have to say, hands down, Barbara Kingsolver and her work in "The Poisonwood Bible".

This novel is pure genious in structure, scene building, emotions, and POV, as she wrote in FIVE different first-person POV's in a truly believable voice for each one!!! Her word pictures and play are amazing. I could go on, but I'll stop as I'm sure MOST of you have read her masterpiece!

otherkatie said...

Nobody's going to say Toni Morrison? Hello? Nobel Prize?

Talk about putting down a novel and saying, "Yeah, I'll never be able to do that."

Topaz said...

Anne McCaffrey

trenchgold said...

Herman Hesse

bria said...

Since I have so many favorites (someone even listed Philip Yancey) and am #101, I'm playing the 'if he/she has already been listed they don't count game' and saying Mary Stewart. The Ivy Tree is genius. Plus her Merlin series is a constant favorite.

Troy Masters said...

Well, I have to represent my boy Fyodor...I even recall a Lost episode where one of the characters was talking about how Hemingway was depressed he could never be as great as Dostoevsky. Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot were my two favorites, but I enjoyed pretty much all his stuff(with the exception of The Gambler and the first portion of Notes from the Underground). I also wouldn't mind having Thomas Hardy's or (more recently) John Le Carre's body of work...

Dave Wood said...

Oh, unfair question! Unfair!

There are so many great books and more than a few great writers. But one author I keep coming back to is Roger Zelazny. I reread "Lord of Light" every five years or so. Great world-building and world-bending, characters that are both archetypes and people. Great word-smithing. It probably just happened to catch me at exactly the right time in my life (junior high when I was really discovering reading) but it's stuck with me ever since, and he's one of the authors I go to when I feel like my own writing is a slog.

Ken D. said...

JRR Tolkien, if I had to pick just one. His imagination took me farther than anyone else, and as I get older, it gets deeper with every reading.

Body of work -- the other "RR" (George M.) is a blast.

James said...

All too easy... It's HG Wells. Straight up Victorian genius.

David L. McAfee said...

I have to pick two, but it’s not cheating because they write as a team:

Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman. Their Death Gate Cycle remains my favorite story of all time.

Isak said...

Tough one... For me it's a toss up between Hunter S. Thompson and John Steinbeck. (And if I had to go with twisted nonfiction, John Perkins.)

Dr. Dume said...

Ray Bradbury tops my list. The easy menace in his descriptions, especially in the collection 'The October Country', are something I keep trying (and failing) to emulate.

Tom Burchfield said...

A hard question, but I'm going to say (without even having read ALL his work) . . . Vladimir Nabokov.

Some runners up:

Peter Straub
Ramsey Campbell
Dahsiell Hammett
Donald Westlake
John Steinbeck

P.G said...

I will have to say,
Australian writer May Gibbs because of her Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie books.
I wish I could write like Jasper Fforde though. Thursday Nexts books are pants wettingly funny.

Anonymous said...

Oh man do I hate Toni Morrison.

Lorelei said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie Zvan said...

I'm with Kimber An on L.M. Montgomery. James Schmitz started me writing, but Montgomery is where I turn when I'm too tired for something new. If I could have Anne and Rilla and Jane and Emily and Valancy (and their enchanted readers) under my belt, if I could write the same sordid events without sensationalism, if I could make my hometown a major industry for my state, well, I would have accomplished something.

Anonymous said...

Well, I've gotta say Isaac Asimov would be my top choice. I won't say he didn't have his flubs, but with nearly (or over, depending upon who your source is) 500 books, a few flubs shouldn't overwhelm the massive body of work across many genre. (While the whole 'he was trying for a book in every part of the Dewey Decimal System' was an urban legend, he is pretty far spread there)

I'd love to have a career like his, if I can only avoid the contaminated blood transfusion with incurable lethal virus thing....

Kim Stagliano said...

Ray Bradbury

Alison said...

Carson McCullers. Boom goes the dynamite.

~Nancy said...

Tough to say who my favorite of all time is, as that seems to change - and it depends on my mood.

As for body of work? I think Phoenix is onto something:

She's not my favorite author, nor does she make me throw my laptop against the wall because she's an incredible writer. But I do wish her body of work were mine. Novels, filk songs, toy lines. If I could midlist and headline cons like her, I'd be doing the happy dance daily.

Say what you want, but Mercedes Lackey has come out with a lot of stuff, a lot of it good. Two of her books made me shed a tear (in a good way, if that's possible), a couple of others cracked me up, one I started and haven't gotten through as yet. I read her first 3 Valdemar novels and was surprised at how delighted I was with them. (IMHO, they're great on long plane rides. :-))

But, damn, she can really get them out there, and she doesn't seem to mind having a co-author.

So, yeah, what Phoenix. I'd be as happy as a pig in poop. ;-)

~Nancy said...

Wow. 76 comments and only 3 people mention William Shakespeare?!!!

I think the problem was that a lot of people were force fed Shakespeare in high school (like I was) without really understanding his turn of phrase. "You will learn, Shakespeare, dagnabbit, or else!" seemed to be the mantra.

At least when I was in high school, anyway.

Anonymous said...

W.E.B. Griffin

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