I love talking about kids' books and what we read when we were kids. What's fascinating too is how what you read comes back to you and how it creeps into your own work as a sort of cross-pollination.
I was reminded of this when I was writing an erotic romance for another publisher (oh, okay, if you insist: Tell Me More, Harlequin Spice, Aug. 2011. In small letters so as not to offend HarperCollins). I had a scene where a character was exploring a mysterious house and I immediately remembered a scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Lucy Pevensey has to explore such a house to find a magic spell. I haven't read this in years but I immediately remembered how Lucy caught a sight of her reflection in a mirror that was framed with a beard and thought a stranger was peering out at her... creepy!
And then soon after that, my heroine had to hide in a closet. With coats hanging in it. And another couple came into the closet, and ... well, it became rather un-CS Lewis-like after that point. But what sparked all of this off was yet another book I'd just read, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, an amazing, astonishing, scary read that starts off, very deceptively, like a Harry Potter for adults, progresses to a grown-up sort of Narnia, and then turns into something much more dark and menacing.
I enjoyed CS Lewis's books a lot when I was a kid and occasionally re-read them as an adult. The Christianity in them never bothered me, although I found the hammer-it-home platonic theory of The Last Battle (not to mention all the dead people) a bit hard to handle and I've never read that one again. The rest, I love.
But, like so many other books I once loved, I now find myself reading CS Lewis with a critical eye. Even as a kid I wondered how, in a land where it is forever winter, there was any food at all, let alone tea, buttered toast, and sardines (yum! It's an English thing--that's Mr. Tumnus's high tea in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and here's a gratuitous pic of James MacEvoy whom I find alarmingly attractive even when he's a pale, freckly goatboy). I also found the "boys taking charge" thing a bit much, now and then.
I admire the way CS Lewis tied some of his loose ends up when he wrote The Magician's Nephew: he explains the origin of the wardrobe and why there's a lamp post in the middle of the Narnian woods, and where that danged White Witch came from anyway. (Okay, this is a safe place. Raise your hand if you, too, have a massive girl crush on Tilda.) That's something I love to see happen in my own writing, when something pops into my brain and onto the page and although I may not know it at the time, there's a reason and a story behind it.
In a burst of self promotion, I must remind you that there are only a few days left to enter the Goodreads contest for a free copy of Jane and the Damned (released 9/28/10), and there is yet another contest, for a $25 gift certificate if you "like" my newly-launched Facebook author page. I also have a book trailer, and here it is. Enjoy!
Did you read CS Lewis? Or any another author of children's books who sparked your imagination?