Jul 8, 2010

I'm a Writer Because...

by Michelle Douglas

I've spent a lot of time wondering what I should post about in my inaugural blog for the LoveCats. What would be the best way to introduce myself? Should I list my top 10 fave things... or unfave things? That's always a good way to get to know somebody. Should I post pictures of my workspace and detail the items there that are necessary to me for an ideal working day (revealing in a totally different way)? What about discussing my five favourite romances of all time? That could lead to a lively debate.

But then it hit me - know me by my literary influences. That sounds rather grand, doesn't it? But what it boils down to is this...

I am a writer because of Anne of Green Gables.

Notice I said Anne of Green Gables and not Lucy Maud Montgomery whose creation she is (and who is also responsible for Blue Castles which is one of my all-time favourite romances). Lucy Maud may have created 'Anne with an e', but it was her character that gripped my imagination and turned me into a writer.

Now before we go any further I best mention that Anne and I have several points of connection - all superficial mind, but seriously important when I was seven. First, she had carrot red hair and so did I. Her name ended in an e and so did mine. She had freckles and she loved to read - tick and tick. As you can see, we were bosom buddies from the first.

That's not why I became a writer.

Anne Shirley had a vivid imagination. She could turn the mundane into a thing of beauty and awe. With that imagination of hers she transformed her commonplace life into a series of adventures. She wasn't afraid to dream. Whenever I grew bored or restless with my far-from-beautiful country town I'd play the Anne game. I did what she did. I'd search out places of beauty or interest or quirkiness in my town and, like her, give them new names to reflect their aura - The Lake of Shining Waters, Willomere, Dryad's Bubble, the White Way of Delight, Idlewild and Lover's Lane. And then I created histories and on-going sagas for these places - talking trees, birds that became human at night, wars between flowers and bees. My inner life grew so rich that it more than compensated for the humdrum of my outer world.

And that's why I'm a writer. Because imagining better worlds became second nature to me. Lots of writers have influenced me as a writer, but it's Anne who made me a writer. She gave me different eyes with which to view my world.

So my question to you...has a fictional character ever changed the way you see the world?


  1. Wow, Michelle - what an amazing post! Now I have a huge longing to re-read the Anne books. I didn't discover them until I was an adult -- and I LOVED them. (Maybe it's a redhead thing?)

    As to your question, I can't think of a character who has changed me in a deep-and-meaningful way, but I still have vivid memories of the The Naughtiest Girl books by Enid Blyton, which I read as a seven-year-old. I particularly remember the lesson Elizabeth learned about it not being weak of a person to change their mind about something.

    Nice to have you on board (or should that be, in the cat basket?) with us.

  2. Hi Michelle --
    Great post! Great having you as part of the LoveCats.

    Can I only pick one character?? I'm a huge reader and I have to admit looking back, I don't remember one particular character from my childhood who stands out. But in the later years, Eve Dallas and Roarke from JD Robb's In Death series changed a lot for me -- great, vivid characters who seem so real. I love the give and take in their relationship.

  3. Hi Emily,

    I loved Enid Blyton too and The Naughtiest Girl books were among my favourites. I remember Elizabeth's music teacher helping her to control her temper by teaching her that stormy piece on the piano that eventually becomes calm and peaceful. I always loved that.

    And thanks, it's great to be in the cat basket with you all!

  4. Hi Anna and thanks!

    You know, I've never read any JD Robb (I think I've put it off because I suspect I will love her and will want to glom everything she's ever written... which could take me a significant amount of time), but you make me eager to read all about Eve and Roarke -- it's gone on my list of must-do things for the next year!

  5. Hi Michelle,
    Fantastic post (even if I didn't cry!!). It made me remember my childhood ... I didn't do exactly the same thing, but similar things living in my own world.

    Enid Blyton's "Faraway Tree" series was the one that captivated me and also "The Wishing Chair". I developed a "wishing dog" and when I lay down beside her she took my to far off places, like the Faraway Tree where I could meet Mr Saucepan and Moonface.

    I loved that escapism and feeding the imagination, which is probably why I still love reading.

    Thanks for firing the memory.


  6. Hi Catherine -- so glad I didn't make you cry :-)

    Oh, The Faraway Tree! Do you remember those honey puffs (can't remember precisely if that's what they were called) that Moonface fed the children. I soooo wanted some of those!

    Hurrah For The Circus was probably my favourite of that Enid Blyton series. Once I got over wanting to be a mermaid, I really, really, really wanted to run away to the circus.

    Yes, you're right -- reading is such a joy!

  7. Hey, Michelle
    Great blog! I have to confess I haven't read Anne of Green Gables! And after reading your blog, I can see that I must rectify that soon!

    I was a horse-mad tomboy growing up and used to look almost exclusively for books with horses. I particularly remember Son of Black Beauty by Phyllis Briggs which was about a gypsy boy, Andre, and his wildly headstrong horse. I wanted to be able to horse-whisper untamed equines!

    Nothing very writer-ly there, is there! LOL


  8. Hey Michelle, very excited to have you on the Lovecats!

    I loved the Anne of Green Gables telemovies, and I asked for all the AGG books for birthdays and Christmas presents (as an adult) but I haven't read them yet.

    And... you were a red haired child? Your hair is all brown now, isn't it? Did the red gradually change?

  9. Hi Sharon,

    Horses!!! Oh how I wanted one (and part of me still does). My favourite horse book was The Black Stallion. My treat to myself for having my last book accepted is to go horse riding. I'm waiting for the weather to warm up, but I can't wait!

    But horse-mad tomboy or not, I'm sure there's room for Anne of Green Gables on the tbr pile :-)

  10. Hi Rachel,

    Thanks, it's great to be here :-)

    My niece has just started reading AGG and we've been having great chats about it. You'll really love them when you get the chance to read them.

    The red hair thing -- it must be a factor of age. It kind of softened and then gradually darkened. It went from carrot red when I was a kid to a kind of strawberry blonde while I was at uni and then brown. Now of course there's the odd thread of grey, which I stare at in bemusement. I mean... how did that happen?

  11. Hey Michelle

    And there I was thinking Anne was MY best buddy! We'll have to share. I also adored George from the Famous Five and Barnaby from Enid's "Mystery" series. He had a monkey called Miranda and for years I yearned for one. Then I had kids....
    Welcome to the LoveCats

  12. Ah, Zana, that must make us bosom friends too!

    George was one of my favourites... but you have me intrigued because I've never come across Barnaby or his monkey Miranda. Enid's Mallory Towers series was big with me for a while and I'd pretend I was Darrell about to be head off to boarding school. Boarding school sounded like such fun! It has to be said, though, a monkey would be better :-)

  13. I feel like sitting her and daydreaming about all these lovely books this post has brought to mind. The black stallion, Hurrah for the circus, the wishing chair! No matter how little money we had my mum always made sure we had books, even if it was a golden book (cheap in the day) LOL!!

  14. Nothing wrong with daydreaming, Mel.

    Golden Books! LOL. That's a whole other post. I learned to read on Golden Books.

  15. Hi Michelle,

    What a terrific post! I can just see you as a little girl, soaking up all those Anne influences!

    I love the "character who changed your life game", but it's too hard to pin down to just one. As a kid I read the Dr Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting and they confirmed me in my view that animals are as nice or even sometimes nicer and more interesting than some people (though I prefer to write about people!). There were Tom Sawyer and of course Rattie, Mole and Toad, who between them had me daydreaming about riverbank adventures - I still love picnics by the water and as for islands - they're magical places. One of Mary Stewart's heroines set me on a lifelong fascination for Greece and Trixie Belden convinced me life could be full of excitement. Between them all (and with the help of others) I found myself making up stories in my head of all the thrilling things that could happen when you let your imagination run. Like you, I think reading turned me into a writer.

    Love your first post here.

  16. Hi Annie,

    You've mentioned a couple of my childhood loves here -- Tom Sawyer (Becky was my favourite girl's name for a very long time) and Trixie Beldon (you gotta love a take charge woman). Somehow, though, Dr Doolittle and Wind in the Willows passed me by. Am thinking that will have to be rectified.

    Thanks for dropping by and playing the "character who changed your life game" :-)