Five for Friday: Books You Never Forget

Hello, SEers, and welcome to another Five for Friday. For “Mae Day,” I want to trot out five books that greatly influenced my life as a writer. We all have them, right? Those books that left a lasting impression, and are responsible for pushing you into putting words on paper.  This is a quick look at mine. At the end of the post, I’d love to hear which books impacted you.

Book cover for the Wicked Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House by Mary Chase shows an owl, with wings spread above a chimney, backlit by a full moonThe Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House
By Mary Chase

This is the book that started it all for me—the one that made me want to be a writer. I think I was in third grade when I read this story. The main character, Maureen, is a dreadful nine-year-old girl who manages to creep into a boarded-up home where she discovers seven portraits of elegant women in long flowing gowns. This book had everything that I still love today—a creepy old home, time travel, horse-drawn carriages, and women with lofty names like “Sylvia” and “Constance.”

It spurred my love for mystery, mysterious homes, and a time period (the late 1800s) that I’m still besotted with today.

book cover for Planet of Death by Robert Silverberg shows a spaceship approaching a full sun eclipsed by a black planetPlanet of Death
By Robert Silverberg

This was the first science fiction book I ever read. I was in fifth grade and was attracted by the cover. The original cover—the one I remember—was solid black with odd, ferocious-looking plants in neon pink, green, and yellow.

The main character and a team of scientists get trapped on a planet with, you guessed it—man-eating plants. After reading this book, I became smitten with science-fiction, and spent my high school years writing  in this genre.


book cover for The Shining by Stephen King shows shot of an old wooden hotel room door looking up from floor with light striking wood and illuminating number 217, bloody letters scrawled on doorThe Shining
By Stephen King

I think I was in ninth grade when I read The Shining. It wasn’t the first King book I read, but it’s the one that sticks with me the most.

It introduced me to a whole new level of creepiness, including ghosts and isolated locations.

Those are elements I still work to spin into my stories today.



Book cover for The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien shows gold ring surrounded by elvish writing, with eye in middle of ringThe Fellowship of the Ring
By J. R. R. Tolkien

In tenth grade I took a glass called “science-fiction and fantasy.” As students, we could read whatever we wanted in those genres, followed by writing book reports. At that point, I didn’t know fantasy existed. My teacher, Mr. Partin, gave me his copy of The Fellowship of the Ring to read, and it was like discovering an entire new world. I was gobsmacked! Where had this stuff been all of my life?

For the next decade I wrote (almost) exclusively fantasy. All full-length novels, including 2.5 books of a trilogy, and several stand-alones.

Book cover for The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon shows tone tower with a single window, light within, leafless tree behindThe Night Sister
By Jennifer McMahon

This one is fairly recent. I read The Night Sister in 2015. It was the first novel I read by Jennifer McMahon (who has since become an auto-buy author for me), and also the first book I read with alternating timelines. The impact of those dual timelines struck me with the same sense of wonder as The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House  when I was a kid. I was so taken by the concept, I used it in my Hode’s Hill series of novels.

Dual time lines have become trendy, and I’ve read a ton of books that employ them. But The Night Sister is the one that set the bar for me. More than that, I realized you could blend creepiness, supernatural elements, isolated locations, myth, mystery and past timelines into modern day settings and spin one heck of a tale. It made me realize there is an audience for what I write.

Now that I’ve shared the books that influenced me, I’d love to hear which books live in your memory. Tales that linger from childhood, or that made you say—That’s the kind of story I want to write. I think all of us have at least one. Why not share yours in the comments below?

Ready, set, go!

bio box for author Mae Clair



56 thoughts on “Five for Friday: Books You Never Forget

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  4. So many classics here, I kinda feel bad about not having read many. Anne McCaffery for sure, all her Pern books (except The White Dragon didn’t do much for me, neither did Dragondrums). Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, at least up until the original characters didn’t show up in the stories anymore. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as well, and Agatha Christie. The other books I remember fondly are the Three Investigators series by Alfred Hitchcock (instead of the Hardy Boys. Nancy Drew never interested me 😀 ) Really loved the Three Investigators, maybe because there were so many books in the series!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I forgot about the Xanth series, Julie! I loved those books, although I don’t think I stuck with them until the end. I never read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books but I did watch the show. Does that count, LOL? Actually, I’m not sure how I missed reading them, because they would have been books I enjoyed. I wonder if I was too caught up in sci-fi at the time.

      I also never heard of Island of Blue Dolphins (I’m going to have to look it up) or the Three Investigators series. That also sounds like something I would have enjoyed. Many thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Mae,
    I didn’t start reading outside of school requirements until I was in high school. Here is my list:
    Battle Cry by Leon Uris; Lord of the Flies by William Golding; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (my favorite); Portnoy’s Complaint by Phillip Roth.
    Since I’m from an earlier generation, these may have been required reading for some people.


    • Hi, Chuck! I remember reading Lord of the Flies in school. It still stays with me to this day.
      I’ve never had the guts to read In Cold Blood and I’m ashamed to admit I never read To Kill a Mockingbird. Disgraceful, I know, but I bought a paperback copy last year and it’s on my read list.
      Many thanks for sharing!


  6. I didn’t think about being a writer when I was young. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. Writing didn’t come until much later. I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder in grade school and then went on a James Fenimore Cooper spree in middle school. I had so much homework in high school, I hardly got to read any books for fun, but when I did, I read Georgette Heyer and Agatha Christie. Christie got me hooked on cozy mysteries. Lots of other mystery authors followed–Martha Grimes, Nancy Pickard, and Elizabeth George. And then I found Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews and fell in love with urban fantasy. I’d have never been brave enough to tackle Tolkien when I was young. The book looked way too thick to me!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Judi, I have some Martha Grimes on my shelf I have yet to get to. I’ve read several books my Elizabeth George and like the “density” of her mysteries for lack of a better word. I’ve only ever read one Agatha Christie, which is an oversight I must correct someday. Tolkien was amazing and opened a whole new world for me. I remember when I was in middle school there was a point when I wanted to be an English teacher. As an adult, I found that I love adult education. Although my day job is in the real estate industry, there are multiple times I’ve had the opportunity to teach classes related to computer programs and social media. I love teaching and even today wouldn’t mind be an instructor of adult education.

      Very cool that you went through a James Fenimore Copper spree in middle school. Yet another author I never read and should have!


  7. I had to laugh, your list is the polar opposite of mine 🙂
    Sleeping Beauty- the prince had to prove his love to win the lady.
    Black Beauty- No matter how hard life is, don’t give up.
    The Flame and the Flower- My first venture into adult romance
    Nancy Drew- a female sleuth, enough said 🙂
    Twilight- Taught me to appreciate the talent that goes into creating other worlds.

    Great post, Mae!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, but we had a few that were (sort of) the same, Jacquie. Although they didn’t make my list of five, there are several others I remember with fondness:
      I was more of a Hardy Boys reader than Nancy Drew, but I loved those mysteries. And The Flame and the Flower was my first venture into adult romance too. I read it after my mom. I think the next one in the series (was it a series?) was called The Wolf and The Dove. I think those books were out about the same time as John Jake’s series with The Bastard, The Rebels, The Seekers, etc. I read four of those before giving up, but absolutely loved The Bastard and The Rebels. And then there as North and South. LeSigh! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t know these young adult books, Mae. The literature in the US is different from the UK. I do know Tolkien and King, of course, and also loved both of the books you mentioned. I also loved The Hobbit which I read for the first time when I was 9.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, the only one that was for children or young adults was The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House. All the others are written for adults, but some I discovered at an early age.

      You are so lucky to have discovered The Hobbit at such a young age (although I am pretty sure you’re a good deal younger than me,LOL). I read The Hobbit after I read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I enjoyed it, but think I would have probably enjoyed it more had I read it before LoTR. I’m still amazed by the realms Tolkien created.

      Thanks for sharing!


  9. I love how theses books inspired your writing Mae! I love the creepy in The Shining, too. My niece works at that hotel. I’m kind of jealous…lol. Carrie was my introduction to horror. The Hobbit books were and are some of my favorite fantasy stories! A Wrinkle in Time was a book that whisked me away into fantasy, too. I am curious about the books I haven’t read on your list:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your niece works at the actual Overlook hotel?!?!? That is amazing, Denise!! I would love to visit and see it. The pictures are just astounding.

      I remember reading Carrie in high school, followed by Salem’s Lot. Of all the books King has written, Salem’s Lot is my favorite, although The Shining made the strongest impression on me.

      I remember a Wrinkle in Time, too. I couldn’t get enough sci-fi and fantasy during my teen years into my 20s and 30s. Honestly, I still love it!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • If I remember correctly Steven King stayed there and that inspired The Shining. I have to go visit her and see it someday:)

        Yes Salem’s Lot was amazing too! Like you I’ve read them all.


        Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:

    Books which influenced Mar Clair as a writer from Story Empire. Great list. Mine are all fantasy, Tolkien, Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Earthsea Trilogy by Le Guin, Riddlemaster of Hed by McKillip, Dragonriders by McCaffrey. There are many more that had me thinking about writing throughout high school.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A great collection of books. I’ve read a few, but not all of them. Books that influenced me – Wow! That’s a tough one – “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, “Never Love a Stranger” by Harold Robbins, “Come Love A Stranger” by Kathleen Woodiwiss, “Flowers In the Attic” by VC Andrews, “The Captains and the Kings” by Taylor Caldwell. That’s a start. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Mae!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Priscilla, you are far braver than I am! I could never read The Exorcist. I do, however, remember reading the Amityville Horror–or I should so trying to reading it. I got so far–the pig and the files–and was so creeped out, I threw the book in the trash. I think it’s because it was based on true experiences, I couldn’t stick with it. Someday I must make it a point to read The Old Man and the Sea.
      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. When I was little, I was engrossed by Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose (those weren’t intended to rhyme, but I kind of like that) and fairytales.

    In elementary school, it was Trixie Belden mysteries, L. Frank Baum (of course), A Gift of Magic (such a cool story), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (hence the beginning of my love of museums), and Caddie Woodlawn. Laura Ingalls Wilder, too, although I hated the show. Those were also the years when my grandfather and I started discussing books. I read his copies of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and those two books are among my treasured possessions today.

    Then in junior high came the classics. And I was smitten. The Scarlett Letter, The Fall of the House of Usher, A Tale of Two Cities, Gone with the Wind, Crime and Punishment, The Great Gatsby. Anything by Poe and Shakespeare. Those were the years I started thinking about becoming a novelist. (It was SO MANY YEARS later that I started to pursue that dream, though.)

    It wasn’t until high school (and pretty much every day since) that I started reading genre fiction. Too many favorites there to begin to list any. But looking back over my choices, I can see why I like to write the genres I do. I think there’s a little bit of a lot of the above selections in what I write today. Funny how we’re shaped by things and never even notice, isn’t it? I LOVED this post, Mae.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I love that you talked books with your grandfather. My mom and I were chatting books from the time that I was a kid. I remember us both reading Harvest Home, The Shining and John Jake’s bicentennial series at the same time.

      Poe was a huge influence on me and I loved a Tale of Two Cities. I remember reading The Great Gatsby in high school and not caring for it. I read it again last year and loved it. Odd how time changes your perspective. I do think the books that influenced us influence what we write and what we’re drawn to reading. Books are such treasures. I so glad you still have your grandfather’s copies of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

      I’m delighted you loved the post!

      Liked by 3 people

      • My mom read to me every day until I could read myself. I think we spent more time at the library than home! (Slight exaggeration. Slight.) She was then, and is to this day, my biggest supporter. She always nurtured my love of reading and of writing. But there’s something about a girl and her grandfather. At least, this girl and her grandfather. If he were alive today, he’d be over the moon that I write. I like to think he gives me little nudges when I’m stuck.

        Liked by 3 people

      • That is so, cool, Staci!
        I remember my mom and sister reading to me as a kid, then my parents starting taking me to the library every weekend from the time I was seven years old. They were my biggest supporters and I like to think of them happily nudging me on, too. I wish I’d known my grandparents. Three had already passed by the time I was born and my remaining grandfather was up in years. I didn’t see him often and regret that I never had a chance to learn from him. He accomplished so much in life!

        Liked by 3 people

  13. Great post, Mae. When I was in fifth grade, I read “The Incredible Journey” by Shelia Burnford. I loved her descriptions of the Canadian forest and felt like I was there with the animals. I knew that I wanted to become a writer and take people along for a journey. (Of course, my love for animals was another factor in the book becoming a favorite.) “The Outsiders” by SE Hinton has remained a favorite through the years. “A Holiday For Murder” was the first Agatha Christie book I read. I believe it’s been retitled to “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.” “Where Are the Children” by Mary Higgins-Clark helped be decided I wanted to write in the suspense/mystery genre. And of course, the Lord of The Rings Trilogy ranks among the top of my list. Love Tolkien’s brilliance in creating not only a different world but also languages, alphabets, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Interesting that The Shining is in your list… it’s in mine too, and I think I was the same age when I read it (which was far too young for an impressionable mind)! But it had (and still has today) a huge effect on my writing. My others would be The Hobbit (close again!), Dragons of Autumn Twilight (which introduced me to my favourite character type; the anti-villain)…… and I’d have to think long and hard about the rest 😉🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember you talking about the Dragons of Autumn Twilight before. I remember reading that, but it was so long ago, I’ve forgotten the story and characters. I vividly remember the book cover, however. Fantasy was my mainstay in my 20s, both as a reader and writer. I still go back to it now and then again today.

      The Shining thoroughly creeped me out, especially the topiary hedges. I can’t wait to see your list when you post!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. A lovely list of books, Mae. Three authors stand out in my mind: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne McCaffrey. I reckon they shaped me the most. At roughly age 13, my English teacher leant me one of her Stephen King books (in secret!) … It. I was so scared I wanted to put it in the freezer, lol! And there grew my love of that master of the craft. The rest, they say, is history. She’s the only adult who ever encouraged me back then, and I shall be eternally grateful. Thanks for sharing, Mae 🙂 Reblogged this on:

    Liked by 3 people

    • Teachers can make such an impression with through their encouragement. I was fortunate that I had many teachers through the years who encouraged my love of reading and writing, but Mr. Partin (who gave me his copy of The Fellowship of the Ring) is the one I remember the most.

      I’ve read a number of books by Koontz, and of course, Anne McCaffrey’s Perf series (I can still see some of those book covers in my head). I had to laugh about you wanting to put King’s book in the freezer, LOL. He definitely has a knack for making people turn extra lights on 🙂

      Thanks for the reblog, Harmony!

      Liked by 2 people

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