4 books that influenced YA author Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is a thriller and fantasy fiction writer. She’s published over 30 books, including the popular Women of the Otherworld fantasy series, which kicked off with Armstrong’s breakout debut, Bitten

Her most recent novel is Rituals, the fifth and final book in her Cainesville mystery series about a young woman who learns her biological parents were serial killers — and her family secrets just might be a whole lot darker than she can ever imagine.

We asked the veritable urban fantasy writing master to share a few books that have shaped her life and work.

The Lion and the Deer by Annie DeCaprio, illustrated by Nance Holman

This classic children’s book was originally released in 1965. (Wonder Books/Amazon.ca)

“I was my parents’ first child, and they were keen to teach me to read, so some of my earliest memories are of this book. I remember sitting on my dad’s lap and reading it aloud. My parents now claim I was reading before the age of three —starting with this book — but I’m pretty sure I just memorized the words! It’s the first book I remember, though, and so to me, it launched my life as a reader.”

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

A film adaptation of Harriet the Spy starring Michelle Trachtenberg came out in 1996. (Paramount Pictures/Puffin Modern Classics)

“Most of the books I enjoyed as a child had boys as main characters. I preferred action and adventure, and those stories were male-dominated. Harriet the Spy was one of the few exceptions. I was never keen on Nancy Drew — the Hardy Boys had better adventures — but Harriet was different. She was smart, inquisitive and determined to solve her problems — and her mysteries — on her own. She’s a capable but flawed heroine. That was the kind of protagonist I wanted to read about… and, later, the kind I wanted to write.”

Watership Down by Richard Adams

The fantasy adventure novel by English author Richard Adams, was published in 1972. (Penguin Random House)

Watership Down was a revelation to me. It took what I considered very ordinary and rather dull creatures, and it created a fascinating and intricate world around them. It was fantasy, yet it was grounded in reality, something I hadn’t seen before that. And while it did work for me as a child, I would return to it as I got older and discover new depths. Watership Down showed me how rich fantasy can be, and it inspired me to create my own fantasy worlds.”

The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer

The historical text examines comparative folklore, magic and religion on an epic and worldly scale. (Penguin Random House/Wikimedia Commons)

“I’ll be quick to say that I’ve only read the abridged version of Frazer’s work. It’s 12 volumes long, and even the abridged version is over 800 pages. I’d read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and saw how much his book had been influenced by Frazer’s so I went straight to the source. There, I discovered an incredible compendium and analysis of mythology, folklore and world religions, one that has influenced my own work.”

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