Early influences? Stories that seep into your consciousness so young, they shape your childhood and perhaps your life?
Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree books.
These are the first books I remember reading independently – and I read them over and over and over again. I hated ‘lights out’ because it meant the end of my reading time. No way! I would sit up in bed, twitching my curtains open to read long past my bedtime by the light of the street lamp! (No wonder I wear glasses.)
Those stories fuelled my vivid imagination. I loved the way Enid Blyton created a whole world in the Enchanted Wood, and then the Magic Faraway Tree itself, populated by a host of recurring characters you came to know and love – Moonface, Silky, Saucepan Man. I was desperate to taste those pop biscuits and toffee shocks, and to take a long ride down the slippery slip.
And as if this lovely imaginary world wasn’t enough, there were whole new worlds every time the children ventured beyond the top of the tree. The land of goodies, the land of spells (my personal favourite) . . . Fabulous!
But why did these books influence me so much?
They gave me a great deal of comfort. Whenever the real world seemed confusing or upsetting, all I had to do was lose myself in the worlds in those books, and I was transported away from my childhood troubles.
They allowed my imagination to take flight and they planted that tiny seed – the desire to be a writer when I grew up. (Yes, I know, it took an awful lot longer than that!) I wanted to be able to do what Enid Blyton did – to create my own worlds. Whenever I’d finished work ahead of time in class, the teacher would indulgently allow me to write stories. Then I got a special notebook at home and started writing stories in that, too. I still have it, although it’s a little battered now.
I’m certainly not the only writer to have been influenced by Enid Blyton – I’ve read a lot of comments on social media and blogs recently along similar lines. If it wasn’t the Enchanted Wood books, then for some people it was the Famous Five. Enid Blyton obviously had an enormous influence, not only in bringing pleasure and a sense of adventurous freedom to children’s lives, but in inspiring some of those children to become writers themselves someday.
I still have those Magic Faraway Tree books somewhere. I read them to my daughter when she was little (subtly altering some of the now-rather-politically-incorrect names as I went along!) They are up in the attic. I’ve been on a very long hunt for them so I could take a photo for this post – but if you saw the state of my attic, you’d understand why they haven’t as yet come to light!
What matters is that I know they’re there, somewhere . . . and I would never part with them.