Monday 28 March 2016

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Dani Atkins

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've invited authors to share with us a list of books that are special to them and have made a lasting impression on their life.

Please give a huge welcome Dani Atkins, my guest for My Life in Books here on Random Things today. 
Dani's latest book, Our Song, was published in January this year by Simon and Schuster. I reviewed it here on Random Things, it is a beautiful book, it's heart-breaking, and it made me sob.

Dani Atkins has published three novels in the UK;
Fractured (2013),    The Story of Us (2014),    Our Song (2015).

Here's a snippet from my review of Our Song, if you'd like to read the full review, please link on the link above:

"Our Song is a book that will remain in my memory for a long time. It shows how one single act of kindness can have a massive effect on so many people, and how one selfless act can change the course of many lives. Dealing with first love, and friendship, growing up and regrets, this really is a beautiful novel.'

My Life in Books - Dani Atkins

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the sense of smell is the most evocative of all of our senses. An aroma can transport you back to a particular time in your life. What I've discovered while compiling this list, is that books have the power to do that too.

I thougtht it was just the books and the much loved stories that had stayed with me, but it was more than that. Each book is pinned to a little piece of my past. This was a surprising and rather wonderful discovery.

Malory Towers by Enid Blyton  As a child I vividly remember reading and then re-reading, every one in this series of twelve books. To this day my obsession with them still surprises me, because as a total homebody (I once kissed the carpet in greeting when we returned from holiday), the idea of being "sent to boarding school" sounded to me like a prison sentence. In fact my mother (and I called her on this many years later) would use it as the ultimate threat "If you don't ... blah, blah, blah .. we are going to send you to boarding school." Shocking parenting, but it didn't diminish my love for these books one little bit.

And Then There Were None (Ten Little Niggers) by Agatha Christie  I had to double check my facts on this one, for when I first read it in the 1970s it was definitely titled the far less politically correct Ten Little Niggers. How things change. I wasn't a particularly cool teenager, and my best friend Lynn and I were always a little out of step with the 'in crowd'. One quirky trait we shared was our total obsession with the novels of Agatha Christie. We would buy, read and swap them between us. I favoured Miss Marple over Monsieur Poirot, but that's just a personal preference. So many books, so many grisly deaths. It's hard to remember who dunnit in any of them. This book, however, still sticks in my memory as being my absolute favourite of all her novels. In fact, writing about it now, I am starting to get the urge to re-read it.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck   This is the first book that I can remember crying over. That I loved it this much continually surprises me, because it was actually one of my set books for my English O Level (that's what you did before they"invented" GCSEs). As a teenager I was notoriously resistant to any book that could remotely be called worthy. Therefore, if it was on my reading list, I'd read it (because I had to), but I definitely wasn't going to enjoy it. Oh boy, was I wrong with this one. How could anyone not fall in love with the characters? At the heart of this book, when all else is stripped away, is the deep and enduring friendship of two men, one with very limited intelligence. Any scene when Lennie talked about the time when he would "get to tend the rabbits" could set me off. In fact, if you don't mind, just thinking about it has made me want to reach for a tissue.

The Stand by Stephen King  I love Stephen King's books. Well, certainly all of his early ones. I stick with him to this day, but if I'm ever asked to name my favourite, this is the one that wins by a mile. It is an epic masterpiece. And I'm certainly not alone in citing it as my favourite King novel. I remember reading in his book On Writing (which is almost like a bible for authors) Stephen King's own comment that it was a little depressing to have a united opinion that you did your best work twenty years ago.
Stephen King can describe a character so perfectly that you feel as though every small nuance of their personality is instantly understood. He does in a sentence or two, what it might take other authors pages to convey. His dialogue is practically perfect. He is an author who has clearly spent a great deal of time listening and observing. And it shows. He is a consummate master of storytelling, and if by chance, you have never read one of his books, then you need to rectify that. I envy you the discovery.

Diary of a Killer Cat by Anne Fine   I first took this book out of our local library for my children, having read many Anne Fine stories to them over the years. I renewed and renewed it, because I could never quite resist the urger to read it 'one last time'. Eventually, many years later, my adult children bought it for me as a birthday present. I read it again and loved it every bit as much as before. It is hysterically funny. I remember trying to read it out loud during a car journey, and literally not being about to continue because tears of laughter were running down my face. The cat who is the central character is without doubt the best feline to ever appear within the pages of a book.
True laugh-out-loud humour that I honestly can't remember any other book being able to achieve.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling  When the Harry Potter phenomenon first burst onto the literary word, I was actually trying to write a children's book myself. Very wisely I decided not to read this book until I had finished writing mine. A very sensible decision, because if I had I would have been so disheartened by my own efforts. I would have thrown in the towel there and then. I became as obsessed as my own children were with every single book in the series. We owned them all, but I was third in the pecking order to get to read them: daughter first (super-fast reader) then my son and finally me. By the time it came to the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I think we all realised this system wasn't going to work for us. We all wanted to read it straight away, so three copies had to be bought.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes   My daughter recommended this book to me when it first came out, having read and absolutely loved it. I read the blurb, pulled a face and said "No thanks, I don't think it's for me." Obstinately (and stupidly because I hadn't even given the book a chance) I thought the subject matter would be too dark and depressing. I have no idea why I was so determined that I wouldn't enjoy a book that over five million people had clearly loved. Well, I have to eat those words now, because this book is wonderful. I cried when reading it. How could anyone not? I fell in love with the characters and the world Jojo Moyes created. The greatest compliment anyone can pay my book Our Song, is to say that it affected them almost as much as Me Before You. I'll take that one any day of the week.

Dani Atkins - March 2016 

Dani Atkins was born in London in 1958, and grew up in Cockfosters, a suburb of north London. She moved to rural Hertfordshire in 1985, where she has lived in a small village ever since where she lives with her husband, two (now grown-up) children, one Siamese cat, and a soppy Border Collie.

Dani has been writing for fun all her life, but following the publication of her novels Fractured (published as Then And Always in the US), and The Story of Us in 2014, now writes for work.

Connect with Dani on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @AtkinsDani 


1 comment:

  1. Love this range of Dani's favorite books. We readers are willing to go anywhere when we pick up a book.