I want to step outside of talking about trauma, so I thought I would talk about some of my favorite authors and the writing tropes they use to put their stories together. I don’t often do “book reviews”, and this isn’t really a selection of reviews, so much as it’s a list of authors I appreciate and the stories that gave me reasons to appreciate them.

Throughout my life books have offered me an escape from a world that I once saw as mundane and majickless, books allowed me to stretch my imagination away from what I was told was possible, and helped me to make wishes that led me to where I am now.

Some of my favorite authors growing up were Stephen King, RL Stein and L.J. Smith, and yes these are all white authors, but I didn’t have access to a lot of Black authors growing up, so don’t judge me too harshly. Listed below are some of my favorite authors, books, and literary “tropes” that have and continue to inspire my writing today.

Click the images to head on over to the author’s websites and check out more of their work.

Like it or not Twilight is one of my favorite series, yes I know all the criticism and in some cases I agree, however that being said it is the idea of a sparkling vampire that I find really interesting.

I was about eighteen when I started thinking about how one could make vampires “different,” and thus more interesting. It wasn’t but a few years later when Stephanie Myer came out with Twilight, and while I thought it was silly and probably improbable that a vampire might sparkle in the sunlight instead of bursting into fame, I did think it was still an interesting addition to the constant information that writers and creators are finding out about vampires.

At it’s core Twilight is a story about love and loss, it’s a story about how vampires would exist, if they could exist, in the world that Myer created, and how they interact with those around them. In this world the vampires are not friends with the werewolves, but they become allies in an effort to defeat an even stronger, more common enemy to both groups of characters. It works because Stephanie Myer encouraged the idea that you put aside what you “know” about vampires, and allow your mind to suspend reality for the sake of creativity.

It sold millions of copies around the world, made billions at the box office and catapulted dozens of young people into the spotlight of fame and fortune. You can’t really say that “Twilight sucked,” when in reality millions of people disagree with you. You may not like it, but the trope was interesting, it worked, it made money, AND it inspired a (terrible awful horrible waste of space) spinoff in Fifty Shades of Gray.

Yes Edward is problematic, and yes the Cullen family is filled with colonizers, but they are also filled with people who are trying to exist in a world that doesn’t believe they exist. It’s a cool story so take it for what it is and enjoy escaping the drama of real life for awhile.

Kim Harrison is one of my absolute favorite authors. She decided to escape convention and create a story that is built around genetically modified tomato’s. Because of these genetically modified pieces of food, the entire world is forever changed when humans realize that majick is real, vampires, demons, and zombies exist, and very few people are prepared to live in that world. Sure there are those that fight back, but the most important one in this story is Rachel.

She used to work for the Inderland Security Agency, and now she’s a Bounty Hunter, she hunts down rogue witches, fights against and with demons, and lives with her vampire roommate Ivy. Oh and a fairy named Jinx who swears like a sailor and has more than a dozen fairy children who fly around the graveyard behind the church where Rachel and Ivy live together.

I love this story because every single time I eat a tomato, which I do as often as I can, I cannot help but think about this story. There is a character that died in this story, and I felt so deeply connected to him that I STILL weep over him occasionally – and I mean the big ugly cry. No author has ever been able to break my heart the way that Kim Harrison has, and honestly when I told her this fact over Twitter? She laughed at me. Kim Harrison is the kind of writer that I want to be when I grow up. I absolutely adore her work and think that one day she is going to be one of the great literary artists of the world.

Rachel Caine is an absolute genius. In The Morganville Vampire Series, which is another one of my absolute favorites, Rachel places Claire, an 18 year old girl into never ending danger by having her attend university in Morganville. An entire town mixed up of humans, but ruled by Vampires.

In this story Claire has to navigate town elders, her own love life, keep up with her school work, and protect the world from vampires who resent not being able to leave town because “the secret might get out.”

It’s a constant thrill ride of cheesy romance, laughter, and good natured connection as these characters find out who they are, who they want to be, and who they can be as they are pushed to their overwhelmed physical, emotional, and spiritual, limits. I love the way this story came together and it’s another one that I think about quite a bit. It’s a story filled with moments of “damn I wish I’d written that,” which is always a marker of a great storyline.

Written by mother daughter team P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast, this is a really great series. Zoe has to give up her entire life to become a vampire, including the ones that she loves the most, but it’s not exactly a choice…for her. She’s a chosen one, and as the chosen one she’ll have to fight other students at The House of Night school, Vampire Goddesses, and ancient evil to protect not only her new friends, but the people from her past who are quickly finding out about her secret, despite her best efforts.

I love this one because it talks about mental health, sex, addiction, pain, and sorrow. It takes about all the things that kids go through, in a way that is honest, pure, and it’s written by a mother daughter team, which is even more awesome. You can tell the love these two authors have for each other, because the detail of the stories they have created through this series are incredibly detailed, well thought-out and well written.

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires–the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

I love this story because of the escapism of it all. I loved digging into the history of these vampires, and I was definitely left wanting more. It’s not a “love” story in the traditional sense, at it’s core VA is about two friends trying to navigate the vampire world, the royal world, and the world of high school at all once.

No matter how old you are this is definitely worth a read. What I like most about this one is that there are the “full” bad vampires known as Strigoi, and then the “good” or “royal” vampires who don’t feed on other vampires. It’s an interesting trope because if you could be a full – mindless vampire, or a vampire who had some control over your blood lust…which would you choose?

Stepping away from vampires, one of my all time favorite authors on this planet, or in this universe is Nora Roberts.

For years I was obsessed with reading NR and I got my hands on every copy of her books that I could find. Over time however I found that as Nora Roberts there is a method to her madness though while interesting for awhile, stopped peaking my interest after a bit.

Many (not nearly all) of NR books contain some kind of Power of Three trope that involves 3 couples having to come together to save the world.

Two of my favorite books/series by NR are The Circle Trilogy and Of Blood and Bone.

But my absolute total and complete series of all time is her JD Robb series which was started off by none other than Hot Ice. Hot Ice is about a diamond heist that goes terribly bad, and ironically the book ends with the diamonds not being found until Eve Dallas, a NYC detective helps find them a hundred and so on years later. Through the “In Death” series, Nora uses Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke to tackle topics like childhood sexual abuse and trauma, murder, love, and the exploration of finding yourself as someone who is vulnerable even though the world sees you as a bad ass cop.

As a survivor of trauma I admit there are some scenes that are hard to read like Eve and Roark flashbacks of the abuse they experienced, or some of the “almost but not quite” rape scenes – or the perception of what is obviously going to be rape, but the mystery is what keeps me going. I love to know who did what, how they did it, why they did it, and I absolutely adore learning how each mystery that Eve and her team face, bring them closer to understanding themselves. These books a are an absolute joy to read. I shop at Black Bond Books here in Canada, and the women work there laugh because I only buy one or two books a year and they are ALWAYS JD Robb novels.

If you are wanting to read “In Death” you can absolutely read it alone, but what’s the point if you don’t know how it got started? So read Hot Ice first.

What are some of your favorite fiction writers? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to find some new artists to support.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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