Tuesday 19 September 2017

The Power of Books to Influence - Cindy Williams

By Cindy Williams

What stories have influenced your writing?

Last weekend I did a prayer ministry course with Elijah House. As we learned the many ways in which we are shaped by our early childhood experiences I thought about our childhood reading experiences – how do they influence our writing?

My first favourite book was Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat which, I am told, I could recite word for word. Even after fifty years, seeing the pictures and reading the words elicits a wonderful sense of security and delight.

A few years later I voraciously devoured every Famous Five and Secret Seven book I could find. My friend and I would roam the neighbourhood looking for suspicious neighbours and mysteries to solve. Mostly we just got in trouble for trespassing!

That sense of adventure continued with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. I was so keen that I even entered a competition where a boy (yuk!) and I had to eat from each end of a chocolate bar faster than any other ‘couple’. The sacrifice was worth it – the prize was a Hardy Boys book!

As well as adventure I was drawn by the food of the Famous Five. Those picnic baskets filled with cold ham, sandwiches, cherry cake and homemade lemonade; and those cups of hot cocoa, crusty bread, hunks of farm fresh cheese and chocolate sponge cake after an adventurous night out: these too elicited warm, wonderful feelings.

Later, while writing (as a dietitian) about food in a far less evocative way, I discovered Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion series. The main character inspired me with how to live as a Christian amongst those who don’t believe. The stories gave me guidance and hope – and plenty of action and adventure!

Then I found Frank Peretti’s books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. These came along just as I was learning about the power of spiritual warfare, and both inspired and encouraged me.

I am regularly sent books to review for the Historical Novel Society and I have been wondering why I struggle to read many of them, often chiding myself that I am not ‘literary’ enough. But I have realised that what many of these books lack is a message of hope.

In recalling my favourite books from the past I realise that I am drawn to books that have adventure and challenge, and are uplifting and provide hope. I have written two novels that, at first glance, seem completely different. In fact they contain all the elements that I like to read about. Just as a prayer ministry course can provide insight into why we behave in certain ways, so this exercise has given me insight into what I am drawn to write.

Which books have shaped your life? What inspires you? The Lord has given each of us different experiences, different interests and different writing styles. The one thing we have in common is that as Christians we are able to bring God’s light and hope into a dark and needy world. When we are obedient to write what the Lord has laid on our hearts we can trust that He will use it to bless someone in some way. Embrace your uniqueness, refine your writing craft (perhaps by coming to the Omega Writers Conference) and pray that God’s will is done with whatever you write.


  1. Really enjoyed reading your blog, Cindy--and especially so as I completed two prayer ministry courses with Elijah House many years ago and have always been thankful I did. In fact, some of my experiences from those days have popped in my novels at times--and I am hoping those parts in particular brought hope to others, as you mention.

    Re which books have shaped my life--too many to mention! But I do like novels that have strong female characters who aren't afraid to be different and to stand firm for God. However, I also enjoy biography and reading about people who have done amazing things in their lives. As to what inspires me, again many things, but I think basically God's Spirit putting that sense of urgency inside me to write books, whether fiction or non-fiction, that will make some sort of difference in the lives of others, inspiring them, challenging them, bringing hope.

    1. Hi Jo-Anne, Great to hear your comments. I just love my weekend courses with Elijah House - quite transforming aren't they!!

  2. I hear you on books that have no hope! There have been some I've read where I just wanted to shout at the main character, "Find God! Become a Christian!" Some of my favourite Christian titles are books which show that faith journey, like The Mark of the Lion series, or Dee Henderson's O'Malley series.

    Looking forward to seeing you again at the Omega Conference!

    1. Hi Iola,
      Now there's a great scene: the reader shouting at her book!! Looking forward to seeing you at conference too x

  3. Enjoyed your post, thanks. I read similar books as a child, but also Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon etc. After becoming a Christian as a youngish adult, I enjoyed Patricia St John's children's books, Francine Rivers, Dee Henderson's O'Malley books, and a few of Janette Turner Hospital's books (most of her books have too much graphic sex for my taste) but I love her style.

    1. Hi Jeanette,
      At the recent Romance Writers of Australia conference, some of the publishers cited Anne of Green Gables as one of the 'must-read' books for every author!

  4. Excellent post, Cindy. My favourite book as a child was Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows. Something magical about animals living like humans ... then there were a series of thriller books that engaged the boy in me as a young teenager.

    But it was the power of language in the classics I read at high school that got me fascinated by "story". Like you Peretti's "Darkness" books set me off on a lifelong appreciation of the supernatural and its influence on the natural.

    1. Ah, the classics... my downfall. Not because I love them but because I have read so few. How can I be a real writer without having read the classics? I am currently on a mission to improve my literary ignorance as soon as possible!


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