One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is what made me want to become a writer and what stories inspired me growing up. I think people always expect me to answer with a huge list of all the book titles I love, and for me to talk about how big of a reader I’ve always been. But funnily enough, I fell in love with writing long before I fell in love with books.
Looking back, I realise that what I first fell in love with was stories. And stories are everywhere. They’re in books, in television shows and movies; they’re what make up theater, and videogames. As much as I love reading, books are a very small part of what fostered my love for stories and made me want to tell them for a living.
So today, I want to nerd out and just talk about my key inspirations, and all the different mediums of story that helped me to grow my craft and fall in love with writing…
When I was a kid, there was nothing—and I mean nothing—I loved more than Pokémon. I loved it so much, in fact, that I wanted to become the person who brought Pokémon to life. Unfortunately, I don’t think modern genetics are quite there yet, but maybe one day! With Pokémon, I fell in love with the idea that there was this entire imagined world where Pokémon existed, and I wanted to play in it. I wanted to have a Pikachu and an Arcanine, and I’d spend hours imagining what I would do if I, like Ash, got to go out and explore the world with Pokémon at my side. I may not have been physically writing these stories down (I was only four or five years old), but I was certainly making fanfic up in my head!
Studio Ghibli films
I grew up on anime — Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, Inuyasha, and even American animation like Static Shock and Avatar: The Last Airbender were huge staples for me. I loved these stories, but the Studio Ghibli films (Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away in particular) are what made me so hungry to explore fantasy. I remember watching Spirited Away on VHS, finishing it, rewinding, and watching again several times in a row because there was something so absolutely magical about Miyazaki’s worlds. I wanted to run away to them. To fly on the back of Haku, and live in a magical moving house with Howl and Calcifer. Anime was my first exploration into fantasy; I fell deeply in love, and never looked back.
Oh, Kingdom Hearts. My obsession for this videogame knew no bounds. I remember the day this game came out, and the deep hole I fell into while playing it, where time just didn’t exist. I was in third grade and just starting to write stories. I started writing via roleplaying (on Neopets of all places) at this age, and since the internet was still such a new and scary place to me, I made up a different name for myself, Kai (after the character Kairi), and based probably 80% of my characters on Kingdom Hearts characters. I will be the first to admit that the stories of these games are difficult to follow, but I loved the characters. My first ship was Sora and Kairi, and I just wanted Riku to get away from the darkness. These games have such nostalgia for me, and really helped push me at the start of my writing journey.
While I did enjoy reading, it wasn’t until the Twilight series that I truly fell in love with it. I happened to live in the same area as Stephenie Meyer when the series came out, and I begged my parents to drive me across town to attend some of her first signings. I always knew that someone somewhere had to be creating the stories I loved to consume, but it wasn’t until seeing her at the signing that the gears in my head really started to shift and I understood that storytelling could be a job. And I knew from the moment I saw her signing that I wanted that job. I wanted to be the person making these stories that I loved. That everyone loved and talked about in the halls at school. She introduced me to young adult books (and let’s be honest, really helped to start the category as we know it today), and I’ve been in love ever since.
I may be a writer, but I get only a small part of my influence from books. I love television and film—both live action and animation (which is so incredibly underrated and undervalued for what it can do!). For a period of time, I interned on The Legend Of Korra at Nickelodeon because I thought about television writing. I also worked at a live theatre for several years, wondering if maybe I wanted to write plays or be a director. Even music can be such a huge inspiration! While it’s important to read and to learn craft, I think anyone who focuses solely on books is severely limiting themselves.
There are stories everywhere, and I think it’s so important for anyone who is thinking about this job to explore them in all different mediums. And who knows, maybe the medium you fall in love with and want to write for isn’t the one you thought it would be!