As Jeff Kinney, author of the global bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series once said: “You can’t be a good writer without being a good reader first.” Whether you are an established author or just starting out, all avid readers have a favourite writer – even if it does feel like choosing your favourite child.
To get to know 12 of Penguin’s 2024 debut novelists, we asked which authors sparked their love of reading, inspired them to pen their own novels and hone their craft. From Dostoevsky, who was imprisoned for circulating banned books, to Magret Atwood, and her exceptional nugget of writing advice, these are the trailblazing authors that have inspired the next generation.
Ishi Robinson, author of Sweetness in the Skin, on Stephen King
It has to be Stephen King. He is such an immersive writer: when I read his books (in the night, as a kid, when I should have been sleeping), I was there in Bangor, Maine, I fully believed in evil-reincarnated gray cats and vampires that would scratch at my window. And with each chapter I’d say, “I’ll just get to the end of this part and then I’ll turn the lights out,” but I never could stop reading. It was literally impossible to stop. I always wanted to be a writer that would transport my readers someplace else like that.
Holly Gramazio, author of The Husbands, on Agatha Christie
Obviously, Agatha Christie was incredibly prolific, which as someone who has written exactly one novel I find admirable in itself. But she also seemed to have fun with her writing, inventing new detectives, or trying a spy thriller for a change, or self-inserting yet another weird character who writes detective novels.
On top of that, there’s a lot of specific things that she’s just so good at. Her minor characters in particular, where she only has a sentence or two to introduce someone but manages to make them feel plausible and like they have a real personality, giving you something to hook onto, a way to remember them when they come back 15 chapters later.
Amy Tintera, author of Listen for the Lie, on Emily Henry
There are so many! But if I had to choose one, I really admire the way Emily Henry has reinvented herself as a romance author (after starting in young adult literature, like I did). And I adore her books!
Olivia Ford, author of Mrs Quinn’s Rise to Frame, on Joanna Glen
I admire so many writers, but most recently I would say Joanna Glen. My favourite novels are the ones which move me so deeply that I am changed a little by having read them, and both of Joanna’s novels - All My Mothers and The Other Half of Augusta Hope - make me feel that way.
A.B.Poranek, author of Where the Dark Stands Still, on Naomi Novik
Naomi Novik has been one of my longtime inspirations – she has this wonderful ability to create worlds that feel so real and yet also like fairytales, while balancing many plots and complex themes. Spinning Silver is probably my favourite example of this – the way she weaves threads of three very different characters leading such incredibly different lives into one coherent story in such a satisfying way.
Gareth Brown, author of The Book of Doors, on Stephen King
I will probably say Stephen King. His productivity and output, his ability to have such a sustained and successful career, to do different things (even though he is pigeon-holed as a horror writer) and to have such an impact on popular culture, has to be admired. And when you get down to it, he is technically a very accomplished and gifted writer. Some people sell millions of books without having the writing chops, but Stephen King is a proper craftsman.
Rebecca K Reilly, author of Greta & Valdin, on Sayaka Murata
I admire Sayaka Murata because of her ability to work in a space that elegantly combines literary and science fiction – I believe I am personally incapable of coming up with any ideas that couldn’t literally happen to any person at any moment. Also, I recently went to Japan and while I think I could become a competent convenience store worker, there is no way I would have the dedication to do it for 18 years like Murata did.
Image credit: Agatha Christie: Hulton Archive / Stringer / Archive Photos vis Getty Images/Stephen King: Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images Entertainment vie Getty Images /Margaret Atwood: Douglas Elbinger / Archive Photos via Getty Images