I remember being fourteen and stumbling onto my first Dragon Lance book. I had read other things like the Hobbit and most of the Narnia series, but here was a tale that magnified the hero. The action was grittier and more thorough. I was hooked, if it was Dragon Lance I read it and nothing else would do. Some years later my then girlfriend (now wife) found a book called the Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore as a gift for my friend. I wanted her to buy him a Dragon Lance book, but she decided to stick with this one instead. For months after all I heard was how amazing this book was and that he would never go back to Dragon Lance. Obviously my interest was peaked, so I went to my local book store and made my way to the fantasy section.
There it was sitting next to the section of Dragon Lance books, Forgotten Realms, another giant series of books set in one world. I struggled with the idea, but soon enough I pulled the paperback from the shelf and felt like a traitor all the way home. It didn't take me long to understand the praise my friend was giving the book, I finished it in two days, which for me is amazing as I am a notoriously slow reader. I was now enlightened, I understood the error of my ways. Reading only Dragon Lance books was wrong, the right way was....wait for it....to only read Forgotten Realms (yeah I know).
So I went about collecting any Forgotten Realms story I could find and waiting for the new Drizzt book to come out each year. Soon I was hitting the bottom of the barrel at my book store. It was hard to wait so long to read a new book, I saw a solution in my favorite author. Mr. Salvatore had written another fantasy series set in his own world. So without hesitation I grabbed the first three books in the series, The Demon Awakens, The Demon Spirit and The Demon Apostle. Great books by the way, if you have not read them. Again I quickly devoured them and set about to finish the series. This, I believe was the seed that brought about change. I loved this series of books and it made me wonder if there were other great books out there I was missing.
Somewhere in the middle of all this I started writing, as I was reading this type of fantasy I was of course writing this type of fantasy. I would write a few thousand words and get some of my friends to read it, luckily they were the honest type and pointed out my need for growth. This went on for many years until one day I picked up a book called The Sorcerer's Stone. I'd had this idea for a children's book after having two of my own and was curious as to what was out there. Hearing about the success of the Harry Potter series I decided to start there. Like many fans of the series I quickly realized what the hype was all about, the books were successful because of one simple reason, they were really good. This was the book that changed me, I had to know what was out there.
So here we are, in the last few months I have finished The Name of the Wind (by Patrick Rothfuss), Savages (by Don Wilson), Eon (by Alison Goodman) and the first three Dresden Files books (by Jim Butcher). Four quite different genres and enjoyed and learned from each of them. The first novel I completely finished and got praise from my group of critical readers was a YA/Urban fantasy.
I have said before about believing the saying that writers are sponges. Now that doesn't mean take everyone's ideas and copy them, but the more you read, the more types of things you read, the better prepared you are for what and how you want to say the things you do in your writing.