Today, I want to focus some attention on a few of the authors I admire most, and aspire to emulate in my own life and work.
I put together a post like this a few years ago, and when I came back across it in the archives I thought it would be interesting to compile an updated version. My writing focus has shifted, I’ve discovered new authors and had my perspective change on others, but even so there’s a fair amount of overlap between this list and the one I put together all the way back in 2017.
But without further ado, here are my thoughts about some of the authors I admire most and how I hope to emulate them in my own writing life.
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Those of you who have been around for a bit will likely not be surprised to see Nadine Brandes at the top of this list. Ever since beginning the Out of Time series and joining her street team (I can’t remember which came first), Nadine has been one of my favorite authors–for both her writing and her values. My admiration for her has only grown as she’s released more books and as she’s shared about her journey as a mother.
The first thing I appreciated most about Brandes was how down-to-earth she is on her platform and how much she values connection with her readers. She’s lovely to interact with, super encouraging, and incredibly real about her writing and how her life impacts her writing rhythms. I believe she’s mentioned on my previous list primarily for this reason, as this was especially standing out to me about authors at the time–and I still hope to accomplish the same focus on connection and be as genuine to my readers.
Nowadays, I’m even more impressed by the way she builds her “work-life balance” and adjusts her writing to accommodate real life–and still manages to write excellent books and release them on a fairly regular basis. She prioritizes her family, her role as a homemaking wife and mother, and maintains her productivity as a an author as life seasons allow. As someone with the same values, a young woman who’s just become a wife and is seeking to both maintain a loving and joyful home as well as finish books, I hope to adjust and experiment and work with the flow of life that God gives me as effectively as Nadine Brandes seems to.
This willingness to experiment and adjust appears to be reflected in what Brandes writes, as well. Though her published works all fall under the “speculative fiction” umbrella, she has written dystopian sci-fi, fantasy, and historical fantasy. She writes in the genres she enjoys, and it works. Her readers snap them up (myself included), and I would guess that each new genre expands her reach with new readers who enjoy that genre over her previous genres. This is really encouraging to authors like me who tend to veer a little all over the place and like to try slightly new and different things. You don’t have to separate all your different genres by pen name, set aside your “off-brand” projects to never see the light of day, or otherwise limit what you publish; you just have to establish your audience on something deeper than genre, which Brandes does very well.
To proceed on the point of establishing an audience, and to cycle back to engaging with that audience as well, Brandes’ social media feed and newsletter are among my favorite to follow. The visual style she uses is beautiful, the content is always meaningful and encouraging, and she points constantly back to God, Scripture, and biblical principles. “Enriching” is, I think, an apt word to describe Brandes’ online content. (And her books!)
Obviously, at least one classic author had to make it onto the list, and probably J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. (I believe they may have both been on my previous list, actually.) While I love both their work, Tolkien is the greater role model for my work and interests personally.
One thing I love to see about Tolkien is how varied his knowledge was. He knew a lot about a lot of things, he could engage on such a broad variety of topics, and he used that knowledge in his everyday interactions and the things he wrote. He was a Christian interested in his faith, a gardener, a philologist, a history buff, a poet, a father, and had so many skills and interests beyond the writing that he’s clearly known for. Having such a broad knowledge base is such a boon, not only in deepening one’s writing but also in deepening and coloring one’s life, and I would love to expand my knowledge as Tolkien did his.
But Tolkien didn’t only know things; he was invested in those things, and he put that knowledge to use. He had strong opinions about the topics he learned about and their application to the real world, as well as current events and the like, and he was invested in shaping the culture in a God-honoring and human-blessing way. These values and this interest in the trajectory of the culture he lived in influenced both his life and work, and his stories still carry pertinent themes to readers today, reminding us of cultural values we have lost or de-prioritized.
Some of the themes that Tolkien returned to again and again resonate with me as both a reader and an author. The themes of community, of appreciating the little things and natural blessings, of the importance of art and its relation to the real world, these are all themes that I am also passionate about conveying to readers and discussing with other authors. And Tolkien’s themes are couched so skillfully in the artistry and quality of his writing and storytelling, honed over years and years of practice and study of great past literature. His themes never steal the attention from his storytelling, nor is the reverse true, because he so highly valued both pieces. Though great themes may contribute, books do not stand the test of time for their themes alone, but for the excellence of their storytelling. Both are critical to invest in and practice and develop skill in.
As alluded to before, one of the things that made Tolkien such a great writer was that he was immersed in high-quality literature, both past and present. He loved great older literature, taught English, and was also involved in the like-minded writing community of his own day with fellow authors like C.S. Lewis. Tolkien read and understood great literature, and he learned from it to write his own. This is one of the reasons I think that reading classics is such a great benefit to authors today, especially as there are so many skills and emphases that we have lost in modern fiction but can learn to incorporate again as we read and study older works.
The last thing I want to touch on before I move on is that Tolkien spurred on like-minded authors–and was spurred on in return. The Inklings were an active group, and particularly he and Lewis were such supporters of one another, not only able to encourage one another and push one another to write but also able to critique one another and remain great friends. This sort of supportive community is something I have always valued and hoped to foster in things like my Discord server, and I believe that the writing community and particularly Christian authors supporting one another–even when we disagree on things–is such an important part of producing high-quality fiction.
Some of my favorite works by Tolkien are The Lord of the Rings* (of course!), On Fairy-stories*, and Leaf by Niggle*. And if you’d like to get to know him better as a person and an author, his letters* are a delight to read!
Andrew Peterson is another author I would love to have the opportunity to meet one day, because I think he would just be great to talk with. There are a number of reasons for this, beginning with the awe he exhibits in his fiction, his nonfiction, his social media, his music… really every area of his platform. It is evident in all that he does that he has a great admiration for God’s creation (and creativity) and he faithfully practices wonder and worship. Since we’re talking authorship, I’ll mention that this is a great element of his writing and his worldbuilding; he does an excellent job of capturing that awe in his writing–particularly a child-like wonder in Anniera of The Wingfeather Saga, but also a mix of this same child-like wonder with an even deeper amazement in his nonfiction and his music. And all of it is turned to praise and rightly directed toward the Creator of all that we have to marvel at.
Another thing I admire about Andrew Peterson is how down-to-earth he is, and not only that but also how much he delights in his readers. Whether he’s showing off fan art, doing sneaky book signings in bookstores while on tour, or celebrating the success of the Wingfeather Saga show thanks to reader/viewer support, Peterson highlights the importance of his readers to his work and he delights to bless them in return. That reciprocal relationship between author and reader is so important, and so special when nurtured well!
Not only does Peterson highlight his readers, though, he also encourages and promotes other Christian artists. His Rabbit Room community brings together like-minded artists to share and sell and discuss their work–with patrons as well as one another. The Hutchmoot event he puts on brings together a very similar community in-person. He celebrates those involved in making collaborative projects a reality, collaborates often with other musical artists, incorporates visual arts in his books, etc. He has such a focus on community-building, which shows in multiple areas, and I admire his success in prioritizing that and actually building up that community.
As one last point, Peterson is invested in multiple forms of media and their impact for the Kingdom of God. He is personally both an author and musician, as well as a visual artist, and he celebrates Christians in all areas of the arts. The Wingfeather Saga is being adapted into an animated TV series, his brother is a playwright, his children are artists and musicians, he supports artists of all kinds through The Rabbit Room. Peterson understands the power of media in shaping the culture and edifying the Church Body, and he acts on those values.
I hope I’m one day as successful at prioritizing my own values of community and culture-building, so I might contribute to similar projects and, Lord willing, have a similar impact in the sphere of Christian arts!
Miranda Marie is the only author on this list whom I know personally, and she is such a lovely person as well as a skilled author. To speak merely from a personal standpoint for a moment, Mandy is such a faithful friend with so much wisdom to share–both in the domain of writing and on more “real life” topics. She’s one of the most faith-full people I know, one of the most selfless, one of the most encouraging, one of the most supportive–without compromising truth or wisdom. I am so beyond blessed to call her a friend. She’s certainly a role model for me in life as well as writing.
All of the qualities I mentioned above color her writing, as well. Her writing is both beautiful and truthful, the perfect balance of unwavering truth inside a story that sucks you right in and makes you feel like you’re a part of it. Between her beautiful prose (especially showcased in the Whispers of White duology) and the fact that all of her characters feel like real people you could sit down and have a conversation with, she’s so skilled at writing engrossing books.
Part of the reason she does this so well is because she takes her time, pouring as much energy and dedication into each book as it needs to be exactly what it’s supposed to be–even if this means going a few years between releases. While the wait itself may be frustrating for readers, the end result is an excellent book once it does release, making the wait well worth it.
These are some of the authors I admire most, these days. Now I want to hear from you! Have you read any of these authors? What authors do you look up to and why? If you could meet any author currently living, who would it be? Comment below with your thoughts!
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