To be entirely honest, I think the first novels I ever really read were the Goosbumps and Fear Street stories by R.L. Stine when I was in third grade. My mother being a teacher and all meant that we got started on reading early, and were keenly encouraged to continue in that vein. I read Redwall, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, A Wrinkle in Time, etc ... and then in 7th grade I discovered The Hobbit and, by extension, The Lord of the Rings. To say that I became a lifelong fantasy fan at that point is kind of, well, a moot point.
I talk about these first novels of mine because I've been thinking recently about influences, and how susceptible we as writers are to them. My early writings were all influenced by these authors out of sheer necessity; I'd read so much of their works that it was impossible to not write like them. Heck, the first story I ever wrote was a clear Goosebumps clone.
I like to think I've gotten better about hiding my influences in my writing. I read so much now that everything just blends together into a sort of milieu in my head, coming out again in differently synthesized ways that are colored with my particular outlook on the world.
Deep thoughts for 10:26 p.m. on a Wednesday night, huh?
DISCUSSION: What was the first novel you can remember reading? Do you remember how it affected you?