Ursula Le Guin. There was a time in my life when I wanted to be Ursula Le Guin. I read all her work, and it persuaded me that there might be room for the kind of books that I wanted to write. I loved that she seemed equally at home in fantasy and science fiction, and that she could speak so eloquently on our beloved field (as in her book of essays, The Language of the Night.) I realized soon enough that I couldn't be her, and that was just as well, because I had to find my own voice and of course, my own stories. I was changed by reading The Left Hand of Darkness, and despite everything that is usually (justifiably) praised in that book, the thing I loved the most was the impossible friendship between Genly Ai and Estraven. I can't really claim to have books as deep as hers, but my novel that is most frequently compared to her work is The Braided World. Actually, I'm not sure why. We are not the best analysts of our own work!
C.J. Cherryh. This author's long career is an inspiration to me. When you look at the sheer output of this writer, and the consistent quality of her worlds, characters and plot lines, I for one feel a bit overawed. From the Chanur series when I first fell in love with space opera to the books in the Foreigner universe, Cherryh continues to weave deeply emotional characters into strange worlds and convincing dilemmas. My first novel, The Seeds of Time was heavily influenced by her. At a convention a few years ago, I asked for her advice on a new project I had in hand, one that became The Entire and the Rose quartet. She said that I must immediately develop notebooks and keep track of everything. If I hadn't done this, after four books I would have gone mad. I am tempted to list other favorite books of hers, but the list would honestly be very, very long.
Annie Leibovitz. Beyond favorite women authors, I want to mention another artist whose career and presence I find fascinating. Annie Leibovitz entered a man's field of portrait photography and won international recognition for her original and daring work. Portrait photography is a fascinating art to me. It is reality, but interpreted through framing and lighting and an expert feel for personality. It is especially appealing to me to view portraits of women by a woman. She has created some of the most fabulous images of women, from Yoko Ono to Queen Elizabeth.
Kay Kenyon is the author of ten science fiction novels. Her latest novels from Pyr comprise the science fiction quartet, The Entire and The Rose. Book One, Bright of the Sky was among PW's top 150 books of 2007. The series has twice been shortlisted for the ALA Reading List awards and three times for the Endeavour Award. Some of her other novels include Maximum Ice, (2002 Philip K. Dick nominee), The Braided World (2003 John W. Campbell award nominee) as well as The Seeds of Time and Tropic of Creation. Recently, her short story "Castoff World" appeared in The Year's Best SF 16. She is the founding member of a writing organization in Eastern Washington State, Write on the River. She blogs on fiction writing at www.kaykenyon.com.