But I'm going to go way back to the tender age of five. Or maybe even four. Because that is when my future writing really began to take shape. While other kids were being read Dr. Seuss with a side of Berenstain Bears, my dad was reading me C.S. Lewis and The Hobbit.
To be fair to my dad, Lewis did write for children. The fact that Tolkien's books were clearly meant for adults probably never occurred to my dad, who was just sharing with me books that he loved. So while other kids were rhyming and reading or hearing about...whatever happens in Berenstain Bears books, I was hearing about magical adventures and trolls trying to figure out the best way to kill and eat a bunch of dwarves and kings and their nephews dying in the battle of the five armies.
The latter aren't really what you're supposed to build your formative years upon, and they definitely shaped me.
Without those early fantasy books, I'm not sure what genre I would write in. Maybe I wouldn't write at all. But I was exposed to those magical worlds early, and I started writing my own at the age of 9, and my first full-length story at the age of 13. I read Dragonlance while other kids were reading Judy B. Jones. I read The Wheel of Time while other girls were reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Even as a young adult, YA books were just quick, easy diversions from the serious, complex plots of books that had grown from the same trees that Tolkien and Lewis planted. Books that I loved.
I don't compare my books to Tolkien--being compared to him by another would be the highest honor--but I know that hearing those stories when I was young shaped who I am and what I would write.
And for that I am grateful.