The Secret Thief
Judith Jaeger


"I just finished your book and loved every page. I was into it from the very beginning and just could not rest at night without reading at least a few chapters."

- Eleanor Grace Thiel, a reader from Long Island, N.Y.

Everything in life can influence a writer's work. But every writer has specific teachers, books and authors whose works and teachings have really shaped his/her work. Judy discusses some of the major influences on her writing: Joseph Campbell, Eric Darton and Neil Landau, Chuck Palahniuk, and comic books and superheroes

Joseph Campbell, comparative mythology scholar and author of many books on the subject. Campbell was made widely popular through a PBS series with Bill Moyers called The Power of Myth. The PBS series was a long interview with Campbell that introduced audiences to archetypes—the symbols and stories that are repeated in cultures throughout the world. Creation myths, for example, are almost the same in religions around the world. Archetypes are what make stories such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star Wars (parts one-six) so broadly appealing. The archetypal nature of the stories touch on the most basic aspects of the human experience, shared by all human beings no matter your specific experience. Campbell also coined the phrase "Follow your bliss," meaning do what you love, which is the motto at our house.

Eric Darton and Neil Landau, my faculty advisers at Goddard College, MFA in Creative Writing Program. Both Darton and Landau are gifted writers—Darton in fiction and criticism and Landau in fiction, screenwriting and playwriting. During my first two semesters at Goddard, Darton pressed me to consider such key questions as "who is this narrator, and what is the narrator's relationship to the story?" and "why is this story being told?" He also taught me to write broadly, which for me means not including every single movement of a character going from the kitchen table to the kitchen sink. During my second two semesters at Goddard, Landau showed me just how fun and interesting character development can be. He gave me the all-important tools to help me create characters that are worth following through a whole novel. Darton and Landau have had a profound impact on my writing and will forever shape my work.

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, Choke, Survivor, Lullaby, Diary, Stranger than Fiction and other works. Neil Landau, my second advisor at Goddard College, first suggested I read Palahniuk. It has proven to be one of the best recommendations I ever received. Palahniuk's novels are so outrageous—in premise, language, characters, you name it—that most of the time I read his books with my mouth hanging open in shock and surprise. That's why I read him, though, for the shock and surprise. I'm a very cautious writer, and reading Palahniuk helps me "write toward my edge" as Landau would say. Palahniuk is also just a really good writer. But I don't recommend him to everybody. His books are not for the faint of heart. Peruse his books before reading one—and don't say I didn't warn you.

Comic books and superheroes , specifically Batman and Spiderman. I didn't grow up reading comic books and I don't consider myself a serious comic-book buff, but I am fascinated by comic books and superheroes. Comic books and graphic novels interest me because of the use of images to help tell a story and their use of dramatic structure. The combination of the two makes them just one small step away from a screenplay—as Hollywood has also noticed. Superheroes interested me because they employ archetypes so well. For instance, there is an archetypal story of the child's search for the father. Then you look at Batman, Spiderman and Superman (the ones I know the most about), and they are all orphans. Even Lex Luthor, Superman's nemesis, is an orphan in a way—his mother dead and his father absent from his life. Superheroes are a great way to study modern translations of archetypes and mythology.