Hey Tristan, thanks so much for reading, and for the thoughtful response!
It's so funny that you mention The Book Thief, it definitely came to mind when I was writing the article - I LOVED The Book Thief, especially Death's narration. I think this is one of those examples of an author "breaking the rules" and going outside of the box to surprise the reader.
I love the way Zusak describes his process as "excavation." I think that's so true - as writers we're always peeling back the layers and digging deeper to learn new things about our characters and their story. Sometimes I'll try to plan in advance, and I've found that most of the really good stuff comes to me *as* I'm writing (literally just pops into my head out of nowhere). Thanks for sharing.
Harry Potter was one of the first series that truly influenced me as a writer... J.K. Rowling was a master at hiding small clues and references in her early books that point to "big reveals" in the later books of the series. The Giver was another one of those childhood influences. It was so different from anything else I'd read. I really enjoyed fantasy worlds, like Gregor the Overlander (I was a fan of Suzanne Collins before it was cool!), Eragon, City of Bones... these books / authors gave me a taste for creating my own fictional worlds.