#amreading: the genesis of an author

Nymphenburg, View From the Seaside painting by Joseph Wenglein 1883

Nymphenburg, View From the Seaside painting by Joseph Wenglein 1883

I find the process of creativity as experienced by others intriguing, and am always curious about how they became authors.

My own journey to this place in my life was pretty tame. But some people  become authors via more adventurous, alternative paths.

This notion is explored in Elizabeth McKenzie’s frank, autobiographical post published on January 26, 2016, for LitHub.

Max Ernst, The Elephant Celebes 1921, Tate, London via WikipediaAppropriately titled “Surrealism and Decomposition. Or How I Wrote My Novel,”  McKenzie takes us on a journey through both her personal quest for enlightenment and creativity and the authors whose works colored her writing life. The quote that hooked me into reading this piece: “I read Rimbaud and Breton and Lautreamont and started according my dreams the respect I felt towards art. I wanted to have visions, I wanted, as Rimbaud put it, to take part in the systematic disordering of the senses.”

Her honest account of her sometimes psychedelic journey through alternate forms of consciousness and literary greatness is quite intriguing and took me back to my college days when many of my friends also chose that path for enlightenment.

Psychedelics were never an option for me, although in that way I was the odd one in my circle. The notion of them frightened me. Life in the early 1970s was surreal enough in its cold reality. My form of mind-expansion came in books.

The authors whose works influenced me as a young adult might surprise those who know me.

In my twenties, sci-fi and fantasy books were expensive and hard to get. The libraries stocked a few, but not as many as I required, as fast as I read.

When I was young, my parents were prolific readers and were members of both Doubleday Book Club and Science Fiction Book Club. They also purchased two to four paperbacks a week at the drugstore and subscribed to Analog and several other magazines.

samuel pepys diaryThere was always something new and wonderful to read around our house, and most of it was speculative fiction, although we had the entire 54 volume leather-bound set of the Great Books of the Western World, and our father insisted we attempt to read and discuss what we could.

Some were mostly understandable, such as William Shakespeare and Samuel Pepys.

Plato, not so much, and yet his work did influence me.

At the age of 14 I didn’t understand Pepys, but I read him, and while we were bass fishing on a Saturday morning, Dad would talk about the differences between life and morality in Pepys’ London and our life in suburban America in 1969. His thought was that I should learn about the 17th century and the Great Fire in London from an eye witness, just as I had learned about the war in the Pacific from John F. Kennedy‘s autobiographical novel,  PT 109.

But Pepys’ London of 1666 was so different from the ‘Mod’ subculture of the London of 1966 (and the Beatles) that I was familiar with thanks to Life magazine. To me, it was almost like speculative fiction. In many ways it was more difficult  for me to believe in historical London than Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

When I married and left home, I still read every sci-fi or fantasy novel that came out in paperback, budgeting for books the way others of my acquaintance budgeted for beer. I read the classics for my irregular college classes, and learned to love Chaucer and James Joyce. For a variety of reasons I never earned a college degree, but I’ve never stopped reading and researching great literature.

But reading for entertainment was still my “drug.” I jonesed for new books by the great ones, Anne McCaffrey, Jack Chalker, and Roger Zelazny, reading and rereading them until they were shreds held together with duct tape.

As a married student attending college in Bellingham Washington, purchasing books for pleasure became a luxury. I found a secondhand bookstore where I could get a brown paper shopping bag full of novels in too poor a condition to sell on their shelves for $2.00 a bag if you had a bag of books to trade in.

As a college drop-out I went through a bag of books every week, and within a year, I had read every book they had.

Devils Cub Georgette HeyerThus, out of desperation, I discovered a whole new (to me) genre: regency romances written by Georgette Heyer, and other romance writers of that generation. Those books, along with beat up copies of bestsellers by Jack Kerouac, James Michener, and Jacqueline Susann began to show up in the pile beside my bed.

So at least some of my literary influences can be traced back to dragons, booze, morality, and England’s romantic Regency—lived vicariously through these authors’ eyes.

Always when the budget permitted, I returned to Tolkien, Zelazny, McCaffrey, Asimov, Bradbury, and as time passed, Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Tad Williams, L.E. Modesitt Jr., and Robert Jordan to name only a few.

And there were so many, many others whose works I enjoyed. By the 1990s, the genres of fantasy and sci-fi were growing authors like a field grows weeds, and I loved it.

All of the books I read as a child and young adult have influenced my writing. They still inspire me.

Nowadays I rarely am able to read more than a chapter or two before falling asleep. My Kindle is full of books, and I haven’t got the time to read them because I have to write my own story. Having the luxury to spend a day wallowing in a book is a treat to be treasured.

Old booksBut it is because of the uncountable authors whose works I have been privileged to read that I was inspired to think that my own scribblings might be worth pursuing.

Writing has always been necessary to me, as natural as breathing. In the beginning, my writing was unformed and was a reflection of whoever I was reading at the moment. As I matured and gained confidence, I found my own ideas and stories, and they took over my life.

Once that happened, I became a keyboard-wielding writing junkie.

Some days I write well, and others not so much, but every day I write something.

And every day I find myself looking for the new book that will rock my universe, a new “drug” to satisfy my craving, even if I know I won’t have time to read it.

I’m addicted to dreams and the people who write about them. Reading is my form of mind expanding inspiration. Without the authors whose books formed my world, I would never have dared to write.

Life would be so boring.

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2 Comments

Filed under Publishing, writer, writing

2 responses to “#amreading: the genesis of an author

  1. The what-if gremlins follow me, even without tossing down virtual breadcrumbs to entice them. And they jab at me, asking for answers, daring me to answer until I have no choice but to answer them. Then it begins all over again. ‘Tis madness, I tell you! Madness!

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