I have always been a writer, and a lover of music and art. Music was important in our house, as my parents had a large collection of vinyl records and the stereo was always cranking. Whether it was classical, jazz, or rock and roll, music was played loud enough to hear outside.
In an afternoon, you might hear the Beatles, followed by Vivaldi, Dean Martin, Herman’s Hermits, Loretta Lynn, the Monkees, and capping the evening—Mozart. Simon and Garfunkle, The Who, The Rolling Stones, 101 Strings, Electric Light Orchestra, Eddy Arnold, Count Basie, Stevie Wonder—you name it, the music was always played at a high volume in our home.
The books in our home were just as eclectic. 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.
There was always something new and wonderful to read around our house, and most of it was literary fiction or 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 of those books 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 fourteen, 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 and commonalities between life and morality in Pepys’ London and our life in suburban America in 1968. His thought was that I should learn about the 17th century and the Great Fire in London from an eyewitness, 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 1968 (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.
Everything I knew about sex, I learned from the books I stole from my mother’s nightstand.
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 better books to trade in.
As a college drop-out I went through a full shopping bag of books every week, and within a year, I had read every book they had.
Thus, 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 stories. Having the luxury to spend a day wallowing in a book is a treat to be treasured.
But it is because of the uncountable authors whose works I have been privileged to read that I was inspired to think that my own scribbles might be worth pursuing.
Writing has always been necessary for me, as natural as breathing. In the beginning, my writing was unformed, a reflection of whatever 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.
Credits and Attributions
Potions of this article have appeared previously here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy in the post, The Genesis of an Author, © Connie J. Jasperson 2016, posted Jan 27, 2016
4 responses to “How I became an author #amwriting”
You bring back so many memories for me, naming all those wonderful authors!
Like you, I now have a Kindle stacked full of books, most of which I will probably never read due to time pressures. I almost feel guilty when I read, feeling I should be writing every free hour I can keep my eyes open, so travelling for work has become my guilt-free reading time. Airports, planes, and trains are perfect for reading, not so good for writing. Problem solved!
Of course, what we really need is Hermione’s time turner…
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So true! But I buy them all!
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Thank you for sharing this. You were very lucky, in my estimation, to have had that kind of literary influence from the parental figures in your childhood. I’m still curious, though, when and why your turn to preferring fantasy/sci-fi. Do you have an anecdote that would reveal where and when and why that turn was made? I mean, out of all the possible influences, why this choice? Many many readers share this preference, yet I suspect most were not unduly pushed in this direction by the literary influences they were exposed to while still growing up.
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Hello Scott! It was the storytelling in the traditional epic fantasy that captivated me. I read the Hobbit when I was 11 and was an instant Tolkien fan. I loved Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In 1989, I had read all the books that interested me in the library, so I came away empty handed. I stopped at the grocery store and was grabbed by the gorgeous artwork of Michael Whelan on cover of a book by an author I’d never heard of, Tad Williams. It was The Dragonbone Chair, and it had just been released as a paperback. I read it in three days. then I re-read it, slowly. I had always been fascinated by the Hero’s Journey, with is central to epic fantasy, and that theme began to emerge in my scribbles and short stories. Many years later, I was asked to write the story line for an epic fantasy RPG (that never got built), and thanks to Williams and Robert Jordan, I had a standard to live up to! Tower of Bones emerged from that failed game, and it was their masterful prose and storytelling that fired me to think I could actually write a book.
I’m looking forward to PNWA! I hope to see you there!