I grew up in a home that had more books than some libraries. My parents were voracious readers who insisted we read too. We had all the great children’s classics, and when we couldn’t play outside and were bored, we’d read the Encyclopedia Britannica.
We read the encyclopedia for fun.
This probably influenced my choice of classes in college, which is where I learned to understand and love Chaucer and James Joyce. Joyce may be the king of brilliant one-liners, but F. Scott Fitzgerald holds a place in my heart for his phrasings.
When I was first out in the world, I held two and sometimes three jobs just to pay the rent and feed my kids. My go-to genres were sci-fi and fantasy, but books were expensive, and food came first.
The libraries stocked a few sci-fi or fantasy books, but I had read all the classics in those genres. For whatever reason, librarians didn’t stock new speculative fiction books as comprehensively as they did contemporary and literary fiction.
The book aisle at the supermarket had a better selection, but they cost as much as I made for one hour of work, so I could only get one book per bi-monthly payday. Tad Williams and Anne McCaffrey got most of my “fun” money in those days.
My budget forced me to write the stories I wanted to read. Most evenings, I sat listening to music on the stereo, writing my thoughts and ideas in a notebook while my kids did their homework.
Besides the poetry or song lyrics I regularly turned out, my pen and ink ramblings weren’t “writing” as I see it now. They were more like frameworks to hold ideas that later became full-fledged stories.
Then, in 1987, my father bought me a secondhand IBM Selectric Typewriter, and my writing addiction took off.
When my job situation improved, I scrimped and saved for my monthly Science Fiction Book Club purchase. I also scoured the secondhand bookstores for sci-fi or fantasy novels, budgeting for books the way others of my acquaintance budgeted for beer.
I found a secondhand bookstore where I could get novels that were in too poor a condition to sell on their shelves. A full shopping bag of beat up, and sometimes coverless books was only two dollars, if you had a bag of better books to trade.
I went through a full shopping bag of books every week, and within a year, I had read every book they had in my favorite genres. Agatha Christie’s books were high on my list of hoped-for treasures.
In the process, I discovered a new (to me) genre: regency and gothic romances written by Georgette Heyer, Barbara Cartland, and other romance writers of that generation. Along with beat-up copies of bestsellers by Jack Kerouac, James Michener, and Jacqueline Susann, those books known as “bodice-rippers” began to show up in the pile beside my bed.
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.
I’m proud to admit that my literary influences can be traced back to dragons, booze, elves, space-operas, Roaring Twenties morality, Don Quixote, and England’s romantic Regency, all of which I lived vicariously through these authors’ eyes.
Nowadays, I can barely read more than a chapter or two before falling asleep. My Kindle is full of books and having the luxury to spend a day wallowing in a book is a treat to be treasured.
I became a writer because my parents loved books and allowed me to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
Thanks to the uncountable authors whose works I’ve been privileged to read, I was inspired to think that my own stories might have value.
In the beginning, my writing style was unformed and reflected whoever I was reading at the moment.
I shared what I wrote with other people and got feedback, some good, some bad. I learned from it all and kept trying. I bought books on the craft of writing.
I gained confidence and began to trust my own ideas and stories. Once that happened, I became a keyboard-wielding writing junkie.
Writing has always been necessary to me, as natural as breathing. 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.
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:
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:IBM Selectric (02).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:IBM_Selectric_(02).jpg&oldid=555742863 (accessed August 24, 2021).