I fell in love with reading in third grade, the year they started the Accelerated Reading program at my elementary school. You read a book, you take a test and you earn points, usually around 5 to 10 points per book depending on the length. These points didn’t really matter towards a grade but points that could be accumulated and used for bragging rights? Impress the teachers? I really just read A Lot and now had a reason to indulge.
That year I collected over 200 points and earned a free book from the school’s book fair. That meant a lot to me at the time as my family was not well off enough to support my reading habit even at that age*. At that time I read anything I could get my hands on: Baby Sitters Club, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, cereal boxes, comics, reference books, hell…my parents purchased a complete set of Encyclopedias (can’t remember what year, but pre-1992. Maybe Mom will know.). I read every page. I read books about spiders and sharks and whales from the school library and wrote book reports over the summer. I read for information and pleasure. And of course, escape.
Thus an addict was born. I continued to read and kept high scores until I left one elementary and switched to another due to boundary changes. I had to leave my small group of friends and relatives even and go to a new school with harder classes and stranger people – some from the right side of the tracks to the bad side of the tracks, my people. To cope with the shredding of my circle of friends and the revelation of deeper things about my identity, I only burrowed deeper into fiction. Stephen King (the dark man himself) and Dean Koontz stood out, along with Anne Rice, Tolkien, Poe, Grisham, R.L. Stine and Jackie Collins, Peter Straub and Richard Bachman. My grandmother had a weekly subscription to Readers Digest and my mother Rolling Stone.
We only had your basic 5 to 8 stations on the TV, but I remember growing up watching Dr. Paul Bearer, Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt. Faces of Death. My love of fiction had a new outlet, but books would always be my main source.
Some things you see, you can never un-see. I also remember having horrible nightmares. One can only read so many words and not be influenced by their content. And when it came to my writing, I harnessed that fear. Granted, I never read only horror at a time; I also read The Secret Garden and all of the ‘classics’ Dickens and Bronte and Wilde. Bradbury, Wells and more Shakespeare. I fell in love with characters and their stories and their fights.
I’ve never outgrown the habit, conquered the addiction. Instead technology ignited it. I had my very first ‘book-gasm’ in 1996 when Prodigy and AOL broke the scene and there were suddenly message boards and people. People writing and communicating by words. People publishing and sharing stories of their lives, their dreams and peeks into their imagination. Suddenly I had an audience for all the poems, stories and scripts I had written over the years, starting in 1992, when I wrote my first fan-fiction.
I had my second ‘gasm in March 2009 with the arrival of my Kindle 2nd Generation. That sweet woman who blessed you all with my presence bought me one of the greatest gifts a book worm could want. It was the current tech at the time, and the access to digital book content…Oh my. I can still feel the shivers.
As I’ve grown older my tastes have expanded. I still read anything I can get my hands on, physically or digitally. I’ve read Sparks and Harris and Meyers and James. Larissa Ione, Eve Silver, Angie Fox and Tamara Thorne. Stephenson, Suzanne Collins, Brown, Roberts, J.D. Robb. Jim Butcher. Tee Morris and his wife, PhiIippa Ballantine. I’ve fallen in love with each and every character that has moved me. And this is just the tip of the literary iceberg.
Someone once asked me who has influenced my writing. Here is my answer in short.
*School and county libraries are a wonderful thing. Please support yours locally.