Saturday, June 14, 2014

You are what you read

I've said it before, and it's on my profile and it's not exaggeration or an attempt to be interesting. I started reading at the age of five because I had a brother who was two years older than me and with three brothers we were an extremely competitive lot (also very violent at times). So if my brother was learning to read and could read then damn it so would I. There was also the fact that my mother was a big reader, she stayed at home and she read all the time, in bed and on the couch, books were scattered about on every available surface. Very quickly I mastered the children books and then my mother brought home a book called Why is the grass green? it was one of those books to shut up an annoying kid who wanted to know everything, my dad said it was perfect for me (he wonder's why he only got a father of the year shirt once). This book was amazing, I read it back and forth and then I didn't understand some of it and my mom handed me a dictionary. Wow, all the answers to questions I had were in this book and the other things were in this dictionary. Books had the answers, without asking (she didn't care anyway there were absolutely no parental controls in our home) I picked up one of my mom's books.

It was Carrie by Stephen King. I didn't understand, really understand half of it and what I did understand had me shrugging. I was six years old, okay yeah it was mean of people to be mean to the girl but that was no excuse. I shrugged and moved onto the next book at hand. It was Dean Koontz, Nightchills, ooh me likey. I then devoured all the Dean Koontz books in the house, I think there were six more. Then I moved onto John Saul, again a handfull of books and it was back to King. I'm not going to lie, even at six there was ego involved in reading those books. I was so proud of myself for reading 'adult' books. It didn't matter that I often got no sleep and didn't just have a night light, I slept with the light on for a good three years.

So yes at first there was the look at me, a little kid reading a big person book but so quickly I didn't even realize it, they became my escape. School would be boring and my mind would drift back to the story, the scenes, the dialogue would all run through my mind and I would reread them again and again. When I read them I wasn't stuck in a dirty house with an abusive and quite frankly psychotic mother. There wasn't any screaming or throwing or fear of a belt or shoe or whatever object at hand she could turn into a weapon. For years I was addicted to reading, it was my only escape and I needed it like I needed food. When I couldn't get it, I was desperate enough to write my own stories. In these stories everyone died, no one but the cat made it out alive. Little by little I kept writing more and the stories were longer and they were all dark, brooding and snippets of Koontz and King and Saul came through each story. In the fourth grade we had to write and read a story in front of the class, I made a girl and a boy sniffle, my teacher kept asking why the little girl had to die, (Oddly, didn't end up in the principal's office) in side I was punching the air, I had done it. I had created character that was cared about and when I offed her, people cared. (I've seen a therapist, twice).

Then one weekend I stayed at a friend's house and her grandmother had a collection of old Harlequin novels. Books! Was my first thought and I picked one out and began to read. Oh my, no one's dying and he sounds hot. I was ten and I was hooked. I started going to my friend's house just for the books. Before long I had devoured the small collection. More, I needed more but I couldn't get them at the library so I would walk to the grocery story and sit down in the aisle and read them. Seriously.

As the years went by my interest in one author after another died off and I hadn't read a King book in years. Working in a book store in Chicago we got advance reader copies of books to read and discuss with patrons. There was this eye-catching book and it was free, I shrugged and showed it to the manager as I left (you have to declare and open bags in the retail business) and he goes, great book, you'll love it. That's nice I thought. It was late and I had work the next day really early so I went to bed. I was off the next night and decided to settle in with it after dinner. It was about eight in the evening and I couldn't stop reading until I was done at two in the morning. Never mind that I had to be up at six in the morning, it was that good. Wow, there are other authors out there than the ones I grew up with?

The door was open and I walked through it. I tried all sorts of authors and even gave the oldies another look, to mixed results. One night, without a thing to do I decided I wanted to write a book as good as that book I read while living in Chicago, something different and fresh and with a twist. Well, it was a lot more of a twist than I thought it would be or wanted but I couldn't stop.

When I was finally done, I printed it out and read through it. Half of it was pure crap and half of it was usable. I also noticed something, the style of what I was writing wasn't the tone of the book from Chicago, it was very Koontz. Huh, maybe I'm seeing what I want to see I thought. Then a family member read and she said, it was good, it reminded me of Dean Koontz. So it wasn't just me. I didn't attempt to mimic Koontz, I was going after a whole different kind of style. But here's the thing, I had grown up reading Koontz and still did. The writing voice was different but the thing I liked the most about the new book was it was a tighter read, there was no long rambling description of the full moon. Every word counted, nothing extra was left on the table to chew on and spit out because it didn't go down.

When I sat down to write erotic romance, I read everything I could get my hands on. Some of it was good, some ehh but when I stalled I went back to Lynne Graham and Michelle Reid, I'm almost positive I have every book both have ever written. Both did great Alpha males, sometimes the heroine was a little too soft for me. Regardless, I loved them both, they're writing was strong and I longed to write a story someone would want to read more than once. (When I read a review where someone said someone read it twice and another where someone read it three times, I cried like a little bitch)  There's just one problem for both of those authors, apart from the scary father/uncle/mother/sister pushing the heroine into a position she wouldn't normally find herself in, the secondary characters were practically nonexistent and often no more than card board characters.

I realized I had fallen into the same damn thing, laying in bed thinking of a book I really enjoyed and the funny secondary characters. I actually said over and over, I can't see my secondary characters. Fuck, once while writing it had stopped me but in my mind it seemed to make sense it would all be about the two main characters in a love story. But when I saw how well it had been done and how much it added to the story I stopped writing for a week.

I stopped and wondered about my first story, had I messed up there? No, was the fast response I got from a a pretty rude uncle who has no problem being honest. The secondary characters were extremely vivid and a little scary. Then again, the authors I read for mystery, thriller drew their secondary characters as clearly as the main character, they weren't just supporting the story, they were a part of the story.

And that boys and girls is just one more reason to read, read, read.

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