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How did the books you read as a teenager affect you?
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I was fortunate to have parents who were focused on my getting an education, and all the support they could provide in addition to that. Therefore, I excelled. Reading came to me early, as well as writing and other things. The only thing I’d change is more help with math, but that is not really anything I have to gripe about. To be honest, the education system failed me in that vein more than anything. C-average students should be required to do remedial studies for a few weeks at the end of the year to see what they’re lacking and make up for it. Sure it would have sucked to lose some summer, but I would have had greater choice in what I eventually came to do for a living (because being an author requires working full time at something else to pay the bills. Don’t be fooled.)
My bedroom was one of my favorite places to be. There was a dresser with a hutch top that had book shelves, and we filled them with all kinds of books. My mother had enrolled me in a scholastic book program and things blossomed from there as I grew older. I still rather enjoyed children’s novels when I was a teen. They’re wonderfully written and the whimsy is pure escapism. Those days were fraught with so many dramas, that I did need something to sink into.
Outside of English class, I read a few Nancy Drew mysteries that were left behind by my Aunt and Uncles at my grandmother’s home. I leafed through her books, such as V. C. Andrews’s Flowers in The Attic. I didn’t dare read them, as they were frightening looking and I didn’t want to encourage nightmares. In hindsight, those would have been right up my alley. For a couple years, around sixteen, I took to romance novels.
At this point, I had been writing for a couple years already. I toyed with the idea of writing romances in this early stage, but other than the usual preoccupation with sex that teens have, there wasn’t much of a draw there. I preferred literature, like what I was reading in class. Although I didn’t yet emulate the masters, I was on track for that.
My first forays into authorship were Tolkien style fantasy. The introduction of fantasy came early, with many Disney works, fairy stories and the usual children’s fare. I didn’t read Lord of The Rings all the way through until one of the summers between the classes of my first years at college. My mother had read the series while pregnant for me. The Rankin & Bass production poster decorated my nursery. The Hobbit was given to me as shortened stories with read along records.
Film adaptations had a stronger influence upon me than the books. I was constantly busy and films were easier to consume along with homework. I look back and I can’t fathom how I have been working so hard for so long. My luck was always that I won the hardest classes with the toughest teachers. Never failed. This went on through college and manifests in my work life today. So, when I reached graduate school, it was like a cake walk for me, because I was prepared to work very hard, and know nothing differently.
In the readings of my youth, I saw many people (and some animals) I was able to relate to. Their hardships reached into me, and they showed me ways to overcome. They also showed me the things that I valued and wished to emulate. Slowly, I turned from a reader to a writer, desiring to tell tales that began to form in my head, stoked by the fires of the texts I had absorbed.
I miss being able to read with such eagerness. Becoming a writer, and the academic path I took, taught me how to critically look at every piece, and at times the joy is utterly sucked out of the effort.
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