Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How It All Began

I remember when I was applying to Columbia, one of the essay questions was to write about the moment I knew I was an artist. While I can honestly say there was no point in my life when I thought I'd be any type of artist, there were plenty of moments when I dreamed of some day becoming a writer. I could have written about the time in my middle school language arts class when I argued with my teacher over a creative writing assignment because she said the stories couldn't be science fiction or romance. I could have written about my creative writing class in high school, when I was asked to read my story aloud, and how exhilarating it felt to read my work in front of an audience. I could have written about my awful semester at Michigan State, the semester I posed as a business major when the only thing getting me through each day was my writing. But instead, I wrote about reading, because whenever I was curled up with a book, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.

I reached out to my fellow writers and reviewers and asked them a simple question: What three books made you want to be a writer or reviewer? What books made you want to get into the world of publishing? Everyone had trouble limiting it to just three, but I think it is interesting to see what everyone replied with. For me, my three books are The Bell Jar, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Mystic River. The first I read in 7th grade (probably not recommended) and it was the first time I realized that I could enjoy reading. The second gave me permission to write how I speak, which made me want to be a writer even more. The last, I read in college, so I was already was on my way to becoming a writer. But it is beautifully crafted and so well written, that after I finished it, I knew it was the type of book I aspired to write.

Click on the links to see which authors picked the books and get out your reading list:

Catcher In The Rye
East of Eden
The Long Goodbye
Snow Falling on Cedars
Salem's Lot
First Blood
Lord of the Flies*
The Fountainhead*
The Books of Blood*
*submitted by Marc Paoletti, author of upcoming novel Scorch
Anywhere But Here
My Traitor's Heart
The Last To Go
To Kill a Mockingbird
I, The Jury
The Neon Wilderness
On Writing Well
Moi, Pauline
A Drink Before The War

Jon over at Crimespree, wrote, "Reading George Chesbro did it for me because I wanted more people to read his books.His books were all but out of print and the last two hard covers to come out had a very small print run."

Author Laura Caldwell said, "This is probably not helpful, but for me it was the lack of books that gave me the idea to write. I was standing in a Super Crown, searching for a book. I kept thinking that I wished there was a book about a woman who went on vacation and the vacation would change her life--everything from her family life to her love life to her friends to her work. When I couldn't find it, I decided, right there in the book store, that I would write that book. Burning the Map was published 10 years later."

Author Libby Fischer Hellmann named The Staked Goat, but went on to say, "I have to confess that I read any number of bad mysteries (they shall remain nameless), threw them across the room, and decided I couldn’t possibly do any worse… so in that sense, they were a motivating factor for my writing."

And finally, author Marcus Sakey has such an eloquent response that I have to quote him directly, "Let's go with Jack London's CALL OF THE WILD, which was one of the first books I truly loved. It was on the shelves of a summer house my family rented when I was in second grade, and I spent the whole week of vacation indoors, reading about the arctic. Then William Gibson's NEUROMANCER, just a stunning work of popular fiction; prescient, yes, but more than that, entertaining and evocative as hell, without a scene that doesn't crackle. And finally GLITZ, by Elmore Leonard, one of the first crime novels I read and which flat-out blew my socks off."

Whose reading list just got longer? Feel free to chime in with more!


Quinn said...

I've read all of two books that appear in that lengthy list (Catcher in the Rye and Call of the Wild, although the latter I read when I was so young that I don't remember any of it), so maybe a trip to the library is in order.

For me, the biggest inspiration to be a novelist came from Edward Gorey's The Unstrung Harp, which isn't even a novel. It's a picture book in Gorey's signature style (although probably his wordiest) about a sad-looking English author named Mr. Earbrass. What struck me was that, in spite of the fact that his life was supposed to come across as rather lonely and dreary, I read through the chronicle of his writing a novel and thought, "You know, that kind of looks like fun."

Picks By Pat said...

I always had the desire to write but never finished a novel until I was reading a mystery and the protaganist said, "You could have knocked me over with a feather". That made me so mad I decided I could do better, so I finished a novel, trying to avoid all the cliches I'd been warned about.

Now my goal is to write a better book, and my inspiration is Patricia Carlon's "An Unquiet Night", published by Soho Press. This chilling tale of a stalker is well worth hunting down, though I think it may be out of print.