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!

2 comments:

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.