Even with the dividing lines between authors and readers blurring in this age of social media, there is still a misconception that authors aren’t normal people. Granted, some of our behavior–especially when alcohol is involved–makes this assumption somewhat fair. But the truth is most authors started out a lot like you. By this I mean, before we ever put pen to page, we were avid readers.
For me, it started very young. My mother managed a bookstore and my grandmother owned a used book store, so I spent a great portion of my young surrounded by thousands of glorious books. To this day, the mysterious scent of old paper makes me smile. I won’t mince words: I was a nerdy kid. I was awkward and found it difficult to make friends at school. Instead, my friends were the kids from Narnia, Nancy Drew, the girls from the Babysitters’ Club, the subjects of Shell Silverstein’s poems.
Even as I grew older and the social awkwardness gave way to finding my own tribes, I continued to read for pleasure. My favorite Sunday activity was to stay in bed all day and consume books by Anne Rice, Judith McNaught, Johanna Lindsey and Jude Deveraux.
Given my love of story, it might surprise some that it took me until I turned 30 to finally admit to myself that I had my own stories to tell. I’d always one well on papers, but it never occurred to me to take a writing class in college. But, despite my formal training in fiction, my informal training–reading like a madwoman–gave me a natural understanding of the rhythm of story, the essence of interest characters, the ebb and flow of word useage. I’m not saying I didn’t have a lot to learn, but without that early exposure it would have taken me much longer to get published.
The only regret I have about being published now is that it’s difficult to turn off my writer brain when I’m reading. Now that I’m so conscious of craft, there are very few books I read that don’t fall under the same scrutiny I give my own books when I’m writing them. But just like before I was a writer, every now and then I pick up a book and get totally swept away in the story. It’s more elusive now, but also more satisfying when it happens because now I know how difficult it is to provide that experience for readers.
Even though I spend so much time analyzing, writing, reading and talking about books, I still love them just as much as I did sitting in those dusty alcoves of my grandmother’s bookstore. Even better? It gives me a little thrill to know that somewhere out there another avid reader is experiencing that same thrill from my own words.