Okay, not really… I’m actually going to talk about books that inspired me. But there will be sex involved, I promise, even if it’s only literary.
I recently found a new blog. More accurately, I discovered a blog that has been around a while, but that I hadn’t seen yet. You know what I mean. The author of the blog, Roni Loren, is actually an Author… soon to be published, award winner, etc… (no, I’m not jealous. Shut up!! I am not!!!!)
Anyway, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by my conscience, Ms. Loren wrote about books that she read as a youth that influenced her literary interests and adult reading habits and, ultimately, her writing. I had never thought about how what I read growing up might have informed my writing. I mean, yes… I have heard from professors, articles and books about reading probably 847 times that if I want to be a writer, I need to read. But that was after I decided to write. I never put the pieces together to connect what I write now with what I read before I turned 18.
So, let’s take a look… (I know, you’re sweating with anticipation).
As many kids do in the U.S., I read a lot of Dr. Seuss books when I was very young. My mother read them to me and I learned to read with them. If they influenced my adult reading preferences, I’d say it’s in the area of language. I love words – especially words that challenge and increase my vocabulary. I suppose Dr. Seuss also inspired some fantasy appreciation; my desire to think about my world imaginatively. I loved to build forts and create small worlds in terrariums and doll houses. Certainly, a quick glance through a few Seuss books opens up a world of color and texture possibilities, not to mention the imaginary creatures that become very real through those books.
In middle school I read “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and “The Boxcar Children” series and was again fascinated with environments that were far from what I was used to in suburban Little Rock. In addition, the way that these books portrayed children close to my own age living on their own, foraging for food and shelter – and in the case of the Boxcar series, solving mysteries – was fascinating to me. Still today I consider the challenge of survival in a wilderness of some kind exciting. I would love to be dropped off in Alaska or be a part of the Amazing Race.
I should say I am still figuring out who I am in terms of writing fiction. I am all about personal essay and creative non-fiction, but have struggled in the process of creating characters and plot lines for short stories or novels. I tend to feel I just don’t have those skills in me, but the more I think about what kind of books I have enjoyed reading I wonder if I need to just focus more on those early influences to help me get started.
Heading into junior high, I discovered Judy Blume, and eventually got my hands on a copy of “Forever”, which was the first book I ever read that had references to romantic eroticism. It was a YA novel, so I wasn’t reading anything Susie Bright would be editing, but it was definitely eye-opening (and mind-blowing) to my 13 year old self. “Flowers in the Attic” was another one that stretched me a little. Or perhaps it was “Petals in the Wind”, the followup to Flowers… I think there was some allusion to incest as well. Quite an education.
I grew up feeling fairly comfortable with my sexual side, and wonder now if it was the books that led me to be curious about that subject, or the curiosity that allowed me to enjoy and seek out the books? Hmmm…
“Thornbirds” was a high school read that was passed along from my mom, as was “A Rose in Winter”. It was really the only time I saw my mom reading for pleasure. She went through a brief romance novel thing. Kind of like when she decided she needed to invest serious time and money in Tri-Chem fabric painting… it passed. Those books talked about “male members” and passion, and as a budding teenaged heavy-petter, they reinforced my belief that the things I was learning in Sunday school about dating and the opposite sex were most definitely not the only options.
“Cannery Row” has to be mentioned, not for the sexual references, but for the way I learned to appreciate even more the foreign environments and, especially here, dialect. John Steinbeck has been a favorite author ever since reading this book in high school English class, and in a similar vein I also love Maya Angelou’s writing for the way her characters are created in large part by their language and the local speech patterns and slang they use.
I’m an admitted narcissist, which I suppose is a good thing when considering my desire to write essays and memoir pieces. But based on this little trip down my literary memory lane, I’m thinking that the idea I had many years ago to write erotic short stories should be revisited. Now, the big question: Pseudonym? Or go bold and just use my real name??