I Read Carrie at Age Seven: My Literary Upbringing

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.- George R.R. Martin

I think reading is a delightful contagion.  The earlier you are exposed to books, the more you find enjoyment in reading.  I caught the bug at an early age.  Before Kindergarten, I remember my mammaw reading fairy tales to me at bedtime.  Even though she only had a middle school education, she read the stories with flare and drama.  Later on, she read Nancy Drew Mystery books to me.  She seemed to always have a book or magazine in her hand, a romance novel or some mystery.  My grandfather often had “Western” novels in his hands.  But, the real influence on my early reading was my mother.  She often read the Chronicles of Narnia to me and had this amazing way of including my pets in all my bedtime stories.  All my life, my mom has always had a book near by.  I think to her, like to me, books are her friends, ever loyal, always there through thick and thin.

My childhood reading history was atypical.  It started out normal enough, the first thing I ever remember reading was the Mother Goose tales. My first non picture book was Stone Cold Soup.  My mom would take me to the library, and I swear I read every book in the children’s section.  In the summer between my kindergarten and first grade years, I won the local library award for reading more books than any other child in my county.  Yet, there was a world I wanted to adventure to, the library room were the adult books were kept.

I don’t know if my mother knows this, if she doesn’t, I suppose she does now!  I was in the first grade and I had this gnawing curiosity.  What was in the thick books my mom read?!  Curiosity ate and ate at me until I couldn’t tolerate not knowing the answer.  So, while other kids in my first grade class were stumbling over books where the main plot was “seeing spot run,” I snuck into my mom’s books and pulled out one of the thinnest out of her shelf, “Carrie,” by Stephen King.  (I did warn I had an abnormal reading history).  I finished the book in a few days.  Staying up, what I think to this day, was in secret, with a flashlight and read when I was supposed to be sleeping.  (Mom, when you read this, remember you can’t ground your thirty-six year old daughter).  I loved the book, and so started my early years of reading what I called “scary books,” Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  You would think the books would’ve gave me nightmares, but, with the notable exception of “It,” my sleep wasn’t disturbed.  Well, except for the unapproved late night reading.  I loved the description of King’s work, and I particularly liked Koontz’s pre-chapter poetry from his self created ‘Book of Counted Sorrows.’

At ages seven and ten, I came back down to the young reader and young adult genres by reading R.L. Stine’s Fear Street and Goosebumps series. I was also a fan of the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” books.

I don’t remember when I first read Isaac Asmov, but I know it was early on, and not soon after, I started checking out science fiction novels out of the library.

When I was a little older, ten or eleven, I started reading Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.  I’d been a little obsessed with vampires at an even younger age, watching Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula at around age eight.  You can imagine the fandom Heaven I found myself in with Rice’s works.

Around thirteen, I started reading trendy romance novels, particularly liking paranormal romance.  Although, I was required to check out library books at school and would often pick books my library teacher thought too old for me, like “War and Peace,” or Shakespeare.  My mom would go to yard sales and at that time you could buy used books ten or twenty for a dollar.

A book I kept rereading as a child was King’s, The Eyes of the Dragon.  I loved the myth of it, the fantasy, a long time before I knew fantasy books (outside the Chronicles of Narnia)  were a thing. 

I was at my mammaw’s house for a family dinner and my uncle saw me on the couch reading a trendy romance novel.  He rolled his eyes, and he threw a copy of “The Hobbit” at me.  There was a soulful awakening in me with “The Hobbit,” and soon after, I begged my uncle to loan me the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t really afford to buy new books too often, so my mom didn’t have fantasy books at the house as you usually found different parts in the series at yard sales and wouldn’t be able to find the complete series.  It wasn’t until high school that someone loaned me a “DragonLance” book (Weis and Hickman), that I experienced the wonder and imagination of other fantasy series.  One of the reasons I don’t hassle my 15 year old daughter for obsessing over fictional characters is, at her age, I was obsessed with Raistlin.

It was high school that I became enthralled with anime and manga (things that were much harder to find in the 1998-2001 era, particularly in my region).  But, a little internet store opened up online when I was about sixteen, called Half-Price Books, that became a lifesaver.  I ordered comics and manga with every bit of allowance I earned.  Confession, I was Otaku before Otaku was a thing.

My first year in college, I worked at a comic book store and learned about Dungeons and Dragons as well as R.A. Salvatore’s “Icewind Dale Trilogy.”  I cringe to think of how much of my paycheck went to Forgotten Realms novels.

Later, in law school, my mom introduced me to one of my favorite authors, Sherrilyn Kenyon. I then stumbled across Christine Feehan, Laurell K. Hamilton, Thea Harrison, and introduced my mom to them.  Since then, I think I’ve read every mainstream paranormal romance book and author in existence.     

I was house sitting in law school when the final Harry Potter book was released. I finished it in one day.

So, when someone asks me who my favorite author is, the answer is, “It’s complicated.”

Now, I enjoy fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction books the most.  It’s no surprise that’s what I like to write and read.

According to George R.R. Martin, I’ve lived more lives than I count.  I only hope, someday soon, my own novel lends another life to someone.

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