Okay, so this is going to sound weird …
I didn’t start reading books of any kind, much less actual novels, until I was in the 8th grade. Of course I read things that were mandatory, like my math book, but unfortunately my home life left something to be desired, and I didn’t have anyone to model healthy behaviors for me like reading.
Luckily, and also in 8th grade, I met a wonderful friend who also happened to be a bookworm. It had truly never occurred to me that I would or could pick up a book and read it, much less enjoy it. We were on a family trip together, and her mother had given her the most recent Mary Higgins Clark book. She passed along the one she’d just read, and though I opened it skeptically, I was soon mesmerized, and extremely surprised, by the sheer ability I had to read such dense text. (This friend kept me out of trouble through high school, too, but that’s a different story!)
And so began my obsession with Clark’s books. After I’d read everything she had out at the time, I moved on to Dean Koontz. I read everything he had out at the time, too. I got a little bored toward the end of what must’ve been 15 novels, as I started to see a story pattern that he clung to (which I now know are called “tropes”). But I enjoyed them just the same.
But some things don’t last …
By this point in my reading career, I took a little break from reading to become an annoying teenager, quickly followed by a dark and moody teenager, and then eventually a know-it-all teenager. Somewhere in there I met a young man, and he introduced me to the amazing work of Stephen R. Donaldson.
I had never been so entranced by any one thing as I was with Donaldson’s “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.” (I think, perhaps, I even liked those books more than I liked that boy!) I read them over and over, and while I can’t tell you every detail from those books now, many years later, I still remember some of the scenes vividly. Those stories helped shape me as both a person, and later as a writer.
As an adult, I came across Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and, of course, J. K. Rowling. For many years I held a job that allowed me to listen to music or books while I was working. It was a technical job, so I kept the volume on low, but listening to some of those books again and again (and again) seemed to lodge things like story structure into the back of my brain.
By now you might’ve read my story about how I came to be a writer. If you haven’t you can check it out here. (Imagine how surprised I was when I finally figured out I could write more than just a one page essay!)
My reading has fallen off a cliff of late, which is why I’m challenging myself to read a book a month for the next twelve months and review them on this blog! Stay tuned for updates about my writing and reading … I have a lot of releases and fun stuff coming up!
P.S. In case you aren’t already a member, you can join my newsletter list at https://www.jbcantwell.com. If you decide to join, you will gain access to my entire short story collection, including stories from the Aster Wood series, the Lens series, and the upcoming Light Chaser series. I hope you enjoy them!
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Story One: Starfall
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