At the end of my last post, I wondered who it was that “infected me with the writing bug.” How was it that I decided to create fictitious people and write stories about them? I remember approximately when: I was 11 (maybe 12) and I was sitting on the brown sofa in our suburban living room. I pronounced that when I grew up, I was “going to be an author.” My older sister, on her way up the stairs, paused…and laughed.
What made me say that? What book had I read which so inspired me? Or what author had I discovered? One of my friends suggested Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series. I thought about that, and decided, no, that wasn’t it. Yes, I loved those books, just as I loved Beverly Cleary’s books about Henry Huggins, Ramona, Beezus, and Ralph the Mouse. And there were always the classics like “The Wind in the Willows,” “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” “Misty of Chincoteague,” “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” “A Wrinkle in Time” – probably the first science-fiction book I ever read – and Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” – the true story of the 1912 Titanic disaster – my first non-fiction book. (I still have the well-worn, cracked, and faded paperback copy I received in the fifth grade.)
But then there’s a series of books written by a man named Willard Price, following the adventures of teenage brothers, Hal and Roger Hunt, as they travel the world. I had a grade school teacher who read one chapter of the first book (“Amazon Adventure”) aloud to class every morning. (Wow! There’s a concept! A teacher who engenders a love of books by reading to her students!) I eagerly devoured each of the subsequent books, those I could find, and recall reading some of them, like “South Sea Adventure” many times.
And then there’s a book whose name I cannot remember. I could’ve sworn it was a Henry Huggins tale, or maybe a Danny Dunn tale. (Remember “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine” anybody?) The book followed a teenage boy, who met up with a friend & her family in San Francisco, and then took a cross-country trip, getting into all sorts of mischief: accidentally starting a new Gold Rush, pretending to fall into the Grand Canyon, etc.
Fiery neurons lit up in my brain. I created my own teenage girl version of Roger (Rodricka) Hunt, and sent her and her family off on a cross-country mis-adventure. I had spiral notebooks filled with the scribbled tales of Rodricka, and her multitude of siblings and cousins. Juvenile, insipid tales, so horrendous you will never see them. But it was a start, and every writer must start somewhere in their journey to discover his or her voice.
It’s been a long road, from teenage travails, to science-fiction, to fantasy, to horror, to blogging, to short stories, to novels, to screenplays…. But it has been a journey I have much enjoyed, despite the frustration and disappointment, and I eagerly look forward to continuing. As I write these words, I am surprised (well, maybe not too surprised) to realize that most of the books which attracted me during my youth were those involving travel. It is said that all fiction centers around a journey of some sort – but that can be emotional or metaphorical. That kind never seemed to interest me. I yearned for characters who left home and had grand adventures. Perhaps it was an early foreshadowing that I would follow in their footsteps.