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WHAT BOOKS INFLUENCED YOU AS A CHILD?

October 25, 2017

We’re writers. Before that, we…well, most of us, started as readers. Somewhere, something inspired us to do what we do. Maybe for you, the non-fiction writer, your influences came from a different source, but for us fiction writers, imagination sparked from something.

For those of you of the younger generations, maybe it was TV or computers, apps or games. However, for us a bit older, we didn’t necessarily rely on electronics for entertainment. Paper held more sway. I know it did in my case. My nose was in books well before I figured out what those squiggly symbols (words) covering the pages meant.

Willy The Tugboat or Willy The Woo The Firetruck are still memories fromwhen I was in preschool. In conjunction with my Lusitania Gold book signings, I’ll be recalling sitting on my grandpappy’s knee and looking through the Encyclopedia Britannica “L” volume and seeing a painting of the Lusitania sinking.

I’m old enough that at the time, radio was still the dominant electronic media and TV was a luxury. TVs back then looked more like test equipment than entertainment consoles and the images were still black and white.

BOOKS OVER ELECTRONICS

To put it bluntly, back when I was a kid, there were no electronics, at least for kids. On the other hand, there were plenty of things to entertain kids, such as books, toys and outside. I chose all three, with the focus today on the book side of things.

Books were the gateway not only to reading and learning the ABCs, but to other worlds. Books took me places, taught me things, and spurred my imagination well before that interloper, TV, came along and spurred it further. My earliest influences were the likes of Fury, The Bobsey Twins, Danny Dunn, Tom Swift, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys among others.

My biggest influences were never the classics we were forced to read in school. You might be surprised to note that though I’m a writer, those oft-quoted classics had little sway over me.

SAME OLD CLASSICS

When talking to a lot of big-name authors, they often cite—maybe because they think they need to, to seem sophisticated—the big classics. We’re talking the likes of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, The Odyssey, The Old Man In The Sea. Bla bla bla. Little Women, Ann of Green Gables. The list goes on.

While I have nothing against these classics and even read most of them, among others, they were forced on me by the school system and each had flaws that dampened my enjoyment. In fact, almost all of those classics (and I left quite a few off the list), depressed the hell out of me. Also, the writing was quite archaic and hard to read. At that time, back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, they never bothered to update them. If you’ve ever seen them in original form, well…’nuff said.

MY CLASSICS

My classics were a bit different. My classics spurred my imagination, they set a creative bent in me that’s lasted a lifetime. They gave me a sense of wonder, something to think about and something that didn’t depress me.

First off, The Hardy Boys. When we moved into our rental house in Lompoc, California, we, or at least me and my sister, inherited a bunch of stuff from the kids that used to live there. One of my most treasured possessions was a set of original edition Hardy Boys books from the thirties. We’re talking in the original font, un-politically corrected and still in the original bindings, with no fancy artwork on the covers. Unfortunately, over the years, my parents gave them away. They’d be worth a fortune now if I still had them!

Those mystery stories were absolute gold to me. Up until I was in Spain in the 70’s as a young adult, I continued with that series, re-reading them. Even seeing that immaturity in the text, I still wanted to revisit those stories for the memories of that innocent time.

Nancy Drew. Do you think I cared it was a girl detective? Not a chance. I ate those up just like the Hardy Boys. I didn’t have any originals, but I started reading them early enough that I got the reprints of the originals before they politically corrected them and ruined them like the Hardy Boys.

Life On The Mississippi by Mark Twain. I asked for this one for a Christmas present when I was in middle school at Lompoc Junior High. It had a stern-wheeled steamboat on the cover, which I was fascinated with. I think my parents ordered it out of the Sears Catalog. It was a bit of a struggle to get through because of the writing, but my intent was to revisit my memories of the old TV show starring Darren McGavin called Riverboat. In a roundabout way, that book did the job. It spurred my imagination. It was one of his more obscure tomes.

The Bobsey Twins were a big influence in my very early reading years. Can’t forget them.

John Carter On Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs as well as the Tarzan series were always favorites as well.

The Danny Dunn series, including The Homework Machine, The Antigravity Paint, The Desert Island and many others were a big influence in elementary school. I had the pleasure of reading those and doing book reports on them.

Then there’s the short Tom Swift series. Classics that spurred imaginations of a bevvy of science fiction nerds.

What you’ll notice, outside of the one Mark Twain story, is that my early influences were all book series. Not a literary classic in the entire mix. All of them were “pulp” classics.

Little did I know then how it would affect me later in life.

SUMMARY

Each of us comes from a different background. That background summarizes what we are today. That reflects who are as writers, the flavors we present to the public through our stories.

How about you?

Happy writing!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2017 2:28 am

    I made my first blog post with that same question in mind. To me, it was the lord of the Rings trilogy and a bit later on The Hobbit. I remember playing those old choose your adventure games too and trying to imagine myself writing some of those, all of that made me want to write.

    • October 29, 2017 3:19 pm

      JJ,

      I remember those old choose your own adventure books! Wow!

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Fred

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