I don’t remember ever thinking that I wanted to be a writer, when I was growing up. I just wrote stories and poetry. A lot of them. I showed them to friends and family, but no one seemed all that interested. It didn’t matter if they were or not. I wasn’t writing for others, just like I didn’t read for others. I just wrote because I had to. I wrote because I had words and voices in my head, and if I didn’t put them on paper… well, I don’t know what would have happened. Luckily, I never had to find out.
As a little girl, I remember my parents read stories to me, over and over and over, probably until their eyes bled. I could never get enough stories. My grandmother told me fairy tales, but not the ones that most people know. She told me about Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, but also about Snow White and Rose Red. I remember my grandmother wanting me to tell her stories back, and even then, I was no verbal storyteller. Even now, I can’t talk about my day without boring others inside of 30 seconds. Write about it? Sure, of course. Tell about it? Um, well, uh, sure. I mean, I guess I can tell you about it. Let’s see, uh… I got up this morning and had coffee. No, I didn’t have coffee this morning, just orange juice. Or was it this morning?… You get the picture.
The first author I ever fell in love with was Dean Koontz. At the library or at the bookstore, I could browse shelves for hours, reading back of books and finding interesting titles. All that changed after I read Watchers when I was 12. Suddenly, I had a favorite author, and a focus for my obsession. I’ve never lost that first love, though there have been others since then. There’s been Stephen King, John Saul, Nora Roberts, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwall, Kay Hooper, and Louisa May Alcott.
I would never attempt to imitate anyone’s style. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with it, but my voice is influenced by all these writers and many more. I’ve taken mental notes of the best (and the worst), and try to incorporate it into my writing.
It’s fortuitous that this week’s writing challenge is about this, and that there was an interesting interview with Dean Koontz published on Beliefnet. Koontz gives good advice, but what I think it boils down to is: Assimilate everything, but be yourself. Check it out.