(This is a part of the round-robin blog. Today’s subject is what I read.)
When I was young I read a lot of classic horror: Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, through Shelly’s Frankenstein and Stoker’s Dracula. When I discovered Poe it put me at an entirely different level. I do believe old Edgar is largely responsible for my love of writing. Reading Poe makes me want to write, the same thing with Stephen King. When King first started publishing, I was a huge fan—even though I didn’t care for Carrie (Salem’s Lot was the first of his books I read.) Although my love of horror has waned, I still think King is one of the best at quickly defining his characters and getting into their heads–even if their heads are filled with alien monsters that want to creep up on you and chew your face off in the middle of the night.
I don’t read much horror anymore. Occasionally someone will give me a King book for Christmas or my birthday. I’ll read it, if it’s horror; I still enjoy his style, if he doesn’t get carried away with the narrative summary and interior monologue. I have been given three of his eight Dark Tower books as gifts. I haven’t read any of them. I’m not a fantasy or science fiction kind of guy. I have all I can handle dealing with reality. My problem is: I have trouble keeping all the strange creatures and beings straight. When one of them pops into a scene, I forget what they are and what they can do. I have to refer back to earlier in the book when they were first mentioned. It distracts from the story. I have the same problem with video games. I try to play them with my son who is an avid fan, but I get lost. I’ll be going along in a purple world blasting things that look like vampire bats with moustaches and suddenly a worm wearing over-sized Nikes appears.
My son, yelling: “Use your magic silver hammer!”
Me: “I have a magic silver hammer?”
My son: “You got it when you killed the three-headed ogre.”
Me: “There was a three-headed ogre?”
Since I’m the only male in this round-robin, you won’t find any chick lit or mommy porn like Fifty Shades of Grey on my reading list. None of that sappy, tear-jerker stuff either. The onlt time I’ve had tears in my eyes when reading was when I sat down on a knitting needle while I was reading Hemmingway. Well maybe I did get choked up at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows when I was a kid, and of course everyone cried when Old Yeller died. Okay. When Jenny died at the end of Love Story, it was like getting your heart stomped on. Remember when Richard Gere went to get Julia Roberts at the end of Pretty Woman? It gave you goose bumps. And when Jack sacrificed himself so Rose could live in Titanic, it felt like— At least that’s what my wife tells me. I was busy reading manly guy stuff.
I went through a period of about ten years when I read nothing but nonfiction. It didn’t help my writing, but I’ve never been beaten at Trivial Pursuit. Last Christmas I got a Kindle Fire and an Amazon gift card. I’ve used them to read self-published and small press books…mysteries, Westerns, whatever. I don’t want to be one of those authors who want everyone to read their small press book while they read nothing but bestsellers. What I have found by reading Indie books is: life isn’t the only thing like a box of chocolates and you don’t know what you’re gonna get. I’ve learned a lot from the Indie books about what works and what doesn’t work in writing and telling stories.
Usually when I read a bestseller, it’s a mystery; CJ Box, Mark Sanford, David Baldacci, John Grisham… The problem I have is I don’t enjoy reading mysteries as much as I did before I started writing them. Now I look at the writing mechanics and the cheats and tricks the writer uses to get the story where he wants it to go. It distracts and takes me out of the world the writer has created. It’s hard to enjoy the wonders of Oz when you’re constantly looking for the man behind the curtain.
Here is a link to the next blog in the round-robin about story genre. Check it out. http://www.kaysisk.com
Read a new excerpt from my soon to be released novel GRAVES OF HIS PERSONAL LIKING.