Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Under the Influence Part II

Who are my writing influences? What are my writing influences? And are we talking about subject matter, theme, style, or general world view?

My sugar and caffeine intake (or lack thereof)have an influence on my writing as well, but let's ignore that for now.

To answer these questions I first considered where one of the essential tools for a writer came from, namely, a love of reading. My mother read to me when I was very young, and my father always had change for me to buy comic books or Mad magazines when I was young. I'm not sure exactly when I became an independent reader, but I know I was pretty young. The first book I can recall reading on my own was given to me by my esteemed Uncle Ron and honored Aunt Beth, D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which has stunning pastel pictures to accompany some of the most fantastic stories ever assembled. Every home should have one; it gets Danny's vote for Best Book for Children, ever.

From comic books and Greek myths, I had a tendency to drift towards series books--Dr. Doolittle, Thornton Burgess, Tarzan, the Three Investigators, the Hardy Boys. Birthday celebrations at my house were far different from the Laser Tag/Chuck E. Cheese/Mini Golf/Roller Skating extravaganzas of today--for my birthday when I was a kid, my cousin would get to sleep over, and my Dad (or my uncle, when it was my cousin's birthday) would take us out for a pizza and a movie, and we'd get to split five bucks at the arcade. But the highlight was a quick trip into Caldor's where Matt and I would each get to pick out a Hardy Boys book, which we'd trade back after we'd read it. From the Hardy Boys I went to reading all of Ian Fleming (I remember getting in trouble in 5th grade for reading From Russia With Love during indoor recess) including his travelogue Thrilling Cities which was my favorite. I read all of the Philip Marlowe stories, and I started branching out into science fiction, and I think by around the age of ten I'd read some Heinlein, Bradbury, and the Tolkien novels. I read Doc Savage novels by the dozens. I was a fiend for reading.

One week each summer we would go to my great uncle's cottage in Maine, which my father had been going to since he was a little kid, and where I now bring my own children. Back then, the cottage seemed like the last outpost of humanity in a thrilling wilderness; it sat on a pine shaded lake, only accessible by a winding narrow dirt road. Once on a drive back through the woods to town an owl flew inside of the open window of our station wagon, its wings flapping against my father's neck in a panic, sharp talons inches away from my father's neck. My grandfather, the most gentle man I'd ever known, was sitting beside him in the shotgun seat. He leaned over and, without hurry or malice, calmly flicked his wrist at the owl, and the bird tumbled back out the window and flew off. The incident, in addition to convincing my young brother and I of our father's bravery and grandfather's incipient heroism, lent yet another aura of adventure to the mystique of the cottage and surrounding woods.

The days on the lake were the brightest ever, the lake glittering silver and gold in the sunshine, and the nights were darker than in the development where we lived back home in Connecticut.When not warding off deadly birds of prey, we'd swim, go canoeing, hiking or swimming, and after a day full of physical activity, the best conclusion was to sink, muscle-tired skin still tingling from sunshine and lake water, into one of the soft-cushioned chairs on the screened porch and read. Some of my best memories of my weeks in Maine are of the literally hundreds of books I've read there over the years.

One year, maybe I was eleven or twelve, I brought along a new paperback that looked pretty interesting to me, a book of horror short stories. I'd also been reading everything in the library with Alfred Hitchcock's name on it) had a blue cover with die cut holes in it where various sized eyes peeked out. You'd open the cover to find that the eyes were on a gauze-wrapped human hand. One of the eyes was at the joint of a finger, and for some reason I'd fixate on it and wonder what would happen if the eye-hand guy made a fist. I thought that maybe I'd find a story inside about old Argus, my buddy from D'aulaires Book of Greek Myths.

The book was Night Shift, by Stephen King.

Stayed tuned for Under the Influence, part III, where I'll write a bit more about Mr. King, and also of the most horrific thing I've ever read. Also, don't forget to leave a post under the T-shirt contest blog. I'll pick a winner, randomly, next week.

6 comments:

BrokenHeart918 said...

Ack, I'm a very regular visitor here now! I'll bet you're sick of seeing this name here...

Well, I posted on the GD shirt contest-thing. I guess. I started reading independently when I was about...uh, I guess I was 5. I learned to read at about...3, I guess. My dad works at a bookstore, so I get books a lot. My mom and I were at the store where he used to work (he moved to a new store location) and I was poking around the teen books when I came across GD. What caught me was the word "dead" on the cover. Not the cover itself, but the word "dead". Strange, I know. But...I always poke around various sections in Barnes & Noble (where my dad works) to find books that interest me. I read a lot during class and stuff (which I shouldn't do) when I have a book that I really really want to finish, so...it's a life. Books are my love. I love to read and write...I generally write poetry, though, instead of stories.

GloryDazed said...

I l-o-v-e D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths. It never gets old for me, even though I practically have it memorized...

Anonymous said...

hello its me angelica! so I'm not sure when I started reading on my own! when I was little I used to love it when my older sister read to me as I got older I started reading on my own! now at age 21 I read more than I ever have and it just seems to me that reading is a great way to get into another world and not have to worry about things that are going on around u... my husband is in the military so u can understand why getting away for a bit is something I need! so with that said I would like to add that I just love the way u write and how even in ure blogs u know how to catch ur readers attention! take care
ANGELICA

Jess said...

This is completely irrelevant to the topic but I just finished reading your book and felt a need to comment about it on your blog. I work at a Barnes & Noble and when your book was released I loved the cover art for it, but when I read the description I shrugged. Working in the childrens section [which includes teen fiction] has left me rather jaded about new authors and books. However, I was surprisingly shocked when after one week on the sales floor your book had sold 3 of the 5 copies we had! This is practically unheard of from a new author with such a unique book. I waited a few weeks, and sales remained rather consistent to 1 book a week [which may not seem like much but trust me, it is] and so I got so curious I just HAD to read it myself. So I have. And I absolutely adore it and will be recommending it to all the people who come in looking for new teen recs, haha. You've got a promotor from me!

And so, with that in mind, will there be a sequel? I am simply dying to find out what happens with Adam and Phoebe, Tommy, Karen, the white vans, Sylvia, and Angela [whom seems a bit suspicious to me]. I have a theorythat the company and the augmentation experiments aren't a hundred percent bonafied.

Oh gosh, I just realized I'm blathering like a fanatical reviewer! Just the sort of people I've learned to hate! My apologies. Thank you for a wonderful story! [but seriously, will there be a sequel? ^_^]

Daniel Waters said...

Hey Brokenheart918!

Never. Never sick of seeing your name.

Take care,
Dan

Hi GloryDazed!

It amazes me how well a knowledge of Greek Mythology has served me over the years...

Take care,
Dan

Hi Angelica!

Thank you for the compliments! I try...

Take care,
Dan

Hi Jess!

Thanks for the intel! And yes, there will be a sequel. Kiss of Life is headed to the proofreader as we speak.

take care,
Dan

Anonymous said...

i started reading on my own when i was 2 or 3 when i first saw words i fell in love with them i used to talk just so i could feel how certain words rolled off the tongue while others would just kind of sink once said, my mom told me once that when she would be telling her friends that we were going to mcdonalds for lunch id still know what she was saying even though she would spell it out alot of my friends have told me i should be a physciatrist when i grow up because i can be so deep about the simplest of things but i dont know if thats the job for me, even though im good at getting people to relax arond me and tell me whats wrong which always makes people feel better but anyway this is getting off topic which isnt anything new for me iv got a one track mind but again anyway i cant wait to read the sequal to GD thats all i guess

toodles signed VAMPYRE QUEEN
(unofficiall name so dont look for it)