I loved reading from the moment I finally figured all that crap out. You know, once I learned how to actually put those letters together and understand them to be words and then sentences and all that… Yeah, once that happened, me and books were best friends. And I read and read and read and read and read. I would seriously read anything I could get my hands on. If I was out of books in my possession that I actually wanted to read, I would read whatever was around. Babysitters Club? Yep, I’ve read tons of them. Sweet Valley High? Again, whatever was around.
I loved reading.
Of course…there came a moment, somewhere back there in history, where I stopped loving reading. I can’t pinpoint it exactly. It happened somewhere around the start of high school, maybe right before that. All of a sudden, like, seriously, it seems to be a matter of night and day where I just absolutely stopped reading. Sure, I’d pick up the newest Michael Crichton books as they came around (usually…not religiously, even though I love his techno-thriller junk). But outside of that, I found that I had just lost interest in the written word.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I would try my hand, from time to time, at writing things. I still had an interest in it, but books and I, it seems, just fell out of favor.
After years of reflecting on this, I quickly came to a rather simple conclusion. When I would think about the last books I remembered reading before I stopped, all I could think about were these absolutely atrocious crimes against bindings. I don’t even remember the titles of these things, just how much I didn’t enjoy reading them at all. Of course, I was still of the type to read everything available to me, so I’d read them all the way through…but I would hate every minute of it…that’s how bad these books were.
I had apparently reached the bottom of the pile of books in my immediate surroundings, fallen out of suggestions from others, and just got to the stuff that shouldn’t have been printed in the first place.
And it killed reading for me. For a very very long time.
In fact, it wasn’t until I began the early early early process of planning what would ultimately become The Legend of Buddy Hero (this was, you know, 15 years before it actually became a book, when it was just, hey, I should write a superhero story) that I finally realized again that there was more to the literary world than one author who takes science and twists it into weird psychological questions…and monsters. I had begun hunting for books about folks with superpowers, to try to get an idea of how such things had been handled by other authors. This actually marked the first time I read a book by Stephen King, as Carrie and Firestarter were two of the books that I found to handle the subject. Another one was by Stephen Gould, Jumper, a book that I fell madly in love with.
Books started becoming interesting again, and with the rise of the internet, I found myself capable of getting recommendations from all over the world. In fact, I actually found myself in a situation where the list of good books available had become overwhelming…there was just so much to read, and now that I was, you know, a person with a life outside of reading, I just had no time.
Getting back into reading has been a slow process for me. I still fear the idea of getting burned on a bad book (although I’m much better equipped to realize that it doesn’t reflect on the entire art). Oddly enough, I’m the same way about seafood. After growing up near the coast and having great seafood available year round, I never considered there to be a lesser option. Moving to the middle of the country, I still ate shrimp in all its forms, finding more and more that I didn’t really want to eat them…it wasn’t until I realized there could be a difference in quality that I realized I hadn’t fallen out of love with shrimp…I was just a bit more discerning that I had originally believed.
Back on point…after I realized that my issue with books was more about bad books than it was books altogether, I found going through book stores infinitely more amusing. Take, for instance, the moment in which Harry Potter finally came to its high popularity status. It didn’t take much work to look around at all the similarly titled novels and realize that everyone was willing to capitalize on the success of Rowling by making knock offs (I wish I could remember the actual titles, but the shelves were filled for years with books with names like “Charlie Greenwood and the Magic of Awesomegreats” or something like that). Old me would have read all of them. New me realized that these were books I didn’t need to read.
But even more important was when I began writing my own books, you know, for real. The real honest fear of adding to a concept that caused me to be pulled away from one of my most favorite pastimes (which I still don’t believe I’ve gained my love back fully for to this day), was one that made it incredibly difficult to even put the first words to the page. It’s one thing to make a crap movie. That’s two hours of someone’s life and they’ll just go on to find the latest blockbuster after they’re done. A bad book…well, like I’ve already said, it can leave a lasting bad taste in your mouth.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that my books are so amazing that they will never turn anyone away from reading ever…I’m not nearly that bold. I can say that when I work through them, I put a real focus on trying to find a way to make them unique and not yet another attempt to capitalize on what’s popular. I mean, it’s easy to see that superheroes, dystopia, and zombies (the very basic subject matter of my currently published novels) are all huge right now. Of course, superhero novels are not, but superheroes in everything except novels are. But they weren’t written to meet a trend. They were written because I had a story to tell, one that arose in spite of the trend. In fact, if you look back, you’ll find that at one point I attempted to make Buddy Hero into a young adult novel… I found that so much of it quickly began resembling what other people were doing…and it lost the actual story I wanted to tell, that it didn’t last that way for long.
So, the point of this message is…I hate bad books. I may write them…that’s for you all to decide, not me. But I hate them. My number one focus as an author (okay…maybe number two, after just telling stories) is to keep from becoming an author that just pushes out crap.
And I hope you’ll all call me out if I ever do become such an author (or already have)
Yep, I’m being that bold. I recognize my books may be crap and if you all were honest, and deciding to take me at my word, I could have an inbox filled today with messages of how I ruined books for you, much like those nameless titles of my youth did for me. If that’s the case, I hope you’ll tell me. Because bad books need to stop.
Or something like that.
Speaking of bad books, it just so happens that most of mine are on sale right now…or, at least, The Legend of Buddy Hero and The Agora Files…maybe you want to pick a copy up for cheap, just so you can shout at me for how terrible they are, using this post itself as reason to do so?
This post brought to you by a benadryl hangover and absolutely nothing else to talk about for the day…
Also, an additional note: Because of my hatred of bad books, I keep my book reviews honest. In fact, I read a book not so long ago that I really didn’t enjoy, gave it a low rating and whatever else, but gave it a relatively favorable review. The book wasn’t bad, just not my cup of tea. Then, there was a book by a favorite author that was just terrible. It did not get such a nice review to go along with its low rating… Just a note, to let you know that when I tell you I dig a book, I’m telling the truth.
Have fun out there!