• Sossi loves books by bibliothekarin, on Flickr

Let’s Talk About Love Affairs: Author Edition

Let’s talk about falling in love. With an author.

God, that new author feeling, the thrill of discovery, that moment poised at the brink, knowing you’re falling and just fucking going with it. The best moment, even after falling, is looking that author up and finding out they have a backlist. Even I love that, and I’m maybe the stingiest person you’ve ever met. I stress over a buck ninety-nine gluten free yogurt covered pretzels.

How do you find this new love, this brilliant door leading to all the new worlds? Maybe you find them through a friend, online or meat world. Maybe you stumble upon a link somewhere, a line about a book that looks intriguing, and you click that link, not knowing you’re about to change your fucking life.

(I’d apologize for being dramatic, except I’m not being dramatic. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you if I didn’t think books change lives. I know they do. Books opened up entire universes for me, worlds that absolutely helped me survive adolescence. Books get me through rough nights with a baby and toddler, terrible days struggling with depression. Books change lives. I assume, going forward, that you and I agree.)

Let me tell you a story. No. Let me tell you a few.

I received two books from a friend of my dad’s for my eleventh birthday. These remain, to this day, two of the only birthday gifts I remember from my entire life.

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Wikipedia page contains mad spoilers, so don’t read it if you haven’t read the book). Clearly the gift of someone who was not, himself, a reader, but thought, Hey, Pat’s kid likes reading, so I’ll get a few random books. These look good.

I devoured Delores Claiborne almost immediately and proceeded to track down quarter copies of any Stephen Kings I could find. That book just happened to be recently released the year I turned eleven, and yet, it started me on a lifetime of love for Mr King.

Now the Agatha Christie, that’s an interesting one. I’d never read Christie before The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and no other book of hers lived up to the mindfuck of that one. (It took me a full year to read it straight through. I’d tried to read it maybe five times–at the time I flogged myself through a lot of books I thought I should read, like Gone with the Wind, though TMRA is one of the only ones I ended up enjoying.)

No idea how it landed in my lap, like I’m relatively sure no book store employee said, “Oh, eleven, that’s the perfect age for Agatha Christie!” And it didn’t end in a love affair with the author, though I did read a number of Marples and additional Poirots over the years. But I fucking loved TMRA like it was going directly into the part of my brain where the muse lives. The end of that book? Floored me. Knocked me flat on my ass. I started it right over again to see how the fuck she’d done it.

No spoilers. Seriously. I know it was published a long time ago, but you gotta just walk into that one and let it steamroll you at the end.

The last story is courtesy of my pal Cass. (HI, CASS!) Years ago Cass was working at a big bookstore, and co-facilitated a lesbian book club. (She’ll correct me in the comments, maybe, if I’m getting that wrong.) One of the books she picked um was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, and she ended up passing it along to me.

Oh my god. Fucking Ammonite. I moved into that book and lived on Jeep for days.

Nicola Griffith’s style isn’t something I’m in the mood for all the time. I’m trying to figure out how to describe it. It’s not cold, by any means. It’s rich and deep and visceral, but it also shows restraint–in a good way, in a way that perfectly suits her stories, but you may have noticed that writerly restraint is not my strong suit. Nor is it something I particularly enjoy reading, even when it’s the exactly perfect tone for the story in question.

But god, her stories twist my balls just right; they make me want more, they make me want a thousand fanfictions to follow it up, they make me admit, grudgingly, that no matter how much more I want, these books are really complete, and I should just fucking get over my reader-greed. (Naturally, I linked above to a post on her blog which includes an Ammonite prequel, because: YES, PLEASE.)

The other glorious thing about Nicola Griffith is that although we write very different things, in very different ways, she talks about writing in a way that makes sense to me. This happens almost never. Writing is so fucking personal, and the vast majority of people talking about it are either talking about Big Art or bitching about how hard it is, and writer’s block, and whatever. Nicola Griffith talks writing like it’s both art and work, like it’s both magic and also, man, it’s just fucking building, it’s architecture, it’s putting the pieces together and taking them apart and digging the trenches and constantly assessing whether the changes you’ve just made got you closer to the book, or pushed you farther away.

She’s got a brilliant, incredible piece on revising, but I can’t find it. The take-away from which is about paying attention to your body when reading your work; if your stomach hurts, or you suddenly have a killer headache, or you find you’re shifting around uncomfortably while you read, something’s wrong in the story. Pay attention to that, go back a few pages, and figure out what your body understands that your brain hasn’t caught up to yet.

I could go on for hours and days and tens of thousands of words, but I’ll stop. (For now.)

Over to you all–who are your author love affairs? What books have taken over your life and changed the way you see the world? How often does that happen for you? Because I gotta tell you, if I could hit this high once a week, I would do it. I love the addiction, and I always want more.

Featured image is Sossi loves books by bibliothekarin on Flickr.

February 26th, 2015|Categories: blog|Tags: , |

5 Comments

  1. vcheysham February 26, 2015 at 10:22 am - Reply

    I loved Delores Claiborne! I read Gerald’s Game first, and I liked it a lot, but the payoff fell a little flat for me (he has a habit of fluffing the dismount, I feel). (I must have been about 15 or 16, based on which bedroom I remember reading it in.) But every time I re-read Dolores I like it more. I’d read it again this weekend but I’m not sure it’s in my bookcase (I move a lot and while the Pratchetts come with, the Kings often don’t).
    As for books I love, I have a copy of The Plains of Passage by Jean Auel that’s been read so much the spine has disintegrated 🙂 It’s hardly art, but the protagonist is a young woman who stays true to her principles, *and* who thinks walking from one end of Europe to the other is a great adventure. Oh, and the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi. As well as superb space opera, they’re a masterclass in snarky dialogue 🙂

  2. vcheysham February 26, 2015 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Gah, Dolores not Delores. But I was right about my age – 15 when it came out.

  3. wissavix February 26, 2015 at 10:36 am - Reply

    Stephen King is the first author I remember really changing the way I read books. It was around 1985 and I found Carrie at the library. After that I read everything of his and continued to do so for almost 20 years. Also, Douglas Adams had a huge influence on the books I chose to read at that time. I guess my ‘tween’ (gods how I hate that term) years were where I started reading more like a grown-up. Even though I had a horrifying VC Andrews obsession at the same time. 🙂

  4. lulubizou February 26, 2015 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    I fell in love with Marion Zimmer Bradley when I was 14. There was this one book translated in French in my school library, La reine des orages (Stormqueen). Along the years, I’ve collected every book of hers I could find. The only one I’m missing are the Out of Print ones. Her stories shaped who I am as an adult and gave me the strength to overcome the bad times.

    Sadly, a couple of years ago, I learned about what happened in her household from an american friend. News never reached my part of the world and internet was not a thing while it was happening so it completely went under my radar. As an abused child myself, I can’t forgive or forget this happened in her household. I was heartbroken to learn about this.

    I can’t read her books anymore (I used to read them over and over again) and I can’t throw them away. They are too much a part of who I am.

  5. KrisRipper March 1, 2015 at 12:19 am - Reply

    lulubizou This has broken me. I still can’t quite get over it. Dude. Fuck me. I like lived inside The Mists of Avalon over and over again for years. Man, this is so fucked. (Obviously it’s a lot more fucked for the people who lived through it, but damn. Damn. It’s like having a whole part of the world go dark.)

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