Like many of my buddies, I learned to read early, and never looked back. The summer before fourth grade, my mother had to accompany me to the library to sign a permission card so I could check out books that had more words than pictures. In high school, I’d do my homework so I could reward myself with whatever book I happened to be reading at the time. I sometimes say it was no wonder I started writing myself, but that’s not quite accurate – I was happy being surrounded by other peoples’ books. I did write some stories along the way, beginning at nine with a Wild, Wild West fanfic (anyone old enough to remember that show? They didn’t call it fanfic back then.) I never really considered writing as a career until I was in my early twenties, when I read a book that rocked my world.
I was working for the Intimate Bookshop in Charlotte NC, and one day I was assigned to pull and strip the mass-market books that needed returning. Working my way through the shelf, I came across a book called The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers. I opened to read a page, just out of curiosity. Twenty minutes later, my manager found me sitting on the floor, completely engrossed.
That book spoke to all the feelings I’d had about the world since childhood. As I mentioned in comments to David’s wonderful post yesterday, I’ve always been convinced there’s something more to the ordinary world, another layer that I could reach out and touch if I just find the right way to do it. Tim Powers wrote about that unseen layer, brought together historical events and pointed out the possible supernatural forces that might have driven them. He’d found that magic, with his words. And suddenly I realized that I, too, could stop wishing, and start writing.
So today I’d love to hear from other people – writers, is there a book that turned on the light for you? Readers, is there a book that you’d rush into a burning house to rescue?