* Or a LCD and pixels if you’re into e-books. I won’t judge–except to say that e-books don’t smell nearly as nice as a dead tree copy does.
I remember my first fantasy series. I was in middle school when my best friend handed me a large hardcover novel and said, “You have to read this. It’s really good!” [Or something along those lines; it was eighteen years ago after all.]
That book was Guardians of the West, by David [and Leigh!] Eddings.
It was the beginning of summer vacation, and I already had a very bad habit of consuming books. Until then, I had read fantasy-themed books, but never a series. It was a thick book, [honestly looking back I think it was only 300 pages, ha ha!] but I cracked it open and didn’t come up for air until it ended.
“But… there’s more?” I thought, looking at the dust jacket. ‘Book one of the Mallorean’ was finely printed under the title. I was thrilled in a completely new way–I needed to get my hands on those books!
Since then, I have read most of the Eddings’ work. Through those books I discovered that I love a long series. For starters, the character development has room to breathe. I get to see characters grow and change over time, and figure out their motivations. In stand alone novels, you often get a few paragraphs that beat you over the head with the personality and the purpose of the character. Then you read the story. As I get further into writing, I have discovered that the latter example is a ‘tell’ kind of style, which tends to bog down a narrative. I thought it was just the way books were written–I had a great epiphany with my first Eddings book! [I also just now realized that this is probably the reason I’m not too fond of movies. It’s difficult for a movie to tell a satisfying story in such a short length of time unless it’s based on something people are already familiar with.]
Secondly, I get to spend more time with these well-developed characters, which makes them kind of like friends. I was with them through thick and thin! I cared about their well-being; I was emotionally invested! As an aspiring author, this is something I can only hope to achieve.
Books have always been my drug, in a very literal sense–when I received that book from my friend, I was four years removed from a bad situation where I had to read to escape my dismal everyday life. I had read because I didn’t want to be where I was. I had read because it dulled the pain. I had read because–in a strange act of rebellion–the person who made my childhood into a confusing hell did not want me to. I read at an advanced level. At the beginning of the new school year I would steal my cousins’ middle/high school science, history, and English textbooks [never math; it’s always been my weak point] and read them for fun with a flashlight under the covers in my room.
I would sneak into that person’s room and smuggle her Reader’s Digest Condensed Books out to read… books like Finder’s Keepers [Barbara Nickolae] and Circle of Pearls [Rosalind Laker] were my first ‘grown-up’ [serious] books. When I had a reprieve to go visit my grandmother on weekends I’d read her romance novels, and she’d warn me: “Careful! Those are sexy books!”. I still have no idea if that was an admonishment to skip the ‘sexy’ parts, or if she was warning me about it in case it wasn’t my taste. [I was a preteen; ‘sexy books’ were most certainly my taste!]
I’m quite sentimental about things; as an adult I combed the local library’s used bookstore every time I went, specifically looking amongst the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books anthologies for a specific teal spined volume that contained reprints of both the books I mentioned above. After six years of diligence, it finally showed up! It’s packed away in a box currently, but it’s a treasured possession that reminds me of the immense power books can have. They protected me like a shield when I needed them most.
Nowadays I visit them for a brief vacation, or to relax, because I have that luxury. [Especially when I get a chance to leave the two year-old with Daddy and hide in the bathtub. Books+Bath=Love!] I still enjoy reading immensely, and I still go for the large series; Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series are some of my current favorite reads, along with the occasional translated Light Novel. [I’m currently on volume four of Log Horizon! Loving it!]
Right now I can only hope to follow in the footsteps of those who came before me–authors whose books I’ve loved. I dream of someday writing something good enough that people will say, “I want to go to that place. I want to go there and see my friends.”