|Source – Google Images
I started reading books when everything was steam powered and the best place to find a book was the local library. You could buy paperbacks in Woolies or the local newsagent but there wasn’t the huge volume of books or the accessibility there is now. Which made a trip to the Library last for hours. You had to get the perfect book. I used to walk there and back so that was a round trip of over a mile! But I also traipsed a mile back and forth down the aisles looking and hoping to find the right book. I always loved fiction, factual never quite transported me far enough. I needed to enter a world and live in that world for as long as the book lasted.
Image from World of Blyton
So the first books were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. Five do this… Five do that… A gang of children, a dog and secret coves and adventures that usually paused for a picnic that any kid would kill for. But the main thing was the gang and their dog Timmy. I wanted to be in that gang so badly.
We then started getting the chance to buy books at a school book club. And these were brand new. No one had touched these paperbacks and I can still remember the first book I ordered.
Source – Google Images
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I had no idea what it was about when I bought it but I had this instinct that it was going to be the one for me. We didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have blogs or any form of social media so gut instinct or a possible recommendation from a relative or friend was all we had. I don’t ever recall posters telling me to buy some five star spellbinding novel or an advert on the telly telling me to do the same.
And that in itself was a purity of sorts. I had little money so I had to guess right, that this would be the book that would be worth the week it took me working as a delivery boy for the local chemists to pay for it. And was it ever worth it? I loved that book. I was about 12 I think and I was transported. And better than that my best mate McEwen had two sequels sitting on his family’s bookshelf. Just so you know family bookshelves were more of a dirty secret, hidden away in a corner, or stood up on a sideboard away from the main action of the house.
Source – Google Images
So it’s pretty clear I like adventures stories and I like groups of characters. Which is when Lord of the Flies entered my world. For years this was the best book ever written. Real and tragic and full of characters I loved and hated – and wept for. It was the Famous Five but with guts and blood and a horrible reality. I will never, ever forget that book.
Source – Google Images
Which strangely led me to Of Mice and Men. A story of two outsiders and their doomed friendship. But full of character and dialogue that was as real as real. They spoke words that told me exactly who they were and more importantly what they were. To this day I don’t believe anyone ever knows a character properly until they open their mouths and speak. Action and deed are vital components but I want to know what’s in their minds and their hearts and I don’t want to be told it, I want to hear it. I want them to talk to ME.
James Bond loomed large when I got to about 14 years old. I read every single one of those books, all borrowed from the Library, and I think I went there every Saturday to borrow a new one. I read the first one out of order but then I went through them chronologically. They were all better than the films. Easily so. Because they put much better pictures in my head than any film could. Here’s the thing with libraries, you never wanted to get fined for bringing a book back late. It was only pennies but there was the condemning frown from the Librarian to deal with. So rather than buying eight books and having them sitting by your bed I had one book and I read it as quickly as I could. James Bond helped because there was no real let up in the stories, it was a page turner. I couldn’t put them down.
I’m now pretty much defining myself through some of the key books I read. I’m not going to lie, I want to be entertained and characters have to engage me. So when comics started appearing in the newsagents, Marvel and DC was all you could have apart from World War Two soldier booklets, I discovered even more characters. They had speech bubbles and thought bubbles and they were always fighting for the good of mankind in an unrelenting battle between very good and very evil. There was no real blurring of those lines but I loved that they could all do something special, or just be strong or fast etc. But what those comics taught me more than anything was the Cliffhanger. Almost every one of them ended at the most crucial and dramatic moment of peril or revelation that the writers and artists could conjure up. And I fell for it every time, impatiently waiting a week, or even a month for the next one to arrive. It may well be the most potent trick I ever learned and it came from Stan Lee of all people. Leave the reader on a knife edge, take them on a ride and then delay the big ending as much as you can, twist a reader inside out and let them live the characters journey. And best of all – tell it visually.
This relentless approach to cliffhangers must have taken a lot of plotting and planning. It didn’t happen by luck and chance and there again is another cog settling in to my make up as an author. Every chapter I write has to end in such a way that it makes you instantly want to start the next one. The first two books in my YA Shift series have MAJOR CLIFFHANGERS. The third one may have one but only because I think there are more than three books. At the moment I don’t know but even though I know how the trilogy ends I also have an epilogue in mind that could invoke further novels.
I’ve written about the books I read in my earlier years because they have remained the most potent in my memory. But they have also helped create the author I am. I pin everything on characters and dialogue. I plot mini cliffhangers and I love a world where the rules have changed. Some say my world is dystopian but I’m more interested in slightly altering the familiar and telling you that things don’t always have to be the way we know them to be. In my personal life I crave change and I don’t respect rules and I will defy the every day at every turn. This is in no small part due to the books and comics I read. They filled my head with wonder and that has never left me.
Image from Goodreads
Just when you thought the apocalyptic detention was over…Having fought their way back to what they believe to be their home world, Rev, GG and The Ape discover that they’re now stuck in the nightmarish world of doppelgangers, surrounded by a town of super-powered killing machines. Johnson, Billie and the Moth are still trapped in the empty world. Alive, but with no way home. Can Rev get the misfits back together? And even if she can will she be able to do it before the world ends. Time is running out…And believe it or not that’s the least of their problems.