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Book Memories: How I became a reader by Michael J. Sullivan
It’s probably not a good thing to admit, but when I was young I hated reading. Yep, even though I make my living now from writing books, there was a time when I had no interest in the written word. One of my worst memories was the summer I tortured myself with Big Red, a 254 page “chapter book” that I suffered through just so I could say I’ve read a book in my lifetime. But this post is supposed to be about my best memory not my worst, so I’ve already wandered off track.
This went on night after night, and I only caught half (or less) of what he was telling me…it always takes me a while to gather my wits when woken in the middle of the night...but one thing that came across loud and clear was his enthusiasm for the story. Much of what he was telling me didn’t make sense. There were strange words I’d never heard of and places that were nothing like where we lived in the suburbs of Detroit. But I tried to stay awake and there were some cool things that stuck with me.
Eventually the nightly visits ceased, and while I didn’t realize at the time that I would miss them, I can look back now with great fondness. Both my brother and I are “getting up there” in years and this was the first time we shared anything together (besides our room). It was a binding tie that stays with me even to this day. But again, I’m wandering off track.
So anyway, it was sometime later…I really can’t recall how long. It was a Sunday, which I remembered because back then there were only three network stations and Sunday afternoons contained golf, bad black and white movies, and not much else. It was raining, and I was bored enough to do some organizing of our bedroom. In doing so, I came across a book. The book. If there had been anything else to do, I might not have opened the page, but since the story got my brother so excited, it was worth trying to see what all the hub-bub was about.
It started out with:
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
Wow, I thought. This is much more interesting than the story about the Irish setter.
So I curled up and dug in. My life was never the same again. All that kept running through my head was, “So this is what reading can be like. Needless to say, when I finished it, I dug into Lord of the Rings. Then I was bugging my mom to take me to the library as I worked through all the Narnia books. It wasn’t too long before I ran out, which is what transformed me from a reader to a writer.
I wanted more…and I wanted stories to go the way I wanted them to. I’ve always been mad at Lewis for returning the children to ordinary lives after they had lived as kings and queens. The best way to manage this was to write my own books, so I started typing out stories on my sister’s portable typewriter. I illustrated covers on construction paper, and used staples or punched holes and used string to bind the pages together. A whole new world opened and not only did I discover the joy of reading, but the untapped potential of a nearly limitless world.
So for those who have read my stories you can either thank (or blame) my brother Patrick (his first name is John, although everyone calls him Pat) FRor waking me up in the middle of the night so share his enthusiasm for Tolkien. It was the spark that ignited the fire, and without that my life would have turned out much different. I hope that everyone has someone in their life that nudges them on the way to reading…and, I’d be even happier if some of those got the writing bug as well.
Michael J. Sullivan is author of The Riyria Revelations, The Riyria Chronicles, and his soon to be released science fiction thriller, Hollow World. He has written twenty-three novels, published nine, and has been translated into fifteen foreign languages. His works have appeared on more than eighty-five “best of” or “most anticipated” lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Audible.com. He spends part of his time trying to help aspiring authors learn the intricacies of publishing through a regular column on Amazing Stories, and he’ll soon be featuring author interviews on Adventures in Science Fiction Publishing.