I’ve been a reader my whole life. Nothing at our home when I grew up was off limits. If it was on the bookshelf, we could take it down and read it. I admit that the first naked woman I saw was in an encyclopedia, a photo of a statue or painting. I read Tobacco Road while in Jr. High School, and read a lot of books by Edgar Rice Buroughs, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. I read a lot of science fiction because that’s what my older brother brought home. But I also read romance, historical fiction, and mainstream fiction.
We didn’t own a television for much of my early years, and when we did have one there was only one channel for the longest time. Books were plentiful, and if that wasn’t enough we’d trek into Williamsport and go to the library, and there was the library at school. Books. I’d still rather hold a book than an electronics instrument. Something about the smell and feel of it.
Reading helped me to know that I wanted to write. I believe that most of us know what we enjoy because of what we used to do a lot of as children. I’ve mentioned this sort of thing before. What tipped me off to my future love of writing should have been the way I read and what I read.
The way I read included a curiosity as to how the author got me to feel a certain way. As I read something scary, I remember rereading passages to see what made me scared. I mean, they were only words, right? And when I became sad from reading a passage, I’d reread that, too. What did the author do to make me feel sad? Not what happened in the book, but how was it written. What caused that emotion to climb so deeply into me?
This is how I figured out that I could adjust my own emotions while going through the day. If I thought of certain things, I could actually make myself feel sad. A different thought, and I’d feel joy. The power of words, whether thought or read, is amazing. As authors, we have a responsibility to choose our words carefully, to help people to see and feel differently about things. We can explore subjects in such a way that a reader will be changed by it.
What I read included a different kind of curiosity. I learned important information when I read, and not just facts about the world or the universe (as those facts were understood at that time). I learned how to interact with people. I learned what might be going on in internal dialog. I learned how to live, and I mean that in the most honest and truest sense. People in the books I read may have made mistakes, but they had reasoning behind them, and they learned from their mistakes—which meant that I could learn from my mistakes, too.
This is how I figured out that I could learn anything I chose to learn. All I needed was interest in a subject and I could find answers to questions I might never have known existed. Learning facts is important while writing. When I write historical fiction, the facts are important. I once learned of a fish that lived in the Susquahanna River in the 1800s and was caught and eaten regularly, but is now extinct. Knowing that one fact helped one of my novels to feel authentic to the reader. When I write science fiction, technology often has to be explained, and I’d better get it right. Sure I can stretch the truth, but stretch it too far and science fiction turns to fantasy.
I’ve rambled, as I sometimes do when talking about writing (or reading). It’s a huge subject, and it’s a subject I love dearly. So, for all you writers out there, for all you people wishing to have a better life, I suggest you read eclectically. You’ll learn things you didn’t know, which will make you more interesting (even to yourself), and you’ll learn about people, which will help you to understand others better (and yourself). All in all, you can’t go wrong. My Uncle Bob always used to tell me that if you are a reader, you’ll never be lonely and you’ll never be out of work. I don’t know about work, but I’m never lonely.
Terry Persun is an award winning author and a #1 Amazon bestseller. He is also a Pushcart nominee. His mainstream novel, “Wolf’s Rite”, was a Star of Washington award winner, a POW! Award winner, and a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalist. His science fiction novel, “Cathedral of Dreams”, was also a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalists. And his historical novel, “Sweet Song”, won a Silver IPPY Award for best regional fiction. His latest novel, “Doublesight”, is book one of his new fantasy series. His latest poetry collection is “And Now This”. Terry writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy.