I have a real treat for you all today, my good friend Jake aka J Carson Black is here to chat and she is giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate to a lucky commenter!
When I was a kid, my parents and I had a tradition. One Friday night a month, we would go out to dinner at the Sizzlers, and I’d walk down along the strip mall to the Baskin Robbins for a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. And then my parents would take me to the House of Paperbacks.
Books were cheap back then. My mother is a smart lady; she appealed to my materialistic nature, the desire to grab up as many books as I could. This is how she fostered my love of reading.
In Tucson, where I live, there’s a big used-book superstore called Bookman’s. My husband and I like to go there on Saturdays and prowl around. First, I go and see if they have any of my old paperback books. (It’s humbling to see how many friends have sold books I’d signed to them years ago. One of them was the best man at my wedding, and I’d blathered all over the page: “So-and-so, you are one of best friends I’ve ever had in my life!”) I love you, man.
After that, I look and see what the best writers in my genre have out new, because I like to keep up with them. I buy their latest hardcovers to study.
Then I go to the Childrens’ Section.
Over the years, I’d lost tons of books from my childhood. They’re not famous books, but I read them at a time when they meant something to me. A lot of them where Scholastic Books. I remember coming across a favorite I’d read as a kid and had somehow lost: HOBBY HORSE HILL, by Lavinia Davis. Oh, how I loved that book! My husband was out of town, and I found myself reading it again—I was up until three in the morning. It was as good as I remembered it.
So now I look for the older books, for books that strike a chord. They don’t even have to be favorites like HOBBY HORSE HILL. If they have the same cover, I buy them. I have 4 versions of MY FRIEND FLICKA. There were two books that came out with the same cover of a boy and a horse against the Wyoming hills. One had pink up top and bottom, and one had dark green. All these years later, I found the dark green one.
The one book I really wanted had the original cover of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, by Ray Bradbury. The cover brought me to that book, and distills its essence. It shows a dark sidewalk with leaves blowing up in a dust devil or scary words. I wanted the cover as well as the book, even though I had the book with a newer cover. But when I looked for it online, the darn thing cost $800.00. Fuggedaboudit.
Then one day, I dropped by Bookmans. I always went to the Fantasy section to look for the book, even though I knew Bookmans would be too smart to let an $800.00 book go out the door for a couple of bucks.
But there it was, face out. My cover! Turns out, there was a book club version reprinted in the early nineties. The book was in perfect condition, and now I had the cover. I think I paid eight dollars for it.
So I have a library of old faded books that came from my childhood and that I bring out and look at and hold—they are my talismans.
Sometimes, these old books play into the novels I’m writing. When I got the idea for THE DEVIL’S HOUR, the third thriller in my Laura Cardinal series, I kept thinking of the girls’ summer camp in DONNA PARKER: MYSTERY AT ARAWAK. And so I put a girl’s summer camp up on Mt. Lemmon above Tucson, and as homage to the book, I came up with the name Camp Aratauk. The camp only plays a bit part in THE DEVIL’S HOUR, although it is important to the story.
The books I read as a child formed me. They went through a part of my life with me, whether it was a couple of days, or a week, or a month. They will always be there, and I am glad to find them again and add them to the special shelf in my library.
Are there any books from your childhood that strike a chord with you?
Before you go, checkout Jake’s site http://www.whokilledbriennecross.com and check out The Shop, a Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s thriller! THE SHOP will be rereleased, on February 6, 2012. Check it out!