UPDATED ON 8/24/18: I wrote the post below at the beginning of August. On August 7th, my latest teen novel dropped, SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW. Here is a photo of my latest book baby out in the world, snapped by my friend, author Jeannie Moon:
I'm so excited about this. Look who my book is next to!
Like most authors, I have a metric ton of favorite books and authors who've inspired me over the years, those I wanted to emulate or just hang out with.
I came to writing and publishing late in life -- I was 45 when I sold my first novel. But I've been a READER since I was 4. I treasure the memories of library visits with my mother. I can tell you exactly what day it was (second week of school, our first library period) when I "discovered" Nancy Drew novels. I read them out of sequence because I had a limited selection but soon, my mother ordered them for me... two novels arrived in the mail each month. That was Patty Heaven right there.
When I'd finished the Nancy Drew books, I looked for more novels. I read Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Bobsey Twins but after a while, they felt the same. I wanted something...more.
I stumbled onto Judy Blume in another library visit. A book called Deenie changed my life. To understand why, you need to know something more about me.
I'm shy, afraid of a few hundred different things, and had very few friends to share those fears with. That's why I loved stories so much. They were my escape and the characters inside them, my friends. Deenie was a teen diagnosed with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. I read her story, her horrifying back brace, the teasing, the humilation, and closed the book completely impressed with Deenie's decision at the party...(spoilers).
I was diagnosed with scoliosis later that same year. The doctor and my mother stared at me with dropped jaws when I calmly asked if I'd have to wear a brace, would it be metal or plastic, how long, and would I need surgery, too?
I wasn't scared.
This was a first for me -- I wasn't scared because a book, a novel, had shown me the way through this.
I read a few more Blume books -- learned all about sex from Forever and still blush when I hear the name "Ralph."
Flash forward a few decades. I'd been writing all my life for me... because I enjoy it. I read the entire Harry Potter series with my youngest child and when I learned that Jo Rowling never got her MFA and wrote that series in a coffee shop, it reignited that old dream in me. I finally got serious about selling my work -- which was SEND. To my shock, that novel got me an agent and then, an editor. When the time came to actually publish my book baby, I had to choose a name. Should I use a pen name?
It hit me like a brick to the head that Blume and Blount would share the same shelf space if I published under my real name.
August marks the release of books 8 and 9 for me. Every time... every single time... I head to my local bookstore and snap a picture of MY book on the same shelf as Judy Blume's.
It never gets old.
Thank you, Judy. You share not only shelf space with me.... you shared a dream.
Now it's your turn. What book CHANGED YOU when you were a child? Tell me in the comments.