I’d love to say I started reading from an early age, with books being such an integral part of my childhood, I wouldn’t know where I’d be without them. But that isn’t entirely true. I have no fond memories of my parents reading me bedtime stories, though I am assured they did.
My first memory of being so drawn in to a fictional place that I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to come out wasn’t until I was thirteen or so. It was thanks to a friend I had made at secondary school called Helen. She brought me in a copy of The Pawn of Prophecy by David and Leigh Eddings. I’d never read a fantasy novel before, outside of the bog standard fairy tales and Disney stories. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, the words on the first page glared out of me, intimidating. It seemed impossible to read that much, the text so small and blanketed, barely split into paragraphs to my eyes.
But two weeks later I was finishing the sixth book in the series, and Helen and I had an entire world to discuss while everyone else was talking about our new maths teacher.
Somehow, the words had become pictures in my mind as I’d read them, forming people and places like nothing I’d ever seen. But I must have, for them to be so clear in my head. I’d later learn that this ability writers have to take images straight out of their own heads and place them on a page ready for someone else to pick up, is a hard learned one.
Suddenly the fact that I was fast becoming some dull awkward teenager didn’t matter as much, because in my head I could be as many different characters as I wanted. It sparked my imagination and I’m ever grateful to the Eddings’ for introducing me to it.
From there it was a simple jump to Tolkien, Pratchett and Irvine, and I’ve been travelling to fictional worlds through the pages of fictional works ever since.
My tastes have widened a lot since then, science fiction becoming a staple in my reading since I discovered my great love of writing it. Crime and investigative fiction, surrealism and dystopia have all allowed me the great escape that I crave from my still, sadly, rather dull everyday existence.
When friends tell me, sometimes flippantly, that they don’t read I always feel a strange urge to shake them. But I know that not everyone feels the same need to escape into fiction as I do, and that is a very good thing.