I read anything that’s going to be interesting. But you don’t know what it is until you’ve read it. Somewhere in a book on the history of false teeth there’ll be the making of a novel.
That’s for me!” I already had a grim view of existence, so there was no problem there. I was and am agoraphobic, so being reclusive was a snap. The only challenge was whether or not I could actually write horror stories. So I studied fiction writing and wrote every day for years and years until I started to get my stories accepted by small press magazines. I’m not comparing myself to Lovecraft as a person or as a writer, but the rough outline of his life gave me something to aspire to. I don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t discovered Lovecraft.
A lot of people who read my novel 'Smog City' ask me why I never killed off either of the two main characters. To be honest, it's because I've given them life. Not literally of course, but since I spent so much time developing and creating my characters, they've ended up with complex personalities, in fact they're almost sentient in a way, and to write them off as dead would be like killing a close friend to me.
The best way to get kids to read a book is to say: 'This book is not appropriate for your age, and it has all sorts of horrible things in it like sex and death and some really big and complicated ideas, and you’re better off not touching it until you’re all grown up. I’m going to put it on this shelf and leave the room for a while. Don’t open it.
An editor doesn't just read, he reads well, and reading well is a creative, powerful act. The ancients knew this and it frightened them. Mesopotamian society, for instance, did not want great reading from its scribes, only great writing. Scribes had to submit to a curious ruse: they had to downplay their reading skills lest they antagonize their employer. The Attic poet Menander wrote: "those who can read see twice as well." Ancient autocrats did not want their subjects to see that well. Order relied on obedience, not knowledge and reflection. So even though he was paid to read as much as write messages, the scribe's title cautiously referred to writing alone (scribere = "to write"); and the symbol for Nisaba, the Mesopotamian goddess of scribes, was not a tablet but a stylus. In his excellent book A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel writes, "It was safer for a scribe to be seen not as one who interpreted information, but who merely recorded it for the public good."In their fear of readers, ancients understood something we have forgotten about the magnitude of readership. Reading breeds the power of an independent mind. When we read well, we are thinking hard for ourselves—this is the essence of freedom. It is also the essence of editing. Editors are scribes liberated to not simply record and disseminate information, but think hard about it, interpret, and ultimately, influence it.
I don’t want to read about them!” But really, how can a picture hurt you?Better that each serve as a Hallmark card that greets your fitful fevers with reason and uncurtains your valor. Then, so gospeled, you may see that defeating a disaster is as innocently easy as deciding to go out to dinner. Remove the dread that bars your doors of perception, and you will enjoy a banquet of treats that will make the difference between suffering and safety. You will enter a brave new world that will erase your panic, and release you from the grip of terror, and relieve you of the deadening effects of indifference —and you will find that switch of initiative that will energize your intelligence, empower your imagination, and rouse your sense of vigilance in ways that will tilt the odds of danger from being forever against you to being always in your favor. Indeed, just thinking about a disaster is one of the best things you can do —because it allows you to imagine how you would respond in a way that is free of pain and destruction.Another reason why disasters seem so scary is that many victims tend to see them as a whole rather than divide them into much smaller and more manageable problems. A disaster can seem overwhelming when confronted with everything at once —but if you dice it into its tiny parts and knock them off one at a time, the whole thing can seem as easy as eating a lavish dinner one bite at a time.In a disaster you must also plan for disruption as well as destruction. Death and damage may make the news, but in almost every disaster far more lives are disrupted than destroyed. Witness the tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, in May 2011 and killed 158 people. The path of death and destruction was less than a mile wide and only 22 miles long —but within thirty miles 160,000 citizens whose property didn’t suffer a dime of damage were profoundly disrupted by the carnage, loss of power and water, suspension of civic services, and inability to buy food, gas, and other necessities. You may rightfully believe your chances of dying in a disaster in your lifetime may be nearly nil, but the chances of your life being disrupted by a disaster in the next decade is nearly a sure thing.Not only should you prepare for disasters, you should learn to premeditate them. Prepare concerns the body; premeditate concerns the mind. Everywhere you go, think what could happen and how you might/could/would/should respond. Use your imagination. Fill your brain with these visualizations —run mind-movies in your head —develop a repertoire —until when you walk into a building/room/situation you’ll automatically know what to do. If a disaster does ambush you —sure you’re apt to panic, but in seconds your memory will load the proper video into your mobile disk drive and you’ll feel like you’re watching a scary movie for the second time and you’ll know what to expect and how to react. That’s why this book is important: its manner of vivifying disasters kickstarts and streamlines your acquiring these premeditations, which lays the foundation for satisfying your needs when a disaster catches you by surprise.
As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.
Dear Future Me, I hope that today you are the person you always set out to be. I hope you accomplished everything that they said you could never do. How many lives do you change in a day? Do you speak out for what is right, or sit there regretting your silence? I hope you are what I’m not. I hope you speak out with such a voice that everyone around you can hear it even when you aren’t speaking. I want you to have power in the way you speak- giving light into someone’s world filled with darkness. I hope you live as if you are the only one capable of making a difference, and embracing that ability in the best way possible. You don’t need to have your name written in the text of a history book, but you need to live to make your words give life to the ones who thought they didn’t deserve one.When you read this letter, I hope you are somewhere where all of you previous goals can be made accomplishments. I hope you still remember your past, and pass on your story to those who need to hear it most- to show them that they are not alone. I hope you achieved that brighter, happier life you used to daydream about when you were younger. I hope all of your dreams became your reality, and I hope that eventually your nightmares dissolved into the depths of your past- never haunting you again. I hope that you one day took off the mask that hid the truth. That you broke down the barriers you built, and learned to trust someone- really trust them- somewhere along your journey. I hope that you look in the mirror with a small, true smile and be proud of what you see. I hope that you learned to break through the surface of the water drowning you- anxiety. I hope that you now see the world from a whole new perspective, and learned to enjoy the sun more than the rain.. Most of all, I hope you learned to speak. To speak in such a voice that must be heard; a voice that embroiders your words onto a heart that needed them most. I hope you are happy, and teach ones who are like the old you to be happy as well. I hope that today you are the person you always set out to be.Sincerely,Your Past
I often find that a novel, even a well-written and compelling novel, can become a blur to me soon after I've finished reading it. I recollect perfectly the feeling of reading it, the mood I occupied, but I am less sure about the narrative details. It is almost as if the book were, as Wittgenstein said of his propositions, a ladder to be climbed and then discarded after it has served its purpose.
What’s interesting is that most free-marketers don’t seem to want a free market at all, but a status quo market. The market in the United States is anything but free. If it were, big business would have to survive without corporate welfare to the tune of about $1 trillion (that’s trillion) in government subsidies, the majority of which, about $650 billion, go to the fossil fuel industry! They are living off of the public dole on subsidies totaling billions of dollars—that we hand out either directly, or through tax breaks for their big corporations—with the false assumption that they are creating jobs. They are not. They are creating yachts, Leer Jets, and McMansions with swimming pools.
Of John Le Carre's books, I've only read 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold,' and I haven't read anything by Graham Greene, but I've heard a great deal about how 'Your Republic Is Calling You' reminded English readers of those two writers. I don't really have any particular interest in Cold War spy novels.
I love reading. It gives me somewhere to be, somewhere to be accepted and somewhere to be found. But most of all, it's because I don't want to face reality. And who would? Not me! My life is too miserable and way too depressing. So until it gets better, I am content with trapping myself in my books. Happy?
After reading Edgar Allan Poe. Something the critics have not noticed: a new literary world pointing to the literature of the 20th Century. Scientific miracles, fables on the pattern A+ B, a clear-sighted, sickly literature. No more poetry but analytic fantasy. Something monomaniacal. Things playing a more important part than people; love giving away to deductions and other forms of ideas, style, subject and interest. The basis of the novel transferred from the heart to the head, from the passion to the idea, from the drama to the denouement.
I find interesting characters or lessons that resonate with people and sometimes I write about them in the sports pages, sometimes I write them in a column, sometimes in a novel, sometimes a play or sometimes in nonfiction. But at the core I always say to myself, 'Is there a story here? Is this something people want to read?'
I read daily, not so much for the benefit of my writing, but because I am addicted to it. There is nothing in the world for me that compares to being lost in a really good novel. That said, reading is an absolute must if you want to write. It is a trite enough thing to say, but very true nonetheless. I cannot understand aspiring writers who email me for advice and freely admit that they read very little. I have learned something from every writer I have ever read. Sometimes I have done so consciously, picking up something about how to frame a scene, or seeing a new possibility with regards to structure, or interesting ways to write dialogue. Other times, I think, my collective reading experience affects my sensibilities and informs me in ways that I am not quite aware of, but in real ways that impact how I approach writing. The short of it is, as an aspiring writer, there is nothing as damaging to your credibility as saying that you don’t like to read
If I had my way no one should be taught to read until after he had passed his hundredth year. In that way, and in that way only can we protect our youth from the dreadful influence of such novels as 'Three Cycles, Not To Mention The Rug,' which dreadful book I have found within the past month in the hands of at least twenty children in the neighborhood, not one of whom was past sixty.
I got interested in the idea that love is often used as a kind of blanket explanation for things. I mean, battered wives, for instance: "Why did you go back to him?" "Oh, I loved him." "Why did you embezzle fifteen million pounds and run away to the other side of the world?" "Oh, well, because I was in love." All that and then you don't ask anything else. I thought if I just say, these people needed love and they found it, then it kind of explained it away. I wanted to look at their behaviour and how love can inspire the best and the very worst in human behaviour but love itself is not behaviour. So I avoided the word 'love' until the very end and it's the last word in the novel. I wanted to explore what people will do when they're in such terrible need of love. If there was a big idea then that was it. Then, of course, I hope that if it's a story worth reading it's the characters themselves who make you want to read it, not the big idea. I don't think a big idea drives a novel usually. Something else has to engage you on a much more kind of personal level.