Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Never Just a Book

OK. You can’t hear me but I’m taking deep, deliberate breaths. Despite the effort, my heart still pounds every fourth beat or so. To soothe the growing ache, I exhale, mouth open, nostrils flared. And I stare.

“I think I can. I think I can,” I tell myself. “It’s just a book.”

“That’s why you haven’t touched it since you brought it home.”

Mind you, this is progress.

I stared at the title for months. Every time I went to a bookstore, there it was. The author demanded my attention and I ignored him as best I could. Until yesterday. He obviously caught me off guard.

How could I fend him off with an armful of Geronimo Stilton mouse detective books, a Barbie diary, stuffed duck, and AP Bio Study Guide? Trapped by my weakened state, I was forced into the novel’s snare and rescued it from the shelf. It teetered atop my load, stretching my wallet and my mind.

“What could possibly be inside there that you can’t handle? Was The Stand so bad? The Dark Half or Carrie?”

No. Or so I thought. That is, after all, how he hooked me. I was young and impressionable, trying to hone a style and find my genre. I absorbed everything he wrote and then one day, I got scared. Like when I snuck and read The Exorcist kind of scared. (Slept with the light on for weeks after that one.) So I broke off my love-hate relationship with Stephen King. Until yesterday.

Lisey’s Story has spent her second day on the end table, where the glowering red hardcover hasn’t budged since I brought it home. There beside I Dream A World, I can pretend it harbors gentle thoughts and tranquil endings.


“You used to live for that stuff. King’s stuff. Stay up all night to inhale hundreds of his pages by daylight.” I know, I know.

Many years later, what I also know is that – twisted as Stephen is – he guides a gifted pen. Weaving words is all-consuming. Those of us who do it understand how stories demand to be told. The ways they push your mind into spaces begging to be explored and exposed. Whether real or imaginary, cityscape or dream world, we authors go there – and take you with us.

Given time, Stephen’s lure – Lisey’s Story – will ask me to ride shotgun down a road that forbids sleep. If I make it to the end, page 509, I’m sure I’ll close it with a shudder. Then I’ll clear the book a spot on the shelf, plunge back into my own journey, and marvel.

A trek that started with a paperback purchase in the seventh grade led me to become a supernatural suspense fan. A high school English teacher’s grade alluded to a future as writer, not just reader. Piles of manuscript pages later, I’m ready to lead you into stories I hope you’ll follow.

My aspiration? To never write "just a book," but rather, words that sing like Maya Angelou, tattle like Toni Morrison and haunt like Stephen King.

(Well, not quite.)

'Til next time . . .sweet dreams.