Some people (I think) can say that a book changed their life. I'm one of those people and for me that book was The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by the legendary Alan Garner. I was eleven at the time, on holiday, and spotted the book on one of those carousel things you get outside souvenir shops. It was the cover I liked first (see? covers really are important!) and the title then drew me in (Weirdstone? Brisingamen? Words that evoke thoughts of mystery and magic, for sure.) Holiday money spent, and back at the caravan, I devoured the book.
I cite this as the text that made me want to be a writer. Not necessarily because I had an epiphany, but because it was THE book that made me really truly love what words could do. I lived in the world created in those pages. One scene particularly haunted me, where the heroes are trapped in a cave and have no choice but to dive into a sump (where the cave continues but is underwater) not knowing if they were soon to drown or come up into a fresh part of the cave. This was even more terrifying for me thanks to a swimming accident some years earlier. That scene is little more than two pages. Astonishing that it should still be with me, even now.
From that point on, the world of books and words had me. I was one of those kids that would write not six or seven pages for an English story assignment, but dozens and dozens. Myself and a mate would both write stories then read what we'd each come up with. I think also that the world of Weirdstone created in me a love of the darker side of writing and story. I like books and films that take a walk down that more gloomy threatening trail, where things hide in shadows and heroes don't always come out at the end with the girl, or indeed in one piece.
So now here I am writing full-time, seeing my stuff in bookshops and knowing full well that somewhere kids are reading the stories I've created. That never ceases to amaze me. I write stuff, it gets published, people buy it and read and seem to like it. So here's a big thank you to Alan Garner: that one book changed my life. And I'm forever thankful for that.
Huge thanks to Alan for writing this for The Book Zone. I loved both Doom Rider and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (which I read for the first time after David mentioned it in a Q&A he did for The Book Zone some time ago), and they are well worth buying, or borrowing from your local library.