When did you learn to read?
I learned at my mother’s knee when I was four, and I’ve been an avid book lover ever since. As a child I read widely and indiscriminately — the Trixie Belden mystery series, all the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books, Archie comics — and by the second grade I knew I wanted to be a novelist. “If you ever write a book,” a teacher said to me that year, “keep your real name so I’ll know it’s you.”
But I was also a lover of music from an early age. When I was in the sixth grade, I began the piano lessons I’d wanted since age six, and dreamt of being a concert pianist someday. I never realized that dream – although I still play – because, as much as I love music, I live to write.
As a teen, I wrote poems and short stories on my electric typewriter and wrote humorous articles for the South Lenoir High School newspaper in North Carolina. I also kept a copious, angst-filled journal. And I continued to read: Jane Austen, “A Tale of Two Cities,” Jerzy Kosinski, the Bible, “Catcher in the Rye,” Ray Bradbury (‘Dandelion Wine”), Victoria Holt, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty.
Although I was valedictorian of my high school class, I delayed college, uncertain about which path my life should take. Should I study journalism and write for a living, or should I take the practical path to success through engineering? Then I landed a typist’s job at my local newspaper, the Kinston, N.C. Daily Free Press. In weeks my editor discovered that I couldn’t type, and I convinced him to give me a reporting job. My future as a writer was sealed….READ MORE