A guest post by Daniel Campisi.
I never used to be voracious reader.
A funny trait for a writer I know. I love books and stories, and always have since I was a boy, and I loved to read. However, as I grew older my appetite for literature lessened. It got to the point where I would go months at a time without picking up and reading a single page of a book. To this day I’ve never read many classics of fiction that most people are forced to read in school. Maybe I took the wrong classes, or maybe the right ones depending on your point of view.
I wanted to change that though. I had always created stories as a hobby and when I first toyed with the notion I wanted to be a fiction/novel writer, I knew one of the requisite things most writers did was read. Read anything and everything you could get your grubby little fingers on. But where should I start?
I turned to my roommate at the time (the person who owns this blog in fact) and I asked him for a recommendation. The following conversation is probably not at all how the scene really played out, but it’s how I remember it.
“I want to start reading more,” I said. “Have any suggestions?”
“What are you looking for?” Len replied.
“I have no idea. Something good.”
Len thought for a moment then said, “Have you heard of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman?”
I had not, and I honestly can’t even remember if I knew who Neil Gaiman was at the time. Len explained that it was fantasy book, but it wasn’t medieval swords and sorcery filled with hobbits and elves. It took place in modern day. He also mentioned it had some of the most interesting and fun description he had ever read. He sold me on it, tossed me his paperback copy from the shelf and I started reading it that night.
I was transported to a world like our own on the surface, but below it was an entire world that we couldn’t see or didn’t want to see. A man named Richard is sucked into this hidden world against his will all because he helps an injured girl named Door. The metaphoric “No good deed goes unpunished.” Soon all his friends forget who he is, and he must travel deeper into the heart of this hidden world to figure out a way to get his old life back, but is it really worth all that effort?
I was hooked on page one. I may not have been a voracious reader, but when I got hooked on a book, I was a fast reader. I finished the entire novel in the span of a few days, and once I reached the end, I felt something I had never felt before when I finished a story.
The book didn’t have a sad ending, this was a sadness that the story was over. I could no longer read about Richard and Door, or the suave Marquis de Carabas, or even the delightfully evil Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandamar. I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted more. This was a new feeling and it ignited something inside me about the power a great story can have on a reader. I knew then this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a writer and create these same emotions and feelings inside people with stories I created.
That is why Neil Gaiman is my favorite author. Since then I’ve read all of his novels, each one excellent, but to me it doesn’t get any better than Neverwhere. It was the book that inspired me to create.