Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Reader First...

Isn't it funny how some books crawl in the back of your mind and stick with you forever?  

I hadn't really thought about this for a while but it came up when I was responding to a lovely blogger who invited me to visit her blog in December.  *Waving to Kati at ROMANCING RAKES *  She asked what my favorite Christmas Romance is and would I be willing to give away a copy when I visit her blog.

Product DetailsWow... my favorite Christmas Romance.  I don't know if I can do that.  How do I even begin to remember ONE book out of the thousands I've... Wait!  One popped right into my thoughts even before I could finish lamenting about the difficulty of the question.  Christina Skye's CHRISTMAS KNIGHT. 

Released in October 1998, that means it's probably been thirteen years since I read the book but I so remember that story.   I can still visualize the characters when I think about them!  I can close my eyes and actually SEE Ronan MacLeod approaching Hope's cottage and working on the thatched roof and... well, I think I've made my point.

I was a voracious reader long, long before I ever began to write my first book.  Books were my fantasy world of choice from the time I first began to read.  [Dick and Jane and Spot, anyone?]  Books have always been my passion.  I have hundreds of them packed away in plastic storage boxes in the crawl space because I have no more room on the shelves in my office.  Or on the back of my bed.  Or in my closet.  Or in my bedside table.  Or... well, you get the picture.  I'm sure many of you have the same... um... storage issue.  And those don't even take into account all the books I've given away to thrift shops and libraries and friends.

Storage problems aside, I love books.  And while there are thousands of stories I've enjoyed, there are some that still linger in the back of my mind, ready to jump out at a moments notice.  You, too? 

The Clue in the Diary (Nancy Drew, Book 7)I read and loved every single book in the NANCY DREW series.  I idolized Carolyn Keene for the wonderful stories she wrote.  I wanted to BE her.  [Can I just tell you how disappointed I was when I learned, years later, that "Carolyn Keene" was actually several different people who wrote those books?] 

Product DetailsThen there was Mary Stewart's THE MOONSPINNERS.  I saw it first as a Disney movie and then hunted down the book at my local library.  The book was soooo much better that it still has a place -- all these years later! -- on my keeper shelf.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the SoulDouglas Adams is probably best known for his HITCHKIKERS GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE books, but my all-time favorite of his works [and one of my all-time favorite stories ever and a big part of the reason I wrote my first book] is THE LONG DARK TEA-TIME OF THE SOUL.  I LOVE that book.  [Though I'll admit, every time I read it, I imagine there's one more chapter that ties up things the way I want them tied up!]  If you haven't read this, you really need to give it a try.  And if you want a real treat, find yourself a copy of the audio version [so old it's on cassette tapes!] of the author reading the full story. 

So, Kati's question got me to thinking... what IS it about those books that made them so unforgettable to me?   As you can see, my best loved books aren't all Romance [okay, most are, and for the ones that aren't, I pretend they have the HEA I crave!].  So what's the one thing about them that really hooked into my imagination?  For me, it all boils down to the characters. 

There's nothing like having a character come to life in my imagination as I get to know them while reading their story.  I think that's why I'm NEVER satisfied with a movie or television adaptation of books I've loved.  The character living in my head exists only there so any actor chosen to play the part is an imposter to my way of thinking.  Ruins the story for me.  From Keene's spunky, smart, ahead-of-her-time Nancy Drew, to Adams's funny, perservering Kate Schechter [who, by the way, I see as the heroine of this story even though reviewers insist the book belongs to the private eye, Dirk Gently], these characters have taken on their own lives in my imagination.

Now that I've shared a few of my favorites, tell me yours.  Is it the characters that make the stories unforgettable for you, or is it something else?  Come on, share... I'm always looking to add a new favorite to my seriously overflowing bookshelves!