My Greatest Inspiration (or, Why I'm an Author)

My Greatest Inspiration (or, Why I'm an Author)

I knew from a pretty young age that whatever I chose to do with my life was going to involve words. I was a precocious child; I was reading billboards from the backseat of the car by age three, shocking my parents. I read The Monster at the End of This Book over and over until it fell apart in my hands at age six. I read my first Stephen King novel at age ten, and by age twelve I had read every single Stephen King novel on my parents' bookshelf. I was constantly writing stories, and made my first attempt at writing a novel at age thirteen. Writing has always been my way of exploring and understanding the world around me. I always knew I wanted to be a novelist.

I wanted to be the next Stephen King.

It took me a very long time to get there. Life and a terrible case of impostor syndrome kept getting in the way. I may have taken my time getting to the writing part, but I never stopped reading. I purchased and read every new Stephen King book as soon as it came out (I still do). I started collecting hardcovers of all of his books, prowling thrift stores and secondhand bookstores; they make up a substantial portion of my library now.


When Stephen King came to Minneapolis in 2019, you had better believe I was there. I took my parents and a friend to see him perform with his Rock Bottom Remainders band at the legendary music venue First Avenue. For the first time ever, books sold out First Avenue!

And then, the next day, I attended the Wordplay Book Festival and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with probably 2,000 other book nerds to hear him talk.

One thing he said that day that still sticks with me: "If I get them early, they stay with me." Which is absolutely true. I read my first Stephen King book at age ten and I've never stopped. More on the why behind that coming shortly.

Wordplay wasn't the first time I got to see Stephen King live and in the flesh. In late 2009, he visited St. Paul to promote his new book Under the Dome. Was I there? Damn straight I was there.

My mom went with me, and she won a drawing for an autographed copy of the book. That wonderful woman promptly gave it to me. It now lives in a waterproof plastic bag, safely tucked away in my safe. This may be my most prized possession.

So. What is it about Stephen King that hooked me early and never let go? Why is he now, and will always be, my hero?

  • His storytelling is unmatched. This man can take a vague idea and spin it into a crazy dynamic (and believable) story better than anyone else I've read.
  • He is an astute observer of the human condition. His characters are well-developed and, most importantly, they ring true. They could be real people. 
  • I like the scary, but it isn't even really about that. It's about understanding and conquering the fears that people carry and face in their everyday lives. I think his stories help people do that. Me? Afraid of clowns? Not anymore.

Stephen King is the world's most successful author, but he's still scorned in "literary" circles -- which I will never understand. There's this school of thought out there that genre fiction can't also be literature. Which I think is a complete load of horse manure. Who's to say that genre fiction can't be "serious," or explore difficult social or political issues? (Read his latest novel Holly and then try and make that argument.) For every literary snob who thinks plot-driven genre fiction is trite, I'll give you a reader (me) who thinks character-driven literary fiction is boring. My point: a story is a story, read what you like, and for God's sake let's lift each other up rather than tear each other down. We're all in it for the stories. Amiright?

From L to R: my first Stephen King book, my favorite book of all time, and my second-favorite Stephen King book (and inspiration for my novel Sister Lost)

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