Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The other day I got to thinking about my first novel, which was based loosely on the 1960's version Harlequin romance novels. My lovely neighbor Mrs. Ward, who took an early interest in teaching me to read (I could read before Kindergarten), would lend me her books as part of a group of neighbor ladies who loved those romances. Initially, of course, she lent me (and taught me to love) more classic authors, like Mark Twain and Jules Verne, and I forget who else. Probably the books left behind by her two grown daughters. Her oldest daughter was and still is best friends with my sister who is 15 years older than me.
After instilling me with a love of reading, she then made me a part of the book group and we all shared the romances. She would, of course, hold back those she felt were too racy for me, since I was probably only 10 or so when she had run out of children's literature for me. I know I started writing that novel in one of those composition notebooks when I was in about 6th or 7th grade and I recall, dimly, that the heroine was named Faith Matthews, which clearly sounded romantic to me. The opening scene was Faith sitting out by the pool with a daquiri or some other random mixed drink which I knew nothing about then, and still don't.
When Mrs. Ward died, I was in my early 20's and her daughter told me she wanted me to have all those books. I went over with a box and loaded up dozens and dozens of Harlequins, all our initials in the front so we could remember which ones we'd already read, and her notes in the ones she felt were inappropriate for someone of my tender years to read. A few years after, when Mrs. McQueen (another of our group book ladies) passed away, her husband loaded up her books and came walking down the street, grocery bags in his arms, to give those to me as well.
I still have them all. Because some things are too precious to give away.