Monday, June 08, 2015

Moe Ferrara on Meeting Your Literary Heroes

Since I started at BookEnds, I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and the books I read growing up (especially given the areas I’m representing!). I come from a very weird age group—older than “Gen X” but really not quite a “Millennial” either. I remember a time before technology, when you had to learn how to use a card catalogue in order to find a book at a library. Old enough to have listened to music first on records then cassettes then CDs and now on MP3s. I remember when macs had a 3” black & white screen and the most advanced game was seeing who died of dysentery in Oregon Trail.

There really wasn’t much in the “age appropriate” pile growing up, outside of Judy Blume (aw, yeah TALES OF A FOURTH-GRADE NOTHING) or The Baby-Sitter’s Club…there wasn’t much to read. Thus, I often read far above my age bracket. 

But there was Goosebumps. I was just about to start third grade when WELCOME TO DEAD HOUSE came out. (For the uninitiated, that was the first book in R.L Stine’s creepy-as-hell paranormal MG series). I devoured them… and I still have ALL of my books in my basement back at my folks’ house. Goosebumps gave way to the Fear Street series. Later my cousin introduced me to Christopher Pike. These were the “YA” books of my generation and I was reading toward the end of elementary school and into middle school.

This year at BEA, I had the supreme honor of getting to meet R.L. Stine. 

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I won’t lie. I turned into an utter fangirl. I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to thank him for the books that I grew up reading. The books I read with a flashlight under the covers. Ten-year-old me couldn’t even imagine being in a position where I could meet an actual author!

With the friends I have (sorry, no bragging here!), it takes a lot to get me star-struck. Through things like conventions, anyone can have the opportunity to meet their heroes—literary or otherwise. I had a chance to meet Stephen Lawhead a few years ago. I mourn the fact that Tom Clancy passed before I got the chance to thank him for the books I read all through high school. 

But you know what? It’s okay to fangirl when you meet legends like this (just don’t turn creepy and respect boundaries of course!). Because when there’s a person like that who has had such a profound effect on your life, it’s the best feeling in the world to tell someone “my life was changed because of you.” Not only that, but it means the world to them to know their words and their works have made a difference in someone else’s life.

So I pose to you guys reading — who is your “literary hero” you’d love to meet and why?

--Moe Ferrara


Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Brian Keene. Already met him. It was AWESOME!

The Other Stephen King said...

I have a problem answering this. Not because I don't have a literary hero -- I have several, in fact. It's because I always sound weird being Stephen King, saying Stephen King, when I mean the other one, and yet I blog and write as the other one.

I don't even like most of his novels, honestly. I tried reading Cujo over breaks one night at an overnight battle simulation with my cavalry unit in Germany, but couldn't get into it. It's just not my genre. But ever since I read On Writing, I've known that a) I can do it, too, and b) I should do it. It's amazing how one book can have made such a difference in my life.


Kate Douglas said...

I grew up reading my dad's science fiction--stories by Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke among many others. I used to get so irritated with the truly sexist style of their writing. Heinlein, especially--I swear, the women in his stories are almost all brainless bimbos, at least the ones I read. Then I discovered Anne McCaffrey and her world of Pern with her strong women, and I was hooked. Years later, I was reading posts on a S/F authors' list when I saw a comment by Anne, praising the world building in my Wolf Tales series. (and yes, I saved the post) It took me about three days to build up enough courage to write to her and thank her for her very generous comments.

We developed an online friendship that lasted until her death in 2011, but I never had the chance to meet her in person. She'd quit traveling from her home in Ireland due to health issues, but we wrote often--sometimes daily--for a few years. I actually heard from her the day before she passed away from a stroke. She had finally "finished the damned book" and sent the manuscript off to her editor.

Her daughter wrote to me after she died and said my package to her mother arrived the morning she passed away--Annie had given me a wonderful quote for my Wolf Tales stories, and I'd gotten in the habit of sending a copy to her each time a new book released. She had a wicked sense of humor and loved the sexy stories, so I always included cards with half-naked hunks on them when I wrote to her Her daughter said they got a good laugh over the card, and then decided to stick it in her mother's casket. She told me that her mother had always appreciated a good looking man, and they thought it only fair she should take one with her into the afterlife.

She had such a powerful effect on me as a young adult reader, but her friendship at the end of her amazing career gave me more than I can ever explain. Stories of the difficulties being a woman science fiction author in a genre that was dominated by men, the problems trying to be a successful author with a husband who ridiculed her work--and all written in a manner that made me feel as if we were sitting over drinks in a hazy bar somewhere, spilling our guts.

One of my favorite stories--she gave herself a 75th birthday party and invited her ex-husband to Ireland for it. He'd told her, very early in her career, that he doubted she'd ever make enough money to pay the postage on the manuscripts she was constantly sending off. Annie said she wanted to show him "the house that dragons built."

She had every right to be proud of such an amazing career.

AiringMyLaundry said...

I've love to meet Judy Blume. I read her books as a kid. I'm an only child, so they were sort of like my friends. I remember reading the Fudge books and thinking, "Hmm. Maybe I DON'T want a little brother after all.." I remember reading Forever when I was about 15. I was in the library and hiding behind a stack of books because I was worried I'd get in trouble. Blubber helped me be friends with everyone--even the kids who were bullied. I could go on and on.

John Frain said...

I was all set to say Ken Follett for "Lie Down with Lions" that became my entry into reading, but instead ... I've just read Kate Douglas' post above and I'm awestruck.

I bet you'd be great to meet, Kate. Yikes, I hope that didn't sound creepy. But here's the thing.

I don't write sci fi or fantasy. Don't read it. And I'm obviously not a woman. Yet, your post really struck a chord me still. What a fantastic story about Anne McCaffrey. You were so fortunate and, just as important, smart enough to realize how fortunate you were. Thanks for sharing that tale. It gave me a happy visual.

S.P. Bowers said...

I loved Oregon Trail!

I was so afraid of being a fan girl when I met one of my admired authors that I stood there with my arms folded and didn't say a word the entire time. I think being a fan girl might have been better.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Erma Bombeck and Andy Rooney.
I pitch myself as their writing love-child.
I love King, Koontz, Clark and Asimov so to end up as a columnist seeking to write like my imaginary mom and dad, weird huh.

Stephanie Cranford said...

Ursula K. Le Guin. I would very much like to meet Ursula K. Le Guin. (Also I will eternally shed a tear for missing Terry Pratchett by about two and a half years.)

AJ Blythe said...

I have a lot of authors who mean a lot to me, probably because I have spent most of my life reading.

Unfortunately L.M. Montgomery, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, David Eddings, James Herriot and Gerald Durrell have all sadly passed away.

Luckily I still have a chance to meet Jenn McKinlay - if only we weren't separated by half a world *grin*.

On the non-fiction side of the writing fence, I did get to see David Attenborough when he toured here (Australia) in 2013. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet him personally.

Some of these authors not only transformed my reading life, but also professional as James Herriot, Gerald Durrell and David Attenborough were all an influence in my decision to become an environmental scientist.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey TOSK, I agree with your assessment of King's On Writing. That book is quite different than other books about writing. He splays open his life and lets you in. It's a gem for anyone taping keys while wondering if it's all worth it.

DLM said...

Donald Harington was an American author not wildly well known, but he's been compared to Chaucer, and I was privileged to converse with him electronically a year or two before his death. He told me he was working on a novel featuring one of his past characters (his novels often centered on a fictional Ozark town called Stay More, and picked up facets from one another), Latha Bourne.

It was not until after he died I read "Enduring", the novel he told me about, and it still brings up the little hairs along the back of my neck. As if his work hadn't power enough, that launched my experience of reading that book to a new level, and it felt joyous and intimate and meant so much to me.

Another of my favorite writers was Roger Ebert. I didn't tend to agree with his assessments of movies, but LOVED his manner of expression. I was able to exchange a few emails with him as well some years ago. He was an incredibly thoughtful (in the sense of intellectual openness and willingness to consider unaccustomed points of view) and generous man, and very kind. I still sometimes go back and read his reviews or his blog.

Much more recently, I met Hugh Howey, at the James River Writers Conference last October. He was sitting on his own and I chatted with him for a few minutes - not about my writing nor even his, but just the event and the people and the food or whatever. He could not have been more charming and pleasant.

Wendy Qualls said...

I was a total mess the first few times I got up the nerve to visit the Nashville RWA chapter meeting, because I knew Sherrilyn Kenyon was a member and I was likely to make a total idiot of myself if we actually met face to face.

It was a bit anticlimactic to find out she doesn't really come to meetings anymore :-P (I did eventually get to meet her, a year or two in, and she was a perfectly nice person!)

My total literary idol was also a near-miss. When I was in college, one of my friends was on the committee which selected the various visiting famous people who got invited to come to campus and speak. I fangirled to her about how awesome Orson Scott Card was and how he lived practically right down the road (Raleigh is ~45 minutes from Duke), and she ended up getting him invited to come present! Of course, then I went and had a class I ABSOLUTELY COULDN'T MISS and didn't get to see his talk. My little sister was kind enough to get him to sign my copy of "Ender's Game," but it's just not the same :-(

RobCeres said...

My literary hero is, has been, always will be Lizzy Bennet. I remember as a teen thinking Mr. Darcy the luckiest guy in the world, and not because he was rich. And I remember admiring Lizzy's “fine pair of eyes.” Now that I’m the father of two girls I admire the world’s first feminist author even more.