Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Early Literary Influences -- A Guest Post by Michael Rupured


Today on Early Literary Influences, I'm thrilled to have a guest poster, brand new author Michael Rupured. His novel, Until Thanksgiving, will be debuting soon from Dreamspinner Press. Michael's influence is not actually a book, but a person, a librarian, who made a huge impact on his formative years. 

Nothing makes me happier than to see an avid reader make the leap to author. Please welcome Michael to the site, and to the world of m/m romance author. 

***

Unless it came with crayons, there weren’t many books for children in our house when I was growing up.  Little Black Sambo was the one book I remember seeing. There were others, but for some reason, that’s the one I can recall.

The library in the parochial school I attended for first and second grade consisted of a tall bookcase with a shelf for each of eight grades.  Dr. Seuss dominated the two lowest shelves. I read every book I could reach.

We moved across town in time for me to start third grade in a brand new public school.  A full-time librarian reigned over a library bigger than our house. Be still my beating heart!

Our class went to the library once a week. Miss Littrell entertained us with a story, using different voices for the characters. She was great and could have made a fortune recording audiobooks for children.

The day we met, I was writing my name on the little card I’d pulled from a pocket on the back of the book to check it out. Everyone called me Mike—a name I’ve never especially liked. Inspired by Mary, Jerry, Fanny, and Lucy who’d checked the book out before me, I decided to give Mikey a try, adding the y with an extra flourish in the tail to make it mine.

Miss Littrell came up behind me, glancing at the card before she spoke. “Do you need any help, Mickey?” That was the end of Mikey and the beginning of a wonderful relationship. We’re friends on Facebook to this day.

Little green cards, each with a name printed in neat block letters with a black magic marker, covered the wall behind the checkout and return desk. Miss Littrell added a star sticker to my strip for every book I read. After fifty little stars, I got a new green strip with a big gold star. By the end of sixth grade, my strip sported dozens of big stars in a variety of colors, the additional hues needed after some of us got into competitive reading.

All those stars paid off. I became a library helper in fourth grade—one of the chosen few with full access to the sacred interior of the library.  While Miss Littrell read to a class, I sat behind the checkout counter returning little cards to the back pockets of books so they could be checked out again. Some days I got to read to the first graders. Heady stuff for a nine-year-old.

As I got older, Miss Littrell read excerpts from age-appropriate books to introduce us to various authors and genres. She taught us how to use the card catalog then gave us a tour of different nonfiction sections of the library, through reference books, and on to periodicals. In the absence of the Internet, the library was the door to an information super highway that in 1965, was still just a dirt road.

After Dr. Seuss, my first favorite author was Beverly Cleery. Scenes from her books stand out in my mind—Henry Hudson in a bedroom lined with jars of baby guppies, Louella the goat munching on his aunt’s prized gardenias. I couldn’t get enough and read everything she ever wrote.

My first favorite book was Champion Dog: Prince Tom, a true story about a boy and his cocker spaniel that made me want a dog of my own. I ordered the paperback from Scholastic Books and cried my way through the brown-inked pages dozens of times.  A few years ago I finally got a dog—Toodles, a long-haired Chihuahua who grieves when I’m out of sight. She completes me.

In grade school I read all of Jim Kjelgaard’s books about dogs and wolves, tore through Walter Farley’s series about horses, and continued with Marguerite Henry’s tales of Misty and Chincoteague. When that wasn’t enough, Miss Littrell turned me on to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Series, the Boxcar kids, the Borrower books, and C.S. Lewis’s fantasy series, just to name a few.

She also directed me to shelves with more information about things that interested me. I checked out books on tropical fish to learn more about Henry Hudson’s guppies. An illustrated guide to blooming plants of the south provided my first glimpse of a gardenia bush in bloom. I could find out anything—as long as it happened long enough ago to make into print.

While other kids played baseball or took swimming lessons, I rode my bike to school to help Miss Littrell with inventory and other duties that kept her in the library all summer. Graduating to junior high didn’t stop me, either. I came back to help the next two summers.

When the superintendent transferred hundreds of teachers to integrate public school faculty, Miss Littrell ended up at an inner-city school. She told me it was closer to her home, but I could see she’d been crying. Her replacement said my help wasn’t wanted or needed. Fine. Be that way.

My elementary school librarian is my earliest literary influence. Without her encouragement and support, I’m not sure reading would have been as important to me as it was and is. Loving to read is an essential first step to becoming a writer. I hope third graders today have a Miss Littrell to inspire future generations of authors and an interest in reading and a curiosity for knowledge beyond the classroom for everybody else.

Dreamspinner Press will release Until Thanksgiving, my first novel, in December or January. The ink hasn’t dried on the contract so I don’t have a cover or anything.  

***

Gay and pushing forty, Josh Freeman knows his best years are behind him. After his partner of seventeen years has an affair with a younger man, Josh buries himself in a pile of take-out boxes, empty bottles, half-smoked joints, and self-pity. His best friend, Linda does what friends do—gently kicks his ass and encourages him to give the job he’s been offered in Washington D.C. a try—at least until Thanksgiving.

Thad Parker, a DC-based relocation expert, rarely dates and has never fallen for anyone. But when he meets Josh Freeman and shakes his hand, a spark hits him like a lightning strike. When Josh takes an active interest in someone else, Thad decides to wait.

While he waits, misunderstandings about Thad’s relationship with his older roommate, a reckless encounter with a serial killer, and a brush with death conspire against Josh and Thad’s chance at happiness.

***

Thank you, Eden, for this opportunity to meet your fans. I’ll let you know when I have a cover, the official blurb, and a release date. Until then, I invite your readers to follow me through the process of getting my first novel published.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks, Michael, for joining us today. What a great example of how one person can unknowingly shape the life of a future writer. I bet Miss Littell would be so proud of you!

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  2. You're more than welcome. Thanks again for the opportunity!

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  3. this post brought back memories of the small town library where I grew up and the librarian there. When I ran out of books I wanted to read in the children's library, in the basement, she took me upstairs to the main library, where the grown up books were. She opened up the whole world to a ten year old. :) Great post, Michael!

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    1. Thanks Tali! I worry about the impact of the internet but figure the good will eventually outweigh the bad...maybe.

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  4. Great interview, Michael. :)

    *Laugh* yeah, brought back memories too. I think most of us have a deep rooted love, and good memeories, for the written word lol.

    ~M

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    1. Sorta like a curse :-). Thanks for popping in, MA.

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  5. Lovely! And yes, I do remember her. She encouraged me to read, abetted my reading and always suggested new reading that helped me grow.

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