Today’s National Reading Campaign Mission? Spread the word! Tell reading you love it.
On that note, today’s reading confessional comes from author Douglas Smith.
“Doug Smith is, quite simply, the finest short-story writer Canada has ever produced in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and he’s also the most prolific. His stories are a treasure trove of riches that will touch your heart while making you think.”
—Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Hominids and FlashForward
Douglas Smith is an award-winning Canadian author of speculative fiction, with over a hundred short story publications in thirty countries and twenty-five languages.
His collections include Chimerascope (2010) and Impossibilia (2008), as well as the translated fantasy collection, La Danse des Esprits (France, 2011). His first novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, will be released in 2013.
Doug has twice won Canada’s Aurora Award, and has been a finalist for the international John W. Campbell Award, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Bookies Award, Canada’s juried Sunburst Award, and France’s juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane.
A multi-award winning film based on Doug’s story “By Her Hand, She Draws You Down” will be released on DVD this year, and other films based on his stories are in the works. Doug’s website is smithwriter.com and he tweets at twitter.com/smithwritr.
Q: What are you reading right now?
A: I tend to have several books on the go. Right now they are “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole (written in 1764 and generally considered the first gothic novel, which is why it’s on my list), “Under My Skin” by Charles de Lint (Book One in his new YA “Wildings” series, because I love de Lint and want to write YA in the future), plus I’m rereading Roger Zelazny’s “Jack of Shadows” and E.R. Eddison’s “The Worm Oroborous” because I love them both.
Q: As a kid, why did you love reading?
A: Not sure how I would have answered that question back when I actually was a kid, but looking back I think that it was just such a great way to have wonderful adventures and make my world a lot bigger than my house and neighborhood and school. I was reading by age four and I am so thankful to my parents for introducing me to reading (via the nightly bedtime story) at such an early age and getting me hooked on books for a lifetime to come.
Q: Are there any books that changed your life?
In fiction, not really,beyond the ones that opened up my eyes to new genres as a young reader or other styles of writing as an adult writer. At a very young age, a series of writers hooked me on animal stories, all of which, I think (with the benefit of hindsight), led me to the love I have for writing shapeshifter stories now. Those were A.E. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” books (apparently my favourite bedtime stories), followed by Walter Brook’s “Freddie the Pig” series (the first books I remember knowing how to find in a library), and then by everything Jack London wrote. Later, about grade 5 or 6, the Heinlein juveniles defintely got me hooked on SF, which led easily to fantasy. John Creasey and Dorothy Sayers introduced me to mystery and crime fiction somewhere in there as well. As an adult, I remember the first time I read Hemingway and being blown away by the simple clarity and freshness of his prose. I recommend a heavy dose of Hemingway for any new writer. Favourite writers in my adult years include Zelazny, Bradbury, Tim Powers, Charles de Lint, and Neil Gaiman.
One non-fiction book that definitely did change my life was Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” I read it the year I decided to chase my writing dream, and it had a profound and beneficial effect on how I went after that dream. I’d recommend it to any creative person, or anyone who wants to recapture the creativity that we all have as a child, until our Western society beats it out of us.
Q: Dog ear-er or non dog-ear-er?
Non-dog-ear-er. Even when I was reading print books. I read almost exclusively on my Kobo now, which I absolutely love, and so dog-earing is no longer even an option.
Q: Your favourite fictional hero and/or villain?
My favourite villain is without a doubt the Bishop of Rerek, from E.R. Eddison’s “Zimiamvian” trilogy. If any of your readers have never read Eddison, I heartily recommend those three books, along with “The Worm Oroborous”. It’ll take a while to get into the prose style, but it is worth the effort.
Favourite hero is tougher, but if I can include TV, the answer becomes very easy: Buffy. In written fiction, it would likely be one of Roger Zelazny’s. Corwin from the Amber Series, Sam from Lord of Light, Jack from Jack of Shadows. Sherlock Holmes would be on the list as well. Michael Valentine Smith in Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” too. Tough question. Just too many options.
Q: Anything else you want to say about reading?
Read. Read and keep reading. Teach your kids to love reading right from the start by reading them a bedtime story EVERY night, from the day you bring them home. And I mean, every night. Make it a fun time, too, something they look forward to it and expect and associate reading with a wonderful experience. And make books a good thing, a natural thing to have around. When we were out with our kids when they were young, they knew that they’d get a “No” to requests for games, toys, or candy. But they also knew that we’d always let them pick out a new book. And if you’re a writer, then you better be a reader by nature or habit, or you’d better cultivate that habit now. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a voracious reader. Period.
Thanks Doug! Jennifer Craig, (yesterday’s guest), would be happy to know you read the “Winnie the Pooh” books as a child.
Tomorrow, come back to learn what Angie Abdou has to say about reading.