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January 24, 2009

HERE KITTY KITTY

Every writer can point to his or her obvious influences—the favorite authors and favorite books that served as guides and inspiration along the way. But I think the smaller, less obvious books from childhood/teenhood interest me more.

Occasionally I’ve attempted to harness the vast powers of the Internet to seek out books that I remember reading once or twice as a kid but never, for whatever reason, saw again. I find it a strange, sort of wonderful experience to hold and reread these books as an adult (especially in a familiar edition), finding those dusty old memories of a story tucked away in the nooks and crannies of your brain. Inevitably, some of those memories have warped over time. And some of those memories (pieces of your life) you discover you’d misplaced entirely.

Especially surreal are the moments when you reread an old, near-forgotten book and run across a character trait, or an author’s stylistic habit (good or bad), or even a small, seemingly insignificant detail or description that you just know in your gut must have found its way out of its box in your brain attic and into your own work over the years.

Example: a couple years ago, I was trying to remember a book I’d read as a 6th grader. All I knew was that it was about feral cats taking over some woods in New England and I’d loved it. A Google search, a trip to an online used/out-of-print bookseller, and a short wait later, and I possessed my own ex-library copy of the short novel Feral by Berton Roueche; I could remember almost nothing about the story until I reread it one snowy winter night, and then it was like I’d just read it yesterday. It still held up and I was proud of my fine 6th grade taste.

I also couldn’t help noticing that the protagonist in the book was named Bishop, just like the protagonist in my own first novel, written a little shy of two decades later by a relative grownup. Coincidence? Very possibly so. Or had I somehow fused the name “Bishop” with “story I like” somewhere in my subconscious? Of course there’s no way to know for sure, but I like wondering.

Paul Callaway, the protagonist in Safer, is less mysterious. I named him after a golf club. There, I spoiled the magic. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain as he sneaks out the back.

Thanks for reading, folks. I hope you enjoyed the free chapters, and I hope you’ll keep your eyes peeled for the book on February 24. It’s a big one for me and I want to impress the bosses. Speaking of which…

…thanks again to everybody at Blood on the Page for letting me use all the guest towels.

Cheers and good health to all,

SD

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