For me it was Dr. Seuss and once the magical key to sounding out words began, there was no turning back. What I and millions of other kids particularly loved about Seuss was that the stories were nonsense, fantastic and just plain silly.
I didn’t know I was learning something. I just wanted to laugh at the antics of the Cat in the Hat, fervent in my hope that one day when my mother was out, I too, would have a similarly exciting adventure.
From the beginning, I was lucky enough to be one of those readers who was never distracted when reading a book. There is an infamous story in my family of me as a toddler playing alone, creating a book, with crayons, sticks, and leaves, ribbons and scraps of paper and whatever else I gathered in the fort my brothers and I built. I was entranced inside my little escape, engrossed, alone for hours and so lost in my own world that my mother literally called the cops when she couldn’t find me.
I responded to the wordplay in Dr. Seuss stories and continued to love that type is silliness in Peggy and Herman Parish’s Amelia Bedelia stories.
As I got older I continued to be fascinated with words and language and took to reading books like An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. Yes, go ahead and yawn. I found it scintillating. (Scintillating, from the Latin, meaning brilliant, lively or stimulating.)
The skill of losing myself in a book, of sinking into the magical world -whether realistic or imagined-came in handy in school and sometimes I think the only thing that got me through law school was my ability to concentrate and focus even when reading the heaviest (literally and figuratively) reading material.
As a counterpoint to academic reading, I read everything I could find in the library and developed a fondness for police procedurals and romance. Trash reading to some but never to me, these stories were always the perfect escape from the aforementioned legal tomes.
Now that I write romance I find myself defending my choice of genre all too often, to people who have often not ever deigned to open, let alone buy, a romance. I don’t understand why people disdain what they don’t know, and I don’t understand why romance authors and their books don’t get a little more credit for pulling readers into a their tales of true love whether it’s forbidden love, a second chance at love, love in a time of war…you get the idea. These books are good whether they’re by Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen or some author we have all yet to meet.
Frederick Douglass said once you learn to read you will be forever free. When you read romance of any subgenre, you give yourself the freedom to escape.