I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in a small Gloucestershire village – back then, there were only four channels on the telly and as a teenager there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. My nearest library was ten miles away, my nearest bookshop twenty.
I was never one of the hanging-round-on street-corner kids, I preferred to stay in and read. As a teenager, I remember endless rainy Saturday afternoons when there was nothing but horse racing and darts on TV and my mum and dad’s bookshelves became my escape. Lack of access to bookshops meant I had to make do with what I could find and expand my reading genres – once I’d worked my way through the teenage reads in the school library, I read anything and everything we had at home. On my mum’s shelf, there was Mills & Boon and Catherine Cookson, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran. On my dad’s, it was Alistair MacLean, Stephen King and James Herbert. I read my dad’s non-fiction books about nature and war, I read cookbooks, I read the bible. I read every copy of 2000AD stashed in my brother’s room and I even read the Watchtower magazines the Jehovah’s Witnesses stuffed through the letterbox.
I learned a lot from all of them, but most of all I learned not to be a reading snob: I appreciated a good thriller or a sweet romance as much as any of the classics we read at school.
Some of those books still sit on my shelves – all my old Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfield books, the Narnia books, What Katy Did and Little Women. But also my dad’s Stephen Kings and Alistair MacLeans, my mum’s Catherine Cooksons and Jackie Collins.
Now I’m all grown up and writing my own stories – whether it’s short stories, flash fiction or novels, I’ve written thrillers and romance, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I like to think the access my parents gave me to all those wonderful fictional worlds has helped shape me as a writer and I want to thank them for that – I only wish they were still alive to see where their love of books has taken their daughter.
At the moment, my eldest daughter is only interested in books with horses in them and my youngest books about fairies, but I’m hoping they’ll find their own inspiration in my bookshelves as they get older – shelves that offer romance and crime and horror and fantasy, a fictional look into the past and the future, classic books and future literary classics.
I hope that some rainy afternoon when there’s nothing on TV will open up a whole new world for them like it did for me.
8 thoughts on “Vanessa Savage – Inspired by…”
A lovely and moving post, Vanessa, and you have given your daughters an amazing start and a wonderful role model xxx
Thank you, Laura xxx
I love this post, Vanessa! I did exactly the same and am sure it’s why our heads are stuffed full of weird…stuff… Celia xxx
Thanks Celia xxx
What a lovely post, Vanessa! This could have been something I wrote myself. I well remember those dull Saturday afternoons and, like you, I sought refuge in my parents’ bookshelves. My mum read Catherine Cookson and Mills and Boon, too. My dad tended to read non-fiction – well, he said it was non-fiction. With titles like, Was God an Astronaut? I’m not so sure. 🙂 My own children barely read at all. I have no idea why. I’m trying desperately to instil a love of reading into my grandchildren and nieces. It’s definitely in the genes so it must come out somewhere. 🙂
Thanks Sharon – isn’t it lovely to know we’ll never have another dull Saturday afternoon? Vanessa x
I think it was boredom that drove most of us to the bookshelves. Nowadays there’s so much to keep the youngsters occupied online. I read most of the books mentioned above and benefited from trying everything and anything!
I think you’re right, Susannah – these days there’s always something to watch on TV, or games to play on iPads and computers and phones…