The first page-turner I’ve read, I think, was Contest by Matthew Reilly.
I saw my friend reading it in class one day when I was 15. The cover featured a Library of Congress-esque building being blown apart by what looked like a giant frickin’ laser from space.
Who can resist?
Over the years, Mr. Reilly has been a constant source of breathtaking entertainment and provider of really good quotes, when they do crop up. In Scarecrow, he quotes John Dryden saying, “Beware the fury of a patient man” – a line I take to heart whenever I deal with people. The truest and most profound thing he has ever put onto paper, though, isn’t found in any of the written texts.
It’s found at the back of his books, in the Q&A section. Mr. Reilly says:
To anyone who knows a writer, never underestimate the power of your encouragement.
Let’s face it: writers are neurotic. I’m neurotic, and if you’re a writer, you’re probably neurotic too. We all dance along the edge that separates sanity and madness, peeking over one side so that we can reenact the grotesque view to those whose minds are not quite equipped to deal with chaos.
Some of us fall over the wrong side and find genius waiting. Mr. Moore of Watchmen fame, for example.
We’re all manic and depressive and prone to bouts of extreme obsession. And all for what? So that people would read our stories and be entertained, amazed, disgusted, inspired – so that people would feel something. But God knows that half the people we know are not half as interested in half the things we write as we’d like them to be.
It’s a lonely, lonely craft; and chances are, the only people who will read your short story are other writers who are in need of affirmation that, even if they think their writing sucks and no one would read their stories, they’re at least better than this dude over here.
Readers are rare enough as they come by. I’m fortunate enough to have a handful of people I can force to read my stuff. There’s nothing, however, like the feeling of someone finding out that you’re a writer, and ask to read something you’ve written.
That happened to me earlier today. I was in class, waiting for the class to start after the break, and I was drafting a short story longhand. He took one look at my scrawling script and said, “That’s some cool shit, dude.”
I looked up. “Really? It’s just a story I’m working on.”
“Can I look at it?”
What was I going to tell him, no? “Here you go. Just follow the page numbers on top.”
He read, but didn’t get very far before the lecturer decided to carry on with the lesson. Even then, he stole a couple of peeks at the written lines in between the lecturer’s sentences. At the end of class, he was only about 2 pages into the story, but he handed the loose sheets back to me.
“That’s a —-ing good story bro.”
I smiled. “Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.”
Inside me, it was like I had died and been given new life.