I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even after watching my mom bury her first novel in the backyard because she couldn’t get it published, I wasn’t dissuaded. Maybe that’s because at the age of seven I didn’t equate the need to write with the desire to be published. (My mother also continued to write, reaching a total of ten unpublished books before finally giving up.) Writing, like reading, was my escape and I so desperately wanted to escape. Let it suffice to say that mine was not a happy childhood. I had already written my first book by then, a children’s picture book titled Peter Panda about a bear who loses his mother and travels all over London looking for her before finally finding a new one at the London Zoo. (Clearly my subconscious desires were already influencing my writing.) Cheesy, I know, but c’mon, I was seven.
In the fourth grade I wrote a series of short stories about my badass adventures in Publix, our local grocery store. You know, knocking over carefully erected piles of produce, bumping old ladies with my cart, speed racing down the aisles until I crashed into a shelf and knocked down all the junk food I wasn’t allowed to have. The kids loved it so much the teacher had me read a new story to the class every week. A year later, I wrote my first novel, Monkey Boy, about a boy who runs away from home and lives happily ever after in the jungle. (This time my desires were not so subconscious and I had a clear understanding that life was a lot easier for boys.) Then I hit puberty, discovered drugs and alcohol, a much more instantly gratifying escape, and I stopped writing. But I never stopped reading. No matter how fucked up I was, I managed to average five books a week.