Why the worst book I ever read inspired me to write.

If I gave you its name, you wouldn’t know it.

I discovered it in the only English bookshop in Nice. Buying it was an absolute act of desperation. I read mostly SF and fantasy, and this was the only book in the shop I hadn’t read before. That’s not due to my encyclopedic reading but the sparsity of choice.

I have a problem with books. It is a stupid kink in my character. If I start a book, I must finish it, no matter how brain-rottingly bad it is.

It was a typical fantasy – the size of a brick and nearly as heavy.

The world made no sense. The characters’ actions made no sense. I remember the hero’s spirit was transferred to the body of a dead girl to hide him from pursuing villains. I remember thinking that was a bit of an extreme reaction.

There was an underlying seediness to what happened to some of the minor female characters that turned my stomach.

To this day, the phrase “beautiful cornflower blue eyes” affects me like rubbing bits of polystyrene together. It was repeated so many times, it had a mesmeric quality, draining my will to live.

The only good thing I learned from it was the use of cliffhangers at the end of each chapter to draw the reader on. The problem was that the cliffhangers did not move the plot forward.  They worked like this:

Chapter 10

…Something pushed her face down in the water.

Chapter 11

She stood up in the pool. The water was just up to her ankles. “Why did you push me?”

I actually gave the book to friends for Christmas as a joke (having already made my feelings about it loud and clear). The joke kind of backfired as they reciprocated with another book by the same author. I still have it. Unread.

Anyway, at the time, I had kind of given up on writing. I had been writing the first page of the same novel since I was fourteen (that’s a story for another post).  But this book inspired me to start tapping on the keyboard.

I wanted to write something different. Something better. Something that didn’t make me cringe.


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