I read all kinds of middle-grade and chapter books in elementary school. I think my mom still has many of them, which I'll have to get back one day for when my little girl gets older. I've always loved scary stories, from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to Wait Till Helen Comes. Then in the summer between 5th and 6th grade I read my first adult book--Stephen King's Pet Sematary. I didn't want to read any "kid" books after that. All I wanted to read was Stephen King. All throughout junior high school, I devoured as many of his books as I could get my hands on. My parents were less than thrilled. It was also the first time I told them I wanted to write a novel. I wanted to be the next Stephen King!
I wrote several partial novels in junior high school, one of which I still have, in spiral-bound notebooks. I wanted to write adult horror stories, so I added as much b-movie violence and swearing as I could. It was what I thought made adult novels and my way of rebelling. I wasn't allowed to swear at home, but if it was for artistic expression in a story then it was considered okay. I used the same kind of shock value throughout high school, turning in horrific and obscene short stories. Those old stories now sit in a pile on a shelf in the closet, and I take them out now and again to see how far I've come, as a writer and as an adult.
When I was young I only wanted to write adult stories, and now that I'm an adult I want to write young adult stories. It's funny how things change. Values. Perspective. Shock value has its place, but it's not the essence of a story. I think I've grown as a writer over the years, enough so that I know I don't want to be "the next anyone else." I just want to be authentic to myself, my voice, and my story. I want to just be me, for better or worse. I want to tell the story my way.
I credit Stephen King with turning me on to writing, making me excited about the words I can use to create new worlds, whether he likes it or not. But now I have many other influences to give me a healthy balance. I have since reread some of the Stephen King books I read in junior high, and I was astounded at how much I missed! I had no idea what I was really reading back then and I couldn't appreciate the writing and storytelling. I had just thought it was cool. And it made me feel older. Grown up. Mature. It's funny how things change.