I tell you what, inspiration to write as a young budding author came solely because of my need to escape from reality; it certainly wasn’t the ambition to become a professional or any hope to make money in it.
It – writing – was worse than puberty for me.
When I’d turned the great jolly age of twelve, girls were becoming interesting to me. I was every aspect of the boyish template before then. Girls had been weird. They didn’t play boy games like war and football and didn’t seem to like anything ambitious as in riding for miles and miles on a BMX bicycle just to see a dead body. The young girls I knew seemed interested in boys, but as so long as boys did things the girls wanted to do. Like make out. Like, “stick your hand here and tell me what you feel,” and “let’s do things with my family” which translated strangely because I had to act BETTER around their family than what I acted around mine. I had to clean up my act to make her parents think I was okay. What a pain in the ass.
Anyhow, the female species was becoming interesting, though. For one thing, all my male friends kept yakking about how cool they were to be a lady’s man. How cool they were to have Trisha, Shelley, Cindy, Maggie to make out with. And they made up all kinds of stories that made me feel like I was being left out of something important. “Yeah, me and Greta did it this way and that way and I held this and she touched that” and “a girl has this special bone in her vagina that if she clenches it, it tightens around your guy and you can’t pull it out.” True wisdom. If I shied away from conversations about girls, or acted innocent, I was ridiculed. So, I decided at twelve it was time to get a serious girlfriend just so everybody would think I was normal. Gawd help me if she wanted to have … umm … you know … sex.
But I wasn’t normal. I mean, I am straight and all, but females – and they still do – scared the crap out of me. I was afraid if I was in a make out session with one, and I did it wrong, she would blab about it all over school and I would become a laughing stock. Not to say I wasn’t already one. I was a writer. You know how that translates in school: nerd. Geek. “Hey, dudes! Where’s Mikey?” “Where else? The library.” “That effing queer!”
So, anyhow, I liked girls, but they were an intriguing universe that somehow was enticing but definitely perilous to explore. When you were with one, lips locked, you were on the Forbidden Planet with an invisible beast hunting you down. Still, the manliness in me stated quite firmly that I needed to understand and be with a girl. No question. So I bounced and back with teen girls older than I who taught me a great many things. Whoa. Is that what everything’s for?
However, before that came about, I was busy trying to remain an innocent kid. I had discovered writing, after all, and it was turning out to be cooler and much more fun than playing with GI Joes. I read adult-oriented works too because YA and kid’s books were just dumb. They had no action – at least not like Tarzan or those guys running around being chased by dinosaurs At The Earth’s Core (Edgar Rice Burroughs). Ah, Burroughs – the first truly literary (somewhat) mentor for me. Reading his novels inspired me to come up with one of my own: an ambitious work about a group of scientists who get stuck on an island that is inhabited by dinosaurs running amok. A little before its time, huh? And you have to wonder where the adult mind of Michael Crichton – Harvard Medicine aside – had dwelled when he came up with Jurassic Park. Looking back, comparing the two works, I’m astounded how much of my innocent inspiration actually drew out that story long before Crichton had made a 12-year-old boy’s literary fantasy a bestselling novel.
Yet, suddenly, an interesting inspiration appeared from a television movie from Rankin/Bass in 1978 (yeah, the guys who made Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer) called The Bermuda Depths. The movie, which starred Leigh McCloskey, Carl Weathers, and Burl Ives, also presented me the most devastating Hollywood siren I’d ever seen before: CONNIE SELLECCA. You talk about getting slapped by puberty hard, boy, Sellecca did that to me. She played an aloof role of a centuries-old ghost that haunts a young man searching for his father. Here was a new facet to my writing: SEX. GIRLS. WOMEN. FEMALES. And we’re not talking just something pretty for the scenery. Nope – the female character was now an object of desire for the male cast in my stories. So, let’s forget the fact that my protagonist is hunting down a giant squid; what’s even more intriguing is that there’s this mysterious ghostly woman who has attached herself to him and … and the hero might … *gulp* … like her. You know. In that … way.
I’d never felt that way about a girl. Not really. So, the movie told me I was going to have to introduce something a little more adult-oriented into my works. The male hero had special feelings for the female heroine. They were going to be partners in the adventure, and they were going to have to be more than just … umm … friends. So, puberty came through the writing and smacked me around. Hello adulthood. This is what this particular appendage is for, you know.
The short story I came up with was a rip-off of The Bermuda Depths. There were some differences, but not entirely so, between the two works, and the movie not only launched a new aspect to my writing, it became an inspiration to love the ocean. The mysterious wonderful ocean – a love I still hold today. Forget that I fantasized to become an oceanographer, a marine biologist, and a treasure diver – which is odd because I never EVER thought in those years to become an author.
It’s no surprise that a few years later, when I embarked on the intrepid quest to write my first novel Galleon: Portrait of a Treasure Diver (1981), I had the dream where my muse showed up on a beach outside Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina with her back to the ocean and a jar of pencils in her hand, asking me if I wanted to be her “partner.” Yes, I replied evenly. Of course. Didn’t matter if I was living in South Lake Tahoe, California at the time. Yet, being fifteen held its own perils. I failed every subject in my freshman year in high school, including English. Was it because I didn’t understand Split Infinitives? Gerunds? Past Participles? Sentence Diagrams? Nope; I hated school and the rigidity of the grade curve. I flunked out and left school, only to come crawling back to earn my GED when it became my overwhelming desire to join the US Navy.
Ah, but sex was already in the mix, that clever beast in our souls. Our loins. I understood that sex sells, baby, and the raunchier sometimes meant better. My first sex scene was an interlude for half a page that detailed my hero’s climax and how the female lead took it all in stride. “That’s okay, boy, it’s messy, but it gets the job done.” I’m glad my female characters were so good about it all. I mean, the real women in my life always seemed to, umm, kinda bear it.
Makes you wonder if there might be female liberation in the sexual desires that lurk in men’s libido. Good thing my female characters are so liberal.