Guest Post and Giveaway: A Kid and His Books

It is my pleasure to welcome author Spencer Seidel back to Colloquium today. Spencer’s first novel, Dead of Wynter, a tautly constructed mystery thriller that keeps readers guessing about the Wynter family’s numerous secrets until the very last page, was a great success last year.

His second thriller, , deals with a case of murder that appears to be solved immediately. Teenager Paul Ducharme is discovered sitting in a pool of blood, holding the body of his best friend and the murder weapon. He is incoherent. The girl he describes as the love of his life — the girlfriend of the murder victim — has been missing for weeks. The police believe it’s a case of jealousy leading to tragedy. But when Paul claims he cannot recall the events leading up to the murder, his defense attorney calls upon forensic psychologist Lisa Boyers to help him recover his memories. In doing so, she is forced to face her own past. As media scrutiny intensifies and the public clamors for a swift conviction, Lisa becomes the target of an over-zealous reporter with a penchant for digging up dirty secrets — and a killer who already knows them all.

A Kid and His Books

by
Spencer Seidel

Because my fiction can be so dark, I occasionally get asked what kinds of books I read as a kid. I suppose some people think I was raised on a steady diet of old horror movies and King novels. As Frank Zappa famously (and flippantly) said to a senator inquiring about what odd toys his children must have had: “Well, why don’t you come up to the house and I’ll show ‘em to you?” That’s sort of what I’m going to do here. Hopefully, this short list of my favorites as a kid will bring back some fun reading memories of your own.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: This classic was the first big-boy book I remember reading on my own from start to finish. I was probably five or so, but I don’t know for sure. What I do remember is the absolute thrill the experience of reading something like this gave me. The little kid version of a head rush, I guess. I think I read it six times in a row.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster: As I recall, I had to give this a start a few times to get through it. The language was tougher in Phantom Tollbooth than in other books I’d read and the concepts far more abstract. Once I caught onto it, however, I couldn’t let go. To this day, I think about Milo driving his car through that play tollbooth.

The Great Brain Series by John D. Fitzgerald: Man, did I eat these up. My favorite was The Great Brain at the Academy, but I loved them all. Remember how The Great Brain used to climb up in that hay loft and haul the ladder up after him so he could think? Or the fact that the kids were always fist fighting in those books? These books were gritty. Publishers would have a hard time with that today, I’d wager. Wonderful, true-to-life series depicting real, not-even-close-to-politically-correct kids doing kid stuff.

Anything by Judy Blume: I can’t say enough about Judy Blume and the influence her books had on me. I read them all, even the girly ones like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. And I probably read them all before I was technically old enough, and that’s part of the reason I love my mom. Her philosophy was: if the kid wants to read something, let him, because he’ll find a way to read it anyway. My mom is probably mostly why I have such respect for women, but I’m sure Judy Blume’s female characters had something to do with that as well.

Anything by Beverly Cleary: When I was a kid, I was a strong reader, so they put me in a program called “Great Books.” What a joke. I hated the books they wanted me to read. They were all ancient and had kid characters I just couldn’t relate to. It’s a miracle those people didn’t poison my love of reading. Sheesh, if a kid is reading on his own, stop trying to control it, let him be, and enable the habit with all the books he wants! He’ll get to the good stuff before too long. Besides, a lot of that “literature” is overrated — crap grown-ups think kids should read and not what kids want to read. Anyway, I didn’t last long in that misguided program. See, what I wanted to read was stuff about kids like me. Back then, I guess I felt that way about Henry Huggins, because I couldn’t get enough of those stories. I think a part of me still wants to be like Henry.

Honorable Mention goes to The Hardy Boys Series: I must confess that I didn’t love the Hardy Boys books, but I aspired to read them all, as some of my friends did. If you’re looking for a hook into my dark side, the Hardy Boys series was probably it. Something about their world was dangerous (but not too dangerous) and scary (but not too scary). Kind of perfect for a kid who is maybe curious about the evils people commit behind closed doors …

Meet Spencer

Spencer Seidel is an honors graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University. He also attended the Berklee College of Music where he studied guitar. He has been playing for over 25 years.

His life-long love of reading began as a child when he discovered Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He began writing at about age six — he asked his mother if he could use her old red college typewriter to write a novel about a boy who discovers a fantasy world after crawling into a hollowed-out tree trunk. About that early work, he says, “I didn’t get far, but the seed was planted at that early age.”

Spencer became interested in music and put writing aside — well, mostly. He studied music off and on for years until he was in his early twenties and could pull off a decent impersonation of his guitar idol, Eddie Van Halen. In college, he rediscovered his love of writing through lab reports and an honors thesis, of all things.

He has found himself drawn to works by authors such as Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Jack Ketchum. Those writers continue to influence his own dark novels and short stories. “Horror writers are in fact my main influences,” he notes.

Spencer lives and works in suburban New Jersey, but over the years, he has also called Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine home.

Scavenger Hunt / Excerpt

Yesterday, Jennifer at Crazy for Books featured Lovesick and published an excerpt from the book. If you missed it, click here to read it! The excerpt continues:

She considered for a moment that it was probably time to get her winter things from the storage unit in her apartment’s basement.

Outside in the dark, she headed toward her car, a silver Lexus. As she walked, she thought about Jared Lee Loughner, a college student from Arizona who’d somehow slipped through the cracks before committing mass murder. Closer to home, there were the images of that kid she’d seen on News 6 who’d murdered his best friend on the Eastern Promenade. Many of the people responsible for school shootings, rapes, and other violent acts are not always obviously pathological before they act out. Sometimes the violence just bubbles up and out. She wondered if Chad was one of those. Her anxiety had gotten the better of her.

Lisa then realized that someone was behind her. Her heart pounded. She quickened her pace.

To continue reading the excerpt, visit Royal Reviews tomorrow, Saturday, February 18, 2012! Click here to read the full list of participants in the scavenger hunt and read all of the excerpts!

Enter to Win a Copy of Lovesick

Author Spencer Seidel has generously provided one copy of Lovesick to be awarded to a lucky Colloquium reader! (The book can only be mailed to a United States or Canadian street address, not a P.O. box.)

To enter, post a comment in which you answer this question:

As a child, what was your favorite book and why was it your favorite?

Submit your entry utilizing the Rafflecopter widget and take advantage of the available bonus entries!


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Thanks to Spencer and all who participated!


Comments

  1. Mona says

    As a kid, I loved :
    . The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder — they were so simple and comforting. I loved the TV show too and still do.

    . The Beezus & Ramona series by Beverly Cleary

  2. Anne says

    Gone Away Lake. What could be better for a kid than finding an (almost) abandoned toen to play with for the summer? The slightly spooky element also appealed.

  3. says

    as a child my favorite book was a summer to die by lois lowry. now that i look back on it i can’t figure out how that was my favorite book because it is so sad, but i must have read it 10 or 15 times i loved it so much. who knows : )

  4. Andrea Williams says

    I loved the Trixie Belden series. Something about the mysteries and the friendships between all the kids made them interesting to me. I think I owned the whole series and read them over and over again!

  5. catherine c says

    i loved reading Little House on the Prairie Books mostly because i loved the tv show and i had 2 sisters and 1 brother so we would pretend to be the Ingall kids. i loved to escape into Laura’s world by reading these books…:)