Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Old Yeller - The book that started it all for me.

As an author I’m often asked questions like, “Who’s your favorite author?”
That isn’t as simple as it sounds for me, as I have many authors I admire and as a voracious reader, I may give anyone a first read just to see if I like them. I would have to say though that Kay Hooper is probably my current favorite author. I was pulled in by her Evil series. I loved the stories. Love the characters, and Ms. Hooper has a knack for keeping you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end of the book.
Another question often asked and much simpler for me to answer is, “What book inspired you to write?”
That one is easy. Frederick Benjamin Gipson’s Old Yeller. A timeless classic, that in my humble opinion, everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.
Fourteen year old Travis is left in charge of looking after the farm, his mother and little brother Arliss while his father is gone on a cattle drive. The story is set in the late 1860’s in the hill country of Texas. Hard times. Dangerous times as the family has to deal with bears, wolves, rabid skunks and the ever-present threat of Indian attacks. And if this isn’t enough, one day an old “yeller” dog shows up on their doorstep. A dog Travis immediately hates, and a dog Little Arliss immediately loves.
Gipson’s knack of allowing you to see the story through the eyes of a fourteen year old boy, makes it come to life. The realness of the times, the dangers, the love and the pain. Travis learns to love the old yeller dog as it saves first Little Arliss’ life, and then his mother’s.
Gipson then takes you through one of life’s sad realities of the times. Old Yeller contracts rabies and Travis is forced to shoot him.
So, that’s the book that started it all for me. Another author’s ability to bring his characters to life. Make them real. Allow you to see the world they live in through the character’s eyes. Allow you to feel the frustration, love, hate, and pain of the main character. Allow you for a moment to escape from the world you live in and be someone else. Live in another time. Make you laugh. Make you cry. That to me is the greatest gift authors can give to their readers.
I think about Old Yeller every time I develop a new character. I read every chapter of my own books over and over again looking for that gift. I want my readers to have the very best I can give them. One day I hope I read a blog, book review, or just have someone say when asked the question, “What book inspired you to write?” and someone answers, Linda S. Prather’s Jacody Ives Mysteries.

1 comment:

  1. Omg, I loved Old Yeller! Such a great book. Of course, it made me terrified of rabies. lol. I have a yellow dog now. I should have suggested the name Old Yeller for her.