A stepfather’s literary influence

Author Cheryl Anne Gardner pays tribute to her stepfather and his ongoing influence on her life and work:

Of course, I would have to thank my stepfather for setting me off down the literary path. Sadly I didn’t get to thank him specifically, he didn’t live to see me fulfil this dream, but had he, I am sure he would be pleased with my work. He was an avid reader himself, mostly non-fiction of the historical/philosophical variety, and though not to my particular taste, it did inspire a sense of realism, which I attempt to hold on to in my own writing. I can still smell his pipe tobacco when I think of him reading in his rocking chair every night. I still have the rocking chair and his reading glasses. His knowledge of the classics and poetry spanned far and wide. His appreciation for written thought was incalculable. Not many kids were reading Chaucer or Byron at the age I started reading them. He even made us read and write book reports over summer vacation so we wouldn’t “get stupid.” So I suppose my becoming a reviewer was his fault too. He taught me how to really read a story, how to distill the words down to their subliminal meaning.

I can’t even begin to confirm without a doubt what the first book I read of my own accord was. My grandfather had me reciting nursery rhymes from the time I was one year old. I think my first conscious choice was probably Black Beauty, but up to that point, I had already been exposed to all the prominent fables and fairy tales. I discovered early on that I had a penchant for the macabre and for deep psychological stories exploring the darker depths of human nature. We can see that even in the most classic of children’s stories such as Alice in Wonderland. The first book I ever purchased with my own money was Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the school book-mobile. I was ten years old, a B Horror movie fan, and my father didn’t take issue with the purchase. From that point forward, I shifted my focus to gothic literature. I read a great a deal of what would be classified as Horror or Thriller stories. In my teenage years, I was accepted into an honours Literature program and spent my time reading mostly European writers and poets, many of them I mention directly in my own work. When my stepfather died, I rescued as many of his books as I could from the cold damp garage, and those now reside in my home library to this day. The library my husband built for me from scratch because he knows how important mine and my father’s relationship with the word was.

I even wrote a brief passage about my stepfather in my novella The Thin Wall:

It had been ages since she had thrown herself into a good book, since she had felt the tear of the pages, or since she had caught the indelible scent of the paper and the leather. It had been ages. She couldn’t overlook that fact, and she had plenty of books lying about the flat, too many and too dusty to ignore. It’s not an obsessive librarian thing, either, she claimed. It’s just a love of the written word. To hold a book in your hands, to feel the tear of the pages, to hear the creak of the binding the first time you open it, the first time you set your eyes on the pages and discover their secrets, the secrets hidden within the words, secrets only you can know. There is something so sublime in that. An uncomplicated joy. Yes, that is what Laleana felt every time she opened a book, every single time.

Her stepfather had showered her not only with discipline but also with scores of leather-bound tomes containing the most pure and beautiful words she had ever seen: Byron, Keats, Chaucer, Voltaire, and Shakespeare, the list could go on without end or measure.

With his encouragement, and with little complaint, she threw herself into the classics of literature and philosophy, ripping the words from the pages and dissecting their every subtle detail. She found never ending solace in the sad poetry of other abandoned souls. However, solace was not all that she found in the words. Whispered secrets lilted from the pages, shuddered and rolled upon her breath, and then fell sweetly over her skin, for their were muted visions hidden away within those words, visions of beauty, magic, justice, honour, everlasting faithfulness, and most of all—love. Her passion for literature knew no bounds. It mattered not the style or device: she loved them all equally from the short story, to the poem, to the play. For nothing could touch her so deeply as a well-placed word.

In at least three of my novellas you will see very strong father figures: Henry in The Kissing Room, Viktor in The Thin Wall, and in my most recent release The Splendor of Antiquity, I sort of took it to the extreme: the narrator being a 2000 year old Dead Assyrian King who watches over and analyzes our middle-aged and very confused protagonist Joliette and her estranged lover Botton. Of course there is more to the story than the romance. Philosophically speaking, it’s a story about a woman struggling to reconcile her faith in fate and logic, her belief in God and Science. But she is not sure that she can trust in God or the Cosmos or anything. After losing her parents in a car accident and then losing her first love, she believes that love is inconsistent, illogical, and therefore, it can only inflict agony and confusion upon her soul, so she gallivants all over the known Archaeological map, digging up dead things in an effort to understand her conflicted emotions. Love and Death: the two are interconnected, and Joliette discovers this when she uncovers a mysterious burial rite in the mountains of Siberia — and a body. The Splendor of Antiquity blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy. Can faith and science unite to save two desolate hearts? Will love triumph over rumour and deceit, and can a man and a woman put history aside and rediscover just how deep their passion for each other lies? Antiquity follows French Archaeologists Joliette Deneauve and Olivier Botton, as they grapple with the mystic implications of a discovery hidden deep within the Siberian mountains. As Joliette pursues her obsession with death, she becomes bewitched by the spirit of a long dead God-King, and torn with despair, her grip on reality is tested. As Joliette attempts to decipher the incantations of a strange burial rite, painful memories from her own past begin to overcome her, and her faith in Botton is tested. Will she learn to trust him again, or will they slip farther away from one another, into the abyss and beyond?

Reviewers have given it a thumbs up:

“A love story not to be missed.” — Readerviews

The Splendor of Antiquity is an intricate though eerie story laced with a subtle but lucid romance […] exquisitely multifaceted without the conventional angst.” — Pamela from the Erotic Bookworm reviewing for The Pod People

“Will send shivers up your spine.” — LLBR

“A more accurate portrayal of the modern female psyche, and Gardner’s eloquent prose never falters.” — Breenie Books

The Splendor of Antiquity can be purchased in print and in Kindle and ePub format at Amazon, Kobo Books, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Coming soon to the Sony Reader Store. Purchasing links can be found at the Twisted Knickers Publications homepage. Links to free chapters and reviews can be found there as well.

Cheryl Anne Gardner is a writer of dark, often disturbing literary novellas. She is an advocate for independent film, music, and books, and when at all possible prefers to read and review out-of-the-mainstream Indie published works, foreign translations, and a bit of philosophy. Her love of literature began at an early age with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Captivated by the Gothic and Dark Romantic stylings of Poe, Lovecraft, Kafka, and de Sade, her passion for the macabre manifests itself throughout her own work to this day. She lives with her husband and ferrets on the east coast USA, is an enthusiastic gardener, and her weekly blog column titled “Thoughts on The Craft” can be found at The Pod People Indie Book Review and Commentary site: PodPeep.Blogspot

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