Ryan Lieske: Greetings, Yvonne. Thank you for talking about your reading life with me. Go ahead an introduce yourself.
Yvonne Glasgow: I’m Yvonne Glasgow, a freelance writer, and author, among other things. I have been writing professionally since 2000 and started doing it as a full-time career in 2010. It pays my bills, so I can’t complain! I have published children’s books, poetry books, and more (but I took all of my books out-of-print a couple years ago). However, I just released a new poetry book this month, Fighting With Myself: The Healing Power of Poetry.
I have been reading and writing since I was pretty young. My mom was always an avid reader (she passed in 2014), and read to me/encouraged me to read at a pretty young age.
RL: What is the first book you remember reading, or having read to you?
YG: There are a couple books that come to mind when I think of my childhood, although I can’t really remember what I read first or what my mom may have first read to me. I do recall her reading A Wrinkle In Time to me, though to this day I don’t remember anything the book was about. However, I do remember it making me most interested in fantasy stories. If anything had a unicorn in it I was sold (I even wrote a poem about a unicorn when I was in first grade, it was “self-published” by my first-grade teacher). I do want to mention that I fully intend to go back and read A Wrinkle In Time, once I am through with the zillion books I already plan to read.
RL: Wrinkle in Time is an interesting book to go back to as an adult. There are a lot of disturbing things in it that I did not pick up on as a child. Nightmarish, almost.
YG: Now I definitely need to read it again…
RL: Actually, now that we’re talking about, I kind of feel like revisiting it again. I’ve never read the other books in the series. Perhaps a binge is in order.
YG: The other book that has always stuck in my mind since childhood is The Poky Little Puppy. It’s a Little Golden Books classic these days. It was my favorite, and probably one of the reasons I always loved dogs (not so much anymore because of allergies). It was probably one of the first books I read on my own, I am sure.
RL: What is the book that you feel sealed your fate as a lifelong reader?
YG: I don’t feel like there was really one specific book that made me want to keep reading. I think it was my upbringing. My mom and dad both always had books in their hands when I was a kid. For my mom, it was science fiction and fantasy, and for my dad, it was ALWAYS westerns. Reading was just a general part of life and it stuck with me, maybe out of habit. I really find it weird anytime I meet someone that says they don’t read books…it makes me wonder what’s wrong with them. LOL.
RL: Me, too! It’s like, what the hell? Everybody read in my family—except for my brother Matt. To this day he likes to boast that the only book he’s ever read willingly is Bo Knows Bo, Bo Jackson’s autobiography.
But yeah, our house was full of books. My mom has pretty much always been into Christian-fic, but my dad, too, adores westerns. I think he’s read every book by Louis L’Amour at least ten times. Although, one non-Christian book I remember my mom reading when I was a kid was The Bell Jar. I was fascinated by that book before I ever read it. Don’t know why. But then when I did finally read it, around the time I was diagnosed with depression in my mid-20s, I totally knew deep down why I’d always been fascinated by it. It was like the book was just waiting for me.
YG: Sounds like my father and your dad would have gotten along famously, were mine still alive. I am pretty sure that the only thing my dad ever read were westerns, and quite sure he read everything by L’Amour. I could never get into westerns, although I did pick up some of my mom’s love of science fiction.
RL: A lot of people tell me that, even if they were a voracious reader as a child, it was their middle-school and high-school years that had the most impact on the reader they are today. Would you say this is true for you?
YG: Not at all. In middle school and high school, I had a bit of a distaste for reading simply because of the stuff we were forced to read for classes. I hated (then anyway) EVERYTHING they assigned us to read in Lit and Lit II. I’d skim through them, maybe read the last third of the last chapter, and winged through each class with a low C. I never read a full book that I was assigned in my Lit classes. I did go back and read some of them later in life, like the Odyssey. I never liked doing anything because I “had” to. I’d read plenty of stuff I checked out of the library though. I never read a full book that I was assigned in my Lit classes.
RL: What were the books from this period that discovered?
YG: In my late teens, 16 and up, I read a lot of romances (won’t touch the stuff now). It was around this same time that I got big into horror books as well. One of the first horror books I read was Cujo. Been a Stephen King fan, as well as a horror movie/book obsessed person, since then.
RL: Cujo was the second Stephen King book I ever read. In 7th grade. The first was The Dead Zone, although at that age, I didn’t understand that book at all. I got the supernatural stuff, but the political stuff went way over my head. Cujo, however, I’d seen the movie first, over at a friend’s house, so I think that helped me understand the book more. To this day I’m shocked my mother even let me read it at that age. She probably thought it was just a killer dog eating people. She had no idea about all the sex and swearing. That book certainly taught me a few things I had no business learning at that age. Thank God.
YG: I am still shocked to this day that my mom took me to see Cujo when it was released into the theater. I think I had nightmares for a whole month after that. It also probably contributed to the idea I had that the house I spend most of my pre-teen and teen years in was haunted (although I still believe it was).
While it was my high school years that spawned my love of horror books, I think I found more appreciation for books as I got older and my tastes changed.
RL: Reading is inherently a solitary activity, so did your reading life ever supersede or cause conflict with your social life growing up?
YG: I had very few friends growing up anyway, having a very strict mother and coming from a small town where everyone liked to gossip, and you were nothing if you weren’t a jock or a farmer. Reading was my escape, as well as writing. That was when I started getting into poetry more, once we moved into the middle school and our hierarchy and clique “roles” were set into place.
I grew up in a small town. I was born at Blodgett Hospital in Grand Rapids, but I didn’t get the privilege of growing up here. My toddler and teen years were spent in a hick town in the thumb. My books store was this thrift store called The Jungle, located in Bad Axe (yes, that’s the name of a city in Michigan). I bought books there, music, movies, and even comics. A lot of my clothing came from there as well, which is why I had plenty of time for reading. They closed down a few years ago.
RL: What were some of the poems you read that got you into poetry?
YG: We read poetry in school from a young age. The poem about the little turtle in the box had me hooked. However, my favorite children’s poem, from childhood till present has been “The Duel” by Eugene Field. It’s a pretty disturbing poem, especially being something written for children, and that’s probably why I love it so much.
What really sold me on poetry as I reached high school was the work of Robert Frost. We had to memorize a small portion of “The Road Not Taken.” However, it was watching The Outsiders that really let me discover my favorite poem by Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
RL: And then comes college. What new books, literary styles, or genres were you exposed to then?
YG: I didn’t attempt the college thing until later in life, and by that time I was already doing research on the subjects I was going to school for. It may have solidified my love of health & wellness and self-help books though. I can get into a good reference book just as well as I can get into a good horror novel, it just depends on my mood.
RL: What were some of the health & wellness and self-help books you discovered then that sparked your interest in them?
YG: There really were no specific books in the beginning that really did anything for my passion about this subject. My passion came simply for wanting a way to feel happier in constant anxiety and depression. Later, after having an awesome gig writing as an “Expert in Meditation,” I started learning about The Law of Attraction and both read and watched The Secret. I have rewatched the documentary and reread the book many times since. I am also a huge fan of the late great Wayne Dyer, but only just started reading his books this year.
RL: Did you find, as you grew older, that the books of your youth began to mean less to you? Or do you still enjoy all the types of books you’ve been exposed to throughout your life? Are there certain authors, genres, or books that make you cringe remembering how you used to love them?
YG: The only books from my youth that no longer interest me are the romance books. The thought of reading something like 50 Shades of Grey makes me vomit in my mouth a little. I still love science fiction and horror, even more so now. I even still enjoy looking back at books like The Poky Little Puppy (it’s because of my love of such books that I was inspired to create my own children’s picture books, which is something I may get back into soon).
RL: Why do you think you’ve developed such a distaste for the romance books?
YG: I don’t like the way they are written and I don’t like the way they generally portray relationships. I think they make it seems like things are too easy in the relationship department, maybe? Or sometimes they make it seem OK to do certain things that I personally don’t see as OK. I’d rather have romance in my life than read about it, mainly 🙂
RL: How has your reading life survived into adulthood? Careers, families, etc. can take a toll on one’s free time, and I talk to a lot of people now who “wish they had more time to read, but can never find the time.” Is this a problem you face now?
YG: I do feel like it can be difficult to find time to fit writing into my life, but I try to on a daily basis. And I am not talking about reading articles online or reading people’s Facebook posts. I tend to pick up a book before bed, that’s when I find I can fit time in. The rest of the day I am busy with work and life. But, at night I can take a little time (or a lot, depending on the book) and get some reading in. It’s a GREAT reason to keep televisions out of the bedroom. When I have a TV in the bedroom I will watch that until I pass out, and never get any reading done.
I also like to take a book with me anytime I am going somewhere where I may have to wait (oil change, doctor’s appointment, etc). There are ways to fit in reading if you try. You still might not get to read as much as you’d like, but something is better than nothing!
RL: What types of books are you mostly drawn to now?
YG: Reference books, 80s horror books, and anything to do with music. I love all horror books, but for some reason, the books from the 80s just had so much spunk. I love them. I love the covers. Reference books I tend to lean toward things like fitness and alternative medicine, but I have been picking up more music related books. From info on why people make music to biographies on different musicians. As someone that has always been a huge music fan, and then a huge local music advocate later in life, I like knowing as much as I can about something I am so passionate about anyway.
RL: I’m a huge fan of 80s horror, too. Are there two or three examples you’re particularly fond of you could tell us about?
YG: Unfortunately, the couple books I liked the best I didn’t keep track of and haven’t been able to find since, and don’t know who wrote them. One was about a teenager (maybe) and a Ouija board she (I think it was a girl) found. The usual Ouija board stuff happened, I think the spirit tried to possess her, or maybe it did. The other one I remember even more vaguely. It was something about a being from another planet that some women fell for or something. It had a science fiction theme, but I remember the storyline falling more into the horror scheme of things.
I’ve also found a huge love of some more current horror, especially the works of Bentley Little.
RL: If anybody reading this knows which books she’s talking about up there, we’d love to know! That’s what the comments section is for. Now, I’m not a fan of the term “guilty pleasure.” However, for want of a better term, what are your literary guilty pleasures?
YG: My boyfriend, Dale Wicks, recently got me back into Choose Your Own Adventure books. They are kids books, but they are so fun. Of course, we look for the vintage ones, not the ones being printed now.
RL: I still have a few of those that I bought when I was a kid. Although, strangely enough, I haven’t revisited any of them. They were such a huge influence on me, you’d think I would’ve gone back to a couple in later years, but I haven’t. I did talk about them a bit in my introductory blog to this interview series. While I haven’t read one of his books in decades, I pretty much owe my writing career to R.L Stine’s Twistaplot books. What are some of your favorite CYOA books?
YG: I’ve always been a fan of anything with unicorns in it and Dale picked up one of the CYOA vintage books that is about unicorns. That’s by far my favorite.
And that brings me back to the romance books…I thought it would be funny to create choose your own adventure romance books, but then found out it’s already been done. I managed to find one at Dollar Tree (hey, it was a whole dollar), AND I actually had fun reading it (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth again). I still don’t want to go back and start reading Harlequin Romances again, but if I get to choose where the story goes I’ll probably give it a read or two.
RL: I remember they had sports-themed ones, too, when I was young. In fact, the brother I mentioned above read those, which makes him a liar. But I digress. I was into sports as a kid, but man, I just could not get into reading about them, or making decisions about which bat to use, or which player I wanted to stand on first base. I read CYOA-type books religiously, except those. For some reason I imagine I’d feel the same about romance ones.
TG: Now I want some of those sports ones…
RL: All I can really remember was that in one of them, a mascot attacked a player. I probably thought that was pretty cool. But the rest? Zzzzz….
I’d like to know what are your thoughts on “genre?” What I mean is, do you feel it’s necessary to label?
YG: I think that genre is important. I think it is a useful tool that makes it easier to find what you are looking for. Everyone has different tastes and different interest, and if there was no way to diversify them it would make it harder to find those that that did tickle your fancy. I think it’s an important thing to have in all forms of art.
RL: Do you feel, though, that that could also maybe alienate someone from reading a book they might possibly enjoy, just because it’s labeled a certain genre they might not be attracted to? I’ve recommended Stephen King books to people in the past, and at first they wouldn’t have it, because they said they didn’t like horror. But when they did finally read it, they loved it.
YG: I feel like, if someone is that closed minded maybe they need to miss out on the good things in life. Sorry if that sounds harsh to people, but closed-mindedness is one of my biggest pet peeves. Even as someone that dislike romances, if a friend came to me and said they had this book that was so awesome and they thought I should check it out, but it was a romance, I’d still give it a chance if they felt that passionate about it.
RL: Along the same lines, this is another one that sparks a little bit of debate. Are you a physical copy person, or do you prefer other ways of “reading” books, such as e-books or audio? Does the “delivery system,” as King calls it, matter to you? And while we’re on the topic, what do you think the future holds for reading? Do you think physical books will always be available?
YG: I am not entirely picky. I will “read” a book in any means it is given to me. HOWEVER, I do not purchase books on tape (unless I find them for cheap at a rummage sale) and I do not purchase e-books). I still prefer to hold a book in my hands. I have read e-books, but they’ve always been free copies from some giveaway or another.
I hope physical books will always be available. I feel like there are still enough of us out there buying them. I mean, vinyl is still around!
RL: Hell, I’ve still got cassette tapes I listen to. Viva physical media!
Speaking of King, he’s often been seen at baseball games reading a book during rain delays or between innings. Says he never goes anywhere without a book. Do you take a book with you wherever you go?
YG: More so when I actually left the house a lot. Now when I go out it’s usually a destination where walking in with a book would seem rude, like a show or a meeting. I do have a tendency to carry a notebook with me everywhere, being a writer. I come up with some of my best poetry and book ideas while Dale is on stage, or in a corner playing his guitar and singing.
RL: Simple, but important question—what are your favorite books of all time?
YG: I will still say that On The Road by Jack Kerouac is one of my all-time favorite books. It was very inspirational to me and was one of the books that pushed me to be a writer as a profession (the other I will talk about next). However, I can’t read it again. I loved it the first time. It made me happy, it slowed down and got kind of boring, then it picked back up and sucked me in only to end and make me mad that the ride was over. But then I went back a few years later and tried to read it and it just wasn’t the same. It was kind of like The Sixth Sense, after you know the dead people the kid sees include his therapist, you just can’t watch it again.
Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye is my other favorite. I loved this book as well and it was very inspirational in my writing career. I have movies like that as well, that push me and motivate me and make me feel like anything is possible.
I am sure there are other books that could fall into this category, but those are the two I always give anytime someone asks me what my favorite books are. I highly recommend them to anyone that hasn’t read them.
RL: Along the same line, what books—and they don’t have to necessarily have to be “all-time favorites”—do you feel have influenced you and shaped you the most: as a human being, as an artist, etc.?
YG: The above two, of course. Anything I’ve read from Poe. I was influenced in my writing in the early 2000’s by Lovecraft. These days I find biographies and autobiographies to be most influential, no specific ones to mention (just in general). To read about some other creative person’s life and to realize that they struggled too, but could find happiness and success, at least for a little while…that’s all we strive for, right? Just a little happiness now and again.
RL: Anything you’ve read recently that was just terrible?
YG: I just tried to read this John Oates autobiography (I won it in a First Reads contest from Goodreads). I really love this “type” of book, and being a fan of all kinds of music I was happy for the win. But the book started out so slow and boring. I don’t even think I got through the first chapter before I gave up. I even like some Hall & Oates, so it wasn’t that it was a band I disliked. It was just dull.
RL: No juicy gossip about Hall?
YG: He specifically chose to make this book all about himself…maybe that’s why I found it boring. Then again, I’m not much of a gossip fan either.
RL: Thank you for discussing your reading life with me. Keep reading!
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