Usually my #WriterWednesday posts are joyous affairs; a fanfare celebration of a writer that I love, whether that be an all-time favourite author or a newly discovered writer just starting their career.
But today, I come to you with no fanfare because I discovered that my favourite author of all-time sadly passed away this morning.
Those of you who have visited these pages before, will know that James Herbert is my hero. I was fortunate to meet him at a book signing last year, an occasion now which seems more poignant and special than I ever thought it could be and I can’t help but feel blessed that, after years of fandom, I finally got the opportunity to meet the man I had worshipped since I was just eleven years old. He was my hero in the same way that rock stars and movie stars are people’s heroes. And that probably sounds weird to some, because he was no poster boy and even he would have been the first to admit that, but I still fangirled over him nevertheless.
I could wax lyrical now about James’ undoubted talent and how many copies each of his international best sellers sold throughout the world, but those are the facts that anyone can read on Wikipedia.
What I can tell you is what he meant to me, as a writer.
On ‘borrowing’ my dad’s copy of Domain in the summer of my eleventh year, I took root in my parents back garden, laid out in the sunshine and read until my skin went alarmingly scarlet and my head was full of wondrous pictures of giant rats, post-apocalypse London and sewer tunnels. Every single word gripped me, I turned page after page after page and when it was done, I went back and read it all over again. Lets not forget that I was only eleven and had graduated from Enid Blyton (incidentally one of James’ favourite authors) to fully-fledged adult horror overnight. It’s fair to say there was probably something forbidden about that book for an eleven year old girl but after that day I drank in every word of James’ that I could find and on that day my love for horror fiction was set in stone, like some divine commandment.
Thou shalt read horror fiction.
When I think about everything I have ever written, I know that James Herbert has always been there, in the back of my mind. I can’t help but be shaped as a writer by everything of James’ that I have ever read. His stories just have this way of taking hold, of getting under my skin, until they’re engrained in everything I write. I don’t kid myself that my writing is anything like his, that’s not what I mean at all (although the day someone on Wattpad commented on my short story The Stairwell and said how she felt it came straight from the school of James Herbert, I’ll admit to doing a happy dance around the room). But I know that without James, I would not even be a writer.
And it really is as simple as that. I picked up the pen because of him. I continue to write because of him. And I will always write because of him.
I like to think that not only did James leave a legacy of so many amazing books, but that he spawned a whole generation of new writers whether that be successful, published writers but also people like me, who might dream of becoming published one day but are also happy just to write. It’s not an easy thing, putting words down on paper. It requires a bit of confidence, a bit of self-belief and a bit of devil-may-care because writing is a bit like making a confession. You know you need to do it, you need to confess, but opening your mouth and speaking that first word is a bit like taking a great leap over the devil’s chasm of hellfire. And sometimes you just need a little push; something to make you say ‘I can do this.’
For me, James Herbert was that push. Reading his books gave me that encouraging shove I needed to finally put pen to page and just write. And for that I will be forever grateful.
Thank you JH. RIP you lovely man.