I remember taking My Brother Michael out of the library. My mother didn’t like it much—I was twelve or so and she’d really have preferred I stay with Beverly Cleary and Betty Cavanna and Janet Lambert. I read them, too, at the first of the week, but I was a 10-book-a-week reader and the adolescent section wasn’t big enough for me. So, shelf-by-shelf, I made my way into adult fiction.
These shelves are where I discovered romance. I read row after row of Emilie Loring, Elizabeth Seifert, and a whole platoon of Avalon and Mills & Boon authors. I knew, losing myself in those books, that I could do that. I could write romance.
But then there was My Brother Michael. And Nine Coaches Waiting, This Rough Magic, and all the rest of the ones Mary Stewart wrote. When she segued into magic with the Merlin books, I went with her. When Disney made The Moon Spinners into a movie I watched it over and over.
Do I remember the stories of these books?
Do I remember how they made me feel each and every time I read them?
Yes. Oh, yes.
Mary Stewart made me, for the first time, aware of voice. She made me realize that not only was I enjoying the reading of her books, I was there. I was excited. I couldn’t put them down.
My husband and I laugh (he laughs harder) because I can’t “hear” music. I have no sense of rhythm, can’t keep up with clapping along with a song, can’t dance. But I can hear a writer’s voice, can dance to the tune she plays, can sing with her words.
I was right when I thought I could write romance. I kind of prefer women’s fiction much of the time these days, but it’s romance I go home to. I owe much to those authors on the adult shelves at the Akron Carnegie Public Library. Even more, I owe Mary Stewart for teaching me how to hear voice. Right down to the last comma.
Mary Stewart died May 9, 2014, at the age of 97. When asked once to categorize her novels, she said in part, “Can't I say that I just write stories? 'Storyteller' is an old and honorable title, and I'd like to lay claim to it."
The title is yours, Mrs. Stewart. It’s yours. Thank you for sharing it so long and so wonderfully. Rest in peace.