When Jon was a little boy, he got a passion for reading.

Then the passion became an obsession.

I don’t remember exactly where it started, or when, but I can put my finger on a number of very defining moments in my life as a reader. It started with a comic book…

In 1982, I bought (with pocket money provided by my mum) my very first REAL comic book. I’d dabbled with the likes of the Beano and it’s ilk, but here was something very very different. 

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #66

And, yes… that picture right there is it. I still have it almost 40 years later.

It tells the tale of Spidey versus Electro. An epic battle Spidey wins by making a new outfit out of a rubber waterbed mattress in order to insulate him against Electro’s attacks!  It was very different to the adventures of Dennis The Menace and Co. I was used to.

These comics from the US were hard to get in the UK, however, especially for a 10-year-old boy. But the print medium had stolen my heart.

These idea boxes will tell you what I LEARNED from each of my early influences. So, to start with…Spider-Man gave me a love for relatable and flawed characters.

Around 1984, I found a new passion in comic books. This time coming from Marvel UK…

The Marvel UK run on Transformers was…astonishingly good. It holds up as solid Sci-Fi even today. Where the Marvel US version of the comic (which sometimes ran in the UK book over here) simply seemed like an excuse to sell toys, the UK version didn’t seem as hamstrung. Under the sublime writing talents of Simon Furman, the story that unfolded for us was one of flawed heroes and multi-dimensional villains. 

I gravitated towards Ultra Magnus who, through the ongoing story, went from an Autobot hero to a character tinged with PTSD from repeatedly losing to his nemesis Galvatron.

Transformers comic by Marvel UK. Geoff Senior’s wonderful art, Simon Furman’s incredible writing!

The thing about the UK Transformers comic was its sense of continuity and long form story telling. Simon Furman was a master at spinning epic stories with multiple characters. Something I’ve tried hard to emulate.

So far, so comic books. But Transformers especially had a HUGE impact on how I write. From there, I started to read other comic books. The X-Men and 2000AD were particular favourites. The former dealing with flawed superhero characters, while the latter pushed me into hard science fiction like Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and the ABC Warriors, to name but a few.  And lest I forget Grant Morrison’s ‘Zenith‘, which is a masterpiece that everyone should read!

Both of those comic books also introduced me to strong female characters. Rogue and Storm were my fave X-Men characters, while over in 2000AD I had a soft spot for Judge Anderson and Durham Red.

And yes…these characters still influence me today. When you read Songbird, you’ll see it’s FULL of flawed but strong female characters. 

Judge Anderson from 2000AD
‘Zenith’ by Grant Morrison and Steve Yowell

Grant Morrison’s work was a huge influence. Zenith told the story of a difficult superhero. Selfish and arrogant, but ultimately heroic. You’ll see shades of that in Songbird. And in the Knightley sisters, you’ll see some shades of Judge Anderson.

Around the summer of 1984, (I’m guessing here), my folks took us on a trip to Florida and to Disney World. While we were there, I realised that I missed reading. I needed to feed the hunger! Thus, it came to pass that we dropped into a bookstore and I bought two PROPER books that would change the course of my reading habit…

Okay, fine…it just meant my obsession grew to encompass even more forms of text.  

The books were from a little known Sci Fi series called…

 

Let me be clear here… I HAD NO IDEA STAR TREK WAS A TV SHOW!

To me, the books I bought as a 12-year-old boy just looked like fucking cool Sci Fi adventures. Spaceships! That’s all I wanted. They looked awesome.

And yes… I still have those books 36 years later:

The Entropy Effect by the late Vonda N McIntyre and The Klingon Gambit by Robert E Vardeman

It wasn’t till my dad informed me that this was a TV show and that I could actually WATCH the adventures of Captain Kirk and Spock on BBC after school, that I realised that this was more than just books. A Trekkie was born in that moment. 

More than that, though, I found a deep LOVE of Science Fiction and the exploration of the human condition through character. I love that the Star Trek concept lends itself to the exploration of society and its flaws and prejudices. Sometimes it could be a little on the nose, but it tackled everything from racial equality to the fall out of war. 

The Songbird series will, like Star Trek, use a Sci Fi/Fantasy lens to take a close look at the world we live in. From gender equality, to LBGTQ+ and more. The characters in the book will be from varying backgrounds and will reflect diversity. IDIC. Spock would be proud!

For those that don’t know… IDIC = Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination

LL&P Y’all! (I don’t need to explain that one right?)

I’ll leave it there for Part 1.
But stay tuned for Part 2 and see where my book adventure took me when I started to venture outside of known franchises… *gasp*

In the meantime, please comment below and tell me how YOU found a love for reading and writing. I’d love to hear your origin stories!!

Love and Books

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10 Comments

  1. Jim

    Reply

    Where The Wild Things Are is what started me out. The illustrations both fascinated and scared me at the same time. Like a bad tasting cookie with a great aftertaste.

    It didn’t take long for me to, in my head, create other stories around the pictures I was looking at. I actually made a conscious effort to make the creatures look less imposing through words.

  2. Robert

    Reply

    I can’t remember the name of the book, but I can remember how descriptive the writing was. There was a small island, an “islette” if you will, off the coast of New York City. There was a young boy out there with all the trees and overgrown weeds and grass on a rainy day, dark clouds everywhere with a backdrop of a dreary part of the city-scape. Old industrial buildings, defunct smokestacks…..things like that.

    I remember thinking I wished I could write scenery like that because the words took me somewhere I had never been to before

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I have to admit, that I struggle the most with putting together what I consider to be a ‘good’ description for something. I’m far more adept at the dialogue…or at least I think I am!
      I truly admire writers who can put words on paper that conjure a scene and make me feel like I’m journeying to that place with them.
      It’s a shame you can’t remember the name of that book! I’d be interested to take a look. 🙂

      • DonnaN

        Reply

        John, isn’t that pretty much what writing is about? Taking the reader on a journey. Being so descriptive, but not losing them from too many words, that the reader is right there with you. To me, that is a great book. If I am so in tune with what is going on in the book, that’s it. Take me away from reality for a while. After all, if what I am reading isn’t holding my interest or “taking me to that place”, why waste my time reading.

        • Jon Ford

          Reply

          I hope so!
          That is kind of what I’m aiming for. I do get a little paranoid that sometimes I’m concentrating on dialogue rather than description, but maybe that’s just my style.

    • Sean

      Reply

      That book scared the crap out of me. I was only 3 or 4 and an older brother was reading it to me, and I distinctly remember trying to squirm off his lap. I could be wrong, but I think he was reading it in the voices he was imagining the monsters using.

      • Jim

        Reply

        Which one Sean? The Wild Things, or the unnamed book?

        Children’s books seem to be more memorable when the illustrations are. Scary or fun. I have never tried my hand at writing for children, but it seems like it would be fun. Maybe even more fulfilling because they are teaching tools as well as entertainment.

      • RaeY

        Reply

        Your brother sounds a lot like my brother. He would read books to me too. His change of tone kept me fascinated. It didn’t matter what book he read, his spin on the characters were what did it to me. So much so that I read books to my children the way he did to me.

  3. Robert

    Reply

    Yeah, that was a long time ago when I read it and I have no idea when it was published. I do remember the illustrations and the wording of the story seemed geared to a younger audience.

    It’s funny how some things stick with you and other things just fall off to the wayside. I had read so many books when I was kid but only remember a scant few.

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