How did you figure out what a writer is? How do we figure anything out? I have a bunch of really strange, probably telling memories of discovery. I remember realizing that cartoons were drawn, that Fred Flintstone wasn’t an actual person with very odd make-up. I remember coming to grips with differences in belief, differences in perception, differences in the way people treated each other. I remember reading a lot of books and, at some point, realizing that someone created those books. Out of nothing. Out of their heads.
My father was the pathway for that discovery. He gave me the love of reading, and eventually the love of writing. My house was full of books, and silence, and the appreciation of the meditative word. I read a lot as a child. That’s the only way to feed a writer. When I discovered that writers were just people, putting words onto the page and forming the story in their minds, I felt like I had opened the door into a mad new world of possibility. That I could write. That I could create worlds. And the first writer I knew was my father.
What was glorious about that is that I was one of very few people who knew my father as a writer. He had many roles he played, in many people’s lives. He was (and is) a pastor, a professor, a scholar, a joker, a theologian, a businessman, an entertainer, and, ultimately, a teacher. And he’s good in all of those roles. In a few of them, he’s great. But for a few of us, those fortunate enough to see beyond his public face, my father was a writer. There are stacks and pages and decades of unpublished material in his office. He’s always felt that his job came first, that those other roles had to be served. When I started writing, I think I did it largely so that he could see what it was like. That it could be done. That an Akers could do well in that world. In some ways, I wanted to lead him to the thing he had always wanted. To give him the gift that he had given me. The love of writing.
Last Christmas, I bought my dad a ticket to Bouchercon. I’ll be going with him, to guide him through that world, to make what introductions I can, and to encourage him when his own modesty would lead him astray. I want to teach him to believe. In himself, and in me. My father gave me many things. This is all I can give back.