My mother was the first person to put a mystery in my hands. My eager, grasping hands. :) She was a mystery and suspense reader herself, and when I was a teen she was reading authors like Mary Stewart, Mary Renault, Barbara Michaels, Ellis Peters, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers--the list goes on and on because, like any good book junkie, she made regular visits to the library and discovered new writers all the time. And then I discovered them, through her. Sure, I read Nancy Drew, but when I was too old for Nancy I began to covet my mother's books.
They say that parents who want their children to love reading should model reading--not only sitting with a book in their hands, but letting children see them LOVING a book. My mother did this, always. We would beg her to come out of her novel to watch a funny movie or tv show with us, and she'd pretend to do it, smiling at the wrong times because her eyes were still really on the words on her page. We'd be sent off to bed, but if we got up in the night to visit the bathroom we'd see her there in the dark living room, lit only by the eerie glow of her lamp, tired but unwilling to go to bed until she knew the ending. That was the sign of a good book, and I'm happy to say that Mom and I have both had that sleepless experience many a night.
She was the librarian at my grade school, and she knew just what I liked; so when we uniformed tikes filed down to the tiny library in the corner of the building, she was there, smiling at me, ready with suggestions. I barely ever had to look at the shelves because she had perused them already, choosing all the volumes that cried "Julia!" And I loved them, the books she chose, always.
When I started writing I gave her bits of manuscripts for evaluation because this was, after all, her genre. And she was no pushover, mother or no mother. She would admire one thing but suggest I remove another. And, in the case of a certain character I once created, she wrote in the margin, "I am not like this." :) She didn't cave in and say, "You're my daughter and everything you write is wonderful." She would say, "Your writing is getting better and better, and I think if you work on [this or that] you'll make it very good." This was both honest and helpful, as my mother always is.
I dedicated my first book, The Dark Backward, to her and to my father, for this and for the millions of things they did to make my life a privileged one.
Today is my mother's birthday, and I'm guessing, because I won't see her until next week, that she will spend at least part of it reading a mystery.