Someone asked me recently where I get my writing talent from and if I had any writers as ancestors.
That got me thinking.
I only really know my ancestry back for two generations, except for a couple of great-grandparents my mother mentions whenever I talk about my eye colour. If you didn’t know, it’s blue, by the way, which means I’m the descendent of at least three generations of ancestors who all had a recessive blue-eyed gene they passed on to their offspring.
However, people believe other traits can also be passed on through the generations. I have to question whether it’s purely genetics or if it has to do with the environment in which the children grew up. In other words, it’s the old ‘Nature vs. Nurture’ argument.
Either way, there don’t seem to have been any writers farther up the family tree.
However, there have been readers.
My parents read a lot and encouraged me to do the same with books as Christmas presents. They did the same with my two sisters, too. Although I have no children (that I know of), I have seen my sisters encourage their children to read, and they, in turn, have done the same.
Going further back, my paternal grandfather was a bookbinder. He met my grandmother while they worked in the same company; she was a manual folder, using the old bone folding device that bookbinders have no doubt used for hundreds of years.
Please remind me to tell you sometime how he avoided being conscripted during the war due to his abilities with a folding machine.
I remember some proof copies my grandfather brought home. They were giant tomes, bound anthologies from the World of Wonder and Wonders of Science-type magazines that abounded between the World Wars. You know the kind: how we’d all have flying cars by the twenty-first century, roads would be unnecessary because travellators would move us from place to place within cities, and how we’d be talking to one another over videophones (well, they got that last one right!). Or they explained how giant gyroscopes keep ocean liners from tipping over and how the Egyptians used shadufs to bring water from the Nile to the fields.
They all made wonderful reading and stimulated both my love of reading and my love of science.
I remember one of the books had a line of damage across the spine where a piece of shrapnel from a German bomb landing in the garden shot through the tome.
As Stephen King has pointed out, to be a great writer, you must also be a great reader. I think that’s perhaps something I have to thank my ancestors for.
As for writing, I’m a ‘pantser’, someone who writes by the seat of their pants. I’m even doing that here with this post. We’re also known as ‘Discovery Writers’ because we discover the story while writing it.
Even that can be attributed to my father. He was a brilliant chef at home, creating the most amazing meals. But he would never follow a recipe, although he read thousands of them for inspiration. He’d then make his own version of meals his way.
I cook the same way most of the time.
And I think that has migrated over to the way I write.
By the way, if you also have blue or green eyes, we’re related. Geneticists believe the blue-eyed gene results from a single mutation in one individual around 9-10,000 years ago in northern climes. Blue eyes are more sensitive to light, which is advantageous if you spend much of your year in semi-darkness.