Julia Drake is a literary publicist in L.A., and a longtime friend of Three Guys One Book. She turned me on to several authors in 2012, a couple of whom wrote essays for our When We Fell In Love Series. This one is by Harrison Demchick, who has written The Listeners, a literary zombie novel recently published from Bancroft Press, in the vein of World War Z, minus the Studs Terkel-esque reportage. Here’s what Harrison has to say about the books that inspired him to read and write.

When We Fell In Love – Harrison Demchick

Ultimately, the fault lies with Spider-Man.

But not at first.

Let me be clear: I was already quite in love with reading and writing. Honestly, it’s impossible to remember a time at which I wasn’t. One of my earliest memories has me lying on the floor of the den, right below the TV, teaching my then best friend how to read Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. I may have been three or four at the time—past the age of gleefully shouting out the letters of the alphabet while watching Sesame Street, but apparently also past the point of discovering how much fun lay in the words on a page.

Writing must have come almost as early. In fact, I still have my first story, or at least my parents do, somewhere in the confines of my old bedroom. It’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story, filled with the art of a five year old who would never quite get the hang of drawing things, but would come back again and again to writing things.

By second grade, I was reading and reporting on George Orwell’s Animal Farm and waiting anxiously for Writing Workshop, that glorious free period during which I could write and create and do whatever I wanted.

But as for reading and writing as a career? As a life?

There, again, the fault lies with Spider-Man.

Now, Spider-Man had always been there. My grandparents, for reasons I would love to know were they still around, more than once gave me these glorious packages of comic books. I must have been four or five, and Spider-Man became my favorite character very, very quickly. The occasional stop for an issue on a 7-Eleven spinner racket ultimately became, come sixth grade, a subscription. Eventually, a subscription wasn’t good enough, and I was buying all four Spider-Man titles every month from the comic book store down the street from my middle school.

And then, in eighth grade, I had a thought.

The thought came from a letters page in the back of an issue of Amazing Spider-Man written by J. M. DeMatteis. The writer of the letter pointed out something very basic: that a comic book written by J. M. DeMatteis is always great.

I agreed—but that’s not what stood out to me. For whatever reason, at that moment, I realized for the first time that writing was something real people did for a living. Creating stories was a job people like J. M. DeMatteis—or George Orwell, or Dr. Seuss for that matter—actually had. And it was a job I could have, too.

It’s impossible to say when I fell in love with reading and writing, but that was the moment I fell in love with the idea of being a writer. From eighth grade on, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

Of course, the goal of writing Spider-Man comics, which is what I’d really decided at that point that I wanted to do, has changed a bit. In high school and college, I wrote short stories. After college, during my career as an editor—an amazing job that has allowed me to live and breathe fiction even when it’s not my own—I wrote screenplays, and still do. And somewhere in the midst of all of that, I found myself with a novel.

Honestly, in the time I’ve spent in the publishing business, the magic of writing for a living—of being an author—has worn down a little bit. I’ve seen great books by gifted authors fall through the cracks, unread and unloved—books worthy of sharing the shelf with those by my very favorite authors, from Douglas Adams to Kurt Vonnegut to Salman Rushdie. I’ve seen marketing, not quality, emerge as the determining factor in the success or failure of a book.

And maybe that’s always how it was. Maybe, overwhelmed by love for what it could be, I was blind to that.

But it doesn’t stop me from editing, and writing, and reading, and reveling in what I’ve loved for virtually all of my twenty-eight years.

For that, I can say only: Thank you, Spider-Man.