Who's a Bellairs Fan?
One of the joys of Bellairsia over our first decade has been the response we get from fans. Some are new to the Bellairs universe and have questions, while others are long-time readers and appreciate the site memorializing John and his work. More often than not these fans have been inspired directly or indirectly by John and his storytelling.
In 1989 Marshall resident and bookstore proprietor Ann LaPietra chose to celebrate Bellairs' birthday by creating a walking tour of the sights in John’s hometown that he adapted into his novels. The idea was an immediate hit. With guidance from both Marshall Historian Richard Carver and correspondence from Bellairs himself, LaPietra's walk struck a chord with local residents who volunteered to portray the popular characters at significant points throughout the tour.
John Bellairs gained a huge online following in the mid-1990s thanks to the Compleat Bellairs website, created by longtime fan Jonathan Abucejo. In its embryonic form, the website served as the final semester project for one of Abucejo's elementary education classes at the University of Pittsburgh. Over the next few years it blossomed into a much-respected and beloved portal for fans to come together:
I get e-mails from around the world... it's pretty amazing to see the Bellairs influence in far-off places such as Japan! I get quite a number of regular postal letters as well, usually from elementary school children who think I'm John Bellairs. I set them straight...unfortunately, with the sad news of his passing....
Back in 2001 we heard from Chicago author, historian, and supernatural enthusiast Ursula Bielski about her project to create a Bellairs-inspired cookbook. While the aromas from Mrs. Zimmermann’s chocolate chip cookies as well as the Sacher torte or German chocolate and Black Forest cakes from Professor Childermass’ kitchen are enticing, we’d never have thought of compiling all “their” recipes in one volume. (Dare she call it, should it ever see the light of day, To Serve Bellairs?)
In a 2003 interview with the News & Observer, former Duke University basketball player Nick Horvath (who double majored in English and Physics) discussed his love of writing and some favorite authors:
My dad used to read stories to me growing up, always like scary, violent ones. I started out being into this guy named John Bellairs. They were children's stories, but they were like horror children's stories. Then, in fourth grade, I read my first Stephen King book. I read The Stand. There's kind of a running joke [that] I get a new favorite author, like, once a week. But Cormac McCarthy is one of my newer ones. His books are pretty cool. The reason I started writing [my own] stories was because I never liked the endings, like the good guy always wins or it was always happy in the end. I wanted to write stories so I could have it end any way I wanted.
Musician and graphics designer Jack Duckworth was a member of Anthony Monday, a Canadian rock band that existed during the mid-1990s. Yes - the band was named for Hoosac, Minnesota's most famous son.
"I read several Bellairs books when I was younger and enjoyed his sort of black subtle American-gothic thing going on," says Duckworth, the guitarist and vocalist who later lead independent bands Radio Berlin and A Luna Red.
James Strayer, a filmmaker out of Portland, Oregon, contacted us in 2008 about his film project, Widow's Walk Lake. The young boy in the story "is kind of my Johnny [Dixon], though in this short, he doesn't get to do much but listen,” Strayer explains. “I suppose the Bellairs connection is not just the inspiration, but this film would be the part where Childermass tells the old legend of whatever is the cause of the mystery that he and Fergie and Johnny are wrapped up in." As far as the books ago, some of Strayer’s favorite memories are going to the bookstore to pick out a new book to read. "The first few I read were on family trips. My mother would buy my two sisters and me new books to keep us quiet in the van and one look at the Gorey art and this 9 year old was hooked. I would just look at all the covers and pick the one I liked best each time I went in."
Author/illustrator Deborah Lattimore says John's books speak to her because of, among other things, the traits of his characters:
[The main character] is a loner, most of the time, even though he has a good friend. He is also awkward, slightly nervous, smart, good and valiant...I was an eccentric kid, too, and when I started reading about Johnny and Lewis and Tony, well, I suddenly felt as if I'd come home. I feel as if I know those towns, know the streets, the street-lights, the haunted parts of the cities; it's almost as if I lived there myself. When I get in bed at night and I need a friend and a familiar place to live for a little while, I get out my John Bellairs stories and I feel good again.