Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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January 3, 2018

Beware: Voracious Reader Ahead

I am a shark when it comes to reading. Always have been. In elementary school I walked home for lunch, book in hand, reading. The neighbors told my mother, urging her to tell me not to read on the twenty-minute walk. But I walked that same stretch of sidewalks on three streets four times a day, and with only one crossing of two lanes of traffic, she just reminded me to be careful—and that the neighbors were watching me. It's no wonder that I read ten books a week and looked forward to my Friday night visits to the library to check out the limit of ten books for the next week. In the eighth grade my parents signed for me to get an adult library card. My first read? Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood.

I still read, but not as much. I'd love to do nothing but read. Unfortunately the adult world requires responsibilities be fulfilled.

I've made no secret of being a science fiction freak for half my life, concentrating on reading all the best from writers who tell stories about future societies and how humanity is the same...or different. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Gordon Dickson, Orson Scott Card, Kurt Vonnegut, Niven and Pournelle, Saberhagen. And many more.

But then James Preston's wife introduced me to romance. It was hard, no—virtually impossible—to find science fiction romance books. So I read historical romance. Jude Deveraux, Diana Gabaldon, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey, Judith McNaught. Like a shark. I read some contemporary, Jayne Ann Krentz mostly, since I loved her Amanda Quick regencies.

Fast forward to the past few years, and a more "balanced" reading list: Tessa Dare (historical romance), Linnea Sinclair (SF/paranormal romance), Lynn Raye Harris (Hostile Operations Team series), Cora Seton (The Heroes of Chance Creek), Zoe York (SEALs Undone series). And, of course, everything by Laura Drake. I'm always on the lookout for new authors to read. 

I read authors who write stories about strong-willed characters, both male and female. Usually there is some danger or suspense or mystery involved. And I do enjoy the occasional twist. Lately I've enjoyed reading series. It's fun to find out what happened to secondary characters from a previous novel and check in with the main characters from related books.

I've found that my taste in books has changed the longer I've been writing. I'm more discriminating in what I read. Gone are the days of waiting for a book to develop in the first hundred pages. I used to be more interested in the plot, but now I want emotion and character arcs. I want the characters to end up smarter, better than they started, and I want to know—gut-level know—that they're going to be happy for the rest of their lives. I want to know that the world is a better place with them in it.

And that brings me to writing. Engaging a reader in the first couple of pages by helping them root for my characters is as important as capturing their emotions in a fast-paced, hopefully engaging, story with twists and turns and new ideas and fresh challenges. I look for these elements in the books I read and the samples of work from prospective new authors. Don't you love it when you've thought about something you read yesterday, and you can't wait to continue the journey with those characters today? 

I read to be entertained. I could watch television or play video games, and sometimes I do enjoy those activities. But I have a much bigger TBR pile than list of TV shows to binge watch or games to lose myself in. When I read a book, I lose myself in that environment. I want to feel what the characters feel. For me, that's much easier to accomplish with a book than a game or a television show. And that's why I read. 


What genre do you read, and why do you read it? Who are your go-to authors?

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Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.

Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.

A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.

P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, lies, and love.

When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com  or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen


41 comments on “Beware: Voracious Reader Ahead”

  1. Interesting - I never thought about if my favorite genres have changed over the years, Fae. I don't think they have - I read the back of cereal boxes, if that's all that's available.

    What has changed is my attention span. Part of that is necessity. As an author, I have so little time to read *sob*, that if a book doesn't grab me right away, I'm outta there.

    I turned in book 10 before Christmas, which allowed me to binge on reading over the holiday. Two WF, one historical. It was heaven. I feel like my stomach does, after a wonderful meal!

    We were all readers, first.

    1. I feel your pain-and joy-Laura. I still get in trouble, thought not with my mother, about reading to the exclusion of what I "should" be doing!

    2. I used to have my roomates hide my books during finals week in college. During times of stress, all we authors want to do to decompress is just read, read, read. I'm so glad you got to binge over your break!

    3. Laura, I had to laugh when you said you even read cereal boxes. I used to do that, too, before I stopped eating cereal. Put words in front of me, I'll read them. I read so much I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and find myself writing. I do my best writing at night! I marvel what I'm able to write, of course, all of it is in my head. That's why, this year, I'm writing to be published. Yes, I'm that motivated!

      1. Yay Eileen! Glad you found your 'Sweet Spot' of writing time - AND your resolution! You and I couldn't be married though, I write in the morning. 😉

  2. I was also one of those little kids who read everything, everywhere, sometimes to my mother's chagrin. I loved to take a Nancy Drew mystery along with a peanut butter sandwich and shimmy up the big old tree in our backyard where I could hide and read, undisturbed (at least until Mother called "Mary Beth? Mary Beth! Come down from that tree. It's time for supper!")

    I'm 66 now, and still reading nearly everything, everywhere. I appreciate authors so much, and have come to appreciate the narrators of audio books, too. (My all-time favorite narrator is Will Patton -- his reading of James Lee Burke novels is genius. Who wouldn't want that voice in their ear?)

    My favorite nonfiction authors include Diane Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses) and Annie Dillard, and one of my favorite fiction books is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr -- what a terrific story. I enjoy thrillers and coming-of-age novels, and of all things have begun to read some of the classic sci-fi novels for the first time. (I, Robot for one). I'm interested in mega and mini trends in technology, and sci-fi is a great go-to spot for thinking about such things.

    I'm working on my first novel -- only about a third of the way complete -- it's a coming of age story wrapped in a romance inside a secret dipped in danger and deep-fried in a Cat 5 hurricane, set on Florida's Gulf coast.

    In short: I love reading and writing, and am so grateful to you, Laura and all the writers out there who keep us entertained. Thank you!

    1. So, what do you think about the positronic brain and the three laws of robotics, Beth? Thanks for reminding me that I used to love reading Dillard, and for the recommendation of All the Light We Cannot See. Your first novel sounds like quite an undertaking. Best of luck with it!

      1. I first heard about "positronic" brains like a lot of folks, from watching Startrek The Next Generation. I have a big mole right at the base of my neck that kids used to tease me about, saying it was my on and off button. After seeing Data's brain get turned off, I got a giggle and a shiver, thinking of my own on-off switch. It's interesting thinking of the three laws of robotics and the later-added 4th, and to think about AI, augmentations to humans, and what we will wind up being comfortable with even over the next twenty years. As for my novel . . . it's easy to start one. I have potential, but someone who has completed a manuscript has reality!

  3. I never read romance until I started writing what I thought was a mystery, and my daughters, who were reading Mom's little hobby, told me it was a romance. I discovered romantic suspense, and that became a new favorite genre. I don't read as much science fiction as I did when I was younger. Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury were my favorites.

  4. During the summer between fifth and sixth grades, when I was waiting for the next Nancy Drew book to come out, I decided to write one myself. I used my parent's old Underwood and banged out pages and pages of the only mystery I ever tried. But I didn't know about red herrings, so everyone who read the very short novella knew "who did it." You read the greats of SF, Terry, but there are more if you decide to try one. I think my interest in suspense stems from science fiction.

  5. I miss my childhood bookworm days! I always had my head buried in a book to the point it bothered my mother who would order me to go outside and get fresh air -- which I did--book in hand. 🙂

  6. I mainly read YA and mystery these days, but I long to get back to some literature classics. I have fond memories of reading the likes of Great Expectations, Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and many more. Unfortunately, since reading so much commercial fiction, it is a little harder to get back into those slower-moving books, but sometimes I'm happily surprised when I revisit a classic. For instance, I re-read REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier recently, and if anything, I might have liked it better this go-round.

    1. Yes, there are those "should reads" in our publishing genre that take time, too.I'm glad your last re-read was a success. I never used to re-read books (why bother, when you already know what happens?) but when I've re-read some of my favorites, they weren't "all that." What a testimony to my move from plot-driven to character driven reading.

    2. Good point, Julie. I make it a goal to read a couple of classics a year. Mark Twain is my go-to. Yes, they go on and on, but with his droll humor, I'm entertained the whole time!

  7. There are few genres I don't enjoy reading. As long as the story is compelling, I'm in. As a kid I too read while walking home, and the habit stayed with me as an adult. Walking to the office, even from lunch, I'd read. If I'm still, I'm reading. LOL

    1. You might be "still, " Jean, but your brain is moving! I don't walk and read anymore because I have to pay more attention to my surroundings.

  8. When I was younger, I read ALL THE TIME. Now I don't have as much time to read as I want, because of school keeping me busy, but over Christmas break, all I did was read. Literally.
    My favorite genre is speculative fiction, but I'll also read historical, or contemporary as long as it's well-written. I loved Nancy Drew as a child, and mystery/detective stories are still some of my favorites.
    My favorite author of all time is Tolkien. Another is Ted Dekker. He inspired a lot of my own writing. I also like Lemony Snicket. Yes, I know he's a kids' author, but I still love his books! They're so ridiculous and funny. And of course I have to mention J.K. Rowling. I have so many favorite authors, I could go on all day, but those four are my favorite right now. 🙂

    1. Thanks for bringing up the idea of "my favorite right now." Isn't it interesting how our favorite authors change? Maybe it's age, maybe it's circumstances, maybe it's our growth, but from year to year I have new favorites now.

    2. Talia (Love your name), I've wanted to try speculative fiction for a while, because I'm not even sure what it is. Can you recommend a couple good ones?

      1. Hi Laura, speculative fiction is a very broad genre that includes fantasy, science fiction, and any other story that takes place in an imagined world (or that at least contains a great portion of made-up elements that aren't based on the real world). Ted Dekker writes a lot of fantasy (he also writes thriller/horror type stuff if you're into that), and he's one of my favorite authors. 🙂 If you like YA fiction, Anne Elisabeth Stengl wrote a beautiful fantasy series called "The Tales of Goldstone Wood." And you've probably already read some of C.S. Lewis's books, but I highly recommend checking out some of his other series... the Space Trilogy is a good one. These are just a few of my favorites; there is literally so much in this genre! Hope this helps. 🙂

  9. I find it interesting to see how other commentators interests have evolved. Also a voracious reader as a child, I devoured historical children's books in elementary school, then sci-fi fantasy as a teenager - C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Brooks, Herbert - then switched to romance in college. As Fae noted, it's all about the emotional journey. Thanks for the post.

    1. Ah, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Terry Brooks and the Sword of Shannara-the first fantasy book I read. Thanks for the memories, Diane!

  10. As a child, I read it all. Now I read mostly for fun, and to support my peeps. I am also re-reading the Harry Potter series with my second grader and she adores it.

    It has been very fun to research kids books and see which of my faves have held up (PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, the Little House Books and the Narnia Chronicles) and which ones are new (A SINGLE SHARD and NUMBER THE STARS). I'm looking forward to a lot of bedtime reading with my girl.

    1. I think that's one of the greatest gifts you can give a child, Jenny. Reading opens worlds of imagination and curiosity. I've found English teachers to be invaluable resources for recommending age appropriate books.

  11. My reading tastes have changed in that I read more genres now. I'm not intimidated by literary fiction, but I'm not defensive about reading romance novels either. I have discovered that "women's fiction" is fabulous, and I used to distain mystery, when now I read a mystery at least once a month. Like you, I have little patience for books that are not well-written, that are poorly edited, or that take forever to "get into." I don't have the time - throw me smack into the characters' lives, and I'm a happy reader.

    1. You made me smile, roughwighting, with "Throw me smack into the characters' lives..." Occasionally I read a literary fiction-if it comes highly recommended by my English teacher friends-but at this point in my life, I like a happen ending.

  12. I wish I could read more. I find listening to audio books helps to balance it out. No matter how short the car ride is, I turn on the audio book. As far as genres, I still read romance. I am starting to get into cozy mysteries now.

    1. I have a friend who listens to audiobooks on long car trips. When we went on a trip last year it was fun to listen to a new author. I'm going to have to try this on my own!

  13. Oh I read all the time. My husband calls our children, 'book-orphans'. I simply cannot hear them, or anyone else, when I'm reading (and thus I don't read when they're in the bath because they're still youngish and need supervision. I would never read when we're at the pool or beach).

    I find I cycle from sci-fi to romance to fantasy to horror and back again. Whatever the genre, a good book is a good book although I do love anything that can lift me out of the normal world and into another. And of course I read YA because that's what I right - and that counts as work, doesn't it?

    1. Another horror fan - yay! People diss it, but if your goal is to amp reader's emotions, what's better than being scared by words on the page? Like comedians, it looks easy, and totally isn't!

      1. Completely agree with you. I don't write horror myself but there's nothing like reading some good horror to workshop how to increase tension and emotion. And besides, what's not to love in a good scare?

  14. I think you've found two genres that are particularly suited to "car listening," Bonnie. When I go on car trips with some of my friends, they always bring an audiobook to listen to on the drive. Sometimes we've read or heard it already, and we warn the characters about what's ahead.

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