Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Complacency in Our Reading

On Monday I talked about how some New York authors have become complacent in their writing. Today, I'd like to discuss when we become complacent in our reading. Or rather, how I became complacent in my reading.

When I was a kid, we had 3 television stations. No cable, no DVD, no VCR. No cell phones, no game-boys or Wii. When my parents bought the beach house, they decided they weren't even going to allow us a tv. So what was there for us kids to do?

Well, my brothers had friends in the village (there were no girls my age) so there was nothing for me to do BUT read. And read I did. Anything I could get my hands on. In the beginning it was always about horses. Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty, National Velvet. Then one of my mother's friends left a Harlequin romance behind The Honey is Bitter by Violet Winspear, and I was hooked on romance.

Soon after that I found what is now known as a bodice-ripper, about a Scottish Highlander and his lass. And thus began my love affair with historical romance. For over twenty years, that was all I read. Okay, that was MAINLY what I read. I delved into poetry for a bit because I am a classic romanticist, but for the most part I was totally into historical romance. Transported in time and place, I was all in.

After I graduated high school and began living at the beach house all year round, I worked two, sometimes, three jobs, but I always managed to have some time in the afternoons off -- to lay on the beach, get a great tan, and read my lurid love stories.

So from 1976 until about 2004 (28 years for those who don't do math) New York pubbed romance writers of the historical genre were all I read. Pretty sad, huh? Over those decades, I would say I accumulated about 10,000 books under my belt.

When I started writing, agents, bloggers, big names in the biz, would say "Familiarize yourself with your genre -- Read what's out there -- Get a feel for what's publishing now" Okay, but I already did that. So much so, I felt I was drowning in it. And I also knew, that when I began writing, I didn't want to be like all those other writers. I wanted to write what I wanted to read and no one was writing it, so I decided to do that instead.

In the last couple of years, I've branched out of my genre and started reading things that wouldn't have ever been on my radar when I was younger -- literary fiction, mystery, thriller, women's fiction. This summer I want to dive into some classics.

These days, I don't read nearly even one tenth of what I used to. (Back at the beach house, I could get through a book a day.) I think now if I get through a book a month I'm doing something. But that, in turn, has made me very selective about what I reach for.

Tell me -- What do you read? Do you stay strictly in your genre? Or do you branch out? Do you not read anything in your genre because you're afraid of finding out your plot has already been done? (Truthfully, this is one of the reasons I don't read in my genre very much anymore.)

I've been working in the yard this week trying to get most everything done before it gets too hot. By the time I get home, I'm on the couch. I do read your comments and your posts, but sorry to say, I just don't have the energy to comment.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013


Linda G. said...

I tend to avoid my genre (UF) while I'm writing, just so I'm not unduly influenced by what I read.

Actually, while I'm in the middle of writing a book, I don't read much at all--sadly, no time for it. What I do read is usually nonfiction, typically of a popular science flavor. I'm fascinated by quantum mechanics, and love trying to decipher the dumbed-down-for-broader-consumption books that brilliant scientists write. *grin*

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- I'm the same way, can't read while I write. But not that I'm not writing, I can't say I have all that much time for reading either. I'm hoping by the time summer hits I'll be able to just read read read.

Anne Gallagher said...

I meant to say NOW, now that I'm not writing...

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I read mostly YA and NA, but I have been known to read an adult novel or too.

I go through phases, though I'm positive I've been in the YA phase the longest. I used to read historical romances, horror, medical and legal thrillers when I was a teen and college student. LOL Looks like I've got things backwards.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I read a lot. Even when I'm working on a WIP (or 2). It gives me a break (recharges my brain), plus I just love to read.

I read and write paranormal romance, but love to also read comedy, suspense, thrillers, and horror. They probably get all mixed up in my writing, too, and I'm wondering if I've got multiple genres going on. But I like what I like, so it's no surprise it all ends up in my writing.

Johanna Garth said...

I read about a book a week (I finished yours while I was away! :))

As to genre I try to be pretty broad because I think they all inform each other, but the easiest for me to whip through, the ones I can't put down are fiction that's just short of literary, but better written than most of what fills the NYT best seller list.

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

Man. That's a long time to stay in one genre. It's crazy in a way, but it also shows those authors were doing something right!!! ;)

I read mainly YA, but adult fic, too; and in those there's dystopian, contemporary, sci-fi, and so on, so I think it's a pretty eclectic group. As for writing, I love to read while writing... if I don't take a break from my worlds, I go batty. Reading something else lets the writing parts rest; then when I go back to write I feel renewed (and a lot of times stuff pops into my head while I'm reading)!

Also, love what you said because it describes a lot of us: we write the books that we want to read! :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I read less in my genre now than I used to. I love reading books by my blogging friends that are outside my genre. Like you, if I read a book a month, I'm doing good.

Yvonne Osborne said...

I like to challenge myself with a book, always did, but I also went through my Zane Gray stage and my romance stage. I read widely nowadays, everything from Cormac McCarthy and Mary Gaitskill to Stephen King and Denise Mina. Yeah...I like nothing better than reading, except writing, when the writing is good.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I can't read while I'm writing my first draft. I get too caught up in the book I'm reading and sop writing! But reading is so so important.