A popular question I’m asked in interviews and when I go to speaking engagement is: What do you like to read? (Or who are your favorite authors?)
As a matter of fact, I recently had the chance to meet with a book group who’d chosen to read my Luther and Katharina book (waves at all the lovely ladies!), and they asked me that very question.
“As a historical writer, do you read a lot of other books in that genre and if so, what?”
I stumbled around for a few seconds trying to think how to answer, and it finally hit me that I have a major reading quirk that I didn’t realize I had: I don’t read books within the genres that I write (or at least not very often).
For example, I write historical romances. And while there are a ton of REALLY great inspirational historical romance authors out there (some on this blog!), I generally don’t gravitate toward reading books in the historical genre.
I also write medieval young adult books. And I realized that I don’t often read other authors writing medieval YA.
Strange, isn’t it? You’d think I’d enjoy reading within the genres I write.
But oddly, my Goodreads lists are filled with contemporary romances, dystopian YA, and children’s classics. The scattering of historicals on my shelves are books I’ve either read for endorsement or are not typical (like Susanna Kearsley who has a unique blend of present time with the past).
That begs the question: Why would an author NOT enjoy reading the genre she writes? Surely every author MUST love reading in her genre before attempting to pen stories within it. Can an author even be any good if she doesn’t read her genre and stay knowledgeable of what else is being written similar to her books?
BEFORE I started writing in the genre, I loved reading it. In fact I had such a voracious appetite for the genre I finally decided to write books to fulfill my own inner story desires. I had no trouble filling out the comparisons on proposals to publishers with all of the books out there that were similar to mine.
AFTER I started publishing within my genres, I realized that I didn’t want to compare myself or my stories to other authors or books anymore. I wanted to write from the uniqueness inside of me. I didn’t want to worry about whether my books somehow measured up. And I didn’t want to become needlessly prideful or discouraged in a comparison game.
And quite frankly, when I read books too similar to what I write, I find that my internal editor won’t stay locked in her cage like she does with other genres. Rather she likes to creep out with red pen in hand and spoil my reading pleasure. That’s not fair to other authors if I’m critical of their work through no fault of their own.
So there you have it, my strange reading quirk. Maybe someday I’ll overcome my oddity, but for now it’s helped me venture into trying new types of books and genres that I may never have read before. And for that I’m grateful!