It has always been a firm belief of mine that you can’t write – or write well, anyway – if you don’t read. And I’m not talking about magazines – c’mon, people, we all read magazines, if only while waiting at the checkout counter (although 2 of my regular supermarkets now have TV for the attention-impaired, 5 second snippets of shows and commercials.) I do not discount this type of reading; I publish in magazines and do not bite the hand that at least pats me on the head. But magazines are very thin picture books, meant to give your mind a jumpstart or a tweak, not to give you hours of transportation to a completely other world.
The difference between books and magazines (or newspapers or blogs or the Huffington Post) is not exactly the same as the difference between People Magazine and actual people, but it is nonetheless great.
So when I say I have been reading, I mean books. It sort of goes without saying that I read magazines, online posts, news, cereal boxes, tee shirts, bumper stickers, the mail, and just about anything with printed words.
I have my favorite genre fiction – it runs from James Lee Burke, Dean Koontz, and Louise Penney on one side to Earl Derr Biggers, Arthur Upfield and Ngaio Marsh on another and Sue Ann Jaffarian, Jeff Sharrat and Taffy Cannon on yet another – it’s a multi-sided construct. But I love classic fiction as well. I learn from it, the easy way, while being entertained, enthralled, whisked away, and fed on rich things.
I have a dear friend who just discovered the joys of a Kindle and is reading Willa Cather. Now that’s reading. This same friend just finished Faulkner (the hard, difficult, rip your eyes out Faulkner of Light in August) in hardcover, so she’s no stranger to the type of reading that sometimes takes you to places you would never allow yourself to be taken otherwise. But she enjoys going to the good, kind places, too.
Which brings me to writing. If you don’t take the trips to places through reading, I don’t see where you can buy your ticket to take others to places through your writing. It is one of only two ways I know to learn how to write, and they are both connected. The other half of it is actually writing, the BIC (Butt In Chair) method.
This week I have been reading both fiction and non-fiction – and writing.
I have completed that same novel I started writing in late 2007. I confess I let it sit for several years due to plot holes, but I have since learned how to knit up the raveled sleeve of a couple of good ideas strung together with engaging characters, an endearing puppy dog and a couple of gruesome murders. What’s not to love? And working on it this time around was a pleasure, not a chore.
I also discovered – by reading through it and looking ahead to the satisfying conclusion that it is not the mystery I thought it would be, but is an animal I have not before tamed, namely Romantic Suspense.
So I have begun to read in that genre. And it’s fun. I am enjoying and learning and reading it all with a delight I before had reserved only for mystery, science fiction and certain favorite classics.
So my question is:
Which romantic suspense authors do you like? Recommend a few books to me as I reach the end of my own.
5 thoughts on “Reading and Writing – The Basics by Kate Thornton”
Good post, Kate, and so true! Read on!
You're right, Kate, and you made your point so engagingly and humorously–just like you do in person. I remember the thrill of learning to read when I was a kid, and books opened up a myriad of worlds to me. Probably why I became a writer, picking up the desire by osmosis through all those books. In the way of recommendations: Heather Ames' “Indelible” is a great read and an object lesson in how to work this genre. Disclaimer: Heather is a personal friend and part of my critique group, but even if I didn't know her I would recommend her work.
I try to read a little bit of everything. Maybe that's why I like to put lots of different things in my own stories, from people, to places, to jobs, to experiences. I'm very sure I learned a great deal from books as well as good, older, movies. A good book or movie has a sense of place and the people had character. That might seem obvious, but how many books have you read or TV shows or movies have you seen where the characters were just like the last ten you saw on the tube or read? Check out some of the classics like Kate recommended and get a new perspective. Reading expands the mind and the imagination.
Your point to writers is so basic it's often forgotten by us, so the reminder is welcome. I've learned so much by reading the work of other writers, including our group members. When I find something particularly well written I not only admire it, but dissect it to see how it works. Great post.
A good romantic suspense writer is Julia Spencer Fleming, whose first novel is “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Claire Fergusson is an Episcopal priest whose parish is in Miller's Kill in the Adirondacks. Russ Van Alstyne is the police chief of Miller's Kill. They solve murders together, and part of the suspense is what they're going to do about the attraction between them, seeing that Russ is married. Since the story of their romance progresses from book to book, it's good to read the books in order.