Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Writer's Wednesday - To Read or Not To Read, Annie West

Writing is a consuming business. It's not just time and energy consuming, but it can take over a writer's life in a ways a non writer might not immediately identify with. Like when you look up to find a family member talking to you and it takes a while to drag yourself out of the world where your mind was and back to the 'real' one. Like when you go shopping and see the perfect outfit...for your heroine. Like when your mind is full of school reports and medical appointments and your 'must do' list and cooking dinner and suddenly it fades to nothing when you realise why it was one of your characters acted in that inexplicable way.

The story in your head can take over your life. So what happens when writers, who as far as I can see are mainly addicted to reading, need to concentrate on the story brewing in their head? Should they concentrate on that and not dilute their mental energies by reading other books at the same time? But what if reading is how they relax? Shouldn't they delve into other stories to give themselves a break?

I ask this as it's something I wonder about. Since becoming published I've much less time to read. I love sending my book in and diving into my pile of reading. It's an enormous treat and I feel better for it, but when I'm writing I wonder whether to read or not. I do read, but I often avoid books in my line (though I break that rule from time to time). I especially avoid reading any book that may have similar themes to mine. I'd hate to find my story unfolding in a certain way and then wonder if I'd been influenced by someone else's marvellous plot. On the other hand, reading sets my creative juices flowing.

Since it's Writers' Wednesday I thought it a perfect time to see what a few other category authors think about this.

"I prefer not to read while I'm immersed in writing, because I'm a bit all-or-nothing and have zero willpower. If I start a good book, I can't bear to put it down until I'm finished. One would think that this would make category romance an ideal read but, alas, my reading of a fab book doesn't end with the last page. The characters can stay with me, overpowering my own. If the writing's especially wonderful, it sows doubt about what I'm doing. So I prefer to read and read and read and read when I'm between writing projects."
Bronwyn Jameson (Silhouette Desire), Princes of the Outback, M&B Spotlight May 2010.
"My reading time has sunk to very low levels during term time. I find I read in the holidays and then I binge reading all sorts of things. During the year I am in a book group so I read whatever is set and sadly that is often the only books I get to. However, if I am struggling for stories I find movies and reading the paper and magazines very very useful."
Fiona Lowe (Mills and Boon Medical)

"I definitely don't read as much as I did before I was published. I just don't have the time. Once upon a time I'd finish every book I started, even if it killed me. Not these days. I read everything from category romance through to academic texts and anything in between. An interesting development in the last couple of years, has been watching TV serials/soaps instead of reading. I started it as a sort of study of character development and plot lines. So far I've watched the entire series of McLeod's Daughters, Sea Change, and now I'm onto an oldie but a goodie -- The Good Life. Watching TV is kinder to my eyes than the printed page after I've spent 5-6 hours at a computer. I've learned oodles about story too.

I'm not suspicious about reading romance when I'm crafting one of my own. I don't feel that I will inadvertently steal or plagiarise another author's work. Sometimes it's refreshing to read another category author's work -- it can be inspiring and act as a spur. It can also a comfort that there are others out there who love the genre as much as me."
Michelle Douglas (Harlequin Romance)

"I always read out of my genre when I’m writing – at the moment it’s urban fantasy and paranormal, with a few biographies in between. If I read too many romances I feel as if I’m too influenced by the author’s style, which then clouds my own writing. I always learn something from whatever book I’m reading – be it characterization, the way a plot escalates, the turning points, how characters deal with their black moment, etc. Like writing, I’m never NOT reading ."
Paula Roe (Silhouette Desire)

What about you? Do you indulge in your love of books when you write? If so, do you read within the genre you write? And for non writers, do you find a break from your usual reading invigorating or can't you wait to get back to what you love?

Annie is enjoying April. She's sneaking some great reading into her packed schedule. Plus, her latest Presents Extra: FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE CHILD has been getting wonderful reviews and reader feedback. You can check it out at eHarlequin or Amazon. You can find out more about the story or enter Annie's latest contest on her website.


  1. Congrats on the fab reviews and reader feedback, Annie!

    Where can I get a reading pod/bookcase? I could spend all day in there.

    I'm in two minds about reading while immersed in a story. Sometimes if I'm stuck, spending a couple of hours with a book can give me clarity. At the same time, I don't want to be too influenced by what I'm reading. It's a delicate balance!

  2. Hi Vanessa and thanks for the congrats! It's great to hear such nice things about Carys and Alessandro's story.

    Hm, as for the reading pog - I don't know. I'd love one!

    Yes, I tend to waver on this one. Sometimes reading is just the thing to get me excited about writing again. I think it's just the joy of losing yourself in a story! Hope your writing's going famously.

  3. Argh! Reading pog? Reading POG? Of course I meant pod!

  4. The... er... pog looks quite comfy, Annie! LOL

    Seriously, the reading and writing thing is a delicate balance. I do only read outside my subgenre just to ensure that I don't get unduly influenced. But it's so nice to take a breather and remind myself what I love about romance novels.

    Besides, Annie, I'm such a sloooooow writer that if I didn't allow myself to read at all, I'd be suffering withdrawals!


  5. Sharon, maybe I've coined a new word. I wouldn't mind having a pog as long as it looked like that. But for some reason I keep imagining a pug on a pogo stick. Oh, it's been a long day...

    Ah, that's really interesting about you reading, Sharon, but outside your subgenre. As you say, it's great to take a breather - even if sometimes I read a story so good I wonder why I'm trying to write my own!

  6. I'm snorting with laughter over your reading pog, Annie! Love it!

  7. Hi Annie,

    Fab post! I'm always battling with my reading - there's just so many great books to choose from and not enough energy/time!

    As an aspiring romance author I feel more confident reading outside the cat.rom. genre while I'm writing. But I too am a s-l-o-w writer and I do get withdrawal symptoms and sometimes sneak in a cat.romance read. :)

    As for your reading pog, Annie, please add me to the list of admirers. ;)

    Sue xx

  8. Vanessa, I think I'd like a pog! It's got a ring to it. Though if it turns out to be a pug on a pogo stick...

  9. Hi Susan,

    I know what you mean about having so many great books to read and not having the energy to read them all. I've just been introduced to a couple of non-romance authors who are seriously distracting and I need to focus on my story instead.

    Gee, I wish I knew where to get a reading pog. Maybe I could sell them and get commissions. They seem very popular!

    Isn't it interesting the way we think of reading outside our particular genre as safer while we write. I'm torn between that and longing to get lost in the sort of book I love best! Sneaking a good read sounds great to me.

  10. Hi Annie, I love your blogs--you always seem to come up with something thought provoking!
    I can't not read--even when I am writing. It's my relaxation and escape.
    This is where a category romance is good as I can read and enjoy a shorter-length book without it taking up too much writing time.
    Of course if it is one of yours or the other wonderful writers who've commented here, that is even better!

  11. Congrats on the great reviews, Annie :-)!

    When I'm deep in one of my stories and nearing deadline, I often feel as though I don't have time to read. But it's reading romances by other authors that often puts me in the mood to write or shows me where I might have gone wrong. So I've learned to set aside reading time--it's part of my job ;-).

    I happen to favor historical romances, so I don't usually have a problem with reading the same type of book that I'm writing.

  12. Like Michelle, I get my story fix with TV while I'm writing. Definitely more restful for eyes and mind than reading at night.

    Oh, can I have a pog, too? It looks like the perfect reading angle for me.


  13. Hi Annie! Great blog. I simply cannot NOT read, ever. One thing I've become trained to do since publishing is to read in small bites here and there. Standing in the kitchen waiting for the potatoes to boil, in between games when the kids are playing sport. And I always love to read for at least ten minutes before bed every night. When I'm not on a contract deadline you will find me in our sitting room, curled up in a recliner all day with a good book. I tend to save my favourite authors for those times so I can wallow in their awesome word power and craft. And, like Paula, I definitely tend to read outside of my genre when I'm working on a book myself.

  14. Aw, Kandy, thanks, I love the idea of writing thought provoking blogs. It's great to know category romance comes into your tbr pile when you're writing. Like you that's when I especially appreciate a book that gives me that great emotional punch in a relatively short space of time.

  15. Hi Terry,

    What a good point. I've never thought of setting aside reading time,especially when I'm nearing deadline. I'm more likely to try sneaking it in and feeling guilty.

    Like you I love historical romances but I tend to read less if I'm in the final stages of my own project and time seems tight as they're longer and I'm scared of not being able to put them down!

    Thanks for the congratulations. The reviews and feedback on this book have been lovely so far!

  16. Bron, it's lovely to see you here. I can see I'm definitely going to have to seek out pogs for myself and everyone else!

  17. Hiya Miss Annie and your illustrious colleagues! What an interesting blog. Actually when I was first published, I really stopped reading apart from the occasional binge when I couldn't bear it any more. I've learnt that's really bad both for my mental health and for my writing. So these days I put aside reading time and it's done me good. However, when I'm working on a book, I tend to read a lot of nonfiction. Just seems to clear the mind! I know I've told you before, but I just loved FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD. It's a doozy of a read!

  18. Ah, Yvonne, another wallower! Isn't it great to have sent a book in so you can just immerse yourself in someone else's story? I find myself snatching quick reads in between other tasks but nothing beats just relaxing with a book without interruption (sigh)!

  19. Annie, I adore that picture of the girl reading under the covers with a torch -- brings back memories of my childhood!

    I just can't imagine not reading, and while I may not always have the time to wallow when I'm in the middle of my own writing, ooh I make up for it once my deadline's been met :-)

    Oh, and yes please, could you sign me up for a pog too?

  20. Michelle, I'll add you to the pog list. I wonder where you get them? Yes, I loved the reading under the covers pic too. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed and sharing your thoughts on this.

  21. Lord, I'm late!

    Annie - did you know that 'Pog' is the name of a very popular cartoon cat kid's book? :)

    Hey, I recognize that Reading Pog! I used it in a Desire blog a few months back... It costs about $5K or something, I think...