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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Sunday, 2 May 2010
What do you read? Not a lot is the answer. This reply usually leads to disbelieve and my being told that it is a rule that if you want to write then you have to read and reaD and then read more. I’ve heard that too. Perhaps for some people it’s true but it hasn’t stopped me. I have writing friends who read three to four books a week, in a way I envy them. I realise that my answer could be seen as facetious, I don’t mean it to be; there are several reasons why I don’t. First, I’m a slow reader, most dyslexics are – I watch others reading and see how their eyes move swiftly from left to write, skimming the lines, I can’t do that, every word has to be read and if it’s a word I’m not familiar with then I don’t know how it sounds and the reading stops. Secondly I’ve also found that if I read a novel which really grabs me when I’m working then I risk absorbing the style. I once lost my own “voice” everything became different, punchy, fast. “What are you reading” my wise editor asked, “Jackie Collins,” I replied. Jackie has such a strong, addictive style which for me is dangerous, I had to put the book away. Thirdly, particularly dangerous, I find, is to read books of my own genre. We authors are like sponges storing ideas, words, phrases away often without realising we are doing so. No one wants to be accused of plagiarism so its safer, I think, not to go there in the first place. So, if I want to read fiction I stick to thrillers and crime – the opposite of what I write. But even then there are not many for I never stop working and hence I’m not reading much fiction. However, there are always books I need to read for my work - biographies, autobiographies and social history books. So, you see, it’s not such a silly answer as it first sounded. What do you think of literary novels? What do you think of literary snobbery? There are literary novels I’ve enjoyed but some I don’t understand and some I wonder why they were written in the first place let alone published but I would never slam them in public since I know how demoralising it can be. A novel is a precious thing to the creator of it, there are enough people happy to destroy them without me putting my oar in. The writers of commercial fiction get a lot of snide remarks it’s more dignified not to get involved in a slanging match – and in any case, when you don’t it annoys them even more. What do you think of Mills and Boob books? I admire them. So many writers I know, like me, started out with the idea they would write a category romance since it would be the easy option. WRONG! Writing these books requires a set of skills which I don’t possess. They are short, succinct with pace a plenty, the vocabulary is limited . . . Impossible. I am far too verbose and like for my tales to slowly unfold. I tried, I failed as most of us do. I have nothing but admiration for those who succeed. Which brings me back to those literary types who slate us. All they are doing is saying that all those millions who enjoy our books and M&B too are wrong, I call it the Tchaikovsky syndrome – if too many people like it, it can’t be good.

4 comments:

  1. What refreshing honesty, Annie.
    I must admit to not reading as much as I'd like to these days. Reading for me is pure relaxation and writing is most definitely not - it's hard work.

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  2. Thank you, Annie, for expressing so clearly what I feel - I'm terrified of plagiarising unwittingly. It's comforting to know I'm not alone.

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  3. I read more resource books now. Reading outside of my genre, has been useful and I have found some great authors.

    Mills and Boon? They have been the life saver on many a night shift in the past. I could finish one if I was sitting with one patient. No going to sleep wondering what the ending will be. :)

    Anyone who has a book published, has my admiration.

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  4. If I could give you a gift, I would give you easy reading simply because it has brought me such pleasure all through my life.

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