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    Wednesday, June 08, 2005


    You can probably tell from some of my posts on this and other boards that I love books just as much as you guys do. Books have been my friends, my escape, and my lifeline from the time I was a very small child. Out of curiosity, I went back and took a look at the last ten books I've read:

    THE ICE QUEEN by Alice Hoffman (mainstream novel)

    BLACK ICE by Anne Stuart (romantic suspense)

    MY PLEASURE by Connie Brockway (historical romance)

    DEAD UNTIL DARK by Charlaine Harris (vampire suspense with romance)

    FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konisburg (a favorite from childhood that I frequently re-read)

    PLAN B: FURTHER THOUGHTS ON FAITH by Anne Lamotte (Non-fiction)

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen (classic literature)

    CLOSE TO YOU by Christina Dodd (romantic suspense)

    ALONE by Lisa Gardner (suspense)
    JUST LIKE A MAN by Elizabeth Bevarly (romantic comedy)

    Although you'll probably notice a few of my friends on this list, we do have an unofficial agreement amongst ourselves. We appreciate it if we buy each other's books, but we're under no obligation to read them. We're all well aware that if we're not careful, we could spend all of our time reading our "friend's" books and never try anything new. (Of course this gets to be a problem when you have such freaking talented friends and you genuinely WANT to read their books.)

    I have to confess that I've read very little historical romance lately. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE historical romance but when I'm in the middle of writing one, there are three reasons I don't read them.

    1) Reading what I'm writing feels like work. If they're wonderful, I feel despairing about my own work. If they're not wonderful, I catch myself editing them in my head.

    2) If I read nothing but historicals, then after awhile everything starts feeling tired to me. As long as I maintain the "illusion" that I'm writing something fresh, then it feels fresh and exciting to me and there's a better chance that I can make it fresh and exciting for the reader. One of the most startling things I've ever heard in a workshop is when Julie Garwood confessed that she'd never read another historical romance. Ever. In her life. Shocking, but who knows? Maybe that's what gave her books such a brash, exciting feel when she first broke into the historical market. (For examples of this, I highly recommend HONOR'S SPLENDOR, THE BRIDE, and LYON'S LADY.)

    3) I honestly believe that if romance writers read nothing but romance, then eventually we'll all start cannibalizing each other and nobody will be bringing anything fresh to the genre. I probably wouldn't have ever written my award-winning western, NOBODY'S DARLING, if I hadn't read Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE. The children's novel THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND (which I read REPEATEDLY as a child) definitely informed my own "witch" book, BREATH OF MAGIC. If we keep pouring those outside influences into the genre, then I believe it helps to keep the pool fresh and sparkling.

    I DO read historicals when I'm between books or on vacation. The first books I reached for when I finished AFTER MIDNIGHT were SECRETS OF A SUMMER NIGHT, MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU and SOME ENCHANTED EVENING. This may sound like a Squawk commercial, but by that point, I was STARVED for a good historical. And the best historicals always send me running for my notepad to jot down ideas. (I said "jot", not steal :))

    Barbara Samuels just did a wonderful article in my Novelists Ink newsletter about how easy it is for our reading habits to become "corrupted" after we become writers. We spend WAY too much time reading books we feel we "should" be reading instead of "discovering" books the way we did before we became writers. I'm using her article as permission to read a book that's been languishing on my shelf for way too long--LIFE IS JUST WHAT YOU MAKE IT: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DONNY OSMOND!