Reading While Writing Books

For many years, I have typically read five books at once, which is not so much a sign of my compulsion to read, but of a tendency to start a book and then not finish it.  No more!  Now I read one book at a time, and try my best to finish it.  Perhaps I owe my new, more disciplined style of reading – and my more organised bedside table – to the advent of writing my own books.

When penning my memoir over several years, especially latterly, I decided I did not read books by other authors.  Somehow, they were a distraction.  And although I could have done with some of those, even so, I found that the bulk of my usual reading – which I have always enjoyed for itself and found helpful as research – about buxom, winsome wenches and Colonel Brandon-style heroes, was too far from what I was doing then, to feel as if it contributed in any way to my main obsession with getting my own book finished.  Even for comfort and light relief, I felt disinclined to take up reading matter, except for a very few, reliably amusing authors.

One I recall is Marian Keyes, who though writing women’s fiction with an eye for the happy ending, does so with clarity, wit and humour that I relate to, reminding me of the values in everyday, human contact.   There is a human quality of pathos underneath her writing which feels tangibly real and very funny.

And now, after a stint at MBS – writing books which I have used to try and teach me more about the realities of life – I am firmly enjoying writing women’s fiction, which I enjoy and find rewarding.  The genre contains disciplines all its own, and encourages me to creative attempts which I have previously assumed were the privilege of better writers than me.

I am delighted to notice that in the context of creating women’s fiction, reading any books helps with the challenges of writing.  Both to discover what I like, and what does not work for me, every book is instructive, and every hero and heroine teaches me a bit more about the crafting delights of fiction.  And if I chance upon a truly awful book – rarely – this is a most useful spur to get my own writing.


Raja Ravi Varma, Lady Juggler
Raja Ravi Varma, Lady Juggler

Can you suggest any authors I might try?

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