Squawk Radio

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Christina talks about what she reads while writing

Recently on our comments we were asked to blog on our reading habits. She asked: do you read at all while writing? Do you feel like you have to avoid books that are similar to what you are writing? Basically, how do you balance the whole reader / writer thing?

In grade school, I was one of those snot-nosed kids who learned to read quickly and never stopped once I started. I read indiscriminately all the way through high school — classics, Harlequin romances, plays, the Little House books, you name it, I would steal the time. Eventually, like everyone in the world, life interfered (work, husband, children) and I had to pare down the time I could spend reading, so I concentrated on what I loved best, which was romance. I always, always read both contemporary and historical. As long as it was a romance plot line that appealed to me, I didn’t care if when it was set, I’d read it.

I started writing because I loved to read so much and I thought, Hey, I can do this! This proving I had two of the attributes of a writer — a large ego and very little sense of reality.

Actually what all that reading did was give me a natural sense of how plot, characterization and motivation worked together to create a story. I wrote for ten years before I got published and reading got to be guilty pleasure. It was tough to justify reading when I should be working on a book in the hopes of someday grabbing the gold ring — or at least the signed check. But I found that putting words in fed the flow of words out. It seemed that reading while I worked fed the creative well and if I didn’t read, I’d find myself staring at a blank page with no idea how to fill it. Sometimes, if the author had a strong voice, I’d find myself mimicking it. I was telling my story, but I sounded like her. If I read a lot of an author I think her rhythm and style became part of my voice (Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick, anyone?)

Then I got published. Between writing and publicity and email and blogging and touring, time really has become precious. That’s good, because that means I’m in demand. I’m thrilled about that. But my reading time has been seriously compromised. Worse, as I’ve progressed, things have happened to my reading habits I never imagined. For instance, I don’t want to read historical romances anymore. I still love to write them. I enjoy the research. But I have no desire to read a historical. It breaks my heart because they immersed me in exotic worlds and different sensibilities and I loved that.

I still love to read contemporary romances, but you can bet I’m worried about losing my pleasure in that, too, because it still holds true that I need to read to write. If I’m going to be a writer, I need to watch movies, I need to go to museums, I need to travel and visit new places, I need to revisit the places I’ve been, I need to go to malls.

Yes, malls. How else am I going to get to a bookstore and buy books?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What about the rest of you?
Christina Dodd, 10:34 PM