by Chris F. Holm
I think Reece nailed this week's question in his post on Monday. (I suggest you check out his post, and while you're at it congratulate him on his new book deal!) Pretty much the only stuff I won't read while I'm writing is anything that plays in the same sandbox. For my Collector series, which straddles the line between old-fashioned noir and the creepier side of fantasy, that means waiting until between books to read Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series, Neil Gaiman's grown-up fiction, or anything by Stephen Blackmoore or Tim Powers, to name but a few. I also, for the record, had to quit watching Supernatural when they started getting all biblical on me. The last thing I wanted was to get called out for ripping off somebody who simply happened down a similar narrative path.
That said, there are a host of authors whose books I often pluck from the shelf when I need a literary shot in the arm to kick my writing into gear. Hammett, for his grit. Chandler, for his poetry. Block (particularly his Scudder novels), for his raw emotion. Westlake (writing as Stark), for his spare, pitch-black perfection. And of course Dante (with a little help in my edition from Messrs. Longfellow and Dore), for bringing hell to terrifying life in much the way I hope to for my poor, damned Sam.
Sometimes, I'll read 'em clean through while I write, but just as often, I'll simply grab one and read a passage or two at random before I sit down at the keyboard. I'd recommend you try it sometime with your great literary inspirations; you'll be surprised how much it serves to fuel your own creativity, and inform your day's writing. And heck, even if it doesn't, at least you got to read some pretty sentences.