"Do you read differently now than you did as a teenager?"
- from Susan
Funny moment to be asking me this. I am reviewing the final pre-print proofs for Mixed Up with Murder, reading revisions to a new book for an editor, and reading enough of my new NaNoWriMo draft so I can finish the last scene, which I had to set aside to re-read and sign off on the final revision for the new edition of Murder in the Abstract (a long and somewhat painful exercise, another story…) I read a lot of my own books now, not always with great enjoyment!
Pre-college, I read hugely on my own, everything I could get my hands on. Lots of Thurber, Michener, Mary Stewart, O’Henry, Shirley Jackson, anything in The New Yorker…I can’t remember every author but lots of costume sagas and quirky stuff, modern Irish stories, historical novels. Pretty much all fiction. I read all the time. In school, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, Mark Twain, sanitized biographies, classics, nothing edgy unless you consider Macbeth edgy, which I emphatically do. It was my writing education.
In college, still in my teens and just beyond, I read James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Galsworthy and Flaubert, Tolstoy and James Joyce, Homer, Chaucer and other Early and Middle English tales, more Twain, albeit with a twist (“Come Back to the Raft Ag’in, Huck Honey” was the mind-blowing piece written by one of my wonderful teachers, Leslie Fiedler), reams of bardic Irish literature, and lots of poetry, a feast of poetry. Good stuff, the balance of my education as a writer and source of my passion.
Skipping a few years to today, what do I read? Mostly crime fiction. Almost never fiction in The New Yorker, which generally bores me. Periodically I buy a literary book award winner, and most of those – not all – leave me feeling in need of a blood transfusion. I read much more biography and history and regret that I waited until now to read all of Beowulf, although it’s Seamus Heaney’s 2000 translation that makes it such a tense and colorful tale. I’m re-reading Mrs. Dalloway because I know it’s considered a masterpiece, but, until this reading, wasn’t convinced. These books are refresher courses in what makes good writing and reminds me how much I still have to learn.
But, chiefly, I now read crime fiction. New books – lord, there are hundreds, many of them by people I know – and classics, and series I missed out on first time around. New and waiting for me: Terry Shames’ two latest, Stuart Neville’s two latest, Catriona’s latest, Colin Cotterill, Tim Hallinan, Michelle Gagnon…looking at the shelf makes me feel guilty. Classics I am aching to re-read by Tey, Sayers, Stout, Nabb… And these, too, are education. In plotting, in character arcs, in what the market wants and what today’s readers like.
So, no, I guess I don’t really read differently. I read as voraciously as I did when I was 13, still getting my education through the work of great writers.