What authors particularly inspire you? Do you read them when you are working on a book?
An author who inspired me some years ago, when I was looking for representation, is Louise Penny. Along with enjoying her Gamache series, it was also a matter of the permission she gave me to break some rules, or what I thought were rules.
Louise Penny proved:
Yes, I can set my stories in Canada, where I live.
I can be a touch sappy if I want.
Tension doesn't have to be a kidnapped president or a primed pistol.
It all seems self-evident now, but when you're trying to make your manuscript as marketable as it can be, you read between the lines of all the advice that comes at you, and draw your inferences, right or wrong.
Louise Penny breaks rules, and her writing can be unreservedly melodramatic at times (but so what, and yay Louise!) She's got insecurity issues. I heard her on a podcast describing how devastating a bad review can be, no matter how many good ones she may have. Frankly, she's got a lot of good ones, not to mention countless awards. But still she avoids reading her reviews, for fear of the rotten one, and that's so human, isn't it.
In the big picture, the whole world loves her, and I love her too, for her strengths and weaknesses, and for what she did to the rules.
For the second part of the question, I regret that I don't have time to do either right now. In normal circumstances, if I'm writing a lot, it's a relief to put my work aside and read. Sometimes something challenging and different, but often I turn to the comfortably familiar, especially when stressed, and Louise Penny and her village of Three Pines is about as comforting as it gets.