Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Read What Ya Write?

Do you read the kind of books that you write or do you tend to read books that are the opposite or different – and why?

From Frank

I answered a similar question to this last month in this post. But this question has a distinction, in that it is much broader -- reading habits in general, as opposed to when one is writing.

Drive by Dan Pink
On Deck non-fiction
I like to have a few books going at once....as many as four or more. There are the bedside books, which I read at night. There's the audiobook on my phone, for listening to in the car or while doing yard work or working out. And there's the Kindle book that I read on my phone when I find myself in a place with down time (waiting in line somewhere, for instance).

The bedside books usually include a non-fiction title and a fiction title. My non-fiction title is still the biography of Augustus -- I haven't made much progress on that. But next up after that is Daniel Pink's Drive.

Came highly recommended
The fiction title isn't a title so much as a stack. Library books bump to the top of the pile due to their expiration date, and that pushes owned titles back down. So there are usually a few in progress titles, including our own James Ziskin's Ellie Stone book, which I've been pleasantly plinking away at in between the onslaught of library books coming available (Lori Radar-Day's Under a Dark Sky is the current one).

Now, to be fair, I'm writing this post well in advance of the publication date, since Kristi and I are vacationing in Ireland from July 1-12. So I'm sure that both Lori and Jim's book will be finished by the time you read this, and I'll be onto another library entry and whatever is next in my owned stack on the bedside. I'm hoping for Blake Crouch's Recursion from the library, and there are a couple of acquisitions from Left Coast Crime vying to be up next on the owned side.

A Dirty Job
Read by Fisher Stevens
Read by Titus Welliver
Audiobooks are awesome, and though they compete with podcasts for my listening pleasure, they get at least equal standing. I've listened to entire series (serie?) via audiobook only, including The Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell (the Netflix series The Last Kingdom is based on these books). I recently finished Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job (narrated by Fisher Stevens) this way (Chris came on my podcast Wrong Place, Write Crime, and was fantastic), and as of this writing, I'm digging me some Harry Bosch (Two Kinds of Truth, narrated by Titus Welliver). I don't tend to listen to non-fiction much on audio -- I guess podcasts fill that void. I listen to some history podcasts, hockey podcasts, and whatever you want to classify Malcolm Gladwell as -- journalism? History? Human Interest?  Whatever it is, I enjoy the heck out of his work.

Shades of Elmore Leonard
Kindle on the phone is opportunity-driven. I have a few dozen books on there for those times when I'm waiting around for something and don't have a book with me. I started reading Matt Phillips' Countdown this way, for example (Matt was also on the podcast recently). I have a few Joe Konrath titles, and a Joe Clifford. And you can never, ever go wrong with an Eric Beetner title. The thing about all of these titles is that I read them in fits and starts, so it's a different kind of experience than a read through with a physical book. That makes someone like Beetner perfect, because the action is generally so non-stop that it's easy to jump back into the story after being away for a while.

Looking back over this, I see that I am fiction-heavy, and that many are in my genre, or even in the sub-genres that I write in. Why is that?

I think it is two-pronged. First off, I like these kinds of books. They interest me, and a pleasure to read. Ther's probably a reason I write crime fiction beyond just my career in law enforcement. I like the scope of human drama that seems to be examined so closely in much of this genre. So I read a bunch of it. That's probably ninety percent of the reason why. The other ten percent is putting a writer's eye on what my colleagues are doing. Trying to learn from them, and admiring the work they've done. And being insanely jealous at how good they are.

Reading (or listening) outside the genre is good, too, though. It feels like a complete break. Or nearly complete. If it's a book that isn't crime fiction, there's still a part of me paying attention to the craft.  It's unavoidable. But it's easier to put that aside when the story is dissimilar from what I write.

I'm a firm believer that you should read what you like to read. Part of the reason some people never develop a love of reading is because they were forced to read things they didn't enjoy. Now, I'm all for stretching and expanding your horizons, don't get me wrong. But reading is a pleasure, and you should read what you want.

Speaking of which....


Blatant self-promotion, brought to you by me:

You Can Get It Now!
My novel, Charlie-316, is less than a month old! You can get this police procedural in paperback or digital format from Down and Out Books.

In it, my co-author Colin Conway and I dive into the explosive aftermath of a controversial police shooting in Spokane, Washington, where everyone has an agenda and nothing is what it seems to be.

Eric Beetner said that Charlie-316 "Crackles with authenticity and ripped-from-the-headlines urgency."

Trust Eric.

And make me smile -- give Charlie-316 a read.


catriona said...

"Read what you like". Couldn't agree more, Frank. We have to eat a mix of what we like and what keeps us healthy, do a mix of what we like and what we have to. Reading is pure pleasure.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

A good list, Frank. Some I've read, and some I look forward to checking out. Charlie 316 is awesome by the way.

Susan C Shea said...

I don't spend as much time in my car these days so I'm reading/listening to very little that way and I miss it. I know I should listen to more podcasts - there's so much that interests me being streamed that way. But when I'm in the house, I'm moving around and earbuds don't work for me. I need to ramp up my listening time. Thanks for the reminder.

Frank Zafiro said...

Thanks, Catriona -- I'm glad to hear we're on the same page!

Dietrich, I'm thrilled that you're digging C316 and I'm looking forward to answering your blog Qs when I get back from Ireland.

Susan, you're welcome! One thing I do when I'm home alone is use a small bluetooth speaker to play the podcast from my phone. They are surprisingly cheap and powerful and lets me do dishes or clean while still listening and not having to deal with earbuds. If you listen through Spotify, both Kristi and I will stream that through the TV sometimes,to much the same effect.