Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Tiptoe along the shelves... by Cathy Ace

Do you read only crime fiction? If so, why? If not, what else do you read? Does it affect your writing?

Interesting question…because I used to read a great deal of fiction that wasn’t crime fiction, but – in sitting down to answer this question – I realize that was quite a while ago.

If you look at my bookshelves – the ones that don’t have crime fiction on them – you’ll find some “very well-loved” copies of a great number of what one might call “the classics”. Most of these I have owned for decades, indeed, many came from my school library (when it was having a sale to clear its shelves…calm down!). The spines bear testament to the fact that they’ve all been read many times, and not just prior to my owning them.

If I take Emile Zola’s “Nana” for example, or Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain” I must have read each of those at least twenty times over the past forty-five years…and I always find something new in them. I’m pretty sure that’s because their authors were blessed with an enviable ability to layer what they wrote so delicately that I’ve missed multiple meanings on previous readings.

But, in taking stock, I’d say (and, again, I’m excluding all the crime fiction here, folks) the ratio of fiction to non-fiction would be about 1:3 because I read a great deal of non-fiction; art, architecture, history (ancient, to relatively recent), and biographies. The art books? Oh, don’t get me started – I am a sucker for a book that contains lots of well-reproduced colour plates by favourite artists! 

I have even more shelves filled with what I think of as reference books – or “food and garden porn”, if you will. Lots of books about gardening and lots of books about food – all with photographs that make me stop and read just a few more pages, then a few more, when I’ve pulled a volume off the shelf to look up a plant’s habit or favourite location, or the ingredients in a recipe.

Does any of this impact my writing? You betcha! I try to weave in as much as is reasonable about art, architecture and cultural history into all my work – which gives me ample opportunity to pull out several volumes at a time, and linger.

BSP: Want to see what I manage to weave into my books? Check them out here:

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