Shall I Get On With My writing – Or Just Read That Book?

shutterstock_169978604

Like most writers I’m a voracious reader.  I’ve read all my life and have no intention of stopping now – unless my eyesight suddenly packs in. Then, of course, there are always audio books . . .

So what’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that if I get into a really good book, I just want to read until I’ve finished it. Not a good thing when my second novel is sitting there, just waiting for the last couple of chapters to finish it off.

shutterstock_155992808

I’ve just had a great holiday in Malta, as my last post showed, doing all the things I enjoy. I love the sunshine and swimming aspects of holidaying in warmer climes, but what I don’t like is inactivity. I’m one of those people who simply must be doing something. Lounging around sunbathing I can tolerate only in very short bursts, and then only with a book to read – which in itself means an overhead canopy (so no sunbathing because I can’t read in sunlight, with or without sunglasses).

But reading is never boring to me. I read three books whilst in Malta, though they weren’t great, marathon tomes, I admit.

To get back to my main issue: should a writer spend time reading when his/her own book is in progress?

My own thoughts on this . . .?  Well, yes and no.

Yes . . . because we all need some leisure time away from our work. And that is what my writing has become – a substitute for my ‘paid’ employment since retiring. I love to write, pay or no pay. And I love the theme of the trilogy I’m in the middle of. My problem arises when I have an urge to read when I should be pounding the keys on my laptop.

No . . . for obvious reasons, already touched on above. Turning to my reading when I should be writing is simply putting off focusing and applying myself to the more important or pressing task. And to be honest, I know I only do so when I hit a section of the narrative that demands a great deal of thought and application.

One final point concerns the type of books an author should read in the middle of writing – whether the author is still at the ‘would be’ stage or already published.  I write historical fiction and also love to read that genre, along with some crime novels now and then. I choose to read many books in these genres while I’m writing . . . except other novels set in the  same Viking period as my own .

Now, I love Bernard Cornwell’s writing in particular, and have read many of his books set in a variety of periods. I really enjoyed his Arthur series. But I won’t read his books about King Alfred until I’ve finished my own trilogy – also about King Alfred and the Danes. I certainly don’t want influencing by his storylines, as brilliant as I’m sure they are.  There are bound to be overlaps in some of the events during Alfred’s life, but how they are told is unique to each author.

Can’t wait to read Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Warrior Chronicles’!

And I wonder what this man would have said about all this . . .?

shutterstock_175855697
William Shakespeare

A last thought from Roald Dahl:

Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people.

Time for him to read something else, perhaps . . .?  (What a great writer he was, too.

My Favourite Historical Novels

bookworm

I’ve been a ‘bookworm’ for as long as I can remember and, somehow, tales set in the past always claimed my attention much more easily than contemporary ones. Once my childhood fixation with stories of shipwrecks had waned (Robinson Crusoe, The Coral Island and Swiss Family Robinson) I seemed to fixate upon those involving animals. I loved Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Just So Stories.

shutterstock_197038109

Then, when I was twelve, I read Charlotte Bronte’s  Jane Eyre. I started reading the book in the back of my dad’s car on a journey to visit relatives. Somehow I managed to ignore the chatter of my younger sister and brother sitting next to me, and concentrate on the book . . . And I kept on concentrating right through the said visit (oh, how utterly rude!) and all the way home. By that time, of course, I had very little of the book to finish. To say that it had got me hooked would sound about right. From then on I went through several more of the classics, amongst them various works by Dickens – Oliver Twist being a favourite at the time.

Although I enjoyed Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I can’t say it sent me into raptures. It was a ‘class reader’ in my fourth year (Year 10) and, like George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, which I studied for ‘O’ Level the following year, I suppose we analysed it to death! Conversely, I really enjoyed studying Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights for ‘A’ Level. And what a dark and brooding tale that is – so like the Yorkshire Moors can be at times.

shutterstock_204075802

One interesting little book I read during my second year of secondary school (Year 8) was Elizabeth Goudge’s, The Middle Window. By that time I’d begun to take a real interest in history at school, and since we’d just been learning about the Jacobites and their fate at Culloden, the book was very meaningful to me. I also loved the appeal of the Scottish Highlands. Whether or not I’d find the writing style to my liking now, I can’t say.

And talking about writing style . . .

The author of historical fiction I most admire is Dorothy Dunnett. I read the six books of one of her famous series, The Lymond Chronicles, eighteen years ago, and have been telling myself for years that a reread is in order. In my opinion, Dorothy Dunnett’s novels need reading several times over in order to actually grasp the depth of the characters, particularly Lymond (Francis Crawford) himself. The writing style, too, is incredibly complex, and some pages need reading a few times in order to make sense to lesser mortals such as myself. But, once past the first few pages of Book 1, Game of Kings, I ‘caught on’ to the language/style and from then on, was able to follow the story. Dorothy Dunnett’s use of poetry is quite amazing – and much of it is in French! And what an opening line:

‘Lymond is back.’

Just three little words that have the power to induce so many questions . . .

In more recent years, one of my favourite historical novels has been River God by Wilbur Smith. His descriptions of ancient Egypt enthralled me, as did the character of Taita.

shutterstock_206276143

Similarly, Christian Jacq’s many books set in Egypt fuelled my imagination. I read the five books in his series about Ramses II, then Paneb the Ardent from his the Stone of Light series. Needless to say, I really enjoy most books about Egypt.

But it’s not only Egypt that holds me fascinated. Roman novels have a similar pull. I particularly enjoyed Colleen McCullough’s Caesar and Caesar’s Women. I intend to start on Ben Kane’s first Roman novel, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome very soon. I also love novels set in Victorian and Edwardian times, and also during World War 1.

I desperately need to reread several works by American authors, including some written by Mark Twain. I can only remember reading abridged versions of both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, early on in school. I also feel quite ashamed to admit that I haven’t even read Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mocking Bird yet, although it’s been on my Kindle for months. Then I’d like to read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, followed by Alex Hale’s novel, Roots. I did watch the TV series of Roots in the late 1970’s so I know that the story is incredibly moving.

I must add that I also enjoy novels with a crime/detective element. Many of these have had historical settings, but some have not. At present I particularly enjoy the grittiness of Val McDermid’s storylines and the quirky humour and unconventional tactics of Mark Billingham’s detective, Tom Thorne. I also like Patricia Cornwell’s novels involving the pathologist, Dr. Kay Scarpetta and the details of forensic work described.

I’ll finish for now and get back to writing Pit of Vipers – Book 2 of my Sons of Kings series.

shutterstock_194185796A few interesting quotes about books and reading:

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. (Steven Wright)

If there’s a book that you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. (Toni Morrison)

Anyone who says they have only one life to lead must not know how to read a book. (Author unknown)shutterstock_182063360