I love to re-read my favorite books. I’ve read Lord of the Rings at least two dozen times. Dune probably more. First it’s about comfort, about coming home to a story I loved, that captured a certain time in my life perhaps, characters I can’t forget.
I generally try not to read anything of whatever genre I’m writing at the time, but luckily there are so many amazing writers across so many genres I’m constantly learning things from them. I have such respect for authors as artists. I don’t usually go to classes or seminars about craft. Not because I think they’re bad but because that’s not how I learn. I think working on craft is hugely important and I want to keep growing as a writer so I find myself reading differently, picking up things I had seen as a reader, but appreciating it on a whole different level.
I might pick up any of the books on my shelves and flip open to a passage that called to me for a particular reason. Reading another author’s way of presenting a storyline, or of painting a character is a lesson. For instance, I often pick up books in the In Death series because in them, Nora Roberts has taken the subtle reveal of Eve’s character over time to expert levels. It never ceases to impress me, all the things unsaid and how the slow build of all those unsaid things actually says something. It’s masterful.
I’ll pick up Neuromancer and flip it open to any part really and marvel at how Gibson packs so much into what is essentially category length. He is spare, using only the words he needs and nothing more. It is bare bones writing. The economy of his work amazes me. It’s also why I pick up other short novels like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Both these books create rich worlds and characters and never waste a thing.
With Herbert’s Dune – I’m always blown away by the way he’s created not just an epic story, but the way it all fits so seamlessly. This is tens of thousands of years with a very complex mytho-religious system woven into an equally fascinating political system – that he does it and keeps you enthralled, the effortless way he makes his backstory so relevant-I’m such a fangirl with this universe.
Lisa Kleypas – my goodness, I adore her writing. She’s one of those authors who is amazing on every level. Over and over again she creates such great books. And then she jumps to another genre and rocks that one too. I have a small bookcase in my office and Dreaming of You is there (though I have the rest of her books on the shelves in my living room too). I think I’ve read the scene with the spectacles twenty times. This is a master class of a scene. Just like the button from Naked in Death. Both men are big characters. Very masculine. And in one seemingly small thing, a brief glimpse of the dept of their attraction and devotion to these women leaves me in awe.
Anne Stuart and early Elizabeth Lowell – old school, hardcore alpha males that push right against the A/A line (you know, alpha to asshole). It’s so fearless. I love fearless writing. When you read you know the author had a story to tell and a very definite POV to tell it in. Megan Hart may be my BFF, but she’s a perfect example of this. She writes with this very deliberate intricacy. Her characters suck you in. They may not be perfect or even always likeable, in fact, I love them for that. There’s this rawness against all the intricacy. It draws me in, makes me peer at the details and into corners. That she can do this in first person with that sort of unflinching point of view, as well as in third, that she can do this in a contemporary first person erotic novel as well as a spec fic historical fantasy romance is why her work is so amazing.
There are more, so many more – Susan Elizabeth Phillips has this way with taking characters I am sure I will hate and making me love them. Ain’t She Sweet was my first SEP book. I resisted for a while, sure I did not want to read about Sugar Beth. And when I did, she smacked me upside the head about preconceptions. Because in the right hands, a story I’d hate otherwise can become a favorite. And she writes with such lovely humor – good humor is hard to write! But she connects her casts of characters with such wonderful humor, it brings their relationships into such vivid color.
I can go on and on, LOL – Jennifer Crusie, Lara Adrian, Stephen King, Alison Kent (talk about fearless!) – who are some of your favorite re-reads?