Reading Into Reading: Reading With Purpose as an Author with Julie
TODAY’S BREW: It’s the last day of school vacation. ALL OF THE BREW.
My book-buying habit is worthy of intervention, but it’s BOOKS. B O O K S. I justified to a friend online with her own book habit (this could be like, two thousand people on Twitter alone) that I only buy books that coincide with what I’m writing at the time.
BUT WHAT DO YOU MEAN? she asked.
While writing THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, I’ve read a lot of books for a lot of different reasons, all of which contribute directly to my writing. Here’s a few and what they’ve helped with:
- THE FAIRYLAND SERIES by Catherynne Valente. September is a young female character with incredible self-awareness and backbone. I want that for a couple of the Witches in this book so I read to take note of how her strength was portrayed in such a direct and yet subtle way. Also the worldbuilding is unparalleled.
- THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY by Suzanne Collins. I’ve already written a whole post on why I give a crap about Katniss Everdeen. For chrissakes, archery has become huge because she was such an influence on young readers. I want my main character to be like Katniss in that I want girls to want not to be her, but be as strong as her, and as themselves as they should be.
- 1984 by George Orwell. My favorite book of all time, so I was happy to read it again. This book changed my view of the world, of how deep I should dig to understand it. The world is so incredibly convincing because of the possibility of it, but more importantly because of the way it’s shaped the characters. They know no other way, much the same as in THE HUNGER GAMES. So the worldbuilding is so thoroughly portrayed that it feels real to the reader. I needed this for THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS.
- ELIZABETH: THE LIFE OF ELIZABETH TAYLOR by Alexander Walker. I’m not a huge biography reader but I adore Elizabeth Taylor and what I love most about her is that she was absolutely aware of her flaws and embraced them so well that the world loved her for it, worshiped her for it. She of course was scrutinized terribly, but she was so determined to live life the way she wanted that it didn’t ruin her through all of her difficulty in life. I wanted to read her life story because I want my main character to be that fearless about creating the life she wants despite all possible failures.
- ROYGBIV: AN EXCEEDINGLY SURPRISING BOOK ABOUT COLOR by Jude Stewart. My Witch of Shades has a magic centered entirely on color, and this book gives every association with color, weird stories about it, cultural references, religious symbolisms, quotations, artistic importance…. I was well-prepared for the Witch of Shades to commandeer all of the colors and their emotional impact on humanity.
- THE ARCANA CHRONICLES by Kresley Cole. While this is a Young Adult series, the treatment of the love triangle is extremely mature. Much less first kiss stuff than it was this could be our last kiss so let’s keep going. Life and death choices and rivalries, and some seriously innovative characters that really break the mold. I want something as groundbreaking as this was in my eyes.
- THE RAVEN CYCLE and SINNER by Maggie Stiefvater. One of my favorite authors, Maggie has a singular ability to write characters that make you feel for them deeply, that entertain you wildly, and all done with a poetry of language that has you re-reading whole paragraphs at a time. I want that kind of connection with my characters for you guys and I want that beauty in the wording that makes you love me.
- HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW by Natalie Whipple. A debut novel about young witches with a lot of mixed reviews. I wanted to read it to see what I thought of it myself, and to see why there were so many differentiating opinions. I wanted to see how the magic was handled, if it was classically Wiccan, or some hybrid or something entirely other. I wanted to see what didn’t ring true to me as being believable enough. And I wanted to see if I enjoyed it.
- STARDUST by Neil Gaiman. I needed to read a book with a close relationship to stars for my main character, and one with Gaiman’s mastery and worldbuilding and fairy tale quality to see what makes it utterly standalone as everything Gaiman does. I want that, too.
- DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth. What made this such a worldwide phenomenon? How can I do that? Is it the writing, the characters, the world, the circumstances that make it resonate? I needed to know.
- THE MATCHED TRILOGY AND ATLANTIA by Ally Condie. Because I need to know what the kids are all reading these days, and see if I think kids are worthy of better or if they’re getting books as complex as they deserve.
- THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken. Same as above, but also because this is remarkably not all that different in premise from a lot of other YA’s and with X-Men or other superhero qualities, so what the hell made THIS book show up on Target shelves rather than say, some other new author’s dystopian YA? Is it the remarkable similarity to what we know that made it a sure shot or is it that it’s just a little different? What would I have done differently?
There’s plenty more, but these were just the ones I remember now, and I have plenty more on my list. I desperately read everything I think can help me write a better book. While I read to enjoy, I make sure to note things that stood out to me and why. I read with determination to get a single thing from the book at minimum, and hope for a lot more. With every page I pay attention to what was done wonderfully, what I would have done differently, how I would put a spin on it, why it’s a success.
For the next few weeks we’ll be featuring posts from other writers on what they read and why as they write. Then maybe I’ll do one on what snacks I eat. And what sweatpants I wear. What my pet peeves are while I’m writing. Then I’ll just do a YouTube vid of the entire book writing process. Then….