I don’t think it’s a surprise that most of us writers are fairly voracious readers. Though I think many of us long to be able to read in the same carefree fashion that we did before we started dissecting books like so many biology class frogs in order to learn the anatomy of a story. Gone are the easy days when we could curl up with a book and just let the magic of story take us away from the drudgery of everyday life.
For us, reading is just an extension of our own writing.
Back before I began writing seriously, I spent lazy high school summers in my parents rickety above-ground swimming pool (hey, in 100+ degree Northern CA weather, no one was judging) floating on a rubber inner tube and devouring Nora Roberts and Julie Garwood novels by the truckload. All I needed for a good summer was enough credits at the used book store and a large enough bottle of SPF 50. Sweet books. Feminine ones. Romantic. Preferably set in far-off locales that I dreamed of visiting. We rarely traveled other than up to the Sierras to go camping (an 8 hour road trip to Disneyland was the highlight of my youth) so places like France, Ireland, and Greece seemed about as attainable as the moon.
In my college years, I had precious little time for pleasure reading, but I did get to see some of those far-flung destinations for myself (still hoping to get to Greece someday). My tastes became more polished, and I generally wanted more substance to my pleasure reads–though a Roberts or a Garwood could still find its way onto the nightstand pile–it just had more diverse company. And then as I began on the quest to become an author myself, I found that my favorite genres–the ones in which I write–are no longer my escape. They’re another day at the office.
So to mitigate this, when I read for pleasure now, I have to expand my horizons away from historical fiction and women’s fiction and redirect myself to well crafted mysteries, sci-fi, suspense, and fantasy in order to recapture a measure of that sense of wonder I used to have when reading for fun. I still analyze them for story structure, pacing, and dialogue. I don’t any author can help themselves. And it’s no to say I can’t pick up a lovely women’s fiction title and not get swept away–it’s just much harder than it used to be.
And these are all good things.
By expanding my horizons as a reader, I’m enriching myself as a writer and a thinker. As a person. Each genre has its own grace and beauty, and by breaking out of my reading ‘comfort zone’ I’ve exposed myself to different worlds. If you look at four different reader conventions, one each for romance, sci-fi, fantasy, and historical readers, you would find a widely different demographics at each of them. Some might cross over, but it’s a pretty diverse group of people. By reading the books that speak to them, I, in turn, learn how to speak to them. How to speak to them through my prose, and how to relate to them as a person.
And that, dear readers, is a precious gift.
Aimie K. Runyan is an author of historical fiction that celebrates history’s unsung heroines. Her first two novels , PROMISED TO THE CROWN and DUTY TO THE CROWN (Kensington), explore the lives of the early female settlers in Louis XIVs Quebec. Her forthcoming novel. DAUGHTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY (Lake Union) follows the lives of the Night Witches, the fierce all-female regiment of combat pilots who flew for Russia in the Second World War. Aimie lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two children. Find out more about Aimie at www.aimiekrunyan.com