Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reading as an author

This is the third in my series about reading. The first was about reading being gender or personality driven, and the second was reading as a blogger. Both very insightful and interesting. The answers surprised me.

In this installment, authors Cathleen Ross and Lily Harlem very kindly answered a few questions for me about what it means to read as an author. Do authors even have to read? Have time to read? Is it important as an author to read? So many questions. Let's see what they have to say.

Antique typewriter
Photo credit: Jeff Kubina via / CC BY-SA

Without further ado, here's Cathleen and Lily ...

Do you read much as an author? For fun or for research?
(Cathleen) I read everyday and have done for as long as I can remember. As a child I read my way all through the classics and loved Enid Blyton, Tolkein and later as a teen, I discovered Mills and Boon. I have a major in English from Sydney University so I read my way through the adult classics there too. Now I tend to read my writer friends’ books. Sometimes if a new author draws me in I read right through her series. Sometimes I read to see how another author handles a scene, so that’s more research.  If I’m researching to write an historical, I read different perspectives from various authors and try to buy primary sources as well as the secondary.

(Lily) I read mainly for fun and almost exclusively last thing at night, unless I’m on holiday and lounging by a pool.

When you read for fun, does being an author affect how you read a book? How you enjoy a book?
(Cathleen) I must admit because I have a mind that doesn’t want to switch off, I tend to analyse as I read, which is annoying. For this reason I have to read authors who are great in their genre to get a good reading experience.

(Lily) Defiantly, I have a much more refined palate for quality writing than I used to have. I really appreciate someone who has learnt the craft of writing and not just ‘having a go’.

What is it about an author that makes you look at reading a book differently?
(Cathleen) I think having an English degree made me see literature differently because I was looking at the archetypes and recognising the antecedents in literature. Now I still do that, but I tend to read with approval when I see an author handling scenes well with sparkling dialogue, good pacing and if it’s romance, a high level of sensuality, because that’s what I enjoy.

(Lily) I studied creative writing for three years before I was published with the local university so spot common errors on a sentence to sentence level and in plots and characters. I can forgive a few but biggies, that spoils the book for me and I don’t read it. Of course this goes the other way, and when an author clearly knows what he/she is doing I can appreciate the skill.

Books on table
Photo via

Do you ever review the books you read or do you think that would be complicated being an author?
(Cathleen) I review a lot of what I enjoy on Amazon and Goodreads to keep a record of what I have read. However, if I don’t like a book, I don’t leave a bad review. Authors have long memories and I enjoy meeting the people in this business, so I don’t want to offend.

(Lily) I review them if I’ve enjoyed them. Reviews help sell books and a good review can be what keeps an author writing that day.

As an author, do you ever critically analyse a book you are reading? Does it apply to some books or all books? Is there an author-y part of your brain you need to switch off when you read for fun?
(Cathleen) If I’m trying to learn how to write a new genre I spend more time reading other authors to analyse what works and what doesn’t. There are particular authors that I read for pleasure, but I find it very difficult to turn off the author-y part of my brain.

(Lily) I think I’ve answered most of this question already. And I struggle to turn off that part of my brain ‘for fun’ :)

Do you think reading is important for an author? Why?
(Cathleen) I think reading is important. Period. I can’t imagine my life without books in it. Having said that, I like to read other authors to see what is changing in the market. What is successful and why? If I didn’t like something, I analyse why I didn’t like it.

(Lily) I think reading quality is important for authors at all stages in their writing career. It expands the vocabulary and gets the mind set into how to read.

Girl reading on tablet
Photo via Visualhunt

How often do you read? When and where?
(Cathleen) My reading time is every night before I go to sleep. Apart from writing, I also edit and teach, so just before I go to bed is my only free time.

(Lily) Each day before I fall asleep.

What types of books do you like to read?
(Cathleen) I read a lot of romance right across the genres: historical, contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense and lastly science fiction with or without the romance. I also read historical non fiction because I’m fascinated with British history. I enjoy going back to original sources when I can. I occasionally read spiritual books because I believe there is an afterlife and I’m interested in different authors and cultures’ perspectives, so that might be anything from the Tibetan Book of the Dead to some of the popular American spiritualists. I also really enjoy books about how the brain works because scientists are discovering so much new material with electromagnetic resonance imaging. I also buy cook books as I enjoy cooking and my family loves eating. A win win.

(Lily) Romance as a rule, either erotic, suspense, paranormal, either is fine, but I do like a little romance going on, I’m a softie at heart.

Do you read while you are on a book deadline or is your reading split between writing time vs non-writing time?
(Cathleen) If I’m trying to get a book finished, I might write until I fall asleep. My writing time is mostly in the day because my family members expect me to spend time with them in the evening. Even the dog pulls my hand away from the keyboard if he wants something. If my husband is happily watching football and my daughter out with friends, I’ll go to bed early and read with the dog sleeping next to me.

(Lily) Writing is work, since I stopped nursing nearly ten years ago it’s become a full time job. So I write in the day and then the evenings are my time, that’s when I’ll read.

Girl typing on computer
Photo via

Does what you read influence your writing?
(Cathleen) Yes I think so, in a good way. There were some books like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander that changed how I saw romance. It helped me find emotional depth in my own writing. I love being with clever writers and learning from them too.

(Lily) Not especially but I think that’s because it all has a broad romance feel to it.

How many books would you read for fun in a month / year?
(Cathleen) Probably between 50 -100 a year. I’ll read three a week if I don’t have other work on. If I’m researching historical material my pacing slows to one a week because of the denseness of the material, which I’m trying to absorb.

(Lily) A couple of books a month most likely.

ebook / paper book? Why?
(Cathleen) I buy as much as I can on my kindle because I don’t have a lot of storage at home and although I don’t often read the same book twice, I can’t bear to throw my books out. Mostly, I buy my research books in print.

(Lily) ebook - so convenient.

Open book on grass
Photo via Visual Hunt

So there you have it, authors read too. What about you? Do you read? What do you read? Inquiring minds would like to know.

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  1. WOW that was really interesting I am not a writer but yes I read lots as many as I can I lose myself in the stories and turn off LOL and I am very grateful to the authors for writing the stories that keep me smiling :)

    Have Fun

    1. Fascinating isn't it. I like to think that authors read to see what's out there, what's good, what's not, as well as for enjoyment.

  2. Great article. Very interesting.