HOW I DISCOVERED READING AND STOPPED BEING A LITERARY GOLDILOCKS
Okay, I didn’t just discover reading, I have always loved the idea of it. The truth is I have spent most of my life being what I would describe as a “frustrated reader.” There were a few authors I loved, a few books I loved but generally I struggled to find the next author or the next book that I could truly lose myself in.
Reading novels, I often became impatient with what I termed “the writer’s idea of reality”. This nudged me into the area of nonfiction. I read memoirs, biographies, but often found the writing dry, dense, dusty with self-importance or pretension.
The whole scene left me feeling a bit like a literary Goldilocks.
FINDING MY VOICE AS A WRITER
Interestingly, since focusing more on my writing, and becoming an author with my first published book, The Secrets We Keep (read more about my early author journey and why this book is so deeply personal here), I have changed. By exploring my writing I seem to have discovered myself as a reader. In the act of writing, in establishing my voice as a writer I have at long last recognized my needs, and discovered reading.
There are now a pile of writing books on my shelf – how to write, how to edit, how to format and self-publish, how to write more. I have also read specific authors to study their style, their plot lines, their language and the depth of their writing. By persisting with some works that many claim as wonderful (and I found … ho-hum or worse, shite) I started to develop my understanding of what I need as a reader to be satisfied.
COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS INVOLVED IN BOOK READING
I have recently discovered reading books involves two processes within the brain:
- Deep reading – where we read slowly for understanding of the plot, the characters, the setting, the inner machinations of the characters
- Emotional connection – in investing our time in reading a book we invest in the characters, their lives, their trials, their emotional responses
We want heart connection, don’t we? And to recognize ourselves within the pages. On top of that, we want to relate to the characters, for them to resonate within our own lives, our own worlds. This may be in the way of a direct comparison or it could be the opposite — an escape from our own dissatisfaction.
These are all personal needs. They differ from one person to the next and so we need to celebrate the incredible variety of books and writers out there that we get to choose from.
WHAT I WANT AS A READER
For myself, I need well developed characters, a good plot, and a flawed main character who I can relate to. This character will have deep emotions, angst, growing pains and a sense of humour. The story must have a purpose, a direction, emotional intelligence and a satisfactory resolution that leaves an impression on me. When I finish, I want the story to stay with me, I want it to touch me and change me, to challenge me, to make me think. My threshold for violence is very low, but I have a higher leaning towards spiciness, sassiness, rebelliousness and a sense of adventure. The stories that grab me the most are those that inspire me and challenge me to become more free, more open.
Admittedly, I like to have a good cry. And I like to feel my heart ache and also, I love a good laugh.
Perhaps most of all, I want a book to surprise me. I don’t want to know what is going to happen.
THE PROBLEM (FOR ME) WITH THE ROMANCE GENRE
That’s the problem I have with the Romance genre. The rules of writing romance state that the couple are to meet by the end of Chapter One and the book must end with a Happily Ever After (HEA) or a Happy For Now (HFN).
These rules were not in my frame of reference when I released The Secrets we Keep: A Love Story. I put my book baby into the Romance category. Big mistake! It does not abide by the rules of romance writing at all. Fortunately, I took it out before I got any bad reviews. It is a love story, as the subtitle states, but it is definitely not a romance. Similarly, Himalayan Awakening, while it has a romance element, it is more about spirituality, action, travel, Nepal, the romance is not front and centre. That, to me would be predictable and boring, sorry.
IT’S OKAY TO NOT FIT IN
In fact, it doesn’t fit neatly into any particular niche. And, I’m okay with that because, neither do I. What I have discovered is, when it comes to writing, my needs are the same as when I am reading. I need to write something that surprises me, that challenges me, that takes me on a journey I can believe in, and makes me laugh and cry.
My hope is that when you read what I write, they will do the same for you.
Enjoy the journey