where the writers are
Guilty Reading

I'm reading a cozy, Still Life, by Louise Penny. 

It's a light read, interesting and I've gone through about a third of the book.  I can't help reading it as a writer.  The jumps in point of view surprise me.  I ask my wife about it;  "I have no problem with it," she says.  Hmmm, interesting.  I was always leery of casual changes in points of view. "Can't you just read it and enjoy it without looking for the author's tricks or deconstructing the book?" my wife asks.  "Do you have to read it as a writer?"

Her question puzzles me.  Would you ask a cook to eat without being a cook?  Can I cleave myself from being reader and writer any more?  I'm not sure.

More, I don't want to change.  I like reading as a writer.  I think I acquire a greater appreciation of the book from reading it as a writer.  I can admire what the writer did and how, and think about how I can adopt it.  I like exploring other genres to see what's going on and because I enjoy reading.  Likewise, pleasure is derived from reading new authors and discovering their skills and talents.  Finding them renews my determination to write and try harder.

Patterns are emerging in the book.  The characters are normal people, in that they're not inherently good, clever or evil, but people balancing life between many centers of activity and thoughts, coping with histories and trying not to be overly mean to one another, even if they're sometimes mean by accident, or sniping.  It interests me because my writing tends to geyser out of darker places.  Most of my reading puts people into harsh situations.  There is often blood, cruelty and despair. 

Reading this book, I think about how I would need to change my approach to writing to reflect this more delicate balance.  I don't see the book as unreal, just life being lived from a different vantage.  I like learning about this point of view and seeing how I can execute it. 

But I feel guilty about reading Still Life, not because it's a cozy or anything, but because I have piles of books that others have given me.  Lynn wants me to read The Black Swan by Talib so we can discuss.  Another friend wants me to read S because he thinks I'll enjoy it and he wants to talk about it.  My wife has a pile of dark thrillers for me to read in a hurry so she can turn them in and get credit to buy more books, while another person wants me to read the fantasy classic, Little Big.  I've leaped over all those commitments to read Still Life.

I am enjoying it, though.  Ideas about a cozy are bubbling through me. I'm beginning to see how to create the crime in its totality and then parse out insights and clues.  I'm getting excited.  I want to restrain myself and read more cozies by other writers.  I feel it all welling up in me, though.

It's almost time to start writing like crazy again.