Reading as a part of writing

I am a reader, always have been. My tastes are similar to what they always have been, with some expansion over the years. I’ve always loved to read fantasy; a little sword a sorcery holds a great appeal for me. But, the older I become, the more I prefer character-driven fiction. There can be fantasy elements certainly, but it’s the people that populate these stories that are important to me. There can be a grand task or destiny driving things, but if the characters don’t appeal or are too damned heroic, well, that’s boring. Characters should be real people, with strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else.

Among my own characters, Rayne has a profound fear of heights and is none too fond of lightning either. Both of these trace back to her story as a 12-year-old and her adventures in the mountains above her village that winter. Her oldest brother Angus was made head of the family at a very young age and he is constantly worried he hasn’t done a good job raising his siblings. Consequently becomes overbearing and restrictive, especially to Rayne, the only girl in the family. Her reaction? Well, she’s a good kid, but the older she gets, the more rebellious she gets. Only the events that take place in the mountains that winter bring everything into persepctive for her and she settles back into her life at the farm. For awhile at least.

Valerie suffers from night terrors that she never outgrew. And Daniel has issues; nearly two years after his wife’s death, he still wears his wedding band and really has no intention of a new relationship. Ever. I have other plans for them though…

So, what do I like to read? Almost everything. I’m currently reading The Kite Runner; I devour Terry Pratchett, both Discworld and others; Janet Evanovich, especially the Stephanie Plum books are great fun; Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series are favorites, as are Alexander McCall-Smith’s Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency books. Owen Parry’s Abel Jones books, set in the American Civil War are great reads. And absolutely anything by Ferrol Sams I have to read. The man writes about my beloved South with a native’s keen sense of the beauty and the flaws and has the rare gift of being able to bring you to tears and laughter, sometimes in the same paragraph.

In my favored fantasy genre, J.V. Jones and Robin Hobbs are excellent storytelles, as are Jennifer Roberson and David Eddings, especially the Belgariad and Mallorean series. His characterizations are especially good in the Belgariad. Each person (and there are a lot of them) has a distinct background and personality; not all of them get along, but when it counts, they all learn to work together. That’s the kind of characterization I like to read and what I try to reproduce in my own characters. I can only hope that I can emulate their skills somewhat.