My love of reading developed at a very young age. The first real memory I have of being obsessed by the written word was way back in 2nd grade. Having been read to my entire young life, I became instantly hooked. While my friends were running on the playground, I was re-reading Little House on the Prairie for the third or fourth time. I'm happy to say that I still have my original copy from way back then; my name scrawled in pencil inside the cover.
The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys stories soon followed and it quickly became not what I would be reading, but how many books could I read. Yes, I still have a few of those books too. Another favorite of mine from my childhood, which I have since passed along to my own daughter, was Are You There God? It's Me Margaret.
My early years of reading consisted of anything my mom was reading at the time. There was no censorship in what I got my greedy little hands on. My first peek into a romance was a historical fiction book called Calico Palace. I re-read that one a few times too, and yes….I still have it on my bookshelf.
I was about ten or so when I read Helter Skelter, the book about the Manson murders. Certainly not a book for a child, I recall being terrified at what I was reading...and also amazed I could feel such strong emotion from words on paper. Who knows...maybe I have Charles Manson to thank for my love of writing. I'd rather thank my mom though, since her love of reading was something she graciously shared with me from the day I was born.
The years that followed saw a change in the tide. Romance was my favored genre; Harlequin romances particularly. Back then, the characters didn't even kiss until the last chapter. There were no vivid descriptions of sex, no dirty talk, limited cursing. Clearly this genre - the one I find myself most comfortable writing in - has transformed in every single way.
My reading history consists of years being transfixed by Danielle Steele. My path detoured slightly and I began finding interest in other genres, probably after reading The Watchers by Dean Koontz. That lead to many books by James Patterson and Harlan Coben, but somehow I always managed to squeeze in a romance here and there.
When my daughter developed a love of reading in her tweens, she and I shared numerous YA books. The obvious ones were the Twilight series, and from there she and became entrenched in the world of vampires. We read a lot of vampire books over the course of a few years, almost any YA paranormal book we could get our hands on, and when that obsession waned I discovered Colleen Hoover's Slammed series.
My reading path continues to change over the years. I still love romance books more than anything else, but over the past few years I've discovered erotica and gay romance as well. That's the beauty of the written word; it is forever changing and growing, just as we are.
Being a writer has made me a far more critical reader, that's for sure. I'm easily annoyed when there are numerous typos in something I'm reading. In my opinion, the writer was simply in too big of a hurry to push that "publish" button to spend the time rereading his/her draft for the tenth time. The occasional typos happen, but laziness is unforgivable.
I'm not a perfect writer by any stretch of the imagination. I struggle daily with describing things and I tend to over-use basic words like "that". I do, however, take the time to know my characters and to believe in their stories. I also re-read my manuscript so many times I can practically quote it line by line. There is definitely something to be said for neurotic editing, that’s for sure.
There is still much for me to learn as a writer. Sure, I can learn from taking classes, listening to other's advice, and writing daily. But I will continue to learn this craft by keeping my mind open and not only enjoying what I'm reading, but gaining some insight as well from the words in front of me.
I recently read It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. Without giving away any spoilers let me just say that I haven't been that affected by a book in a long, long time. I laughed and cried while reading it, and continued to cry for a solid fifteen minutes after I'd read the last word. The story hung on me the rest of that entire day and into the next as well. That is what it means to really write. Sure, it was painfully raw subject she chose to write about, but my emotions were sparked more from the character’s reactions and emotions rather than the subject itself. I read the book on my Kindle, and as soon as I finished it I ordered a hard copy. This book, like my tattered childhood books, will forever remain a permanent part of my life.
Reading has inspired me to write, but more importantly it has been my constant companion. Whether I was the young child with the wild, curious imagination, the angsty teen needing an escape, or the adult enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, books have been my best friends.
I'm so very grateful my mom has shared her love of reading with me. She's now the first person who sees a manuscript I've written, and she's slowly turning into one bang-up beta reader. My daughter reads as much or more than I do, though she seems to find less time to give my work a once over. I understand her hesitancy; reading graphic love scenes that your own mom dreamed up must be weird. Lucky for me, my own mom isn't bothered by it at all.
Just as they say “write daily”, I say read daily too. Read the newspaper, read your children's books, read anything you can get your grubby, greedy hands on. Keep exploring, keep absorbing, and never forget that someone just like you sat down in front of a computer and bled over each and every word. - AJ