The Reading Habits
Are you a re-reader? Why, or why not? And if you are, what are some of the books you have read over and over?
I definitely re-read! I just moved, and as I unpacked my “keeper” books, I couldn’t resist reading some favorite passages. I have a totally beat-up copy of Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott, Dawn’s Early Light by Elswyth Thane, The Dedicated Villain by Patricia Veryan, The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers, Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer, and an embarrassing stack of others. When I was a child, I read Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion three or four times a year, and as a teenager I read Zane Grey’s The Mysterious Rider so many times it literally fell apart (what a great romance!). Two of my favorite romances are The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye and Flight from Bucharest by Robert Tyler Stevens. Also, I used to go to the library and check out Lavyrle Spencer’s romances again and again.
When is your optimal time to read – do you prefer to read in one long block, or do you also read for five minutes here or there when you can?
I generally read whenever I can, waiting in line here and there, at the doctor’s office, sitting at red lights—oh, wait, you’re not supposed to do that, are you? I don’t get many large blocks of time for just reading anymore, but sometimes during the summer I take books on trips and read during flights or in the car. The Kindle app on my iPad is a life-saver!
I’d love your thoughts on novellas. Are you thumbs up or down? Or does it depend?!
I like novellas—after all, I’ve written a few (Reforming Seneca Jones, for example)! But I generally gravitate to longer, more involved tales. Seems like a novella doesn’t give me as much time to emotionally bond with the main characters.
Are you faithful to a genre, an author, or simply quality writing?
All of the above! I’m a romance junkie, in any form—historical, suspense, comedy, sci-fi….though I didn’t used to care for science fiction until I discovered Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series. Oh my! What great writing! I like authors who combine tight, lush prose with wry humor and a gift for characterization, and who have clearly done deep research and careful plotting. I’m a big western fan, and I love the adventure-romances of Max Brand and Zane Grey.
Which factors most influence your selection of a book?
Recommendation from friends. My son Ryan knows my writing taste (especially a love for humor and adventure), and he’s never steered me wrong. My best friend/critique partner of many years recommends books I might not otherwise pick up, and she got me hooked on the Game of Thrones series. I like to try books that are offered free as ebooks, and that way I’ve developed favorite authors whose books I’ll buy.
Your fiction pet peeve?
I confess, I’m easily bored with bland, sloppy writing and slap-stick humor. And over-writing—going on and on about clothing and furniture and landscapes when they don’t add to plot or character development. That will make me put down a book and not go back to it.
What book have you read this year that you could not put down, and why?
I just finished The Martian by Andy Weir. The dialogue is so crisp and funny, and the plot just flies along in one suspense roll after another. That self-deprecating, resourceful type of hero gets me every time!
How do you mark your spot – folded page corner, bookmark, dollar bill, whatever is at hand?
When I read a paper book, I try to use a bookmark, but I’ll use coupons or something if a bookmark isn’t handy. I never fold corners. Shudder! Nowadays I usually read on my iPad Kindle app, though. Keeps my place for me!
Whose debut novel impressed you more than you anticipated?
The Martian by Andy Weir. (See above question.) Can’t believe a science nerd wrote it on a first try.
When reading, what makes or breaks a story for you?
Character! Jo March (Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys). Tibby and Julian Day (Dawn’s Early Light). Alec Ramsay (The Black Stallion). Miles Vorkosigan (Shards of Honor). Mark Watney (The Martian). Ash Pelham-Martyn (The Far Pavilions).
What are some of your favourite CF reads from around 10 years ago, or further back?
Terri Blackstock’s Newpointe 911 series. Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion series. James Scott Bell’s early legal suspense work.
Some of Beth’s favourite novels
Snack/drink of choice while reading?
Even as we speak, I am sitting in my favorite local coffee shop, Carpe Diem, sipping Kahlua-and-Cream-flavored coffee and eating a “Glorious Morning” muffin—which is sort of a German-chocolate carrot cake invented by the onsite baker. That is my favorite snack and drink for any activity—reading, email, research, writing, answering interview questions….
What book cover has really caught your eye?
My publisher, Revell, is brilliant with book covers. Laura Frantz’s covers are so gorgeous—all of them.
Which author makes it easy to turn off your internal editor?
I tell you, that is not an easy thing to do! There are very few authors for whom I will plunk down hard, cold cash in a bookstore, but Lois McMaster Bujold’s writing is like a drug. The last book of hers I read was Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance—actually that’s a terrible title, but what a funny, engaging story. The hero, Ivan Vorpatril, had been a secondary character for the thirteen previous books in the series, and he finally got his own story! Deft humor in a serious story is very hard to pull off, and I’ve been studying Ms. Bujold’s style for years, trying to figure out how she does it. Still scratching my head.
What book do you wish you had written? Why?
I dunno, Rel, I can’t quite answer that question, because every author has something unique to communicate. You can tell from the above questions and answers that there are some books I deeply admire, for a lot of reasons that are all over the map. I suppose if there’s one book that inspired the books I’m currently writing, that would be Dawn’s Early Light by Elswyth Thane. What grabbed me about it (and still does) is its deep understanding of American history and the culture of Williamsburg, Virginia; its patriotic and heroic, yet somehow everyday main characters; its celebration of family and the love and commitment between a man and a woman; the brilliant dialogue and prose. I don’t wish I’d written that book, but I’m very glad someone else did!
Thanks, dear Beth!
Be sure to discover Beth’s latest historical romance…
Fiona Lanier is the only woman in the tiny Gulf Coast settlement of Navy Cove. While her shipbuilding family races to fill the demand for American ships brought by the War of 1812, Fiona tries to rescue her brother who was forced into service by the British Navy.
Lieutenant Charlie Kincaid has been undercover for six months, obtaining information vital to the planned British invasion of New Orleans. When a summer storm south of Mobile Bay wrecks his ship and scatters the crew, Charlie suffers a head injury, ultimately collapsing in the arms of a beautiful mermaid who seems eerily familiar. As Charlie’s memory returns in agonizing jags and crashes, he and Fiona discover that falling in love may be as inevitable as the tide. But when political loyalties begin to collide, they’ll each have to decide where their true heart lies.