Summer Reads 2017

NEWS FLASH: Meg is the winner of Peg’s book for commenting yesterday. Congratulations, Meg! Peg will be contacting you by email.

It’s full summer in New England – sun-kissed tomatoes, sun-pinked skin from the beach, sunny yellow flowers abloom. So what are we reading, Wickeds and friends? Share your favorite kick-back-and-lose-yourself-in-a-story choices.

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Edith: I have the great honor of being nominated for a Macavity Award, the Sue FederMemorial Award for Best Historical Novel, along with Catriona McPherson, Ann Parker, James Ziskin, Lyndsay Faye, and Susanna Calkins (in no particular order). I’m reading each of their nominated books before I head to Toronto for Bouchercon in October. So far I’ve loved Catriona’s The Reek of Red Herrings and Lynsday’s Jane Steele. Next up is Ann’s What Gold Buys, which I’m eagerly anticipating.

Sherry: I’ve read a lot of great books over the past few weeks. First up was Identity by Ingrid Thoft. I love this series and have to keep myself from binge reading it. Second I was delighted to read my friend Kim Stockley’s YA fantasy A Shattered Moon the first in a trilogy with the concept: There is still an Eden but it’s no longer paradise. I read an early version and loved it even more now. Then I read Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen. What a plot and full of his usual quirks. I just started Murder with Chicken and Waffles by A.L. Herbert who I met at an event on Saturday. When a book starts with cornbread you know it’s  going to be good.

Liz: I have so many books on my list! I just finished World Gone By by Dennis Lehane, and Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein. Next on my list is Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz.

Julie: Diane Vallere and I were on a panel together at Malice. She mentioned that she will read through an entire series at a time–both to enjoy and to learn from. With that as an inspiration, and with a vacation coming up, I’ve decided to read Louise Penny’s series. She is a favorite of so many, and I am already glad I’m diving in.

Barb: I feel like a broken record, because I think every time we do this I’m reading William Kent Krueger. However, I am almost caught up to the present. Currently reading Manitou Canyon. Like Julie, I have vacation coming up. I’m planning to bring Paul Doiron’s latest, Knife Creek, and Bruce Robert Coffin’s second novel, Beneath the Depths. And, like every year, the last week in August, I’ll be at Sherman’s in Boothbay Harbor, picking up a copy of Louise Penny’s latest, Glass Houses this year, for my Labor Day weekend reading pleasure.

Jessie: I am currently reading Radha Vatsal’s A Front Page Affair and am enjoying it immensely! I recently finished Cold Comfort by Quentin Bates and Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan. For non-fiction I am savoring Naturalists in Paradise: Wallace, Bates and Spruce in the Amazon by John Hemming.

Readers: Share your summer reads!

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Malice Domestic Highlights

Another Malice down! We’re getting back in the swing of real life, but thought we’d share the best and brightest moments from our time in Bethesda last week.

Edith: We all, including Accomplice Sheila Connolly, united for a panel at the Barnes & Noble the night before Malice started.

Sherry: It’s all about the people! I love seeing only friends and meeting new ones!

Jessie: I agree with Sherry about the people. It is such fun to catch up with friends and to make new ones.

Barb: The Best Contemporary Novel panel was a highlight for me I was on it with fellow nominees with Ellen Byron, Catriona McPherson, and Hank Phillippi Ryan, moderated by Shawn Reilly Simmons. Congratulations to the winner, the amazing Louise Penny. Catching up with my college friend Vida Antolin-Jenkins and meeting the super-impressive Kate Carlisle.

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The Sisters in Crime breakfast honored quite a few past presidents (that is, Goddesses) for our 30th anniversary celebration. Many of us credit Sisters in Crime with our writing making it into publication.

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Edith: It was such a treat and an honor that three of us were nominated for four Agatha Awards this year! Here are Barb, Jessie, and me before the awards banquet.

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Liz: As usual, we had a really amazing time seeing friends and enjoying each other’s company. Here’s us getting ready for the banquet.

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Sherry, Julie and I had a lovely group sitting at our banquet table. And notice Julie’s really cool skull necklace!!

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I met Elisa Varey, who won the bid on our Malice basket we put together for the auction. She came by my 5pm signing to say hello, and have me sign on of the books. Thanks for bidding on the Wickeds Elisa!

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Winning bidder on our Wicked basket at the Malice Auction. Photo by Cheryl Hollon.

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Hollon and Holmes, signing together again! Thanks for taking the picture Dru Ann Love.

Edith: I had a fabulous group at my table, too, including Elisa! Midnight Ink kindly donated copies of my new Quaker Midwife mystery.

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Agatha Nominees for Best Contemporary Novel 2017

Hi Barb here. Since the nominations were announced, the Wickeds have hosted this year’s Agatha Award nominees for Best First Mystery, Best Short Story, and Best Historical. Today we’re bringing you the nominated authors for Best Contemporary Novel.

The Agatha Awards, given at Malice Domestic, honor the “traditional mystery,” and this year’s nominated novels span the length and breadth of the category–from cozy to edgy, amateur sleuth and professional, female protagonist and male, series mystery and standalone. I’m excited to be on this list with some of my favorite authors.

Agatha Award Nominees Best Contemporary Novel for 2016:

Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Here’s our question for the nominees: Did you know at the outset that your main character was strong enough to carry a book/series? How did this character change as you got to know him or her better?

Ellen Byron: I didn’t know for sure if my protagonist could carry a series, but I knew she had to. I was too in love with the fictional world of Pelican, Louisiana – and the real world of Cajun Country – to stop writing about it after one book. What I find exciting is how I’m always discovering new things about Maggie Crozat. A friend who was trying to wrap her head around the amateur sleuth angle of my series once asked me, “Does she see things other people miss because she’s an artist and very visual?” To which I replied, “She does now!”

I’m currently working on the fourth Cajun Country Mystery, and Maggie just shared she’s an only child, and was lonely growing up. This came as news to me because originally I gave her a brother, but then put him on the back burner because he didn’t contribute to the story. I always thought he’d come back someday, but Maggie has spoken. She’s declared herself sibling-free. I feel so close to her that sometimes I forget she’s not real. Those are the moments when I think, “Hmm, might be time to go back to therapy.”

Catriona McPherson: Oh, I wish this was a series! I miss them all now that the book’s done, even though it took me a while to get to know Jude – my heroine – well enough to write about her with confidence. I knew she was a librarian and she lived in London, but I wrote and wrote and couldn’t get the essence of her. She was flat, while all the other characters came to joyous life around her.

Then one day I was writing a scene in the dusty, disordered bookshop where the story takes place and the thought of all the dirt and mouse-droppings and dust-mites was making me feel itchy. Suddenly, I got that tingly feeling (different from the itching) and I knew that Jude was a cataloguer who’d given up working on the desk with the general public because she’s a germaphobe and the way people treat library books distresses her too much. I used to work in a public library and I know this from bitter experience. Worst bookmark I ever found in a returned book? Bacon rind. Anyway, germaphobe Jude came instantly alive and the book was plain sailing after that.

But it’s not the start of a series. The story of Jude, Lowell the bookshop owner and the irrepressible pregnant nineteen-year-old Eddy is done. Unless I think of another one . . .

Louise Penny: Initially my main characters were going to be the artist couple, Clara and Peter Morrow.  But as I thought about it more, I could see that while strong secondary characters, making them the center, the core of the series simply would not work, for all sorts of reasons, primary that I was afraid readers, and I, would tire if they had too much of them.

The other reason was that the head of homicide seemed so fully formed when he first appeared and I realized he was the one I needed.  Gamache could hold the series together, and that would allow the secondary characters to shine without the burden of carrying the series.  But he needed to be someone whose company I would enjoy, perhaps for years.  And so I made him a man I would marry, since this is, in effect, a marriage.  As it turns out, far from creating Armand Gamache, I actually transcribed him.  Gamache is inspired by my husband, Michael.

Barbara Ross: When I go back now and look at the original proposal for the Maine Clambake Mysteries, it’s amazing to me how much of Julia Snowden was there. Her family was there–her mother, sister, pain-in-the-neck brother-in-law, and niece were there, as was the still acutely felt absence of her late father. Her parents’ unusual marriage between a summer person who lived on a private island and the boy who delivered their groceries in his skiff was there, too.

This last was particularly important to me, because I am not and would never claim to be a native Mainer, so I needed to be able to write with the perspective of someone on the outside looking in. In her view, her parent’s marriage has left Julia forever on the outside, belonging to neither tribe in her resort town. (Her sister Livvie, on the other hand, doesn’t feel that way at all. Which is something that fascinates me, how people can be brought up by the same parents at more or less the same time, yet experience their circumstances utterly differently.)

But there was huge thing I didn’t know at the beginning–how Julia would act and react when put in a series of extraordinary situations. While I had a sense of her character, there was no way to know until those scenes were written. In that sense she continuously reveals herself to me.

Hank Phillippi Ryan: That is such a great question, because it made me examine my choices, and realize I hadn’t asked myself that question at all.

When I began the Jane Ryland books with The Other Woman, that started with a plot. And forgive me, here is a tiny bit of backstory: I had been reading about Governor Mark Sanford, who told his wife and constituents that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail “when he was actually off with his mistress. And I started thinking about why anyone would be the other woman. It’s so destructive in every way. So someone was quoted as saying “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”

And I thought: that’s my book.

So I needed a main character to tell that story. And it couldn’t be my first series character, Charlotte McNally, because the story was too big and textured for first person.
But I knew she would be a reporter, a tough, strong, curious, honorable, caring reporter.
And a reporter’s life is all about the search for the next big story. That is natural! So once I decided on “reporter,” it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t be able to handle it.

But the fabulous part is how she came to life! Jane Ryland is 33-ish, when the book starts, so 64 year-old me, at the time, could not really draw on my experiences at that age, since that was a million years ago. That made me channel her through a different time…how that age would behave now. And I love how she showed up on the page! Confident, and not self-centered, and a little fearless when it comes to asking questions. Sometimes I am too worried about what other people think, and I was delighted to say she is somehow less timid than I am.

SAY NO MORE has her tackling a very difficult and sensitive subject. Not only testing her responsibilities as a journalist, but her emotional capabilities when dealing with victims and perpetrators of campus sexual assault. She turns out to be compassionate, and caring, and I love how she weighs her responsibility to the subject of her story with her responsibility as a journalist.

Yes, I know I wrote it, but you can’t MAKE a character do something they wouldn’t do. That’s when I know the plot is driving the story, not the character. Jane lets me know when I am doing that—it comes across awkward and “written.” And I think, oh, that’s Hank, not Jane. So when I am lucky, Jane reveals herself to me on the page, and I am so proud of her in SAY NO MORE. (Well, eventually.)

Readers: What do you look for in a character to carry you through a book–or series?

Ellen, Catriona, Hank and I will be at Malice at end of this month. If you’ll be there, we’d love to have you attend our panel, “Simply the Best: Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees,” moderated by Shawn Reilly Simmons on Friday at 1:00 pm. (Or honestly, come talk to any one of us at any time.) Louise, we’ll all be thinking of you!

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Last Beach Reads of the Summer

Well, Wickeds, summer is winding down, sad to say, and I’m wondering, what were your best reads of the summer, and what have you saved to savor over this Labor Day Weekend?

Edith: I’ve had such a good time catching up with the books in Rhys Bowen’s Molly NoPityfortheDeadMurphy series and Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries, both set at the start of the 1900s in New York City. I hadn’t read some of the earlier books in Vicki’s and some of the later books in Rhys’ and I’m glad I did. What I’ll be savoring over Labor Day will be Nancy Herriman’s new No Pity for the Dead, which takes place in San Francisco in the 1860s, and then more catching up – this time with Catriona McPherson’s historical Dandy Gilver series. Yes, I am immersed in the past – and I like it that way!

Liz: I’ve got a bunch of books going right now, as usual. Loving Jennifer McMahon’s The Night Sister. I’m also really enjoying Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I guess I’m embracing my inner introvert! Also reading Laura Lippman’s Wilde Lake on my iPad when I’m training it back and forth to NYC for work.

Jessie: Next up for me is A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar Suzanne Joinson and Death of a Kingfisher by M.C. Beaton.

agreatreckoningBarb: I’ll spend Labor Day weekend as I have for the past several years, reading a Louise Penny book. This year’s is A Great Reckoning. Cannot wait. I have spent much of the summer reading William Kent Krueger‘s Cork O’Connor series. I’m up to the sixth one and I am loving them. After Labor Day, it’s back to work. Reading The Shingle Style and the Stick Style: Architectural Theory and Design from Downing to the Origins of Wright, as Julia and the Snowden family debate whether to restore Windsholme, the mansion on their island in Maine. Not a hardship, truly!

Julie: I am getting ready to teach, so reading a lot of arts admin books including The Cycle by Michael Kaiser. Looking forward to William Kent Kruger at Crime Bake, so I’m going to start on his Cork O’Connor series.

SKYDIVE front sm FINALSherry Harris: Julie I just finished Boundary Waters by William Kent Kruger. His writing is like poetry. I’m very excited to be reading an advance copy of Sky Dive by Agatha Award nominated author Susan O’Brien! It’s the third book in her Nicki Valentine Mystery series and releases on 11/29/16. Susan has a knack for mixing humor, layered characters, and social issues into a seamless plot. This time Susan tackles the issue of what happens to foster children when they age out of the system. I’m almost done so next on my TBR pile is Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye — it comes highly recommended.

Readers: What will you be reading over the holiday weekend?

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Malice Memories with guest Annette Dashofy

WithAVengeance cover FRONTAnnette, thanks so much for taking time to stop by during the launch of With A Vengeance the fourth Zoe Chambers!

By the time you read this, Malice Domestic will have been long past. But as I’m writing this post, I haven’t even unpacked yet. Seriously. I need to do laundry. Later.

Wow. What a fabulous weekend.

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Sherry Harris, Joyce Tremel and Annette Dashofy

Malice, for those of you who have never experienced it, is one big family reunion. Every year the family grows by leaps and bounds. The moment I walked through the hotel doors, I spotted Dru Ann Love charging toward me with her lovely smile and her arms open wide for the first of many hugs. Yeah. It’s like that. All weekend long. I’ve learned to start out at least fifteen minutes early to get from Point A to Point B because there will be many stops along the way for embraces and squeals of delight at seeing an old friend or meeting a new fan.

Last year I had been nominated (along with Wickedly Wonderful Sherry Harris!) for Best First Novel. I didn’t think it could get any better than that.

I was wrong.

IMG_8756This year, I went to Malice carrying the mantle of nominee for Best Contemporary Novel (for Bridges Burned). With fellow nominees like Hank Phillippi Ryan, Margaret Maron, Catriona McPherson, and Louise Penny, I went in with low expectations for a win, but with high expectations for breathing rarefied air. My Cinderella weekend. It was definitely that and more.

Does an author ever tire of having readers stop her in the hall to tell her how much they love her books? Or having readers and fellow writers whisper, “I voted for you!” as they scurry to the next panel? I think not.

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Looking back at the weekend, there are a lot of special moments that stick with me and keep the smile on my face. Some big, like Opening Ceremonies, sitting in the front row next to Guest of Honor Victoria Thompson, a fellow Pennwriter, whom I’ve long admired and adored. On my other side, none other than Best First nominee Julie Hennrikus herself! Then having my name called, walking up to collect my nomination certificate, and standing with Hank, Margaret, and Catriona for the photo. Let’s just say tears were very close to the surface.

IMG_8909Speaking of tears, Amanda Flowers’ sweet speech following her win for Best Children’s or YA Novel in which she shared emotional memories of her parents will also stay with me.

But there are those smaller moments. Quieter moments. The ones with no photos to document the occasion. Sitting in a corner catching up with a long time friend. Chatting one-on-one with a reader I’d just met, and with a wonderful pair of fans—a mother and daughter I met two years ago who have become my good pals. An unplanned Working Stiffs (my old group blog) lunch reunion. And of course, hanging out with all the Wicked Cozies!

Speaking of… You ladies rock! Congratulations to Julie and Edith on your nominations! I loved watching both of you bask in the limelight. And while none of us brought home the tea pot this year, here’s my biggest take-away from Malice Domestic 28. Those Cinderella moments don’t necessarily only happen once. Never take them for granted. But don’t completely count out the idea of starting a collection of those nomination certificates!

Who knows. One day we might add a teapot.

Readers: What dream are you waiting to accomplish?

Dashofy-1559 (534x800)Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, published by Henery Press, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and BRIDGES BURNED was an Agatha Award finalist for Best Contemporary Novel of 2015. Her latest release, WITH A VENGEANCE, is the fourth in the series.

Maps in Books

by Barb, who’s headed in for knee replacement surgery tomorrow

I have a friend who says, “No book with a map in it can ever be all bad,” to which I heartily reply, “Amen!” I’ve loved books that contain maps going back to reading my mother’s 1935 edition of Winnie the Pooh.

dwell-nyt-best-3More recently, I’ve so enjoyed the maps by Laura Hartman Maestro in Deborah Crombie’s books. When a new book comes out, I’m excited to read the mystery and to see what has happened to Gemma and Duncan, because I am a huge fan and have been from the beginning of the series. But I’m also excited to see the map. I examine it before I start reading because Maestro’s hand-drawn maps are so aesthetically pleasing, but the maps don’t mean much before I’ve begun the book. It’s going back to them that gives me so much pleasure, layer upon layer over the course of the story. If you haven’t seen these wonderful maps, they are here. You can click on them to enlarge them.

thecuttingseasonI once startled Attica Locke at a book signing at Newtonville Books, when I opened The Cutting Season and exclaimed, “A map by Laura Hartman Maestro!” Attica was gracious, explaining that her publisher thought it was important for her readers to be able to visualize the “living history” sugar plantation where the story takes place.

So when I read that Minotaur was doing a giveaway of a map of Three Pines, the fictional town at the center of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache mysteries, I was all over it. All you had to do to enter was to fill out a form telling Minotaur where you pre-ordered the latest, The Nature of the Beast.

thenatureofthebeastThere was no question that I would buy The Nature of the Beast on release day. The prospect of having a Louise Penny novel to read over the long Labor Day weekend was too good to pass up. And I knew where I would purchase it–our local bookstore in Boothbay Harbor–Sherman’s Books & Stationery. So bing, bang, boom, I entered.

Two weeks ago a flat package from Minotaur showed up in my mail. I honestly wondered what it was, so much time had gone by. So it was a delightful surprise to open the flatpack and find my copy of the map of Three Pines.

It’s copyrighted, and I’ve looked all over the web to see if they’re using it promotionally, but couldn’t find it, so I’m not going to post it on the blog. You can see the piece of the draft they used to promote it here.

Louise Penny has said she resisted having a map done for years because she wanted readers to picture Three Pines in their own minds. This seems to me to be true for any well-rendered fictional location, but particularly so for Three Pines, which Penny tells us does not appear on any map or GPS. Even in the books, it is a place of the imagination. So, I opened the package with some trepidation.

mapofnethermonkslipThe Three Pines of the map is almost exactly as I had pictured it, which is a tribute to both Penny and the mapmaker, Rhys Davies–the same person who made this marvelous map for G.M. Malliet. I’m one to make up lots of stuff in my head–having clear pictures of characters and places that are sometimes at odds with what’s in the books. The houses of Three Pines weren’t labelled. Some I recognized instantly, but going forward I will need to pay more attention as various characters troop home from the bistro.

As for The Nature of the Beast–I loved it. It’s particularly appropriate that the map should come out now, because this book takes place entirely in Three Pines. Inspector Gamache has retired there, so there’s no back and forth in this book to Montreal or other parts of Canada.

All of this naturally made me wonder if I would ever like to have a map of Busman’s Harbor, the fictional location of my Maine Clambake Mysteries. As the series progresses, the town gets richer and fuller. We find out in Clammed Up that Gleason’s Hardware with an apartment above it is on Main Street, since several key scenes take place there. In Fogged Inn (Feb, 2016) we learn that next to Gleason’s is the double storefront of Walker’s Art Supplies and Frameshop. And on the corner of Main and Main, at the only stoplight in town, where Main Street curves back around, hugging the shape of the harbor hill and crosses itself, is Gordon’s Jewelry. Gus’s restaurant is in the back harbor, along with the marina, the shipbuilders, and Bud Barbour’s marine repair shop which appeared in Boiled Over. In Fogged Inn we learn that the Busman’s Harbor Yacht Club is also there. And then there’s what’s out on Eastclaw and Westclaw Points, and, of course, on Morrow Island.

So I think a map would be fun, but probably premature. I’m still filling in the town.

What about you, readers. Maps of fictional places, yay or nay?

Wicked Wednesday: What Do You Read When You’re Writing?

stack of booksThe discussion is age-old. Some writers say they can’t read, or can’t read in their genre, when they’re writing. Others say, “If I had to give up reading in order to write, I’d give up writing.”

Wickeds, do you read when you’re writing? If not, why not? If so, what do you read? Is your reading restrained in any way?  Does it make a difference whether you’re writing a first draft or doing a polish? When do you read for research?

Inquiring minds want to know.

TanaFrenchLiz: Love this topic! I find reading depends more on my overall mood than what I’m actually working on. Since most of what I read is mystery/crime, it varies between cozies, thrillers and other types of crime. That said, I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I would like…but that’s really the only limitation I have when it comes to reading. I can read any fiction, any time. I read for research as the need arises, or as the mood strikes. Sometimes I veer off into the world of business books, but I quickly return to my beloved mysteries.

Right now, I’m catching up on my cozies – recent releases from my fellow Wickeds and a Natural Remedies Mystery I’m blurbing. Next up – the new Tana French book. Can’t wait!

AndGrantYouPeace-final-4Edith: I find I have such little time for reading, if I didn’t read while I am writing, I’d never read. I certainly read for research both while I’m creating and while I’m polishing: Whittier’s biography, or the history of Brown County, Indiana, for example. But I also read cozy mysteries, New England-based police procedurals, suspense novels. They don’t seem to interfere with my writing or revision process, other than making me look more closely at my own work to make sure it’s as clear, lyrical, and deeply drawn as I can make it.

Right now, in final revisions on one book and starting revisions on another, I’m fittingly sitting in Maine reading Kate Flora’s new (Portland, Maine based) Joe Burgess mystery, And Grant You Peace.

longmireJulie: I try to read while I am writing. BUT I find that the ability to just read, and not dissect, is gone while I am writing. For example, I am reading the Longmire books in preparation for Crime Bake. Craig Johnson is the Guest of Honor, and I am going to interview him at lunch during the conference. First paragraph, my “oh he writes in first person. Wonder how this works in a long series…” kicks in. It is hard to turn the writer off.

Edith: Agree with you on the dissection habit, Julie. It’s given me no patience for poorly written books. There isn’t enough time in the universe to read a book I see glaring writing errors in – point of view hops, too much telling not showing, and so on.

Jessie: I used to only read non-fiction when I was working on first drafts. I was really concerned about unintentionally matching the tone of what I was reading in my own work. As time has passed my confidence in my own voice has gotten stronger and I no longer worry about what I read. Like Edith, I read a lot of books for research and I do tend to read those voraciously whilst creating a first draft.

At any given time I am in the midst of several books. I get a little panicky if I don’t have at least a few books waiting in the wings. As a matter of fact, I bought a house next door to a public library partially influenced by that concern. Currently, I am part-way through a Swedish crime novel, a book about the relationship between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle and a book on the history of the tarot.

truthbetoldBarb: If I couldn’t read while I’m writing, it would be a close and agonizing call, but I would probably give up writing. Reading, after all, was my first love. Being a professional writer does crowd your reading time. There are books for research and books for blurbs. If you’re moderating a panel or conducting an interview at a conference, as Julie is, you’ve got a lot of books to read. Somehow or another it all piles up. But to be my best and happiest self, I have to read books I love, books that I wish I could have written. Kate Flora (I love the Joe Burgess novels, too) has a tradition where she allows herself to read anything she wants between Christmas and New Years. I’ve taken this tradition and expanded it (I’m a slow reader) to anything I want between the New England Crime Bake (Veteran’s Weekend) and New Years. It’s the ultimate luxury. Up this year will be Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny, Craig Johnson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and (fittingly) Kate Flora.

IMG_1012Sherry: Of course I read when I write. I read lots of thrillers and mysteries. The only thing I try to stay away from is any book that has a similar theme to mine. I agree with the other Wickeds that reading good books makes me a better writer and makes me work harder. Right after I read an early copy of Clammed Up I had the opportunity to write the proposal for the garage sale series. I loved Barb’s character Gus and I think he influenced my character, Angelo. The good news is when I told Barb, she was surprised and didn’t think I’d copied Gus. Angelo is quirky in his own way.

Readers: What’s your take? If you’re a writer, do you read while you’re writing? If you create other kinds of art, can you absorb art by others while you’re creating?