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The Need to Read
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It's often said that anyone who wants to write needs to read a lot. I don't entirely agree. For what it's worth, I've read very little fiction during the ten years Mary and I have been doing our mystery novels.

I do think writers need to have read a lot at some time, to have developed a feel for how books work. I don't believe it is important to read a lot of current fiction. If you want to keep up with trends in the marketplace, if you want your writing to reflect what's happening in publishing today (probably not bad ideas) then, I suppose, you need to know what other authors are up to. But for better or for worse, Mary and I write pretty much the way we want, regardless of what the fashion might be. Maybe we'd be doing better if we paid more attention to what's selling, but then I doubt I could write something fashonable if I tried.

Up until I started writing professionally I spent endless hours reading. As a kid I devoured all sorts of books, particularly science fiction. I spent more time on Mars than in my backyard.

I have much less time to read now. Most of the spare time I used to devote to reading books goes to composing them. And I write even more slowly than I read. I can (or rather used to be able to) read a short mystery novel in the time it take me to write a single chapter of one.

Then too, historical mysteries require a lot of research, and thus, I peruse far more nonfiction than I used to, further cutting into my fiction reading time.

Finally, I purposefully avoid reading anything remotely like what we're working on. I tend to be a sponge. I'll soak up whatever I'm reading. And that's dangerous. I don't want to find myself being unduly influenced by someone else's work or, even worse, subconsciously copy anything.

Despite reading little fiction these days, my aesthetic sensibilities are rooted in the hundreds of novels I've devoured over the years. To me, books are not, as they seem to be to some writers, pale imitations of television or the movies.

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