Today I am talking with Dee White as part of her Tuesday Writing Tips Blog Tour. Dee is the author of the excellent YA novel Letters to Leonardo and blogs a weekly writing tip every Tuesday at Dee Scribe Writing.
Dee: Hi Sandy, it’s great to be here. I’m wondering if you can tell me what you like to read and why?
I’m an avid reader – anything with words on it attracts my attention. I am that awful person who reads over your shoulder on the train. I can’t help it but I know it’s annoying (and rude!) so I always close my eyes to break the connection. I love words – words that tell a great story or simply sound wonderful tripping off the tongue.
My genre of choice as a reader is fantasy – of all kinds. I have a particular interest in ancient cultures. My personal favourite books are generally where fantasy and ancient cultures collide.
Dee: When you were writing the Samurai Kids books, were there any particular books you read that helped you decide what sort of stories you wanted to write? Not so much in terms of what sorts of stories I wanted to write. The book that did influence me however was Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings. It give me a personal insight into the life and beliefs of a master samurai swordsman and inspired the character of Mitsuka Minayoto, who appears in Samurai Kids 2: Owl Ninja. But the most important thing The Book of Five Rings gave me was a feeling of being in 17th century Japan. I was there with Musashi.
Similarly while I wrote Jaguar Warrior, my constant companion was The Broken Spears by Miguel Leon-Portilla containing translations of native accounts of the Spanish uprising. Some of the stories are beautiful poetry and others part myth, but they are all sad. The Aztec world was coming to an end.
Dee: Do you read outside your comfort zone?
Absolutely. It the biggest horizon expander I know. I make a conscious effort to do so to the point where I will often purposely choose a book that is not to my reading or writing taste. Dee: Why do you think it’s important for writers to read/ read widely? Market research, inspiration, awareness of techniques, expansion of horizons, remove personal boundaries, see through other eyes, improve writing basics, improve writing style… It’s a long list. And while reading widely is a learning process, it is also fun.
Dee: Can you tell me about a book you have read that has had a great impact on something you have written?
Something along those lines is happening to me right now. It began with The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and continued on to his Coraline and Other Stories. After that I took a jump to Edgar Allan Poe and that’s what I am reading at the moment. I have always been drawn to stories of darkness. I couldn’t write horror genre – I am too much of a scaredy-cat for that. But like Luke Skywalker, I can feel the dark side calling although I never quite worked that fascination into my writing. Until now. Inspired by Gaiman and Poe, I have an exciting new idea that I am keen to begin writing.
Dee: As a writer and thoroughly busy person, how do you find time to read?
I read very, very fast. As a teen, I read War and Peace in a weekend when my sister dared me to - so I've been in speed-read training since then. I can finish an average YA novel in an hour. But when a book really hooks me, I slow down quite a lot.
Thank you for dropping by Dee. I’ll be following closely along the blog tour to learn a few more tips. For anyone else interested, here is the schedule:
2nd February 2010 Claire Saxby http://letshavewords.blogspot.com/ Writing Picture Books - Leaving room for the illustrator.
9th February 2010 Dee White http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/ Reviewing ‘There Was an Old Sailor’ Reviewing vs Editing skills.
16th February 2010 Sandy Fussell http://www.sandyfussell.blogspot.com/ Writers Need to be avid free range readers
23rd February 2010 Robyn Opie http://www.robynopie.blogspot/. How to make your story longer – adding layers.
2nd March 2010 Angela Sunde http://www.angelasunde.blogspot.com/ More about Point of View – head hopping.
Dee: Do you have a tip for writers about what they should be reading to enhance their own writing skills?
I call it free range reading. Writers need to read all over the place. It's a bit messy and unstructured but it's fun and it will help improve not only your writing technique but the scope of your ideas. Read within your own writing genre, read what appeals to you as a reader, read what your target readers are reading, read non-fiction that catches your eye. Anything and everything. Perhaps the most important point is to read outside your comfort zone.