Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good Reads vs Good Books

Today my guest is the prolific author, J.L. Wilson.She's here today to chat about how her reading tastes have (and have not) changed over the years. What’s on your Keeper shelf? And what has influenced your writing?.

First off, thanks to Terry for letting me blog here today. I had an interesting experience lately that I’d like to share. When I was in Colorado in July for a conference my niece and her new husband (they’ve been married a year) met me for dinner. Her husband said that he’d like to try some new authors and I mentioned some names off the top of my head. My niece just sent me an email, asking for recommendations so she could buy him a book or two for his birthday—and I have no idea who I listed back then. So I started to recreate the list for her.

I thought this would be simple. I started to email her back with a few ideas, then I stopped and thought. What authors/books had I read in the past that led me to new authors, or to new genres, or to new insights? What books weren’t just “good reads” but were ones that intrigued me or made me think? In short: what were Good Books.

I classify Good Books as those I keep in physical form. I’ve gone almost totally digital and have winnowed out my books from my former library (I had ten bookcases each with six shelves, each shelf double-stacked) to the three shelves of books I own now. So I went to those shelves and touched a bunch of old friends.

War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull. Nope. Really just for fantasy fanatics. It has a Big Place in my heart because it’s set in Minneapolis (near where I live) and it kicked off the urban fantasy genre (bold words, I know, but I believe them to be true). Her book led me to Charles de Lint (too many books to mention here), which led me to James Kahn’s World Enough and Time and Time’s Dark Laughter (rather disturbing vampire books), which led me to … more books than I can count, many of which are on my Kindle now.

The Thomas Street Horror, by Anne Perry. Nope. Good historical mystery that led me to cozy mysteries, but not what he would like. But her books did lead me to The Tragedy at Tiverton, by Raymond Paul. His colonial era hero, Lon Colcannon, is a classic Holmes--with a twist. All of Paul’s books are based on real ‘events’ from our (the United States) past.

Ah, here’s one. The Matlock Paper, by Robert Ludlum. That one led me to reading a bunch of Cold War thrillers, including Shibumi, by Trevanian. His assassin hero preceded Barry Eisler’s by decades. I read everything Trevanian wrote which led me to Ken Follet, who led me to... well, the list goes on!

Don’t overlook The White Plague, by Frank Herbert. Her husband would like that. It’s a novel about biological terrorism that was written more than 20 years ago. And here’s one: Warlock, by Oakley Hall. Not about witches, but about the Old West and one of the finest studies of friendship.

So there it was: my short list of ‘old books.’ Then I sat down to conjure up names of current novelists. And you know what I did? I resorted to people I knew – people I had met at conferences or whom I knew personally. I added a few names to the list: Kent Krueger (one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet), Vince Flynn (who lives just a few miles from me), Steve Berry (I sat with him at a book signing and we had a great time talking fiction), Joe Konrath (his mysteries aren’t to everyone’s taste, but they might be worth a try). Lee Child, Barry Eisler, John Sandford... And no, I didn’t include any romance writers. He might enjoy some, but I’ll let him discover them on his own.

This was such an interesting dip into my past and was the first time I actually saw how one book led to another which led to another and so on. I also got a glimpse into which books have influenced my writing style in the books I write now. As a published author, it made me wonder...will I ever influence anyone, too. A scary thought, that!

This made me wonder: what criteria do people use to designate their ‘Keepers’? And does those criteria evolve or change over time. An interesting thought...for another blog, perhaps. I’ve rambled on long enough as it is!

If you want to see what has kept me busy in the last 3 years (17 books released, oh my!), check my web site at http://www.jayellwilson.com. Or just look me up on Twitter (@Jlwriter) or Facebook.


Anny Cook said...

Heh. I like your list. Mary Stewart. Any or all of them. Elizabeth Cadell. John D. MacDonald. Louis L'Amour. Helen MacInnes. Alistair MacLean. Georgette Heyer. And of course, each of them led me to others.

As for keepers. Those are the ones worthy of re-reading. If I don't find it interesting enough to re-read, then it doesn't stay. Good thing I read a LOT.

J L said...

Yikes, I forgot Mary Stewart. Never read Elizabeth Cadell (jotting note on iPod now).

J L said...

Hey, anyone who might post: I have to go to a funeral, but will check back in later on tonight. Feel free to chat without me!