Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reading Your Genre

I've been in a book reading slump lately. Ever since I sat myself down and committed to this whole writing thing, I have found it nearly impossible to find entertaining reading material. I suppose it will come as no surprise that since I write historical fiction, I read historical fiction. There are a few exceptions--Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble series or Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, but I rarely deviate from the genre. And I've been a real critic lately. I don't know if it is because I view other historical fiction authors as my competition or what, but three out of five novels I pick up don't get finished. Either the pacing is too slow or the characters are boring. It's awful. My love for the written word has just been sucked right out of me. I eagerly watch for new releases in the genre and when I get my hands on them, I inevitably disappointed.

Now, I do have my old stand-bys in the historical fiction realm. Deanna Raybourn is a perennial favorite, as is Jennifer Donnelly. I watch their websites like a hawk for word of a new release. If only I could get them to publish their new novels sooner! But otherwise, I'm just underwhelmed with the historical fiction scene right now. It seems that historical fiction is starting to peak, and I'm beginning to wonder if quantity is sacrifcing quality. But then again I could be wrong, and my book is going to make it off the slush pile.

So do you read in your genre? If so, do you find yourself being more critical now that you are writer, or have you continued on as if nothing has changed?


  1. I read quite a bit in my genre - or, well, in fantasy's general area. It's strange, because my reaction is the opposite of yours. I find I appreciate the stories even more now that I know some of the craft that goes behind. Not to mention, I sometimes come out of the read with the feeling I learned something, both craft-wise and life-wise from it. :)

  2. Historicals are my genre as well. Sharon Kay Penman and Bernard Cornwell are two of my favorites - have you given them a try?

    I'm particularly interested in the American colonial and revolutionary periods and it seems hard to find nearly as much fiction set during those times as medieval or Tudor settings. But there are a few recent ones on my to-be-read pile - Wolves of Andover, The Rebellion of Jane Clarke ...

  3. Thank god it's not just me. I have a whole shelf of unfinished fantasy novels. I think I'm just more picky, plus I've found the good stuff that pushes my buttons, so I no longer have to wade through pages of lyrical unicorn keeping just to get to the mayhem.

  4. @ Matt -- I'm wading my way through "The Rebellion of Jane Clarke." I'm having a hard time connecting with the main character so that would account for the wading part. :-)
    You're right about there not being a lot of Revolutionary era fiction. I guess that is why I was drawn to the period when I was writing my first MS!

  5. Maybe I'm just weird, but I read both in and out of my genre.

    Admittedly, I do probably read more sci-fi/fantasy books than any other genre (and my work fits squarely into the fantasy side of that), but I really, really love other things like historical fiction and the occasional biography of someone I admire. But then I also read physics books for fun, so...pretty much anything I perceive as a challenge is likely to end up on my reading list.

  6. So true that there's not much Rev War stuff--and funny, because I feel like the industry isn't looking for it! I know plenty of people who would buy Rev War set novels. Such a rich time period!

    One of my biggest complaints about historical fiction right now is how the majority of it is in a time period I'm not too interested in--Tudor/Elizabethan--and about people I don't find interesting--royals and court intrigue. Yet this seems to be what continues to get bought and is sought after by agents. Feedback loop, much?

    I find I'm either more appreciative or more derisive after writing for a couple years--I either really appreciate well-written work, or get very disappointed and dismissive of work that I don't feel is up to snuff. Of's all subjective :P

  7. @ Rowenna - Once again you nailed it on the head. I am so happy when I read a really good book. "Water for Elephants" stood out to me because I had been drowning in a sea of mediocrity. I think the industry is having a hard time putting out novels that rank between high brow historical fiction (that is terribly hard to read) and low brow (that seems to be appealing to those masses of folks who want nothing but another re-telling of the Anne Boleyn story.)

    @ Will - the idea of reading physics makes my head want to explode! I take it that you are one of those people who were blessed with abundant abilities in both the right and left sides of the brain?

  8. I read across all genres, but I do love historical fiction (I write fantasy, sci-fi).
    I agree that there is a severe lack of diversity when it comes to historical fiction. There are so many fascinating historical figures, times and places that just don't get written about. It makes me sad.

    Also, Wolves of Andover is in my TBR pile too. But mostly because I am from Andover.

  9. I haven't read them yet, but for those complaning about there not being any Revolutionary War books, there is a book called The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins. I also have a book on my shelf called the Island of Swans which is set during the Georgian period in England. Also, I'm going to start reading a YA historical fiction book called Revolution that is set in France during the Revolution. I know two of these don't take place in America, but I thought I'd share. :)

  10. Forgot to add: Revolution is by Jennifer Donnelly. I can't wait to start reading it!