I have always been a voracious reader. I read anything and everything, and don’t care about genre as long as the book is well-written and appeals to me. So since the advent of e-books I am baffled by the idea that readers want to read the same book over and over. I’m also baffled by the idea that only ‘readers of historical fiction’ will like my books. I see rows of identikit covers of thrillers or romances and wonder how anyone can exist on a diet only of this. Like meringues at every meal for seven days in a row. Or refusing to eat anything but liver.
I like a good romance, and I like a good thriller, but not to the point where it’s my sole diet.
Here are a selection of the books I have read recently – all of which I would highly recommend. Great books, every single one, but only one of them is ‘historical’ – The Sewing Machine, and its period is nebulous as it spans the whole of the twentieth century.
I also belong to a book group where we read a variety of books, some historical, some contemporary, and my enjoyment of them doesn’t depend on their genre at all. Nor am I wedded to a particular period. My historical fiction reading goes from Iron Age Britain up to the 1960’s as you can see from my recent historical reads. (All of these are great reads, so do try any one of them.)
Like many other authors I have written a series, at the suggestion of my publisher. As a writer, I actually prefer to write stand-alone stories, though occasionally I have linked books together through a minor character or through the setting. I guess for a writer we just need something to convince us that our book will sell to someone.
The process of why I choose a book as a reader depends on a mysterious alchemy of mood, subject, and the appeal of the cover or blurb. I’m very visually orientated, so the cover must be professional in appearance. I love a good typeface and can be swayed into a purchase by lush typography. The other part, the part where my personal psychology links wth the writer’s subject, is much less predictable. Books about artists – yes. Books about big scientific ideas – yes. Books about poets/playwrights/inventors/any person with a creative process – yes. But even with these as areas of interest, I won’t always buy. And looking at my selections above I can see little in common – neither period nor subject, and though I think I know what I like, many of these don’t even fit my own criteria.
This means I could be wasting my time if I only advertise my own books to a narrow swathe of ‘historical fiction readers who like the 17th Century’. I suspect you can count those on one hand! And Amazon’s ‘if you like this… you might like this’ argument doesn’t always work on me, the reader. I suspect the same is true of many of us. The publishing industry would like us to be more predictable readers, supplied by more predictable writers.
But I praise the omnivorous reader.
Reading in unfamiliar genres gives far more likelihood that you might discover something that moves you, in a genre you might not know you would enjoy. The omnivorous reader is curious, and willing to try something new – in fact already prepared to be amazed or transported.
And on a selfish note, it also means that my books might be picked up by someone who reads Philippa Gregory one week and Hugh Howey the next.