Courtney Milan on Inspiration ~ & a chance to win Trial by Desire!

How Reading Affects Writing

I’ve heard some authors say that they can’t read in the genre they’re writing as they’re working on a book, for fear it will change how they write.

For me, that’s exactly why I read them. It’s not that I think my books won’t be changed by what I’m reading–but, rather, that I think they will be changed, and in exciting, unpredictable ways. If I read something in a book that infuriates me (and I sometimes do), it will sometimes be slipped into a book. If I read something in a book that I think is really well done, it motivates me to look at my own book. Everything I read shifts the point of view that I’m reading from, and when I return to my own writing, I find that the slight shift from my normal center is exactly what I need to see how to solve my own problems in writing.

For my upcoming book, Unveiled… I got the idea when I read a historical romance in which the hero and heroine had a somewhat dodgy wedding ceremony. “But!” I spluttered. “But what if this marriage is later invalidated, and their children are made illegitimate! What a terrible thing to do to a child!”

And as every romance author knows, “what a terrible thing to do to a child!” is the same thing as “what a wonderful way to start a book!”

Don’t get me wrong–I get ideas from a lot of places. Right now I’m reading a memoir of a mostly blind man who describes the world in such beautiful ways that it makes me see the world around me with a different eye. And I can feel that writing it makes my interaction with my hero and heroine’s world deeper. I start thinking of how motion would feel and taste and smell, not just how it would look.

So where do you find your inspiration? When you read a book, does it change how you see the world, just for a little bit? What was the last book you read, and what did it do for you?

Tell me, and one commenter will get a copy of Trial by Desire–and you can see if it shifts how you see the world.


This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Now days there is not much in life to inspire a person. But when I pick up a book it takes me to a different place. I read Shana Galen The Making of a gentleman, it made me think what being confined in a prison(French), can change a person, and make them come out a different person, that is not recognized by friends and family. Everyone has demons.

  2. Yes, it does! Not drastically but I can get caught up in a good story and start to imagine what ifs! I can get lost in a time or place and get ideas of what or how things were or what could be better! I like a book that makes me think a bit! I just read The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. It really made me think about how you treat people and how things that go around come back around. Thanks for sharing with us today!

  3. I get inspiration from everywhere, and I have no shortage of story ideas. But reading other books definitely help. One of my current WIPs started as an idea based on a character that popped into my head after a book I read had an intriguing creature in it.

  4. I’ve been, intensely, reading romance novels since about May, and I agree with you, what I read, what I watch and what I listen to definitely effects my thinking and my writing, and therefor I need to be careful what I ingest.
    When I realized I was writing a series, I began reading the series of the authors I admire. Can’t tell you everything I absorbed from their writing, but I do know that the study has helped me to see where this series is going, and to be a better writer because of what I’ve read.

  5. Debra, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve not been finding much inspiration these days. I sympathize–it’s raining hard today, and, TMI, my dog is, uh, sick with bowel complaints. I’m working on a love scene. But Shana Galen is a great escape–I’ve read her since her debut with Avon, and really love her!

    Johanna, I’ve read Sarah Addison Allen’s GARDEN SPELLS and loved it. Do you recommend this one?

    Jami, it’s true–ideas are lurking around every corner! I have to stop and tell them “No!” every day. The ones that turn into books are the ones that turn right back on me and say, “YES!”

    And Yvonne–I completely agree with this! I also think it’s important to feed your brain with things when you aren’t sure if they’re relevant–you never know what little tidbits will come together into something good!

  6. Courtney, Yes I have read all her books and THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON is excellent, it is a sweet and magical story! My favorite has to be the Sugar Queen! You have to read that one too! Both are Very very good!

  7. I’m currently reading Nerd Gone Wild by Vicki Lewis Thompson. It reminds me that appearances can be deceiving and to look inside a person, not just judge by the way they look.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  8. Hi Courtney! It may sound unproductive but reading (especially historical romances) and watching lots of TV relaxes and inspires me (yes, there are life lessons from Dancing with the Stars and Hawaii 5-0 makes me appreciate the island I live in more). Of course, seeing my DH do so much for me and the family everyday and be so patient and positive is the most inspiring. Read Proof by Seduction last month! While reading it, I initially felt Jenny shouldn’t have told Ned and the bank the truth or told them the truth so soon… but towards the end, I realized, telling the truth and hiding nothing was the only way Jenny could be her real and authentic self and be really happy.

  9. I can’t (and won’t) stop reading. Even now during NaNo, I’m writing and reading. And yes, sometimes I read something and say, what if. After all, that’s what I did before I began writing, took favorite characters (frequently minorones) and set them off on alternate endings because I didn’t think author did them justice. So I beleive in reading all kinds of genre’s before, during and after I write.

  10. Many times historicals make me glad that I live in the times that I do. I don’t think I could go without running water or being able to shower everyday (with hot water no less!) and, of course, all the opportunities that are available to modern women that the historical ladies did not have. I’m so glad that my goal while growing up was not limited to “marrying well”.

  11. The winner of TRIAL BY DESIRE is Linda Henderson. Linda, please check your email for a message from me.
    Thank y’all for visiting. Look forward to seeing y’all again.

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