A relaxing afternoon (especially with rain outdoors, and a fire within) should include both books and cat – though cat needs to understand that book doesn’t equal cushion, neither can book be read through furry bulk on lap, nor is cat a great bookmark.
So, a typical early afternoon in the living room: cat with books. (If you read right to left, or are more book-ish than cat-lover-ish, books with cat.)
When I first began writing fiction seriously, I said, I never read while I ‘m writing. Except facts, for research … Once I’d found my voice, it still felt too delicate a thing, and that like a person living in another country, I’d find myself imitating, without intent, other writer’s literary accents.
So I read only sociology, lifestyle, stuff about in vitro fertilisation and its history: amassing fascinating facts that now appear as a one-liner, a phrase, or simply a walk-on part, a hidden property, the leaves inside the on-stage teapot. Here are some: The Second Creation is probably where Baby, Baby was conceived, in its present published form – that’s another story.
Can’t keep a fiction addict away for too long: as BB was going into edits and re-writes, I began reading these: most of them stories of cultural clashes and alienation, from a traditional cultural heritage or by living in, fleeing to, or studying in, another country.
The clash and/or compromise of old and new cultures, the problems of living as an alien away from home, culture, family, and familiar landscapes, feels like it’s all around me, living in a multicultural city, and in changing times.
I especially love Kahlid Hosseini and Ahraf Soueif’s work. My favourites are A Thousand Splendid Suns, and The Map of Love. ALlhough maybe you don’t see it in the text, as a reader, these books underlie my writing and have played a huge part in the question ‘why do I write what I do?’
So what am I reading now, after publication of The Labyrinth Year, a second go at gently probing the unseen and generally unwitnessed problems of the cross cultural marriage of two western undergraduates from Cambridge university? A lot of what I’ve read in the past year has me ant exploring very different genres from these: genres I wouldn’t necessarily walk up to and explore in a bookshop straight away. I’ve been reading around the work of fellow indie authors in the ALLi group, (Alliance of Independent Authors), that’s been almost exclusively on Kindle. So none in the pile, but I’ve read novels by Alison Morton, Orna Ross, Philppa Rees, Francis Guenette, Carol Cooper, Jane Carling, Debbie Young, Ian Sutherland, Christina Nolfi to name a few.
Among the to-reads some more not-usually-read genres. We have a family thing going since Christmas: one of our sons bought a pile of books for Christmas presents, distributed them in brown paper around the family, and the idea is we each read all of them, in turn. So far I’m nearly through (and enjoying) the Tove Jansen (The Summer Book) and Capital by John Lanchester.
A Christmas present game to try?