Monday, September 9, 2013

Why Writers Read

As a writer, what authors are your personal favorites, and more importantly…why?

First, I must be engaged by the theme. It must hook my child, as they used to say in Transactional Analysis. The story and characters should make me squirm. This writing skill/talent entails two important qualities: familiar interests/frame of reference between author and reader, and a heart-wrenching POV. And there’s the rub. Readers will follow a POV long before they care about knowing as much as the writer does about a specific subject. After all, we also read to learn.

Trying not to mention too many author’s names here, I was reading an author’s book, which paralleled the Pulp Fiction style: grizzly, funny, well written description. I felt nothing, but stayed with it for 48% of the text. Then my husband brought home two books from my new favorite author, who regardless of what she writes about never fails to thrill and engage me. As a disciplined person, I looked longingly at those books sitting on top of one of our many bookshelves—I never said I wasn’t a compulsive reader. After a few dutiful hours, I though why am I wasting my time with character I don’t like, can’t respect or understand and a subject that I’ve lost interest in over the years? (AA and ALONON, which these guys needed in spades.) I grabbed up my favorite author’s older of the two books and immersed myself in her familiar world. What amazes me is that she wrote this book in 1997, and it still holds up. Why? Because she writes about real people; all her books, despite humor and action, are character driven, put-them-into-a-situation-anyone-could-find-themselves-in and watch them work it out.

That’s enriching.

This author, and many I admire, have the skill to completely take on the “soul” of the POV character. Her pet subjects range from: ghost hunting, aka simple faith; religious obsession; the rule of law; family structure, Nazis/justice and injustice; fertility and organ transplant donation issues; flawed but loving men, and tiger mothers—all with humor and perspective.

Regardless of the genre, if the emotion, logic and integrity of the characters are missing, the book fails.

My new favorite author hasn’t missed a beat.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee. The sequel, Medium Rare and  Daughters of the Sea is available from MuseItUp Publishing. Visit Julie’s Web site at


Anonymous said...


I'll add to that criteria to pull me in: vision. The ability to frame a world and mind set that appears real, and nothing I've yet experienced. One of my favorite was Dicks (Blade runner, Minority report, Soldier, Next). All his settings are real yet futuristic with flawed but appealing characters.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

After years of being a "disciplined reader," I've finally given myself permission to put a book down if it hasn't grabbed me and something better comes along. Maybe it's a sense of time being shorter as I get older?

Anyway, I'm also reading one of my favorite authors now, an older book that still holds up. I'd have to vote for POV and character - plot is great, but I want to follow this person through the journey because I know he'll learn something, teach me something, and I really like his company.


Richard Hacker said...

Great blog topic! The books I pick up and keep reading have several things going on-- compelling story hook, well defined characters, a unique setting, an inciting incident happening early in the story, and rising action into a first major plot point.

Richard Hacker

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thanks for commenting.

Liz we are less disciplined as we get older, but never tell the kids.

Liz Fountain said...

Deal, Julie. :-)