It bugs me when people ask me what I read. There. I said it.
Mind you, I don’t think the question is the least bit rude or inappropriate. Actually, I consider it natural that if a reader likes an author’s work, she might wonder what the author reads for fun—maybe even as a possible source of new writers, or an affirmation of the reader’s own taste. It’s something that authors get asked, and I should have an answer prepared in advance.
Except, I don’t.
The sad truth of the matter is that I’m a very bad representative of the publishing business in general and the crime fiction publishing business in particular. I should probably be shunned, exiled, or at the very least subjected to a finger wagging. I do not promote the industry the way I should.
I honestly don’t read very much, and when I do, it’s rarely a mystery novel.
Now, that wasn’t always the case. I was a voracious reader from childhood on, and some of my favorite authors were mystery and crime fiction writers all the way from Agatha Christie to Robert Crais. I read Lee Child and Robert B. Paker. I was inspired by Donald J. Sobol when I was a kid and by Dashiell Hammett when I was in college.
But now I write for a living. And unlike, say, all the other authors in existence, I have found that by the end of the day, my eyes have seen enough words, and can see no more. My brain overloads. I can’t concentrate on someone else’s story. I’m still turning my own over and over in my troubled head.
I will often tell those who ask that I don’t read while I’m writing (which is pretty much all the time, anyway) because I’m concerned that I will subconsciously “pick up” some phrase or plot turn and forget where the idea came from in time to include it in my own work. While that is at least nominally true, it’s not a really deep concern, and the fact is that if I wanted to read other crime fiction authors (like Lorraine, for example), I could be reasonably sure I wouldn’t steal from them. Certainly not purposefully.
There are other reasons I don’t read the way I used to: Now that I am a published author, I’ve been to conferences and conventions, panels and discussions, with other authors. A number of them have become cherished friends (like Lorraine, for example). If I’m asked who I read, and I mention one and not another, I’ll feel badly about omitting a friend. The friend might actually never find out about it, and in most cases wouldn’t mind at all, but I would be mortified at having slighted someone I care about. So I don’t mention names.
At the core of it, I really don’t read very many books these days. I read newspapers, and I read screens, and I quite often will read whatever it is I’m typing out on my keyboard every day, just to make sure I’m not repeating myself or making some hideous error. I put my all into the books I write. And I do read sometimes. In the car on the way to a teaching gig in Philadelphia every week, I will listen to audiobooks. But reading for pleasure at the end of the night? I’m exhausted. I’m overloaded on words. I just can’t do it.
I know. I’m a terrible author and a worse person. Feel free to snub me. Wag your finger. I’ll understand.
But if someone asks you who you read, if you could mention my name…
E.J. Copperman is the author of CHANCE OF A GHOST, the latest in the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series, which published February 5. You can find out more at www.ejcopperman.com
Chance of a Ghost:
Even with a blizzard bearing down on New Jersey, Alison can count on at least two guests—Paul and Maxie, the stubborn ghosts who share her shore town inn. Then there’s her widowed mother, who hasn’t just been seeing ghosts, she’s been secretly dating one: Alison’s father. But when he stands her up three times in a row, something’s wrong. Is he a lost soul…or a missing apparition?
Their only lead is an overdramatic spirit—stage name Lawrence Laurentz—who doesn’t take direction well and won’t talk until they find his killer. Alison will reluctantly play the part of PI, but when the clues take a sinister turn, the writing is on the wall: If Alison can’t keep a level head, this will be her father’s final act—and maybe her own.