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From Reader To Writer: A Weird Journey

reading spurs imagination

© Sergey Nivens / Dollar Photo Club Used with permission.

I blogged about where we buy books last Wednesday, and it launched some interesting conversations, both on the post, and in some discussion lists where I mentioned it.

We all concluded that we were “crazy book ladies,” based on our TBR’s (to-be-read) piles, both physical and digital.

I don’t remember the exact moment I became a crazed reader. In my memory, I’m struggling with Dick and Jane running and then suddenly I’m devouring books. I joke about the fact that almost the only time I got in trouble in school was for sneak reading behind my text books. I also used to read under the bed covers.

In the end, I wasn’t nearly as sneaky as I thought I was. lol

But I did manage to read a lot of books.

When I look back at my adventures in reading, I know that for me, small town girl that I was, the library and bookstores were my gateway to magical places.

Words were magic.

Words are magic. Or they can be if you put them together in the right order. It’s finding that magic, or perhaps wanting to find that magical formula, that adds “writer” to a reader’s resume.

Now back in the olden days, anyone who wanted to write had some obstacles to overcome, even beyond learning the craft. It was all pens, pencils, and clunky old typewriters that you had to pound to make key strokes happen. Seriously, you had to pound them. With little stubby fingers.

My progress from passionate reader to tentative writer was helped by my taking a typing class in high school, then the invention (creation?) of electric typewriters. I did not immediately embrace the personal computer. I got one (back in DOS days), let it go for a word processor, then went back to the computer with a PC.

The computer removed a lot of the friction in getting stories from head to page, but it doesn’t really explain how I moved from reading stories (so much easier!) to writing them down (time consuming plus even with current tech).

And none of it explains why I write what I write. I mull this probably more than I should, mostly because people wonder why a nice girl like me writes, well, my books. (One of those people is my mom.)

When I look at the list of my books, when I study the genres of my stories, I wonder that, too. Why do I wander from romantic suspense, to comedy suspense, to science fiction romance, time travel action adventure romance, gothic, to steampunk science fiction romance, to fantasy sci-fi detective story, to mystery scifi, back to mystery suspense, with a Christmas alien first contact novella just for “fun.”

I don’t know.

If you look at that list, you’ll find some points of contact:

  1. Romance
  2. Comedy (most of my books have elements of humor except my lone gothic)
  3. Suspense and/or action adventure
  4. Aliens/science fiction (which surprised everyone but my high school science teacher who believed I wrote fiction in his class, too.)
  5. Mystery/detective

Which is how I ended up with my brand of “Perilously Fun Fiction.” There is always some element of peril and the fun comes with the humor in the story, and how much I had writing the story. (I enjoy hosing my characters WAY too much.)

My business would be easier to manage if I didn’t wander all over the place (because readers tend not to wander genres nearly as much as I do) or if I didn’t write at all. If I just went back to reading my kindle would be thrilled. It thinks it’s past time I dived back into my TBR. (Yes, I talk to my kindle. What of it?)

The why of what goes into my stories, the mix of characters and elements, well, that’s mysterious even to me. There is something kind of crazy that happens inside my head when I start a story. The first time I finished a whole novel, I thought I’d “got” it. I had mastered How To Write a Novel. [insert triumphant flourish here]

Then I tried to dive into novel #2. Ouch.

Seventeen novels later, I know you don’t “get” it. You don’t “know.” Each story is unique, at least for me, and how it arrives on the page is also unique. I’m not as in control of it as you’d think. When I start a book, I inch up to the edge of a precipice, peer over, pull up the plot sled (sometimes with characters at the helm, sometimes hanging onto the rear) and climb dubiously on, then suddenly I’m careening down, bouncing off things, upside down, right side up, free falling…with a look of delighted terror on my face.

With that image in mind, open one of my books and start reading. You might at least understand where some of it comes from. Lol

I will also add, that all that fictional mayhem keeps me on a nice, even keel in my real life. It keeps me “nice.” lolol

So if you’ve ever wondered “where I get my ideas?” or “what were you thinking?” then this is sort of it. I know as a wordsmith I should be able to find the right words to explain my process, but yeah, no.

So, have you ever found a favorite author, been zooming through their books, and then run into one that made you think, “where did this come from?”

Does this post help with that? Or make you want to pull your hair out? (Get in line on that one.) Please do share!

I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value).  Recipient is announced the first blog post of the new month.

Perilously yours,


P.S. If you want to pull back the truly weird curtain in my brain, then check out Specters in the Storm. I wrote this for a boxed set that went off sale in January, releasing it into the “wild.”

copyright by Pauline Baird Jones. All rights reserved.

copyright by Pauline Baird Jones. All rights reserved.



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