Reading for research

Until recently, I thought of reading as strictly for entertainment value. I’m a self-proclaimed book nerd. I love getting lost in stories, and use every available moment, even while on a street corner waiting to meet a friend, to power up my Kindle. I read on the subway, in line at the grocery store, while blow drying my hair. My friends have been known to mock me over it (out of love, course).

Over the last couple years, I’ve discovered that reading is not only fun, but educational. Studying great writers and noting what works so well in their novels motivates me to up my own game. I’ve recently started writing a new book—the first in what I hope will be a three-book standalone series. This book will focus more on the romance aspect than my others, but I intend for it to be funny—very funny. I’m counting on inspiration from some masters of true romantic comedy to keep me on my path. In that vein, I’ve stocked my Kindle with some of the best and will be reading back-to-back romantic comedies beginning…now!

Some authors don’t like to read books in the same genre they write, but I’m the opposite. Some of these authors write books with a little more steam (read: sex) than what I have planned. Some of the romances are a bit mushier than my style of writing. I don’t plan to change my own writing style/voice, but I do hope the funniest of the bunch will remind me not to waste even a line of dialogue or opportunity for conflict, the deepest of the crew will serve as a lesson to add depth to my couples’ connection, and the quirkiest of them will implore me to keep my voice and characters as distinctive as possible. By reading these authors, I will work harder to be funnier, to create fleshed out characters, and to make sure my couples have the chemistry required to keep readers turning the pages of my book just as I am flipping the pages of theirs.

Curious what books are on my TBR for the coming months. Here you go:

MY ONE AND ONLY – Kristan Higgins (Just Finished. LOVED.)

SUNSET IN CENTRAL PARK – Sarah Morgan

GOOD AT GAMES – Jill Mansell

UNTIL THERE WAS YOU – Kristan Higgins

MEET ME AT BEACHCOMBER BAY – Jill Mansell

NEW YORK, ACTUALLY – Sarah Morgan

YOU AND ME ALWAYS – Jill Mansell

AT THE HEART OF IT – Tawna Fenkse

BET ME – Jennifer Crusie

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE – Rachel Gibson

TRUST ME ON THIS – Jennifer Crusie

HOLIDAY IN THE HAMPTONS – Sarah Morgan

IRRESISTIBLE – Stephanie Bond

HOW I MET YOUR BROTHER – Janette Rallison

DAISY’S BACK IN TOWN – Rachel Gibson

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE – Rachel Gibson

AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS – Lauren Layne

DATING YOU, HATING YOU – Christina Lauren

HEAD OVER HEELS – Jill Mansell

TRUTH OR BEARD – Penny Reid

You’ve probably noticed several repeat authors. This is because they are tried-and-true masters of romantic comedy fiction and if I’m going to learn, I want it to be from the best. True confession: I’ve never actually read anything by Rachel Gibson, Christina Lauren, Lauren Lane, Janette Rallison, Stephanie Bond, or Tawne Fenske, but I’ve heard enough positive feedback to trust I will love them as much as I adore the others on the list.

But enough about me. Who are your go-to authors when you want a romantic yet hilarious story?

Jealousy

When I told a close author friend recently how much I hoped all the hard work she was putting into revising her suspense novel would result in a sale to a prestigious publisher, a lucrative advance, and a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, she expressed how much it meant to her that my wishes for her success were genuine because it was evidence of how much I truly loved her. This introduced a discussion about other authors who are not always as supportive because they are too jealous or bitter about their own journeys to embrace another writer’s success. While I am always happy for and supportive of my fellow authors, I admit it is sometimes too easy to compare their success to my own and come out lacking.

I’m friends with several authors on Facebook whose newest books were released this month by traditional New York City publishers to serious fanfare. The authors’ readings at local bookstores were packed with fans clamoring for a signed copy as well as other impressive guests such as well-known local authors, editors, publicists, etc. Reviews of their books were written up in popular magazines and newspapers, and their first week Amazon rankings hit bestseller lists in both ebook and print formats. As thrilled as I was for these authors, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy as I compared these releases with the publication of own last novel which did well by my own standards, but compared to the likes of these other novelists, not so much.

I confided my inferiority complex to a non-author friend who responded with these words of wisdom, paraphrased for the purposes of this blog: she assured me that I was every bit as much of an author as these writers regardless of the level of success achieved thus far. And she reminded me that no matter how many books I sold or how famous I might become, there would always be authors who were both more successful and less successful than I, and all I could do was keep writing. And she was right. In fact, several of my author friends have told me they wished they sold as many books as I did. One went as far as to say she wanted to be me when she grew up. The statement made me laugh, but it goes to show that the measure of success depends on the person doing the measuring.

I can’t say I won’t continue to experience pangs of jealousy from time to time, but I hope these feelings will inspire me to keep honing my writing skills so that each book I put out is better than the next. It’s unfortunate that some people, in any field, prefer to surround themselves only with people to whom they can feel superior. To the contrary, I love having role models I can look up to and learn from. And lucky for me, I have so many successful writer friends who are so very generous with their knowledge.

How do you turn potentially unhealthy feelings of inferiority into something constructive?