Every piece of advice I read about becoming a better writer (which I read today in fact) advises that authors should read widely and in their own genres. I have to admit that I do not read very many spy thrillers. Not because I haven't tried or I'm disinterested, but it's so hard for me to suspend believe and finish the books. I have all respect for writers who have stories to tell in fields they don't know. It's tough. I've done it. Not as S.D. Skye but as my alter ego. But when I do, I research...ALOT! A little bit of research goes a long way toward believability.
Let's put it this way. I write about the Italian mafia in my books. I'm not nor have I ever been mafia--even though I did some work in that field when I was at the FBI. But one of my Italian American readers told me she read all three books in 2.5 days. Couldn't put them down. That to me was the biggest compliment anyone could pay my work. Most of my readers (not all) but most who give my work a try say it feels authentic. I don't know whether reading in the genre would enhance that or ruin it.
But research is so critical to believability in spy thriller and other genres, like historic fiction. And when authors don't do it, I end up rolling my eyes and putting the book down quickly. Sadly I have a Kindle full of half-read bestsellers. Now I read a lot--nonfiction, romance, anything non-thrillery. I can't put down Game of Thrones, which is about dragons mothers and white walkers. I'm enthralled. Why? Because at the core of the story it's politics and a struggle for power--with swords and dragons--and it stays true to human nature and how people vie for power. Much more believable to me than a spy thriller that features an NSA super-operative with guns who chases bad guys. If you don't know why the previous sentence is scream-worthy and hilarious, you've got some research to do (see below).
So why am I complaining you ask?
About 6 months ago I was asked to speak at my first writer's conference (which I'll discuss more fully as we get closer to the conference date). Although I've attended many conferences and countless presentations on The Business of Self Publishing and my life as an indie author as my alter ego, the romance writer, this will be the first time I actually get to speak at a conference as S.D. Skye.
Even better, one of the presentations I've been asked to give is basically an intelligence community and law enforcement primer -- and my pet peeves --and help authors who write about the intelligence world and law enforcement, especially regarding the FBI, avoid those eyerolling faux pas that zap all believability from their stories. I can't wait for that. Maybe after it's done, I will post the notes on this blog to help other writers who can't make it. It's so important.
Anywho, back to the subject at hand. Sometimes, I can't help but wonder whether writing more unbelievable stories, instead of my stories which are really close to what play out on the streets of D.C. today, would my stories be more believable...and successful?
I dunno. But I'm probably not going to find out either. One thing that I can feel good about -- I have truly found my own voice in this genre. I own it. I'm comfortable with it. It's not a cookie cutter. And readers won't find anything else out there like it. Whether that's a good or bad thing in terms of my career, only time will tell.
For me as writer...it couldn't feel better.
Bottom line--I think you have to read to be a good writer. I don't know if reading in your genre is a hindrance or a help.
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