Yesterday I brought you the new book by Seth Margolis, Presidents’ Day. Today I am thrilled to bring you a guest post by Mr. Margolis and a giveaway for the book. Enjoy:
The Writer’s Conundrum: What to Read When Writing
I’m never without a book to read. In fact, one of my recurring fears is being trapped on a long plane flight, or stuck in a motel room, without a book. E-readers and cell phones have taken the edge of this fear in recent years, but it’s never completely gone away. On my nightstand is a stack of books waiting for my attention, and I keep a running list of books I plan to read after those are read and either shelved or returned to the library.
But there is one time when I’m at a loss as to what to read, and that’s when I’m in the middle of writing a book.
Writers learn to write from reading. I’ve always believed this. Writing courses are great, as are writing groups. But if you’re a novelist, nothing is more instructive that reading fiction. The problem is, when I’m writing a book, I need to feel free to write my own book, and I need to feel confident that what I’m writing is worthwhile. Choosing the wrong book to read during this time makes this tougher.
Like all writers, I read on two tracks. On one track I’m reading for pure enjoyment, while on the other I’m evaluating, analyzing, learning. That’s a beautiful paragraph. An incredible scene. A character sketched in a few deft sentences. For me, even after publishing seven novels, it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by what I’m reading. I’m still eager to learn how to be a better writer; I just don’t want to attend class, as it were, while clawing out a new book. When this happens, I find things creeping into my writing that don’t sound like me: metaphors I’m not comfortable with, characters who seem plucked from someone else’s brain, an overall style that bears little relationship to the pages that preceded it. I guess I’m like a sponge that way, absorbing everything I read. Which isn’t a bad thing most of the time. But it’s no good when I’m writing.
The other problem has to do with confidence. Every writer, no matter how accomplished, wonders if the latest book is going to work, if it’s any good. In fact, I think insecurity is often what sends writers back to the manuscript, revising over and over again until, as Norman Mailer once said, “When I read it, I don’t wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write. That’s why it can be hard to read really good writing – literary novels, mysteries, anything well done – while writing. It can be daunting, even down-right discouraging.
Yet I can’t stop reading while writing. So I try to choose carefully. I avoid thrillers, since that’s what I’ve been writing lately. (When between books, I devour thrillers.). In fact, I try to avoid fiction entirely and focus on history and politics. You can a learn lot about good writing from reading non-fiction, but somehow it doesn’t intrude on my own work, and even the best-written non-fiction is not quite as humbling as a well-wrought novel.
Right now, I’m in the middle of writing a suspense novel, set in current day New York City, loosely based on Othello. And I’m in the middle of reading a very interesting book about the history of the Silk Road. It’s dense, long, and very slow going. With luck, I’ll still be on the Silk Road when the first draft of my next book is completed. And then I can turn to the growing stack of novels on my nightstand. I can’t wait.
About Presidents’ Day:
- Paperback: 360 pages
- Publisher: Diversion Publishing (February 7, 2017)
For readers of David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer comes a timely political thriller from the bestselling author of Losing Isaiah.
In this twisting, ferocious novel of suspense, the presidential race has a number of men all clawing to get to the top. Each man has a locked closet of secrets. And one man holds every key.
Julian Mellow has spent his life amassing a fortune out of low-risk / high-reward investments. But the one time in his life he got in over his head, he left another man holding the bag, and made an enemy for life, one who has nothing to lose. Now, Mellow has an even greater ambition–to select the next President of the United States–and to make that man do his bidding, in business and beyond.
It all ties to an African nation where his son died years before, where a brutal dictator still rules supreme, and where a resistance movement lurks in the alleys, waiting for the right time to strike. Margolis spans the globe to weave together a brilliant story of politics at its most venal, where murder is a part of the political process, where anyone’s life is up for sale, and where one man–that bad penny of an enemy–could bring the whole kingdom toppling.
As the new President is inaugurated, Seth Margolis has penned a perfect thriller for the voting public, one that asks who really puts the next person in the White House? And at what cost?
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About the Author:
Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.
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