Obsessed I tell ya

Good morning, lovers of mystery. It’s finally(!) sunny in Northeastern Pennsylvania. After a week of rain, sunlight once again has found our plants. My grass is wet, although greener, and our county-wide burn ban has been lifted. So yay! for decreasing our risk of forest fires. Anyhoo, today is also my daughter’s second birthday. I’m going to take her out for ice cream and then snap a quick photo in the parking lot where she was born — a story for an entirely different post.

Today, I want to talk about reading for enjoyment, or lack thereof, or when you become so obsessed with a book/character/series/author that you can’t think of anything else. I’m at this point. You see, in addition to writing mysteries, I write young adult. And right now, I just finished the fourth book in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Even if you’re not a fan of YA, read her work, and then send me an email thanking me. She’s amazing.

The series, which (sadly/happily?) is all wrapped up, chronicles the story of a psychic’s daughter, her four prep-boy friends, and their quest to wake a king from a centuries-old sleep. It’s written in present day, but invokes a feeling that magic, in all its form, is as real as this blog post you’re reading. The writing is exquisite and the characters are complex, sentinent beings that haunt my dreams.

I finished the last book ten days ago and promptly started to re-read the first book. I’ve never done that before. Even with Happy Potter. When a series is done, I mourn the loss, so-to-speak, but then I move on. I can’t seem to do that this time. I’m not done with these characters. In large part, this might be my writerself trying to unearth the magician’s secrets. I’m examining Stiefvater’s metaphors, her specific use of imagery, her turn of phrase, how she describes what her characters feel without being cheesey — all in order strengthen my own work. I’m re-reading passages wondering why I had never thought to invoke a similar technique. It’s both encouraging and demoralizing all at once.

As a reader, is there a book or series you just can’t give up? Something that invades your thoughts constantly? As a writer, is there an author you try to emulate? Or an author who teaches you the craft through their work? Who is your obsession?

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Author: Kimberly G. Giarratano

I'm a YA author. And mom of 3. I'm also tired. Very, very tired.

13 thoughts on “Obsessed I tell ya”

  1. Yay for sun and no forest fires indeed. We finally got a few sunny days at the other end of Pennsylvania and we are very happy.

    I think Harry Potter is my obsession. I re-read the series annually, usually over the summer. And every time, I get something out of it. Like you, I finished book 7 and immediately went back to the beginning and said, over and over, “Oh, THAT’S why she did that.” Simply amazing.

    The Raven Cycle looks interesting. I’ll have to check it out further.

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  2. I don’t think I’ve ever had a reading obsession in terms of series. There are a number of writers that I can’t wait for the next book and will preorder the second I discover the books are available, but I have found that whether or not I’m ready to let go of a series depends on how the author wraps it up.

    I do read and re-read books by Laura DiSilverio. I have definitely learned a ton about perfect use of first person from her work. Someday I hope to meet her and thank her in person!

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  3. Looking forward to that post on the parking lot! Sun and ice cream–perfect. I used to obsess on a few authors, but these days I obsess more on sampling as wide a variety as I can. So many books, so little time.

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  4. Thanks for you post and congratulations on some green! It’s greening in Alaska as well. I’m obsessed with the N.Irish writers, Stuart Neville and Adrian McKinty. Neville, who was short-listed for an Edgar a couple of years ago, writes Belfast Noir. Anthony-nominated Adrian McKinty’s The Troubled series is traditional mystery with some sex. To study their writing styles, I – on occasion – sit down and type word for a word from one of their books. I’ve read and re-read their books. I’m also working through Tana French. Oodles of character in all three books plus ripping good stories. For the Irish books, I get a lot more out of them listening to them on audio the first time around.

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  5. Same here, Sue … I want to hear Kimberly’s parking lot story! As for rereading, I don’t much. I carry too much of the guilt gene and there are SO MANY BOOKS! And did you realize new ones are coming out all the time?? Crazy. I do, however, go back and study books to see how an author did something, especially if I find myself still mulling a week or so after I read it. Time Traveler’s Wife comes to mind. But I also fall into the ‘encouraging and demoralizing’ hole often enough to avoid it.

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  6. What a fun post, Kimberly! And, yes, you’ll definitely have to share your parking lot story! I love rereading books, both for enjoyment and study. I few I’m obsessed with are Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (for voice), The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (for world building), Wallbanger by Alice Clayton (for humor), Front Page Fatality by LynDee Walker (for constructing an edgy cozy), and, of course, Harry Potter (because Harry Potter). I have a hankering to reread The Raven Cycle too after finishing Raven King; Steifvater is such a brilliant writer! Have fun celebrating your daughter’s bday 🙂

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  7. I have to point out that I typically don’t re-read books. There’s so little time to read everything I want usually. I took my daughter to Kohls and the diner and now she’s napping. I’d say she’s content.

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  8. Happy birthday to your daughter!

    Don’t really get obsessed as in 24/7 rumnations, but there are books that I recommend to everyone hoping that lively discussion will follow…does that count? Back in the day, Princess Bride by William Goldman. More recently, ALL of the Amanda Cross books and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Even more recently, Soulless by Gail Carriger.

    Enjoyed your post!

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  9. As a reader, I try not to become too attached to one series of books to the exclusion of others because there are so many I like. I do admit, however, that once I find a series or author that I like, I read everything from that author and eagerly anticipate the next in the series. If it is an author new to me, I go back and read the previous books in the series.

    Many book series just go on and on with the characters getting older and usually better as time goes by (Bosch, Elvis Cole, to name just a few). Others are just stuck in time but wonderful (Kinsey). However, there are some (I will not mention) that do not seem to advance as books are added to the franchise. They just seem to be the same plot with different “bad guys,” and there can’t be that many people who die in some small town. I just don’t read any more of these after two or three.

    Yes, I do become attached to your characters. I think of them as real people, ones I might run into at the grocery store. However, sometimes they become like the annoying neighbor down the street that no one wants to invite to the July 4th party this year. How do you manage your characters?

    How do authors know when a series has “run its course” and it is time to move on? How do you balance the attachment that readers have to characters with the need to provide fresh, new reading experiences?

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  10. Mysteries are an interesting genre because they can go on for 20 books — there’s always a new mystery to solve. But certain series clearly have an end and this one did. I rally for a spin-off.

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  11. I don’t re-read books. I have some favorites I read before seriously writing. I’m afraid if I go back to them now some of the magic will be lost. Or worse, I won’t enjoy them.

    Here’s something from one of my favorite authors:

    “As she descended the stairs from the balcony, thick fog flowed behind her and billowed around her as if it were the train of a magnificent white dress. In the courtyard, she could barely see the bricks under foot, and the bungalow seemed to drift like a ghost ship on a shrouded sea, its lines visible but its substance unconvincing.”

    That was near the beginning of ASHLEY BELL by Dean Koontz. And then this near the end:

    … “You should have more faith in fiction. It lets you come sideways at the truth, which is the only way anyone ever gets near it.”

    Even Dean Koontz doesn’t hit a homerun all of the time. I like some of his books far more than others. But I do appreciate how he can string words together.

    One thing I learned from Koontz is to slow down the anxious, mood-building, tension. While a reader is still likely to read that passage quickly, a writer needs to do her best to draw it out and make it last.

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  12. Love this post, Kim, and the parking lot teaser! Realized I left the page before I finished my comment yesterday. My little boy just turned two as well. He’s climbing the counter to try to get an old brownie right now. Probably the same reason I didn’t finish the comment yesterday.

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