May 21, 2009

Guest Post: Therese Fowler, Author of Reunion

Welcome to another Savvy Verse & Wit guest post; this time it's Reunion author Therese Fowler discussing her reading habits as a reader and as a novelist. I want to thank Therese for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about her reading. Without further ado, here she is.

Before I was a novelist, I was an avid reader of all kinds of fiction (and some nonfiction). I have a lot of interests and I love to be outdoors, but few things please me better than finding a good book and time to read it. I noticed, though, that once I began writing with the goal of becoming a novelist, I became a different sort of reader, a more critical, less satisfied one—call it an occupational hazard. It has taken some effort to learn how to access my earlier reader-self so that I never lose my love for books and reading.

I thought it might be interesting to list the ways I see books when I'm in reader mode versus writer mode, and came up with these two lists.

Reading as Therese the Avid Reader:

  1. I will read any sort of novel, from science fiction to literary fiction to mystery to romance to mainstream, if someone whose judgment I trust hands the book over and says “Read this!
  2. Critical opinion doesn't sway me much, because I've found that few critics share reader's sensibilities. Similarly, I'm reluctant to read a book just because “everyone” has read it—some of those books have been the biggest disappointments.
  3. My ideal novel is a well-paced, captivating story told artfully. Artful prose itself, though I can admire it, isn't enough to keep me reading. I need to be curious and/or I need to care about what happens next.
  4. I don't believe in making a value distinction between fiction that's entertaining versus fiction that's instructional or enlightening. A “good” novel is any story that captivates and transports me and suits my need or my mood at the time.
  5. No matter what book is in my hands, my ideal reading experience involves a quiet house, a bowl of popcorn, and a glass of wine.

Reading as Therese the Novelist:

  1. I am a much more critical reader than I ever was before I was a writer. Clunky or amateurish writing, implausible plot lines, inconsistent characterization and reader manipulation are things that will keep me from finishing a book I've started. On the other end of the spectrum, storytelling that is too “dear,” meaning too clever, or too self-referential, or too high-brow, or too self-serious is also a real turn-off. I elect not to finish most of the books I pick up.
  2. Popular authors' books are rarely considered for literary awards, but I believe it takes a lot more effort and talent to become and remain a bestselling author—usually writing one or more books every year—than it does to produce one nicely done novel or story collection every few years (at most). True, some of those popular books aren't especially artful, but some are, and deserve award consideration.
  3. My hero is Vladimir Nabokov, whose novel Lolita is a brilliant example of an author doing everything right.
  4. I fear for any author who, following an unexpectedly successful book, gets offered millions of dollars for the next one they'll write. That sort of success is almost always an un-reproducible phenomenon, and that next book is almost certainly going to disappoint a lot of the readers who loved the previous one.
  5. My goal is to tell a different story with every book, and to always immerse my readers in what highly respected author and writing teacher John Gardiner called “the vivid and uninterrupted dream” of a good story, told well. That being the case, I'm perpetually looking for this kind of reading experience, both for pleasure and for instruction—so when I find it, it's nirvana.

Thanks again Therese Fowler. If you liked this guest post, stay tuned for my review of Reunion and a giveaway on May 28.

About the Author:

Therese Fowler has believed in the magic of a good story since she learned to read at the age of four. At age thirty, as a newly single parent, she put herself into college, earning a degree in sociology (and finding her real Mr. Right) before deciding to scratch her longtime fiction-writing itch. That led to an MFA in creative writing, and the composition of stories that explore the nature of our families, our culture, our mistakes, and our desires.

The author of two novels, with a third scheduled for 2010, Therese lives in Wake Forest, NC, with her supportive husband and sons, and two largely indifferent cats. You can visit her website
or her blog.

Don't Forget About These Great Giveaways!

2 copies of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, here; Deadline is May 22 at 11:59 PM EST

1 Signed Copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo, here. Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59PM EST.

2 copies of The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa, here; Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59 PM EST


Anna said...

Interesting guest post. I notice that my reading differs as a reader and a writer, too. I find that some of the books I find entertaining are not the best written, but that's okay. I'm looking forward to your review tomorrow!

Diary of an Eccentric

Dar said...

That was really interesting to read the differences in how you read compared as a reader or a writer. I read to escape so a lot of the time I end up missing some of the stuff others pick up on. lol. I'll be watching for your review tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I really liked her distinction between reading as a reader and an author. Great guest post.

Anonymous said...

i agree with fowler--professional reviews aren't the be-all and end-all and i tend not to be swayed by them. if a cover, blurb, or author interests me, i'll read the book. sometimes, bad reviews have the inverse effect on me--if a blogger or reviewer pans a book, i might pick it up just to see if i agree. i'm contrary like that!

ps. i enjoyed 'reunion' and am looking forward to your review.

Serena said...

Anna: I really loved this guest post, but the review might not be posted for some time today.

Dar: I find that this is true for me as well, reading for pleasure is very different than reading as a writer.

Violetcrush: Thanks for checking out the guest post.

booklinesinker: I'm with you...I sometimes read books because they do have negative reviews...I want to find out myself.

Anonymous said...

Fowler is an N.C.-based author of course -- but I've never covered her in any extensive way. I'll have to link to my own blog shortly.....

Serena said...

ART: Thanks for checking out her guest post...its a great one. I should have my review of her latest book up by Memorial Day.

Jenners said...

This was a wonderful guest post!!! I always like "getting inside' the mind of an author ... and it was cool to see how The Reader compares to The Author! Very well done!!!

bermudaonion said...

This is a great post! I think I read a little bit differently now that I attempt to review the book afterward.

naida said...

great guest post!
'a quiet house, a bowl of popcorn, and a glass of wine'- that sounds like a great setting for reading a good book.

Therese said...

Many thanks, everyone! This was an interesting exercise--and one that I think will help me keep my "avid reader" self from disappearing. The real trick is to learn to read one's own work from the "avid reader" perspective; the writers among you will know how difficult that can be.

Art: I'd love to connect. You can email me (as can anyone) at therese.fowler(at)

Thanks, Serena, for having me here!

Serena said...

Therese: I'm so glad that you enjoyed the comments and your time here on the blog. I will have my review posted on May 28.

Pam said...

I find my reading as an avid reader is similar to Therese's. I'm not a writer however I understand some of her feelings there too. I have to say, though, that Lolita was the first book I ever allowed myself to not finish - I was extremely disturbed while reading it and found it stressful. It may be different if I read it now that I'm older but if not for that book, I'd probably still force myself to finish books I really wasn't enjoying which takes the pleasure out of reading really...

melacan at hotmail dot com

Llehn said...

Great post! Definitely given me something to think about.

Sue W. said...

I love Ms. Fowlers thoughts on both reading as an avid reader and reading as a novelist. I would not have considered those differences. Since I am only an avid reader, it was interesting to see a novelists point of view.


Cheryl S. said...

Great post - I really enjoyed reading her distinctions between reading as herself & reading as an author.


Ashley said...

This book looks like a great read! I gotta get my hands on a copy of it soon.

Alexa said...

great guest post. Someday I hope to be an author, but I hope I can keep my love of books like you try.