Writers Who Read: Elizabeth Cole

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with historical romance author Elizabeth Cole. EC-profile-400h

Who are you?
I’m Elizabeth Cole. I write kissing books—mostly set in the past. They are also very sexy and witty, and have smart, scientifically-minded ladies who are way ahead of their time. So if you despise pithy dialogue or steamy sex scenes, you should totally avoid my stuff.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I think it was fairy tales that got me into reading. I loved my picture books with all the pretty princesses, but then I got into strange and wonderful world of the Brothers Grimm and Perrault and so many others. That led to Tolkien and fantasy! And of course, I grabbed whatever romance novel I could get my hands on, because they were verboten.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
Oh, I love curling up with a book. *Clicks away from window where Daredevil is playing yet again* In all seriousness, it’s sometimes hard for me to read for fun while I’m writing or reading for research. I do have a stack of “reward” books that I read when I need a break…or when my cat needs to cuddle.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
It’s not so much authors that I auto-buy, but subjects that will grab my attention. I’ll look into any fairytale adaptation, any mention of Beowulf, or anything about maps. I also love unexpected pairings. Did you know Kareem Abdul Jabbar just published a Sherlock Holmes novel? I so bought that.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
I may have just answered that, but I love character and voice the most. Give me a snarky narrator facing impossible odds, and I’m in. Give me a scrappy team that fights on the side of good, and I’m there till the end.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Whenever I can relax. I can’t read bit by bit — I need a couple hours, and (preferably) a lot of tea.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
OMG, yes. There are books I read every year, usually at a particular season. Not always the whole thing, but at least a bit. I read the Dark is Rising in early December. Cordelia Underwood gets read in July. I read the Anne of books any time I need to reconnect with a kindred spirit…sometimes you just feel Anneish!

LiS-800wWhich books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Mmm, hard to say. I grew up reading and watching a lot of mysteries, and most of my books have a mystery structure or element, even though they’re romances. I love Agatha Christie — she was so precise with her plots and could be so evocative, sketching out a whole character with just a phrase or two. Sometimes less is more.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
It’s got to have a strong emotional core. A book can have gorgeous prose or a gripping plot, but if I don’t love the characters and feel for them and want those crazy kids to make it through…I put it down. Life’s too short to read books you don’t love.

What are you reading right now?
At this very moment, I’m reading He Drank, And Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe (for the first time), The Rake by Mary Jo Putney (for the *mumble* time), and The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer (that’s for work…no, really!).


Elizabeth Cole is an author of historical romance. She can be found hanging around museums, coffeeshops, and graveyards…but not after dark. She studied English literature and medieval European history in school, but quickly found that not many job postings required knowledge of the quadrivium or the Crusades (shocking, right?). She is a full-time writer now, but before that she worked in bookshops, libraries, archives, or anywhere there were books to be read. When not writing, she cuddles her cat, watches extremely bad movies, or—ideally—does both as the same time.

Find out more about Elizabeth:
Author Page: elizabethcole.co
Newsletter (you should totally sign up for this)
Elizabeth Cole Facebook page
Twitter (@coleheartedgirl) 
Latest novel: Beneath Sleepless Stars

Go here to learn about more romance writers who read!

Writers Who Read: Anna Bradley

Anna BradleyThe Writers Who Read series continues this week with historical romance author Anna Bradley.

Who are you?
My name is Anna Bradley and I’m a historical romance writer. My debut novel, A Wicked Way to Win an Earl, was just released by Berkley on Nov. 3. It’s the first in a four-book series called Sutherland Scandals.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I got hooked on romance with the classics. Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Edith Wharton are some of my favorites. I defy anyone to find a historical romance writer who wasn’t influenced by Jane Austen! Like many historical romance writers, I transitioned into mainstream romance with Georgette Heyer, who is still one of my all-time favorite writers. I’ve read all her books.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
Even before I became a professional writer I was always more likely to pick up a book than turn on the TV. It makes me terribly boring to talk to at parties, because I’m never up on any of the popular TV shows (though I have seen the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice more times than I can count!). I think for me it’s always been that the story in my head is more powerful than anything that’s been visualized for me on TV or in movies.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Julie Anne Long, for sure, because her characters are so well developed and she makes us love them, despite their flaws. I’m a big fan or Loretta Chase, too, because she tends to write strong alpha heroes (my weakness!) and because her books have such rich period details. She knows her history, and I always learn something from reading her books. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Hoyt, Madeline Hunter and Tracy Anne Warren, as well. I also read literary fiction—Kate Atkinson and Neil Gaiman are two of my favorites.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
I really like strong alpha heroes, so I tend to gravitate towards the tall, dark and wicked types who have deep flaws and lessons to learn. Of course that also means a strong heroine who can put the alpha hero in his place! In terms of tropes, I’m a sucker for the ugly duckling turned swan or the overlooked bluestocking heroine. I’m pretty sure I would have been considered a bluestocking myself, had I been born during the right era. I admit to a little weakness for Cinderella-esque stories, too, though with a modern twist where the heroine saves herself, of course. I must have read too many fairy tales as a kid!

What is your ideal time and place to read?
At night, in bed on my Kindle, with the lights off. Without a doubt. I get all tucked into my covers and fall into my story. It’s like therapy!

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
I love this question because I’ve never really considered it before. In general I’m not a re- reader, no. I’m not entirely sure why not, but I think I get so heavily invested in both the suspense of a good story and the emotional payout that it ruins it for me if I already know what’s going to happen. That said, I do have a few select favorite books that I’ve re-read. Austen, of course! I think I’m overdue for a Georgette Heyer festival of re-reading, as well.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I’m sorry to be so predictable, but we’re back to Jane Austen again! I truly love the classic romances. Books like Pride & Prejudice and Mansfield Park are the reason I became a writer. I had to have more of those stories, even if it meant I had to write them myself! I admire a lot of current romance writers, too. I was blown away by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, for example, and Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series was also a major influence on me.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
Deep character arcs. The character have to go through dynamic change during the book. I’m not satisfied unless everyone gets tortured and then comes out better for it in the end! I need a story that’s motivated by character rather than plot, and engaging, fast-paced dialogue.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished Tracy Anne Warren’s The Bedding Proposal, which was a fun read, and I’ve just started Julie Anne Long’s The Legend of Lyon Redmond, which I’ve been dying to read since it released. Oh, and my son and I are on the very last Harry Potter book. I’ll be sad when we’re done – it truly feels like the end of an era to finish the entire Harry Potter series. I think we’re moving onto the Percy Jackson stories next. I still read to my kids even though they’re old enough to read for themselves now. I can’t be a writer and have kids who don’t read, right?


Anna Bradley has been an avid reader, writer and book fondler since childhood, when she pilfered her first romance novel and stole away to her bedroom to devour it. This insatiable love of the written word persisted throughout her childhood in Maine, where it led to a master’s degree in English Literature.

Before she became a writer, Anna worked with a rare books library featuring works by British women writers from the 1600s through the Regency period. Here she indulged in her love of stories, fondled smooth, leather-bound volumes to her heart’s content and dreamed of becoming a writer.

Anna writes steamy historical romance (think garters, fops and riding crops) and squeezes in a career as a writing and literature professor on the side. She lives with her husband and two children in Portland, OR, where people are delightfully weird and love to read.

You can find out more about Anna on her website, including how to get A Wicked Way to Win an Earl.

Want to read about other romance writers who read? Tap here.

TASTE ME, TEMPT ME Anthology Out!

I’m happy to announce that a romance anthology I contributed to, TASTE ME, TEMPT ME: 8 TALES OF SWEET & SPICY ROMANCE, is out today! Taste Me Tempt Me Cover

Sink your teeth into something delicious. Eight contemporary and historical romance authors offer tempting tales of love and lust through time, served hot. Some of these short stories are sweet, and some are spicy, but they’re all perfectly portioned! So pull up a chair and get ready to indulge in a feast of love…

Available for a limited time only, this collection is $0.99, and all profits will go to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada to help feed the hungry.

I’m so happy to be a part of this anthology, and among such great contemporary and historical romance authors. I love how different all these food romance stories are, and I think you will, too. Just maybe don’t read it on an empty stomach.

Want to read more? Tap here to learn more about each tale, and read an excerpt of my story, “A Taste of Ambrosia.” In it, Jack, a young widower in 1963 American suburbia, can’t look away from his sensual new neighbor. Unfortunately, she’s got a recipe he needs. She may have everything he needs.

Grab your copy of TASTE ME, TEMPT ME on Amazon, or check it out on Goodreads!

Writers Who Read: Betsy Talbot

Betsy Talbot headshot -200x300The Writers Who Read series continues this week with contemporary romance author Betsy Talbot.

Who are you?
I’m the author of The Late Bloomers Series and my heroines are all women in their prime. I love exploring what life looks like on the other side of forty—mainly because that is precisely the time my life got really interesting! My husband and I sold everything we owned back in 2010 and started traveling the world, and we’ve ended up living part-time in Spain, where I write my books, and part-time vagabonding around the world. It’s not the sort of life I pictured for myself, which is precisely why I love it so much. I love to be surprised, in books and in life!

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I’ve been reading daily since I first learned how. I remember Nancy Drew and The Boxcar Kids as a kid, but what really drew me into reading was my public library. In a small conservative town, back before everyone had a computer, the local library was my Google. It gave me worlds outside my own, and it helped me to realize I wasn’t so weird, at least when compared to people outside my home town. I was a voracious reader, and my mother gave permission for me to have an adult library card at the age of ten. I remember getting that yellow card and being able to go left in the library instead of right, to where all the big books were! Knowing the world was open to me was the best feeling I’d ever had in my little life, and the way I feel about books today has not dimmed one bit.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
I don’t have a television and live outside the US, so Netflix doesn’t work for me anyway. My main source of entertainment has always been books, though before Kindle I didn’t always have a ready supply of material. Now I can order a book anytime and read it right away, which is great for my entertainment and not so great for my budget!

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
I’ve long been a fan of magical realism, though I don’t find as many favorites in this genre as I’d like. Go-to favorites are Neil Gaiman, Isabelle Allende, Joanne Harris, Salman Rushdie, and of course the late, great Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
Give me a strong but misunderstood woman, preferably one with butt-kicking powers, and I’m on it. I like it when she’s aggressive, even if it doesn’t always work out for her. My latest favorite in this trope is Lily in Best Laid Plans, a woman bent on revenge and going about it in a very unusual way.

Another favorite is a heroine who is out of the norm for her time, whether that’s feminist Claire Fraser traveling back in time to Scotland, the adventurous Una Spencer in Ahab’s Wife pretending to be a boy to get passage on a ship, or Alma the moss expert in The Signature of All Things.

I like historical fiction done well, something that will teach me better than my schoolbooks did. One series I loved was by Conn Iggulden, and it centered on Genghis Khan and his legacy. It was so good it made me plan a trip to Mongolia! (I could say the same for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series convincing me to go to Scotland).

Last, I’m all about the dystopian novel. At the end of the world, all differences are cast aside and the playing field is level. People are all working for the same thing—survival—and I love what it shows about the human spirit, even when it isn’t pretty.

Really, I could talk about books and characters all day: Smart thrillers that hook me from the first sentence, like “The first time I died…”; or the Matthew Storm books with a quirky ensemble cast of characters.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
I love sunny afternoons on the terrace or in my reading chair, but I don’t get as many of those as I’d like. On my days off, I enjoy reading with my morning coffee, and I do read in bed every single night. The best invention ever for voracious reader like me is the Kindle. I can buy as many books as I can afford (or more!) and adjust the backlight so as not to keep my husband up at night while I devour another book into the night.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Usually, no. I do have a few books that are “safe” for rereading because they were not pivotal in my life, but any book that has made a big impact on my life, my thinking, or my evolution as a person remains untouched. I had a long conversation about this once with a man I met in China, and we agreed that rereading an influential book after the moment of change has passed has the strong possibility of devaluing the change. For instance, a book that was powerful to me at 25 that made me take bold moves might seem juvenile in my forties, and it would taint the feelings I have about that time in my life. Better to keep it pure!

If I didn’t have a Kindle and still kept a house full of books, my opinion might be different. But I’ve been so mobile in my adulthood that keeping a large library has been impractical.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Write.Publish.Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant is a good one for me because it promotes writing as a business with a production schedule, as is Do the Work by Stephen Pressfield, which taught me to overcome (mostly) my resistance. Both speak to the job of writing as a job, not a sainted calling, and I like thinking of myself as tradesperson more than an artist. I want people to count on me for reliable production of entertaining books more than a flash of brilliance here or there. Another great book is The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, which taught me the concept of the box of ideas for a project and how to build out a book before I even start writing it.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
I like it when the author leaves me to figure a few things out, when she trusts me to make certain leaps. The worst kind of books are those spoon fed, as if the writer is just a passive part of the writer/reader relationship. In those instances, I could just watch a program. I’d much rather be part of the story, use my own brain to figure some things out and draw conclusions. If there’s no work on my part to enjoy the story, then I simply won’t keep reading it.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a thriller/horror series by Blake Crouch. I’m on book two, which is Locked Doors. I naturally like thrillers, but I’ve also found that I learn a lot about pacing and cliffhangers for my contemporary romance work. It’s hard for me to read romance and learn because it feels too much like copying. But learning from different genres helps me see lessons more clearly and adapt them to my own work without worrying that I’m trying to write like someone else.

And also, I like to scare myself a little. It makes for very intense and a slightly elevated heart rate when I wake up, which is a good start for a day’s romance writing!


Betsy Talbot is a forty-something traveler and author. When she’s not on the road or penning books about love, adventure, and self-discovery, she is hiking, learning flamenco dancing, and drinking wine in a tiny village in Spain with her handsome, long-haired husband Warren. (Watch out, Fabio!)

She is the host of The Quickie Romance Podcast, a weekly show highlighting excerpts from the best romance books in every genre. She’s been told she gives good audio.

Her latest project is The Late Bloomers Series, a five-book romance series about women in their forties. Because women with experience make the best characters—in life and on the page. You can buy the first two books now, or download a free Late Bloomers adventure at BetsyTalbot.com.

Social media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/betsytalbot (@betsytalbot)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/betsygraytalbot
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/betsytalbot/
Quickie Romance Podcast (iTunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-quickie-romance-podcast/id1000372995?mt=2
Website: http://www.BetsyTalbot.com
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1GJ2hIt

Writers Who Read: Karina Sumner-Smith

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with fantasy author Karina Sumner-Smith. Towers Fall Cover FINAL-small

Who are you?
I’m Karina Sumner-Smith. I’m a Canadian fantasy writer and author of the Towers Trilogy (Radiant, Defiant, and the upcoming conclusion, Towers Fall). The series is set in a far-future, post-apocalyptic city where magic is used as currency and ghosts are fuel for living, floating towers. The books tell the story of a homeless girl with no magic who risks everything to save the ghost of her only friend—and how everything changes because of that rescue.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I was lucky to grow up in a book-loving family, so I don’t remember a time before reading. Story time was the best part of going to bed as a child—one of my parents always read to me, and that was worth putting on my pajamas and brushing my teeth and all those other inconveniences. But of all those books, I still remember C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time as favorites.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
Books have always been a part of my daily life—TV, not so much. I’ll admit, I enjoy quite a few shows, from Orphan Black to random things like MasterChef, but watching is a very different experience from reading.

Shows and movies are entertainment. Books are like breathing.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
There are so many! In fantasy and science fiction, I’ll always grab anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, Naomi Novik, Michelle Sagara/Michelle West, Julie E. Czerneda, Robin McKinley, and Daryl Gregory. They’re all authors that I have come to trust over many books, and know that—regardless of the story—I’ll find something in the pages of their books that I’ll fall in love with. With some, it’s their gorgeous prose, their voice, or the rhythms of their writing. For others, it’s the characters that have come to feel like close friends and family.

I have a few other authors that are rapidly climbing onto my auto-buy list. Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor was simply amazing, I was recently blown away by some of N.K. Nemisin’s work, and totally fell in love with Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
I admit it, I’ll always fall for amazing world-building. If you can build a strange and amazing fantasy world, or a different magical system, or a truly startling setting, I’ll give the story a shot on those strengths alone. (Perhaps this is why describing my own stories can be so difficult—I love putting together strange combinations of world/magic/setting into something that feels new and interesting.)

But what really get me are strongly emotional, non-sexual love stories. Stories about found families and life-altering friendships, finding your place in the world through the people you love and who love you. And I say “non-sexual” because when one says “love,” people tend to assume that’s synonymous with sexual attraction and romance, and that’s not quite what I mean. While I enjoy a good romance or two, my kryptonite are the love stories that aren’t about sex.

And if the author’s prose is amazing? All the better. I’ve been known to buy a book on the strength of a beautiful sentence or opening paragraph alone.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Two spring to mind. In the summer, I love taking my book to the beach—I live by Lake Huron, so the beach isn’t far away. I’ll happily spend hours down by the water, reading, listening to the waves. But when the weather’s not co-operating, I have a rocking chair by a window where I’ll sit with a blanket on my lap and a cup of tea on the table by my side. Rare as such days are, nothing’s better than a quiet day with hours in the afternoon to spend reading.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Absolutely! There are plenty of books that I’ll only read once, even if I truly enjoyed reading them—and then there are the books that come to feel like old friends. I have books I’ve read and re-read times beyond counting; books with pages that have become soft and worn from repeated handling.

I also find that there are books that feel like new discoveries each time that I read them. I’ll see gorgeous lines I never noticed, be moved to tears by a character moment that I didn’t even remember from my first reading, even understand the story in a different way. I think that we bring something of ourselves to a book every time we read it, and as we grow and change we find new and different wonders in stories we love.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I think part of being a writer, for me, is always studying other authors’ work, pulling it apart and seeing what makes it work. I think two of the biggest influences for me early on in my development, though, were Sean Stewart’s Mockingbird and Octavia E. Butler’s Wild Seed.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
For me, it’s a combination of character, voice, a different idea or interesting plot, interesting story structure, and/or beautiful writing. A book with only one element will probably languish; one with two of the above will likely be read through. Three or more? I’ll be hooked.

Truth is, I love a wide variety of books in a number of genres, and sometimes truly unexpected things will leap out and grab me. I try many more books than I finish—this is part of what makes libraries, and free ebook previews, and luxurious times to browse through the bookstore so wonderful. I try to be open to new works and new writers especially; I never quite know what I’ll fall in love with next.

What are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m in the middle of quite a few books. I’m re-reading an old favorite, Julie E. Czerneda’s A Thousand Words for Stranger, in preparation for her November release of the first in a related trilogy, This Gulf of Time and Stars. I’m also about halfway through Kameron Hurley’s genre-bending fantasy novel, The Mirror Empire.

For nonfiction, I’m reading Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident about the strange deaths of ten Russian hikers in the 1950s, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery, and philosophy book In the Dust of This Planet.

Like I said, I love variety!


Karina Sumner-Smith is the author of the Towers Trilogy: Radiant (Sept 2014), Defiant (May 2015), and Towers Fall (Nov 2015). In addition to novel-length work, Karina has published a range of science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories that have been nominated for the Nebula Award, reprinted in several Year’s Best anthologies, and translated into Spanish and Czech. She lives in Ontario near the shores of Lake Huron with her husband, a small dog, and a large cat. Visit her online at karinasumnersmith.com.

Writing a Goth Rom-Com

Crazy-Sexy-Ghoulish-Cover PDFI’m over at the romance site Lady Smut today talking about gothic romance and writing CRAZY, SEXY, GHOULISH as a goth rom-com. Check it out!

I’m happy to announce I’ll also be regularly posting on Lady Smut the first Friday of each month on romance, gender, sexuality, and pop culture. I’m so happy to be a part of this fun site and group of authors!

Also, if you’re not already on my mailing list, you might want to join! Later this week I’ll be sending out a special alternate scene from the novella to mailing list subscribers only. It’s my Halloween treat. (It pairs well with mini Snickers bars.)

Failing My To-Be-Read Pile

This is an approximate picture of my TBR at the moment--or maybe just the contents of my brain.

This is an approximate picture of my TBR at the moment–or maybe just the contents of my brain.

I’m well on my way to reaching my goal of whittling down the ebooks I’ve purchased from 20 to 15 by New Year’s–if by “well on my way,” I mean I’ve read three and bought, oh, about nine more.

For something that gives me as much joy, relaxation, and sanity as reading, I’ve written here before about all the ways reading kind of stresses me out, and this is no exception. Happiness is a pile of books, but it’s sometimes also overwhelming to see, to wonder when I’ll get through it all…not to mention justify to myself all those ebooks I purchased so I can buy more ebooks I see on sale (because I will).

Do you other readers have this issue? If not, I want to be you when I grow up.

This summer, when faced with a growing number of books on my Kindle app, I thought, Hey, these books I bought? I should actually read them all! Because, it’s like when you rarely visit the city you live by unless you’ve got family in town. There’s a part of my brain that was like, I’ve got these awesome books now to read. And then I just kept acquiring.

So I made a pact to myself to read the awesome I already owned and go from twenty to fifteen ebooks by 2016, and then maybe hit the single digits by next summer. And so, around book club picks and friends’ releases, I started trucking through my purchased ebooks.

But, guys? There were suddenly all these free, fantastic-sounding novellas out there by new-to-me authors. Contemporaries with unique premises, fun paranormals, tales of geek love. I bought some of them. I might’ve wanted to buy them all.

(PEOPLE. Stop writing things. And stop making them so affordable. Wait, don’t.)

Panic building a few weeks ago as I realized my TBR dreams were slipping from my grasp, I employed new strategies. I downloaded some of the ebooks from iBooks so they weren’t in my Kindle app and thus didn’t really count (right?). (Plus the reading experience in the iBooks app? Divine.) I thought of portioning some books off between two TBR collections in my Kindle app, maybe high- and low-priority, and just trying to keep the high under a certain amount. Then, as a last-ditch strategy, I removed some books from my collection that I’m not as excited to read (usually non-romances). I figured I could search for them if I wanted to read them in the future, but, more importantly, doing this kept my official TBR down.

Today I have 24 books in my TBR collection in Kindle. For those of you counting at home, that means my goal of going from 20 to 15 has gone in the opposite direction.

Is this a failure of my will? Or a success that the book world is full of such great reads? I guess it all depends on your viewpoint. Maybe I should adopt the latter.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find time to read the 31 book samples I’ve downloaded by Dec. 31st…

Writers Who Read: Nicki Salcedo

nicki s 018-2691894433-OThe Writers Who Read series continues this week with author Nicki Salcedo.

Who are you?
I’m a happy writer. I love finding stories and tales of the unexpected. I was an English and creative writing major in college. I’ve always wanted to tell stories that were both complex and accessible. I read all different genres, and I write all different genres but my heart is with romance. All of my stories have a romantic element. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America and a Past President of Georgia Romance Writers. I’ve spent the past few years trying something new by writing a column for Decaturish.com. It is still creative, but non-fiction. The truth is much harder to write than fiction. I like the challenge of writing outside of my comfort zone.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I read Louis L’Amour and Harlequin Romance novels when I was a kid. I read lots of poetry. Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, E.E. Cumming. I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. These are stories of romance and nostalgia. These are the books that have impacted the kind of writer that I am today.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
I don’t watch TV. I don’t have time. I travel a lot, so I have lots of excuses to read. I still read books the old fashioned way – on paper. I have many favorite authors, but I love finding a book by authors I don’t know. You don’t know what to expect. The journey is different when you read an author for the first time. New books keep me reading.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Malcolm Gladwell, Kresley Cole, Lisa Kleypas. I’m curious about human behavior, and I love a good romance particularly a series. Why are they auto-buys? They deliver good stories consistently. These days, I look for new authors more than go to familiar favorites. I like the thrill of discovering a new voice.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
I’m into characters. I enjoy books about people in seemingly quiet situations that have a complex emotional resonance. I love interesting use of language. I don’t think I’ve read two books from the same genre this year. I’ve read everything from thriller to romance to literary to comedy. All the ones I enjoyed had interesting characters and were beautifully written.

I used to be all historical romance or all character-driven literary fiction. But now I’m going through a thriller phase. I never try to guess the ending or outsmart the author. I did not read mysteries growing up, so these stories surprise to me. I’m try to read outside of my comfort zone when I can. It’s not easy. I’m still tempted by dashing dukes!

What is your ideal time and place to read?
On an airplane. I don’t get a lot of quiet reading time at home! The selection at an airport bookstore is limited. I don’t make a habit of reading best-sellers, but as a writer it is good to know what sells and what I like.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I re-read, if not all then part of, most of my favorite books each year. I can open a book to a favorite passage and see if it still means the same thing or still evokes the same emotions as the first time I read it. Also, reading is how I improve my writing. It is better than any writing class you can take.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing? All Beautiful Things 104(1)
Beloved by Toni Morrison, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Recently, I was influenced by Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Bulter. It impacted the way I looked at characters and motivation. It’s a great book that’s beautifully written.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
When I clutch it to my heart and have to find someone to read passages to. I enjoy stories with satisfying endings. I like authors who don’t have predictable endings or a crazy twist endings. Satisfying is ending the book the way the story should end. Sometimes that means happy. Sometimes that means tragic or sad. As a writer, I understand that it is hard to start a story, but it is infinitely more important to finish it correctly.

What are you reading right now?
Tanya Michael’s If She Dares. Black Phoenix by Allan Kemp. The Martian by Andy Weir. Yes, I read three books at a time. Why not!


Nintersections_fin1_wbluricki Salcedo is an Atlanta native and graduate of Stanford University in California. Her romantic suspense novel All Beautiful Things earned her the Maggie Award of Excellence and a Golden Heart© nomination. She writes a weekly column for the Atlanta based newsite Decaturish.com. Intersections is a collection of these columns about life in the South. Nicki has four children, a husband, and a cat named after a famous baseball player. She thinks everyone should write and loves connecting with readers. You can find her on Twitter @nickisalcedo, Instagram @Nickisalcedo6, Facebook, or on her website.

Want to learn about the favorite books of other romance writers who read? Click here.

What’s the Creepiest Creature in Literature?

Fictional creatures have the power to intrigue us, amuse us, delight us–and terrify us beyond belief. I asked the authors in the Writers Who Read interview series a simple question, What is the creepiest creature in literature? Here are their choices for the scariest non-human entities, drawn from classic horror to children’s books, that are trapped (we hope) between pages.

Ann Gelder, author of BIGFOOT AND THE BABY Dracula
Creepiest creep in literature? I’m going to have to go with the obvious. Especially when he literally creeps:

I saw the whole man emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings. At first I could not believe my eyes. I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow; but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion. I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones, worn clear of the mortar by the stress of years, and by thus using every projection and inequality move downwards with considerable speed, just as a lizard moves along a wall. 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the great creepy crawlies of all time, because he’s uncanny—very human and also very not. He’s a titled aristocrat with refined manners (except when, well, you know) and a castle. He’s also an animal, and supernatural, defying the laws of reality. He can’t be pinned down, yet he seems to be everywhere. He’s the monster in all of us, which we fear we can’t control.

Tiffany Reisz, author of THE ORIGINAL SINNERS series
The creepiest creature in all of literature has to be the Jabberwocky. I recall very clearly the day I was blithely reading Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There and enjoying being back in Wonderland and then turning the page and OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT THING?! Sir John Tenniel’s illustration could have simply created your standard dragon creature but then he did the creepiest thing an illustrator can do with an animal–he gave it human teeth. I’m still a little horrified by it, but now the Jabberwocky and I are on good terms. I gave “Jabberwocky” to my Original Sinners series heroine Mistress Nora to use as her safe word.

Lisa Barr, author of the award-winning FUGITIVE COLORS
I’m terrified even writing these words: Who’s Afraid of Mary Worth? Mary Worth (aka: Mary Worthington, Bloody Mary) — a so-called urban legend that haunted my childhood. Whenever we had sleepover parties — in between “light as a feather, stiff as a board” — The evil MW always made her bloody entrance. Someone would inevitably bring up this frightening character and I would, of course, be up all night clutching my blankets and stuffed animal. The gist of the story is this: Mary Worth was once a beautiful young girl who was in a terrible accident that left her face permanently disfigured. No one wanted to look at her — and the damage was so horrendous that she was not even allowed to see her own reflection in a mirror. One night she accidentally glimpsed upon her horrible face and broke down screaming for her “old reflection” — vowing to take revenge on anyone who looked at her or tried to find her reflection in a mirror. Many tales were wrapped around this tragic (and in my mind) all-too-true tale. Blood, stabbings, torture, evil girls. (Perhaps, Mary was the prequel to Mean Girls…). To make matters worse, my bedroom closets were full-length door mirrors facing my bed. So every night I would sleep with my sweatshirt hoodie on tightly to ward away Mary Worth from looking at me in my own mirrors. Hello, therapy! There are so many scary characters in literature and film — and let it be known, that aside from Rosemary’s Baby, Halloween, Frankenstein, Poltergeist, and The Exorcist — indeed, all nightmare-worthy — NONE has ever affected me as much as Mary Worth.

Eddy Webb, author of WATSON IS NOT AN IDIOT

Hands down, the creepiest monster to me when I was growing up was the Hound of the Baskervilles. Part of the reason why it’s so creepy is that nearly all of the time it’s “off-screen,” lurking on the edges of the story, waiting to pounce. The Hound is only actually seen when it is confronted at the climax, but how people talk and think about the Hound is far scarier.

Maureen O’Leary Wanket, author of HOW TO BE MANLY, THE ARROW, and the forthcoming THE GHOST DAUGHTER
The creepiest creature in all of literature is the malevolent shape-shifting lady in Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, along with her creeptastic little minions. I return to Ghost Story for everything I love about good horror fiction. The story builds gradually and with a solid foundation in character, place, and history.  It’s also centered on a fiction writer which is a bonus to me. A group of old men gather to tell ghost stories, inviting the nephew of one of the friends to chronicle their tales. It turns out they are to the one haunted by the creepiest creature ever invented in the form of a sexy girl they think they killed by mistake. I reread Ghost Story now and then, and am terrified and riveted anew each time. It’s an ambitious novel featuring a creepy creature of such insidious evil that it will hurt your sleep.

Michelle Falkoff, author of PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD
My creature isn’t exactly a creature–it’s a little kid who turns into something very, very old. Stephen King’s “The Jaunt” completely messed me up as a kid, and it still does now. Ricky, the kid, is on a trip to Mars, and his dad is explaining the science behind getting there, which involves everyone on the ship being put into a sleep-state so they can move through time without aging. But Ricky decides to stay awake. What he turns into is one of the scariest things I’ve read, and the image of him cackling, “Longer than you think, Dad!” is nightmare-inducing.

Rita Arens, author of THE OBVIOUS GAMEhardcover_prop_embed
My vote for the creepiest creatures in literature are the hedge animals in Stephen King’s The Shining. Much creepier in the book than in the movie. I was particularly disturbed by the rabbit, because rabbits are not supposed to be creepy. They are at the very bottom of the food chain. If rabbits are scary to you, where do you now sit in that chain?

Andrea Cumbo-Floyd, author of THE SLAVES HAVE NAMES
I’m going with “The Raven” from Poe’s poem by that name. Here’s why: When one of the smartest creatures in the world comes clothed in black and sits by you as you write, a writer is bound to fear.  Add to that the single word “nevermore” uttered in what must be a creaky cackle of a voice, and the blood races.  When terror comes as the everyday, the depth of fright is all the richer.

Karina Sumner-Smith, author of the TOWERS TRILOGY
Creepiest creature in all of literature? Oh, that’s easy: the evil doppelganger. This trope takes on different aspects, from a true doppelganger to evil twins to the twisted reflection one sees in the mirror. Doppelgangers make us the enemy—and let us know that if things were slightly different, we might be the cruel hunter and not the hunted. A great example is in Kameron Hurley’s recent fantasy novel The Mirror Empire, where people are at war with versions of themselves from an alternate reality. Forget monsters and ghosts; the thing we’re truly afraid of is ourselves.

Laura Madeline Wiseman, author of WAKE and other collections
In middle school, I read Steven King’s It and felt fairly creeped out by the thought of clowns, of what floated under the streets and what might speak to me through the gutters as I walked home from school. I also read Dracula, but I wasn’t scared of him. I read stories about mummies, ghosts, ghouls, and witches, but never felt my skin prickle for such characters made to have human fears. As a girl, it was the movies and their representation of monstrous creatures that made me sleepless and wondering about bumps in the night. More recently, in Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, the image of the lost friend, ghost-like dashing through the bush, made me feel terrified, as did the wound of the protagonist in Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. But if anything, I’ve always been terrified of the knocking in the “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe, that sound, that beating, that terrible reminder of a wrong.


If you’d like to read more scary story recommendations from this group, check out last year’s post, Writers Who Read: Scariest Stories Ever.

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