Day 27 Christina Dodd – Be Decadent & Read

 Christina Dodd tells you THE GUILTY SECRET TO WRITING A BOOK

Do you want to write a book? Then you need to know the one, really important (and guilty) secret that will help you get published. Brace yourself. Here it comes … You need to read. A lot.

I was appalled when I read this statistic: Eighty percent of Americans want to write a book, but only fifty-seven percent have read one in the past Christina_Dodd_Virtue_Fallsyear. How is this possible? If you don’t read, how will you be able to write a book? How will you know story structure? How will you understand the character archetypes? How will you discover what moves a reader to laughter, to tears, to love, if you don’t take that journey yourself?

In grade school, I was one of those snot-nosed kids who learned to read quickly and never stopped. (Whenever I say this, a lot of my readers wave their hands and say, “I was a snot-nosed kid, too!” Yes, us readers hang together.) I read indiscriminately all the way through high school — classics, Harlequin romances, Broadway plays, the Little House books, you name it. I would steal the time from homework and TV and friends, and spend the time reading. (I did not have to steal time from sports — I was also one of those snot-nosed kids with glasses and braces, and I ducked when a baseball came at my face.) Like everyone else in the world, I grew up and life interfered (work, husband, children.) I had to pare down the time I could spend reading, so I concentrated on what I loved best, which was romance: historical and contemporary, first person or third person, suspense or paranormal. As long as the plot appealed to me, I didn’t care when or where it was set, I’d read it.

Eventually all this romance reading gave me a brilliant idea. I thought, “I can write a book! How hard could it be?” thus proving I had two of the attributes of a writer — a large ego and very little sense of reality.

Actually what all those years of reading gave me a natural sense of how plot, characterization, motivation and conflict work together to create a story. Reading taught me to write in a way no writing lessons or writing books could do. I wrote for ten years before I got published, and during that time reading got to be guilty pleasure. It was tough to justify the time spent reading when I should be working on a writing a book in the hopes of someday grabbing the gold ring — or at least the signed check. But not only did reading teach me how to write, I found that putting words in fed the flow of words out. It seemed that reading fed the creative well and if I didn’t read, I’d find myself staring at a blank computer screen with no idea how to fill it.

Finally, after ten years of trying, I got The Call and my first book was published. Being a published author includes demands on my time I’d never bella terraimagined: publicity and email and blogging and touring, things I’m thrilled to do because they mean I’m a popular author. But my reading time has been seriously compromised and that breaks my heart. Writing fills some of that void; VIRTUE FALLS is my fiftieth full-length novel, and as I wrote it, I gasped in fear, laughed with my characters, suffered and hoped, struggled and fell in love again.

But while writing is the best job in the world, it’s still a job. I work fifty weeks a year, writing 1000-2000 words a day. Sometimes that writing takes me three hours. Sometimes that takes me ten. And if I’m hot (and by that, I mean the writing is going well), I don’t stop at 2000, I keep going. I deal with promotion every day, and when I have a new book out, the hours spent on promotion expand.

For me, reading a book is a vacation from real life. Reading a book immerses me in exotic worlds and different sensibilities. It’s … fun.

So there’s the secret to writing a book: Read to learn the basics of pacing and plotting and what’s involving in creating successful suspense. Read to learn how to craft a character arc that takes your heroine on a romantic journey that leads her to become the triumphant woman she was meant to be. Immerse yourself in the kinds of stories you want to write — and then put your rear in the chair and write them.

Don’t want to write a book? Reading a wonderful book is a decadent pleasure. Be decadent. Read now.

Were you a snot-nosed kid who read for pleasure? Or did you find the joy of reading later … when you were a snot-nosed adult? How many books have you read in the last year?

Recommendations:

On Goodreads, I reviewed Jayne Ann Krentz‘s upcoming release, THE HOT ZONE. Hint: I loved it. I love all her Jayne Castle futuristics, and this one is “Halloween on Rainshadow Island.” It is so much fun!

Jayne Castle fans — THE HOT ZONE is a definite buy.

If you’ve never read Jayne Castle, it’s a fun place to start.You can read my Goodreads review here.


Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

Getting married. My husband and I got married very young (wow, we were stupid), but now we’ve been married since the earth’s crust cooled. We’ve had a lot of good years … and quite a few bad ones, too. It’s an ongoing process. I think getting married is like having children. There’s no way you know what you’re getting into, but it is the biggest adventure in life.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I was too dumb to know how difficult writing is. Once I’d been working at it long enough, I couldn’t quit, so here I am fifty books later, and it’s an incredibly satisfying profession.

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

When I was six, I started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, and I never looked back. I love THE LORD OF THE RINGS; in fact, my husband and I named my daughters after the female characters. I read research books for fun. My favorite book ever is either CHARLOTTE’S WEB or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Or maybe the HARRY POTTER series. And of course, I read romance of all kinds.

Christina is generously giving away SECRETS OF BELLA TERRA, REVENGE AT BELLA TERRA and ONCE UPON A PILLOW to one U.S. winner, apologies to international friends (enter below).


jddebaehNew York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd www.christinadodd.com builds worlds filled with suspense, romance and adventure and creates the most distinctive characters in fiction today. Her fifty+ novels — suspense, paranormals, and historicals — have been translated into twenty-five languages, featured by Doubleday Book Club, recorded on Books on Tape for the Blind, won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart and RITA Awards and been called the year’s best by Library Journal. Dodd herself has been a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle — her mother was totally impressed. On September 9, the first full-length book in her new suspense series, VIRTUE FALLS, will arrive on the shelves in hardcover and on your e-readers. With more than fifteen million of her books in print, her legions of fans always know that when they pick up a Christina Dodd book, they’ve found, “an absolute thrill ride of a book!”

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  • MK

    Oh yes, I was absolutely one of those snot nosed kids! I would lock myself in the bathroom or hide so I could read Undisturbed.
    I’ve read 433 books so far this year. That statistic makes me want to weep- that so many don’t read!

  • TrishJ

    Yup, I was one of those snot nosed kids in the corner of the library devouring all the books the librarian would let me read. I have 4 children, only one is a reader, and now HIS daughter is a snot nosed kid with her nose buried in a book. I read everyday. I guess I average about 2-3 books a week. I read mostly romance, but I like suspense and thrillers too. Just give me a HEA and a kiss somewhere in the book, and I am okay.

  • Rochelle

    Oh how I love to read. It is such a pleasure. My mother passed along her love of reading to all of her children, so yes I was a huge reader at an early age. Now, as an adult, between life and work, I still manage to make time to read. I ‘ve read about 120 books in the past year. Such a treat!

  • Toni Whitmire

    I just love to read anything I could get my hands on.

  • ckiku24

    Can never have to many books. Reading is something that I don’t have to do, but something I love. Love Christina’s books.

  • Fern Martin

    My mom could never figure out how I could read and do the dishes as a kid. I was one of those kids who always had a book in my hands. Candle in the Window is one of my earliest and favorites of your books. Thank you for giving me more places to spend my time.

  • Jan Hall

    Reading has always been my passion. I always have a book with me. It takes a lot more than reading for me to be a writer. I can’t write. You keep writing and I will keep reading. 🙂

  • Ashley Morris

    I’ve always loved to read. I remember being so excited in elementary school when we had mandatory silent reading time. Yep, I was that kid.

  • Shelby Forbes

    I’ve always loved to read. In grade school, I always entered and was chosen to attend the Young Authors conventions. I just need to get over the self – imposed hurdle and start writing! Thanks for the tips!

  • Carrie

    I’ve been reading as long as I can remember. I thank my mother for instilling that love in me. I’d rather have a book in my hands than the television on anytime. Two early romances that stick with me are The Black Lyon and A Candle in the Window.
    I love Candle because the heroine isn’t miraculously cured of her blindness in the end– but she is still happy

  • Sue G.

    I was the kid who went to bed, went under the covers, pulled out my Girl Scout flashlight and read for a few hours more! I was that way until I had kids. When they were little, I was lucky to read one or two books a year! Now my kids are older and I am back to reading 2 – 3 books a week. I love to read! Hubby doesn’t get it…he’d rather play games on his phone.

  • LisaVH

    I was the kid who spent summers between school years reading all the books that I didn’t have time for because of homework and other things that got in the way.

  • Robin Driscoll

    I, too, loved to read as a kid. When I started my family I stopped, but have now been reading a lot of new books on a variety of different topics.

  • Shannon Finger Murphy

    I love to read and always have! I can’t imagine how hard it must be to churn out all these wonderful books. Thank you to you wonderful authors who keep us happy.

  • Toni Linenberger

    ::waves hand:: snot nosed kid here also. 🙂 I always have a book. I put 100 books as my goal for the year on Goodreads. I’m on 83 now. I’m eagerly awaiting Jayne’s new book. Halloween on Rainshadow sounds wonderful!

  • Kathy Setter

    I’ve been reading since early grade school – thank goodness for those Scholastic book orders! I’m never without a book. A few years ago I was on tap for jury duty and was given a 10 page questionnaire for a particularly difficult trial coming up and this was to help in jury selection; one of the questions was “List all the books you’ve read in the last year.” My response? “I read an average of 3 books a week and couldn’t possibly list all I’ve read in the last year.” I did list the type of books I read and favorite authors. i was not chosen to sit on that jury – I wonder what that means?? Thanks Christina for great stories!

  • Anna

    I’ve been reading pretty much as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t reading to myself (and I’m sure I wasn’t precocious enough for that at age 3), someone was reading to me. When I was 4, and had a new baby brother, my mom started reading the Little House books to me during my brother’s naptime. It was our “special time.”

  • ptclayton2

    I love reading romance since I was in Jr. High went to my grandmas for the weekend and bought my first book left it at her house as 1 time took 1 back to my foster home and my foster mother called me all kinds of names. My granddaughter who is 12 loves to read also and I am so proud of her I see her as being as big a reader as I am .

  • Stephanie Goode

    I didn’t start reading romance until shortly before college. A friend had lent me one of hers months before that I hadn’t yet read; I felt guilty returning it still unread, so I dashed through it quickly. I’ve been reading romance since, though I still love sf/fantasy and mystery as well.

  • @K_Cleapor

    Since as long as I can remember, I have always loved reading! But once I got a little older I gravitated toward reading romance books. & there are several authors that I read but only a few of them have series that I cannot get enough of!!! Like Christina Dodd, Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter, Lynsay Sands, Cassie Edwards, & several more. My husband says im addicted to books because I practically always have one in my hands. I just smile and reply: “Gladly!”

  • mariannewestrich

    I was the snot-nosed kid who read every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery more than once. But then life became too busy and it was many years later as a snot-nosed adult that I returned to my love of reading. Now I average 3-5 novels per week and couldn’t be happier or nerdier! 😎

  • osborne601

    While my kids were small I didn’t get to read as much as I would have liked. Life just got in the way. I’m so happy now to have more time to read and experience books. And while I have never written a book, I can’t imagine how someone who doesn’t read can write. Well, they may write but it probably would not be worth reading! And believe me, I have run across some of those books, and wondered if they author even has a real grasp of the English language, much less how to move a plot along. So thank you for the secret, because I do believe you’re correct!

  • Sandra Boen

    Reading has saved my life!

  • Michele Hayes

    When I was younger I read Nancy Draw and Hardy Boy mysteries with my friends. I am now retired and read about five books a week so not sure how many I’ve read this year, but quite a few. 🙂 I have no interest in writing a book, tho. It would take time away from my reading.

  • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

    When I was a kid, I would sneak a flashlight into bed at night so I could read under the covers. After I got my Driver’s license, I had to ask my parents how to get places because I was always reading a book in the car! lol I never go anywhere without a good book.

  • Donna Zmrazek

    I agree with you that reading is decadent. I truly love books and reading!

  • Patty Vasquez

    Jayne Ann Krentz’s Jayne Castle books are loads of fun! Her dust bunnies are a hoot. My husband and I got married in Las Vegas; it was a second marriage for both of us and we didn’t want any fuss. Friends ask us if we went gambling afterward. I still tell them getting married a second time was gamble enough for both of us! Twenty-four years later, I can also say it has definitely been an adventure.

  • Carrie

    I couldn’t imagine not reading books, they are such a vital part of my life. I’ve been reading them for as long as I can remember. Curious George, Bernstein Bears, Little House on the Prairie, the Mandy books, Nancy Drew, and eventually romance novels when I hit my teens.

  • Erica H

    I don’t know about snot nosed, but I read ALL the time! I also played sports 🙂

  • Angee Bartlett

    I started reading Andre Norton when I was 9 and have progressed through every genre in the half century since (oh gods I could have gone a decade without saying that!) My mother-in-law gave me my first Christina Dodd book and between the two of us we have them all. I gave her the first dust bunny novel and now she has blossomed into a full-fledged paranormal reader. WOW! I appreciate the time you devote to your craft.

  • Quinn Fforde

    Your second paragraph is a spot-on description of me. I can’t imagine life without books! Good post!

  • Debbie Oxier

    Thank you!

  • Sharon Forbes

    I, too, was a kid who read as much as possible! In fact, in that sense, you and I sound a lot alike! I adored the Little House books,(I am watching it on tv as I type this!) and my favorite childhood book without question was Charlotte’s Web! I read that book SO much one summer, that the copy I read from became very dog-eared! (I still have that precious copy packed away here in my home!) You are inspiring me to want to write, who knows, maybe that’s my calling? At 48 years of age, having gone through many health challenges this year(including breast cancer), it certainly gives me a lot to think about! I think one of my next book purchases will be your Virtue Falls when it is released! Thank you so much for inspiring me, keeping me motivated, it means a lot! 🙂

  • Stephanie M.

    The first book I read all by myself at the age of 6 was Disney’s Cinderella and I’ve been hooked on reading ever since. After finishing graduate school, I couldn’t wait to get back to reading romance novels instead of business text books. I can’t wait for VIRTUE FALLS. I just received my copy of THE HOT ZONE and should be able to start it this weekend.

  • Debbie Fuller

    I love your books and they sit proudly on my keeper shelf. Whenever I find a hardcopy of your paperbacks I buy it and replace it because I know I’ll be re-reading it soon and I want it to stand up to the use and abuse. Great post and encouraging words to future writers.

  • LSUReader

    Yes, Christina, I was a constant reader as a child. Even in middle school, when we had no lockers and had to carry all our books from class to class, I STILL carried an extra book–whatever I was reading then–because there would always be a couple of minutes of waiting before class and I could read!

    Last year, I read 195 books. So far in 2014, I’ve read 125. And TKAM is one of my all-time favorites, too.

    I love the title of this post and I am really looking forward to reading Virtue Falls. Thanks for taking part in R-A-R Month.

  • Lorelei’s Lit Lair

    I’m still at the stage of reading. Don’t know if I’ll ever get to write a book, but that’s great advice. Let’s see in 2 more years 😉

  • alisha woods

    love your historicals, Can’t wait to read Virtual Falls, liked the Bella Terra series

  • Allie

    according to GR, i’ve read 225 books this year (but sometimes I forget to add the date read thing to a book title so it’s probably more). I read a lot as a kid, stopped for a while but then rediscovered the library and then got my first e-reader and now I read about a book a day. but even reading one a day means so many left in my TBR pile!

  • Ellen

    I’ve always loved reading. I feel deprived if I don’t get a chance to read each day.
    I read several books each week. (Some romance, some biographies, whatever catches my eye.) Thanks for providing me with a lot of reading pleasure over the years.

  • Teresa Wilson Al-Saraji

    I love to read and always have!

  • Mj

    Wow how can people only read once a year? I have no idea because it then limits you from so much in your life.

  • Deb

    The one tip that she gives to be a writer you have to read. I went to college and took three writing courses not one of the proffesors said to read before writing or attempting to write.

  • Glenda

    I was indeed one of those snot nosed (thank you allergies) read all the time (braces and glasses too) kids. I’m proud to say my kids were and still are as well. 🙂

  • Dana Shoulders

    Definitely snot nosed. And I am amazed by those statistics of how many want to write a book versus how many are active readers. I read books like they are going out of style, and that gives me a healthy respect for how hard it is to nail it. Maybe those that aren’t reading don’t get how much work it really takes as I’ve read a lot of dreck along with the great (and yours are in the latter category). If I ever do write, I think having experience with the bad will help me know what to avoid :).

  • Tammy H

    I’ve been reading forever. My Mom loved to read and was a good example.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I read all the time and haven’t stopped since I started as a little girl. I read so many different books but I really fell in love with trilogies and series when I was young. That is what I love about your books…it’s great to follow characters from book to book and see secondary characters become the primary ones and vice versa. I love all the many sub genres within romance but I have to have my happy endings 🙂 So glad you became a writer and even happier to see your post on RARM today! Thanks for all you do…

  • Julie

    I am an avid reader. Thank you for sharing your talent.

  • Yaritza Santana

    I love the Q&A. Thanks for sharing

  • Pamby50

    I was no snot nose kid but did play sports. I didn’t start reading for fun till my late teens. Love me some JAK. I started with Kathleen Woodiwiss then got caught up in John Jakes series. It was the history of America through one family. Settled into mainly reading romance. Will check out your review on Goodreads. Just joined in March & my goal was to read 50 books I look forward to reading Virtual Falls.

  • M Kuxhaus

    Great essay! Loved it!

  • Cindy A

    I was one that kept my nose in a book from an early age. I would be so immersed in the book that I wouldn’t hear my Mom call me (usually to do chores). I’d bring 10+ books from the library every 2 weeks. BUT, I don’t think I have it to be a writer. All that reading had made my editing skiils legendary.

  • Gretchen Miller

    Love to read and always reading something

  • Charlene Fraley

    I can’t remember any one book in particular, but I loved them!

  • Joan Varner

    I have been reading since I was able to read and understand a story. It’s my only hobby and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I was one of those snot nosed kids but I did play softball, basketball & volleyball – at least in my neighborhood. This was in the days when girls didn’t have sport teams. I also babysat many of the neighborhood kids. I loved to read and shared that love with the kids I babysat, bringing books to read to them. I still never go anywhere without a book, or my kindle. My kids also are readers as is my husband. You do not want to see our basement & my husband’s book collection – or maybe you do. I’m rambling, but romance books are my favorite genre to read, not my only. I remember sharing scenes from some of those early romance books to friends, trying to get them interested. Although I love to read, I doubt I would be able to write one. I’m not quite that confident.

  • Brenda E

    My love for reading truly began when I contracted chicken pox my sophomore year in high school. Back then they made you stay in bed for two weeks, so I began reading everything I could get my hands on, and I haven’t stopped since. So, yeah, that was me, too, although, do we really have to go with snot-nosed? 🙂 I stayed with historical romance until I came across my favorite author’s new (at the time) contemporary suspense titled Trouble In High Heels, and that was all she wrote.

  • donnas

    That really is a shocking statistic

  • Emmel

    I love the fact that you named your daughters after Tolkien characters! I just wonder how much trouble folks have spelling their names. 🙂

  • Sheila M

    This snot nosed kid waves her hand. I loved The Hot Zone as well!

  • Natasha Salzer

    I am so glad you can do this!

  • Martha B

    Like you, I have always read (since childhood). Although, reading for fun slowed down in college; working, attending classes and reading for assignments seemed to replace reading for fun. That said, I had one college job (working midnight to 8 am) where I read for fun to keep awake. That was the best year ever! I read your books and I can’t wait to read Virtue Falls.

  • Peni Anne

    I am an avid reader. I wasn’t always. I grew up watching my mom read all the time. She always had a book open. When I was in the fourth grade I was discovered to be anerexic. I saw most everything as though through a mirror. Of course I wrote that way too. I still have some of my school work from that time.

    In fifth or sixth grade a good friend was a reader and for school we had to read ‘The Outsiders’ by SE Hinton. That story changed my life. I discovered what all the hoopla was about and though I struggled a lot. I was hooked into the lives of those wonderful characters. I have since gone through several copies of ‘The Outsiders’ and now read a few hundred stories a year.

    I discovered your stories many years ago now when you first started writing with the Governess series. If I remember correctly there were a few individual stories out around that time as well. I still read your stories as they come out. I wasn’t much into the para-normal stuff until I opened your ‘Scent of Darkness’ not expecting to get into it at all. Several hours later …. I had to admit that while I still don’t like that genre so much, yours are very good. Along the lines of some of the fantasy, JR Tolkken, CS Lewis, ect.

    Thank you for continuing to use your gift in such incredible ways. I for one am a fan.

  • Michelle Fidler

    I like Amanda Quick, a.k.a. Jayne Castle. I got my first library card when I was about seven and I’ve always been a reader. I used to work with a girl who said she didn’t read books and that she couldn’t find anything she liked. I wonder if she ever caught on to reading, because you hear that Harry Potter and Twilight have gotten people to read. She read magazines, though.

  • Dawn Anderson

    I get so happy when an author lists some of their favorite books and they match mine. I always list To Kill a Mockingbird as my favorite with Harry Potter and Little Women as second and third.

  • Stephanie Stevens Chalbeck

    I really enjoyed your Bella Terra Series and look forward to reading Virtue Falls.

  • catslady

    I’ve enjoyed many of her books!

  • Erin F

    I’ve always been a reader too 🙂 but it hasn’t made me a writer! LOL.. I leave that to the professionals. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kortney

    I fell in love with reading books at a young age as well. It was a chance for me to get away from the real world and read about adventures and places that I wish I could go to. Love your books and can’t wait to read more of them!!

  • Debbie Kitzke

    Would love to win these

  • librarypat

    I was the oldest of six, the four oldest born in a 6 year period. I don’t know how my mother kept her sanity. I escaped to the library every Saturday when I was a kid and spent the day in the science and history section. My guilty pleasure was the Nancy Drew collection one of my aunts had. I read every one of them. Through high school and college, when I could read, it was a mystery or thriller. With college, then young children, there was little time for books. National Geographic articles were what I managed. I didn’t discover romances until my early 50’s.
    Patricia (B) in rafflecopter.

  • rebecca moe

    I’m pretty sure I somehow managed to read while in the womb. Goodness knows I’ve never gone anywhere without a book (or my ereader, nowadays; and the only reason I even buy MP3 players is to put audiobooks on them. Seriously, there’s not a single song on my current one) since.

    If both Christina Dodd and Stephen King say it, it must be true, huh? (Though at some point I suppose you’re going to tell me to stop reading for a bit and actually WRITE, right? ;))

    Awesome post, thanks!

  • Hannah B

    Hi Christina, you are a new to me author. I enjoyed your blog post. Thanks for the giveaway.