One of the most disturbing things I’ve heard this year is authors who have published within the last year or two saying they don’t read in the genre in which they write. They’re afraid of tainting their story with something they’ve read. And yet, as an author, I think this is some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard.
Because let’s be honest, if you don’t read in the genre, you won’t know what’s gone before. There’s a reason, I think, why a lot of the books being published sound alike. It’s because if you’re only exposure to paranormal or shapeshifters is a certain limited mass media exposure (say Twilight or Teen Wolf), then that’s all you’re going to know. Rather than to fully explore the full depth of the bounty within the genre, the author limits herself to only what she knows. That’s a shame.
Also, if you don’t read in the genre, you aren’t really going to know the tropes, or how to change them to make them uniquely your own. When Bjorn’s Mate was originally published roughly 2005, for example, it was one of the few polar bear shifter books out there and quite possibly one of the first. The market loved it. I’d taken the very common shifter and turned it from a wolf into something else.
And let me be honest, if your writing voice isn’t unique enough to hold its own against the others without sounding derivative, that probably means that more craft polishing might be in order.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this to denigrate anyone. I am, however, concerned, that if you don’t read in the genre in which you write, you’re not going to fully understand it and in doing so, there’s a good chance craft will suffer. Writers get ideas all the time. Anything can seed the author’s imagination. It’s our job to take those ideas and make them our own, no matter the source.