Unsurprisingly for an English Lit graduate, I love literature. But here is my secret… I am a bit of a literary snob. But not in the way you might think.
Ever since I first picked up a penguin classic (Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, by the by) I have been charmed, obsessed and inspired by the authors ability to create a story. For four years, between fourteen and eighteen, I didn’t read a single novel published after about 1920 unless I was forced to by school. Why risk a contemporary novel when I could read something that had stood the test of time? But it was never the style or the imagery that I loved, and it still isn’t. I am a self proclaimed story chaser.
For me story and plot are the most important factors in any book I read. Keep your arty descriptions of landscapes Mr Hardy, throw your modernist approach to the inner world out of the window Virginia Woolf; it’s the twisty, often twisted, stories that I crave. (Imagine my disappointment, my utter HORROR, at having to read Mrs Dalloway three times throughout my formal education.)
This is one of the reasons (along with my obsession with Wilkie Collins) that ensured I would end up writing psychological thrillers; I chase the pace. What I never realised is how difficult it can be to create and maintain that pace, not to mention the hard work and skill involved in managing a plot to keep it exciting and unpredictable. I am happy to say that I read an awful lot of modern fiction now, primarily crime and thrillers, and I have a respect for these authors that far outweighs my respect for many of our literary greats (including Woolf)
To challenge, surprise, empathise, occasionally scare and, most importantly, entertain. You can keep your high brow literary masterpieces; I’ll take a well-written thriller any day.*
*There are, of course, exceptions. Exceptions are what make life interesting.