Carolyn reads voraciously in Ottawa.
1. Do you have an early memory of learning to read?
No, not really, but once I got my first library card around the age of eight, I never looked back. My mother told me I was reading words from the newspaper at age four, and of course, my parents read stories to me.
2. Have you always been an avid reader?
Extremely so! I was an only child, very shy, and books were always a comfort to me. In public school (grade eight) students were required to read a minimum of five books per year and give a book report on each during class. Every student had a page in the teacher’s notebook, recording the book title and date read. By the end of the school year, I’d read fifty-three books and the teacher said I needed a notebook just for my books. Obsessive, or what?
3. How do you decide what to read next?
It depends on my mood or how I physically feel. If I’m not feeling well, I’ll read a book that doesn’t require a lot of concentration (a pocketbook I can finish in a couple of hours). When I feel really well, I’ll read historical trilogies or complicated murder mysteries.
4. Do you have any reading rituals that you follow?
I like to go to bed by 9 or 10pm and read fiction books every night until 1 or 2am, although I have been known to read until 4am (not recommended!) I only read non-fiction or magazines during the day. My bedroom is my sanctuary, and I can’t sleep without reading first. The norm is to fall asleep with the light on, glasses on my nose, and the book upside down on my chest.
5. What makes a great story or novel?
It should have a great plot, amazing characters, be fast paced, and grab your attention during the first few pages. Continually falling asleep over a book means it’s boring boring boring, or badly written and not worth my valuable reading time. I usually return such books to the library the next day. I should point out that quite a few of my rejects have been Giller Prize winners!
6. Do you have a favourite genre?
Absolutely not! I read just about anything that catches my eye, mainly historical fiction but also erotica, thrillers, adventure and even vampire stories. As far as non-fiction goes, I own a lot of cookbooks, gardening, and how-to books as well as obscure books on things like ancient Egypt, medieval Great Britain, archeology, and the Roman Empire. I think I see a pattern here! I do love historical facts and I do learn a great deal, even from fiction books. At the oddest times, I seem to pull strange snippets of information from my brain during a conversation with someone.
7. Who was the first author you fell in love with? The last?
Zane Grey, when I was very young, and the last authors I loved were Diana Gabaldon, Manda Scott, Jack Whyte, Lora Leigh, Nora Roberts (J.D. Robb), and Clive Cussler.
8. What classic or well-known book have you never been able to get through?
The Sentimentalist because I spent all my time going back and forth to figure out the storyline. I even kept reading to the halfway mark but finally gave up and took it back to the library. I dislike Margaret Atwood books, although I may be in the minority.
9. What book or books do you reread?
Very few fiction. I do plan, however, to reread Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Manda Scott’s Boudica series and Jack Whyte’s King Arthur series. I mainly reread non-fiction such as history, cookbooks, and reference books.
10. Do you have dry spells where you stop reading or read very little?
Never, never, never! I would have to be dead, and I do hope there’s a great library when I reach the pearly gates. To make sure I never run out of books, I have boxes and boxes of them under the bed, in the basement, and in multiple bookcases around the house. I guess I really am addicted.
11. How do you organize your collection?
I don’t (see question 10). My family tells me constantly that I am totally disorganized, which I am, but I do seem to be able to find certain books when I want them. My cookbooks, gardening, how-to, and medical books are grouped together on the bookshelves by type, but fiction is impossible. I only read these once and then donate them to a thrift shop. I do need to thin out some of my over 100 cookbooks, and I would use typed labels on shelves if I ever get motivated enough.
12. Do you enjoy recommending books to others? What criteria do you use?
Sometimes, if I really feel strongly about a book, but I don’t do it very often as everybody has their own favourites.
13. You host a dinner party for five authors (dead or alive). Who’s invited?
Would never happen. I prefer to worship my favourite authors from afar. Besides they are too numerous to count.
14. Do you write? If so, how does reading influence your writing?
No. I do, however, recognize great writing when I read it! There are many published novels that never should have seen the light of day. Tip to writers: check your grammar and punctuation thoroughly, and get a good editor!
15. What are you reading right now?
Until the Night by Giles Blunt.
Ravenous Reader is a regular series.