Thursday, March 06, 2014

What do best-selling authors like to read? Two different views

This week, Written Words once again pairs two very different authors to discuss what they think makes a good book.

Raine Thomas is the bestselling author of an award-winning series of YA fantasy/romance novels about the Estilorian plane, including her latest, Return of the Ascendant.

Doug Dorow is best known for his innovative thriller The Ninth District.

Name three characteristics of books that you like. 

Raine Thomas: Strong characters, witty dialogue and compelling story lines.

Doug Dorow: I've found I prefer to read third person versus first person, though I'll read both. Character and action keep me engaged along with a unique setting. 

What makes you keep reading a book? 

Doug Dorow: Cliff hangers make me turn the page. I keep reading because I care about what is going to happen next to the main character. 

Raine Thomas: The desire to find out what happens to the characters. If I connect with the main characters, I want to know what happens to them. That’s the sign of a great book.

What are some books that you weren't able to put down until you finished them?

Raine Thomas: My favourite genre is romance, so just about anything by Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb and similar authors will keep me up reading past my bedtime. I’m also fond of stories driven by mystery and intrigue, like those by Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen.

Doug Dorow: I got totally engaged in Stephen King's Dark Tower series back when it first came out. Today, I'm a big fan of Lee Child's and Michael Connelley's books. One that met my 3 characteristics above (character, action, unique setting) was Trevanian's Shibumi. One of the few books I've read twice. 

Do you consciously try to emulate these books? If so, what form does that take: plot, structure, characters, settings, author's voice and word choice?

Doug Dorow: I don't think I consciously try to emulate a book, but by reading so many of them, I believe that their pace, structure and beats become internalized. If something really jumps out at me after I've read a section I will stop and think about what it was that captured my attention and keep it in mind for my future writing. 

In my thriller, The Ninth District, I did try to create a character that the reader would care about and put him in a unique setting and location (underground in the tunnels and sewers that run under Minneapolis) where the setting almost became a character itself. 

Raine Thomas: I don’t consciously try and emulate another author’s style; rather, I write stories that I want to read. That said, I’ve found that my dialogue sometimes mimics the style of Ms. Roberts’, as does my depiction of male characters. I suppose it follows that my writing would incorporate elements that I most like to read in other books.

Do you try to avoid any of the techniques or conventions followed by your favourite writers? 

Raine Thomas: I’ve never consciously avoided any writing techniques by other authors. It’s important to me that I maintain my own voice, so the styles of other authors don’t enter my mind when I’m writing. 

Doug Dorow: I don't think I consciously try to avoid any techniques or conventions, but I do tend to write in third person, though I've dabbled some in first person. 

What rules of writing do you intentionally break?

Doug Dorow: I'm kind of a rule follower. I look at them more as conventions and norms and try to give the reader what he or she will expect in the thriller genre, but in a new story with new characters. 

I am attempting some novella writing, trying to provide a thrill in shorter snippets that may not allow the same in depth character insight a reader will get with a regular novel. 

Raine Thomas: One rule I break relates to paragraph length. If I want to emphasize a single word or sentence, I’ll make it stand alone as its own paragraph. I’m also not afraid to switch points of view within a story (though I’m careful to keep to one POV per scene). I prefer to write in the third person and allow the reader to experience the story from several different perspectives. But, hey…aren’t they more guidelines than rules, anyway? ;)

Thank you very much for the different perspectives, Raine and Doug!

Minnesota thriller author Douglas Dorow’s FBI thriller, The Ninth District is available in ebook, paper and audio formats through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Visit his website and blog, and Amazon Author page. Follow him on Twitter @DougDorow.

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling young adult and new adult romantic fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine recently signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. A member of Best-Selling Reads, Raine is a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn't writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida's beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Visit her webite, blog, and Amazon Author page, and follow her on Twitter @Raine_Thomas.


  1. Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Scott!

  2. It is always nice to hear what other authors read and the conventions they either adhere to, or ignore. Good post, Scott.

    Raine and Doug, I'll have to check out your books.

  3. I'm with Raine on most every point! I think characters really make or break a story, and if I don't feel like I know them, I phase out, no matter how good or fast-paced the plot. "I write stories that I want to read." <---Absolutely! For most of my life I have been writing for myself-- what I would call "active reading". :) It's not about emulating anyone or anything, but about connecting with the story on a deep level. If you can do that as a writer, then it will transfer to your readers, no matter what your writing style.