I often talk about how important it is for authors to read but today I want to focus on one of the many reasons why by relaying a personal story.
As a fan of anime since I was eleven, I was excited to find the Vampire Hunter D movies. Badass vampires in anime? It was like it was made with me in mind. Then, later I discovered they were based on novels and I knew I had to read them. Now, this was my early twenties and I had never had much success reading “adult” science fiction/fantasy before. Madeline L’ Engle had shaped a lot of my childhood and Star Wars made me realize that character driven sci-fi was actually out there, but most books I picked up didn’t catch my interest. They were dry and spent too much time building up the world at the beginning, not the characters.
I had always wanted to try writing sci-fi/fantasy worlds, but knew I wasn’t well read enough in that genre and wasn’t confident enough to try my hand at it. Enter the Vampire Hunter D novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi. With a mysterious anti-hero and amazing art by Yoshitaka Amano, I was immediately drawn in. I loved how time was spent on the side characters more than the actual main character, forcing me to care about them but leaving D a mystery that you admired from afar. I loved how the world came together through action instead of a ton of narrative. These books showed me that science fiction didn’t have to be written with a certain narrow viewpoint, that there are many ways to bring something fresh and creative to the genre. I immensely enjoyed reading this series. In fact, I’m still not done with it.
Were these the best translated books ever written? Certainly not. As an older and wiser reader/editor, I recognize some of the plot holes and lost threads now. The important thing is, these books were vital in shaping who I am as a writer today. I may have never stepped forward and put to paper the many science fiction and fantasy worlds that have dwelled in my mind for so long if these books hadn’t inspired me to do so.
Not only were they an inspiration, but a teaching tool. Reading how other authors establish characters, settings, and plot is important when you are still finding your own voice. Even seasoned authors still read to learn. “This author did it this way, but what if I did it this way?” “I like this character’s dialogue, perhaps I could do something similar.”
To conclude, read more! You truly cannot call yourself a writer if you never pick up a book and read. It is vital to your craft.