It’s absolutely true: you can’t be a good writer without being an avid reader.
I’ve always been an avid reader. I used to visit the public library of my hometown with my father even before I was old enough to read. We’d go there on a Saturday (because my father didn’t have to work on Saturdays) and he’d pick up something for himself to read, something to read to me and, sometimes, a picture-book for me as well.
I was very proud when I was seven and got my own library card. And well into my teens I used it very regularly – on every second Saturday, when I didn’t have to go to school, and even more often during holidays. Then my ideas of a good novel started to differ from the ideas of the library and, by the time I started studying literature, I had other libraries to choose from (including my ever-growing personal library).
Nevertheless, I was – and still am – a person who wasn’t as much reading books as wolfing them down. I can read very fast (more than 600 pages a day, provided I have a good book and the time for reading) and am fluent in two languages: German (my native language) and English.
My own personal universe of stories expanded while I grew up. From the average children stories of my time to the first crime stories (I discovered “Sherlock Holmes” around eleven), the first horror stories (“John Sinclair,” a German pulp magazine), Science Fiction (both “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” novels) and fantasy (Robert Asprin’s “Myth” novels). I also always liked to read non-fictional works about ghosts, sharks, crimes and criminals, the supernatural as a such, aliens, society topics and, of course, media of any kind (books, TV-series, movies, whole genres).
I never shied away from getting to know new writers or genres, but I’ve never been one for tragic romance novels or big melodramatic stories.
Usually, when I discover a new writer I like, I try to get a handful of books written by him or her and read them in quick succession. The last writers I did that with were Jeff Lindsay (4 “Dexter” novels) and Cleo Coyle (her “Coffeehouse Mysteries”).
My ability to concentrate grew as well, because I used to read novels during breaks at school – and it takes a whole lot of concentration to read in a room with about thirty classmates. Today I can read almost anywhere and at any time – provided there’s enough light around, of course.