After reading Collins’ essay, I scanned my own bookshelves (sorry, I don’t have a Kindle or Nook—yet) to see how many books I could remember the plot. I don’t know if I have a better memory than Collins or just read more interesting books, but I could remember the basic plot and main characters for at least half of the books on my shelf. Surprisingly half that I couldn’t recall included books by some of my favorite authors. But even if I couldn’t recall the plot, I certainly remember how I felt reading pretty much every book on my shelf.
And therein lies the answer to Collins’ question. People read for the same reasons they watch TV or a movie: they want to be transported to another time, place, or world. They look for characters they can identify with. It’s not Elvis Cole or Bilbo Baggins going off to save the day—it’s the reader himself going on these fantastic journeys. They don’t read to remember the plot, they read to escape reality for a short time.
Ironically Collins misses this very point in his essay—despite spending the first two paragraphs recalling how reading Allen Weinstien’s Perjury made him want to read all day instead of boating and fishing while on a summer vacation in New Hampshire. Instead he focuses on the “aesthetic and literary pleasure” and knowledge one gains by reading. This may be something English professors and their students may open a book for but most people just want something that will take them somewhere else.
The books that I can recall the plot and characters the best are the ones that resonated with me most. Growing up I loved reading Batman comics because Batman generally did everything without the help of others or super powers. It was something my loner teenage self could relate to. Those same loner feelings are what draws me to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. Pleasant childhood memories of summer and baseball is why I enjoyed Michael Chabon’s Summerland and David Horowitz’s autobiography Radical Son struck a chord politically.
Though Collins never figures out why people read, at least he doesn’t feel that time spent reading was a waste of time. But since he’s a writer, Collins better figure out why people read if he wants to have a shot at becoming successful.
Q: I can’t wait to read it. Any idea when it will be released?
A: The tentative release date is between April-June 2011. But that could change. When I get a more firm date, I’ll post it here.
Q: Did you think you’d find a new publisher so soon?
A: I was a little surprised, yes. I thought I was looking at least a year before I could share good news with everyone. When you have a good story, it makes it easier to find a publisher.
Q: I’ve read some sample chapters and love them. Are you planning on more stories with Ransom, Teya, and Dragomir?
A: I have a sequel to The Third that’s halfway done. The sales of The Third will drive whether or not I finish it. In the meantime, I’m busy with other writing projects.
Q: Other writing projects? Like what?
A: I’m working on a short guide for women dating widowers. I’m hoping to have that out in the next month or two. I also have another novel—unrelated to The Third—that’s in the first draft. I’m hoping to have that one finished by the end of the year.
Q: Can you give us any hint on what that book’s about?
A: Not right now. It’s too early in the process to know if it’s going to be worth publishing.
Good news! The Third has found a home. After getting my rights back in July, I found two U.S. publishers who wanted to take the book. I’ve made my decision on which one to go with but won’t be making a public announcement on who’s publishing it until next week.
But for those who have wanted to read it and are dying to know what happens to Ransom and his family, the book should be out in the first half of 2011. More details to come next week.
I’ve always got a dozen or so different stories bouncing around in my head. While only one or two are mature enough to work on, the rest are percolating until the story finally forms. One of the stories I’ve been thinking about involves a group of thieves who break into homes after targeting people who post too much information on social networking sites.