(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Recently I was asked what was my favourite book. Before I could reply, she named her favourite and then rattled off a list of many that she ‘hated’. A little way into the conversation I realised three things. I had not named my favourite book, that I was finding it hard to name a book that I really ‘hate’ and lastly that it appeared that she had not actually read many of the long list of her hated books. This I found even more perplexing. How could she know if she hated a book unless she had at least tried to have read it.

What books do I hate? I may not like the writer’s voice, or the genre but that does not guarantee that I won’t enjoy other books of the ilk. There is only one book (no two) that I have started and could not read beyond the first few pages. Both were a result of the way they were written (rather than subject matter which sounded quite interesting unfortunately. I really wanted to read them but it was so painful that I gave up.) It felt like it was a waste of my time to read something that I was not enjoying.

So what is my favourite book? Um… I am still thinking on that one. It is very difficult to choose just one. Over the years I have had many favourite books. Each depended on the mood I was in, and where I was ‘at’ in life (emotionally).

When I was in high school, I read Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh books avidly. They were my passion… until our school librian (whose self imposed quest was to widen her student’s reading vocabulary) introduced me to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I have worn out several copies over the years.

Then came The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the rest of the Narnia series, The Dark is Rising and other fantasy novels. This led into my science fiction phase which resulted in my first novel manuscript (about 200 pages – what is that in word count?) which is still somewhere in the shed. I hope I have not lost it. (I have been thinking of this a lot lately, now that I have returned to writing).

One book I do keep coming back to is Blue Moon Rising by Simon R  Green. I now have two copies as one is falling apart. It is fun, it is easy to read and I like the characters. There is an emotional soft spot in my heart for it. Isn’t that one thing that books are for – to transport us somewhere else and (hopefully) identify with the characters have an emotional stake in their fate?

Currently I am enjoying the supernatural steampunkish slant of Gail Carriger’s Soulless series. Again it is all about the characters. There is a wonderful array of characters both supernatural (werewolves, vampires), mortals and then there is Alexia Tarabotti, a unique woman who defies Victorian sensibilities while at the same time endevouring to uphold them. In it I found the balance of Victorian manners, the juxtaposition of the impropriety of plot situations and the resulting comedy of the characters reactions.

Why do I currently love these books? I have finally found an author whom I can identify with. Until now, I have been struggling to describe what I envisage as my ’writer’s voice‘ and describe the genre I love to write. I get the strangest looks and have reverted back to using the description of ‘speculative fiction’ and have dreaded in trying to explain it further. Thanks to Ms Carriger, I am not alone in the world! I have found a way to describe what I love to write – alternative history in a steampunk/gaslight/gaslamp genre. I have been placed in my box and what a fun box it is to be in!


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