Stephen King is well-known for stating that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” And King isn’t alone in saying this: all the advice suggests that for writers to achieve success, they should read widely in their genre. The reasoning is sound. Quite apart from the enjoyment reading affords us, it’s useful for writers to examine examples of our chosen genre, analysing character traits, plot events, style, and recurring themes. The point is to challenge popular beliefs or tackle a weary trope from new or insightful perspective. To redefine the parameters of a genre, and in doing so offer original and meaningful narratives to our readership.
So, when the New Zealand Society of Authors assigned me to mentor a promising writer of post-apocalyptic fiction, I kicked off our partnership with a list of book recommendations from the genre. My mentee immediately came back to me with a reading list of his own, something no other mentee has ever done. He got no argument from me. Mentorship is a two-way street: I’ve never escaped one without learning something. Besides, if we were going to discuss his novel in the context of other post-apocalyptic narratives, then we needed to be on the same page. Or pages. He’d suggested six books; so I loaded up my iPad and started reading.