Today I am delighted to share a lovely conversation I had with Raven Nightshade, a fellow reading fanatic and writer that I met over Instagram. She provided excellent insight into why books are so important, why reading matters, and what to do if you feel reading just takes too much energy. I hope you enjoy this discussion!
L: Welcome to the blog, Raven! Would you care to share a little bit about yourself?
R: Thank you for having me here, it’s a real honour. Well, a little about myself? I’ve been writing ever since I could pick up a pen and nurtured a love of reading for about ever. I finally got serious about the whole writing thing a couple of years ago when I began my very first WIP (scrapped now) as before it was more of a little hobby, whilst reading took up a larger portion of my time.
L: That’s amazing that writing has always been with you! Our topic today is the importance of reading and writing, so that fits perfectly. While I don’t think anyone reading this blog is going to disagree with the importance of this topic, it’s still important to talk about.
R: Absolutely. I think that the importance of writing and reading is an important topic to talk about, especially nowadays when things like TV and video games are becoming really popular, not that I’m discrediting those forms of entertainment; I enjoy them myself (well, the former, not so much the latter). I feel that these days, I’m finding it rare to meet someone who has the same passion for reading and especially writing that I have.
L: I know what you mean. I think being part of the online writing community is amazing, because everyone here loves to read and write, but when you look out into the real world...it seems less so. Can I ask what was the first book you remember having an impact on you.
R: The first book I remember having an impact on me? That’s a hard question… I think it must be both the Hunger Games and the Maximum Ride series for me, as those took my passion for both writing and reading to a new height as they were the two main inspirations for the first serious writing project I took up outside of school work. I loved the characters and the plots of both and wanted to find a way to put my own spin on them. In hindsight, it would've probably classified more fan fiction or something like that, but at the time it was a big step for me. It took writing and reading from a hobby to something more important to me.
L: Interesting! The Hunger Games, and the dystopian genre in general, definitely played a huge role for me as well. I’m going to bounce around here, because I just have so many thoughts on the topic, but why do you think that the desire to read has declined? We have online books...why does it seem that even those are not desired?
R: I think that part of the reason may be that reading does take a lot of mental effort, keeping up with the plot, imagining the characters and the settings, etc. and for the people who just aren’t interested in reading may find that too much work for something they don’t enjoy. That’s not to say I think the number of people who enjoy reading has declined over the times, but now more forms of media have arrived that make it easier to experience stories than reading.
Think about all the book to movie adaptations out there; some people may question the reason they need to even read the book because they can enjoy it as a film, but those people who dismiss the Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games, the Maze Runner all because they have films are missing out on so much of the story without realising or caring.
When there are easier ways to see the stories you love, reading may become work and challenging instead of relaxing and fun. Even though books are more accessible at this time - like you mentioned with online books - it still comes down to whether the person wants to dedicate several more hours to the written word than something more flashy on screen that will only take, at the maximum, three hours.
L: That’s an excellent point. Finding the energy to read can sometimes be a chore. The last two years I’ve been at university, finding time to read for pleasure has been draining. It’s awful, because it is my favorite hobby. Now, what would you say to people who think reading is a waste of time, disregarding the activity all together?
R: It’s completely not. In fiction, you can explore places you could never go to in reality. If, like me, you’re into fantasy, it means that you can journey across magical lands, ride dragons and battle hordes of orcs, all without leaving your room. The thing with TV and movies is it puts a wall between the story and the viewer, or at least I find. It’s telling you, you’re here, and you’re here to watch these guys do all the awesome action sequences and fight scenes. In books, you don’t have that. You can be the character who has mad karate skills, who can scale a mountain without breaking a sweat, who (being very cliche here) slays the dragon and saves the beautiful damsel in distress. Books will let you into their world if you let them.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never dwelled on a movie or a TV show quite in the same way I have on a good book, and it’s because I can explore the world as I read each world and imagine what it would be like in there with every description of a setting. To people who completely disregard reading as an activity altogether I say you simply haven’t found the right book yet. As George R. Martin said in one of his Game of Thrones novels, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives one.” And I couldn’t agree more.
L: I think you bring up a good point of reading as not only an adventure, but also as a tool for escapism. Books are a great place to slip into when you are feeling down or lonely or just a little off. What tips do you have for people who want to get more into reading?
R: I couldn’t agree more with the escapism point you made. Now I don’t have a hard life, I’m aware of that, but there have been times I’ve felt down or literally just bored with reality and found that a book is the right way to cheer myself up. I’d say, if you want to get more into reading, you’ve got to find the genre you love. This could be done in many ways. Think of the media you love, what kind of TV show, movies or video games you enjoy and try and identify what genre they are part of. Or there’s always the hard way which entails several dozen novels, lots of time and a shed-tonne of commitment.
Once you have your genre, you will find yourself at home there. I’m a dystopian and fantasy person myself, and whilst I do stray out of those genres, that’s where I’ve made my home, and eventually the genres I began to write in as well. Another thing is to stop thinking of reading as a job.
You should be doing it for fun. I remember in my English class when we were all told to read a book over the holidays and my class gave a collective groan. At that time, I couldn’t fathom why that was, but I eventually realised it was because they were treating it like work, like homework, and that took away all the joy from what should’ve been a fun activity. You’ve got to be your own motivation. To truly enjoy reading, you’ve got to read because you want to, and not because of anyone else.
L: Absolutely! Do you have any recommendations? What are some of your favorite books?
R: Trust me, I’ve a long, long, long list of books I love. If I had to pick ones I love, one of my all-time favourites are the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus novels by Rick Riordan, ever since I picked them up in primary school. They’re middle-grade novels and, though I am a teenager, I still adore them as they’re the first books I can remember truly capturing my imagination and sparking my love of Greek mythology. Other things I enjoy would have to include the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, Boneless Mercies, a standalone by April Genevieve Tucholke, the Ash Princess trilogy by Laura Sebsatian, the Gone series by Michael Grant, Renegade trilogy by Marissa Meyer and the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.
L: Fabulous selections! Rick Riordan and Leigh Bardugo were really formative to me as a writer, so I’m so pleased you’ve recommended them! I’m running out of time before I have to go to work, but is there anything else you’d like to add?
R: Mainly that I’d love to encourage everyone out there to pick up a book - you never know, you might love it and that may be your trigger for falling in love with reading. This does remind me of an argument I had with a friend once over the topic where I told him reading was something you do whilst procrastinating, not something to procrastinate for.
Reading’s not a chore, and, unless it’s your English teacher setting books for you, no one’s going to be forcing you to read. It’s something to have fun with, so don’t take it too seriously. I know what it’s like to have reading feel like work (every book I’ve ever picked up for English Lit - I’m definitely not a classics person) but when you’ve found your book-home, reading’s no longer a series of walls but doors, all leading to different worlds.
L: Thank you so much, Raven, for taking the time to chat and share your wonderful perspective!
Follow Raven on Instagram: @raven_nightshade_28