I have a teetering stack of new and recent historicals which I have purchased, but not yet read.

They include, but are not limited to:
Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Taste Temptation
Julia Quinn’s The Lost Duke of Wyndham
Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows
Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways
Emily Bryan’s Distracting the Duchess

and on…and on…

Each of these books has received glowing, marvelous reviews. I’m pretty much salivating to read every one of them. But right now, the TBR pile has taken on a whole new meaning:

To Be Resisted.

I could blame it on my schedule. To meet my goal of completing revisions on book two and finishing the draft of book three by the end of this month, I can’t afford to spend much time swept up in great book. I need to write a lot, and quickly. And ideally well. But some days, I’ll settle for a lot, and quickly.

But really, it’s not that. I can afford to spend an hour or two, now and then, lost in the pages of a wonderful historical romance. I’ve found time to read other books during the last month–contemporaries, mostly. The problem is, I can’t afford to spend two or three days after reading each one, curled up like a pillbug, questioning who I am and just what in the world I think I’m doing writing in the same genre. I’ve started several of these books – but the moment they start getting really, and I mean realllllly good, I’ve flung them away in despair. And it’s a testament to these authors’ talent, that this often occurs within the first page.

Yes, professional envy: I has it. I has it bad.

Really, though, the phrase “professional envy” seems misleading. Too… professional-sounding. A true professional, I suspect, would be able to suck it up and keep reading a great book in her genre without completely misplacing her will to write, for days afterward. I used to dream, someday I want to grow up to write like the orgiastic love-child of all my writing idols. Now I just want to grow up enough to read them.

Ad the pile is only going to grow…before long, it will include
Eloisa James’ Duchess by Night
Joanna Bourne’s My Lord and Spymaster
Sherry Thomas’ Delicious
And on, and on….I know I’m forgetting a dozen or so.

I think I’m going to rename it the TBRIA pile: To Be Read in August!

It is a rather disappointing thing that fulfilling my dream of becoming a writer has completely changed the experience of reading. Reading ‘long ago and far away’ romances used to be my comfort. Not anymore, alas. Now it’s a test of courage.

My, but I’m maudlin today. Don’t sympathize with me, laugh at me. Tell me to just get over myself. And feel free to add titles to my TBRIA pile.

15 comments to “The TBR Pile Takes on New Meaning”

  1. Sara Lindsey
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 8:04 am · Link

    I totally feel you! Reading is different when you’re a writer. I haven’t read a historical since… wow, I can’t actually recall the last one I read. Contemporaries and paranormals, yes. Historicals, not so much. And I don’t even have the excuse of being on deadline… although the cowering and self-questioning I’ve got down pat. 😉

  2. aliceaudrey
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 8:08 am · Link

    Maybe what you need is a stack of not-so-fantastic Romances. When the professional envy gets to be too much, go to a book that isn’t quite as well written. Then you have something to remind you there IS room in the genre for you, even as you still aspire to greatness.

  3. Gillian Layne
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 8:43 am · Link

    You’re SO not the only one. Keep in mind many reader/writers will be reading YOURS and then fighting off the throes of professional envy as well. 🙂

    It’s summer, and therefore a totally different mindset. It’s all light contemps and fantasy paranormals for me now. No historicals until the fall (well, I did read the new JQ but I just couldn’t help myself). I’ll buy the ones I know I’ll want and tuck them away until the school buses start rolling again.

    Oddly, I have no problem working on my own historicals over the summer. Oh, well.

    Best of luck with your whirlwind schedule! 🙂

  4. Santa
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 9:21 am · Link

    I know exactly where you are coming from. I shy away from contemporaries for the same reason. I don’t envy you your deadline schedule(s) but a great book by a stellar author can still make you feel like you’ve just chatted with an old friend.

    Oh, and you forgot a couple….

    Lisa Kleypas has two historical gems coming out. Candice Hern and Mary Balogh and a few other great ones have an anthology coming out (big SQUEEE for me). Teresa Mederios has a new book coming out. Not to mention Diane Gaston, Madeline Hunter, Eloisa has a second one….

    Um, just pace yourself, darlin’. You should be able to catch up by 2011 at the latest. By then we’ll have added three and one or two more of your books to our TBR piles!

  5. terrio
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 9:41 am · Link

    Is it bad that I feel relief at reading this blog? Verklempt! The TBR pile is now a bookshelf and thensome. The real trouble is, I can’t read historicals because then when I go to write I start the fancy talking (which is bad since I write contemp). And I can’t read contemps because I then wallow in the knowledge I will NEVER write that well.

    Right now, I’m torturing myself in the worst way. I’m reading Sugar Daddy. I know, I really hate myself. *sigh* But damn it, I can’t put it down!

    I do promise to read your books upon release and not just buy them and add them to the pile. After all, I’d hate to tick off the squirrels. *w*

  6. skirbo
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 11:32 am · Link

    I imagine that problem will get much better for you after your first book has been on the shelves for a bit. You will see, and you will see that everyone else will see (if you follow me, cause I’m not sure I did) that you have your own unique and wonderful voice.

    I’m sure you are less worried about what the unwashed masses…, er, the general public (sorry, couldn’t resist the callback to the Bottom 503) will think of your writing and more worried about what your new peers will think. Your new peers will love you and your work, just as we do.

    Yes, you are a new fish in a really big pond, and I’m sure it feels like you are leaving your safe old mud puddle behind (apologies to everyone I just lumped into a blob of mud, including myself). To some degree you are, even though that puddle will always be there for you and it will remain comfortable, even when it becomes too small.

    But that new, big pond you’ve jumped into? You’re going to swim just fine.

    Sarah (PS, check your email)

  7. Elyssa Papa
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 1:23 pm · Link

    I’m the same way… I can feel overwhelmed when I read “great” writing as well. And then I can also feel overwhelmed when I read “not-so-great” and “how the f**k did this get published” writing.

    I did read JQ’s latest and loved it. I still haven’t read Duke of Shadows and have started and stopped LC’s newest. I can blame time and schedules… and no longer do I seem to be able to fitter away and just read. 🙁

  8. J.K. Coi
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 2:01 pm · Link

    I don’t even have a TBR pile anymore, it’s a TBB pile (To be bought), because I can’t even make the time to get to the store! There are quite a few on that list, books I can’t wait for, but have to because of the busy schedule. *sigh*

  9. doglady
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 2:36 pm · Link

    Hello, Tessa! I just wanted to say thank you to you, Sara and CM as the three of you were the kick in the pants I needed to start querying! I truly appreciate you all.

    So, as you can see, I understand exactly how you feel. Every time I pick up a historical romance and like you said, get to the really good part, I think “You will never write like this!”

    Guess what? That’s okay. Here’s the best part, my friend. None of those authors will ever write like you! That is what keeps me going. YOU, Tessa Dare, have a unique voice. You have something to offer to this unique genre we all love.

    It takes a lot of courage and love for the art of story telling to do what we do. We pour our hearts out onto the pages of our novels and then we take those pages, those pieces of our heart, and toss them out onto the winds of public opinion. Can their be anything more terrifying and more thrilling?

    I guess my little Pollyanna self is saying that I try very hard to be inspired by all of those published authors. I admire them and what they have given us and I am determined to continue their legacy with my own work.

  10. Maggie Robinson
    · June 3rd, 2008 at 3:33 pm · Link

    I love to love a book, but most of the time it doesn’t happen. When it does, it inspires me to get back in the chair and pound away. People warn, however, that you should forbid yourself from reading in your genre while you write. I can’t. I need my historical fix.

  11. Tessa Dare
    · June 4th, 2008 at 7:53 am · Link

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! When I looked back at this yesterday and saw how whiny it was, I figured – it is time to get out of the house. 🙂 So I took the darelings to the zoo. And then I sucked it up and read one of the books on the TBRIA pile – and it was wonderful and completely envy-inducing, but I did NOT completely lose all heart for writing. Yay!

    I did, however, spend way too much time analyzing the author’s use of dialog tags and bouncing back into my own manuscript to delete several of my own. I always have too many dialog and action tags.

    I know I whine, but there is an benefit to the envy. Like Pamela said, its flipside is inspiration, and nothing motivates me to work harder than reading a book that leaves me breathless with awe. But I still don’t think I’ll be making too many more dents in the TBRIA pile in the next few weeks. There’s only so much inspiration I can take, LOL.

    But it helps a lot to know I’m not the only person who struggles with reading in her genre while she’s working on a manuscript! So thanks for commiserating with me.

  12. Lady Leigh
    · June 4th, 2008 at 8:16 am · Link

    A little off topic- what do you think about getting books out of the library? I want to support the author’s career but I also need to keep some sort of budget. My policy now is to do a bit of both- if I’m reading a lot by one author I make sure to buy a few books at the store. Then I might get a few at the library (and a few at the used book store.)

    New books I am excited about I run out and buy ASAP.

    How do authors make money off library books? Do they only count as one sell?

  13. La Belle Americaine
    · June 4th, 2008 at 11:04 am · Link

    I go through the same process when I read brand new, well-reviewed historical romances–especially by debut authors. The emotion that strikes me is a combination of “I can do better” and “why am I not writing like that?” I end up doubting the sort of stories I want to tell because I see what is out there and what is supposedly selling really well (aka what readers want) and start to panic that my current WIP is totally unsellable. Then I end up writing myself into a hole when I try to write a book that colors in the lines. I’m pretty much a manic depressive writer. *g*

    But then I tell myself: those writers wrote what was inside themselves and most likely acknowledged the very insecurities and fears I feel, but mastered them in order to reach the finish line.

  14. Darcy Burke
    · June 4th, 2008 at 7:18 pm · Link

    Hilarious post, T. I say hilarious because I have to laugh or I’ll cry. I started two of those books on that list and haven’t finished them yet. Both are beyond excellent and only have minor dents from being tossed away in self-doubt (see my Maven blog today for my angst). I will say they also inspired me as I completed revisions (done today, yay!). And I did the same thing as you…though I was looking at the amount of introspection.

  15. MsHellion
    · June 5th, 2008 at 7:41 am · Link

    I totally empathize and I’m not even in your position! But I agree that these authors you’re envying are going to be envying you right back!

    And I want to curl into a little fetal position ball everytime I read a Kleypas contemporary. Why do I even bother?