Monday, June 29, 2009


My guest today is debut author, Lavinia Kent. She’s written a hot new Historical that’s been called “sexy and emotional experience that will sweep you off your feet!” and “an intense romance … it's a steamy story - but also a beautiful one showing the redeeming power of love."

I saw the cover, read the blurb and excerpt, (there is a link at the bottom of the Bio to read the excerpt) and knew it was one I wanted to read. It’s now proudly sitting on my To Be Read pile.

Lavinia touches on something that many writers and authors have noticed when reading as new books. How do you turn off the automatic editing/critiquing witch and just get lost in the book? Is that forever gone now that we’re writers?

I’ve just started reading one of this summer’s buzz books. A friend who said, “it was the book of the year” for her, gave it to me. I must admit it’s pulled me right in, but I still having a hard time really enjoying it.


It’s certainly is a wonderful book, every bit as good as I was told.

It’s even my type of book – a smart and sexy historical.

So what’s the problem?

I can’t stop reading it as a writer. I keep find myself analyzing sentence structure and thinking about plot devices. I am not doing this because the author didn’t do well. I am doing it because I want to understand and learn; to try and figure out what she’s doing and whether it’s something I would want to do. I examine how much description there is, how the dialogue tags work, how she manages to work description of the character’s emotions into the dialogue without losing the pacing. It’s all fascinating, but it definitely keeps me from enjoying the narrative the way I used to. It’s hard to get swept away by passion when examing word choice.

My problem is that I didn’t set out to do this. I just wanted to lie back and enjoy a great book. Instead, I am thinking about characterization and plotting.

I never used to be this way. It used to be that all that mattered was whether or not I enjoyed a book. I didn’t care about the whys. Now, it’s almost impossible for me to read without thinking about these things.

Oh, I can get swept away and not think about it for an hour or so, but then the very fact that I was swept away causes me to go back and think about the text. It’s a vicious circle.

I learn a lot by doing this, but I’d give even more to be able to go back to the complete absorption that I used to experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love reading. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. I am one of those people who could probably spend her whole life sitting on the beach with a cold drink and a book. I don’t get bored. I just get relaxed.

But it’s rarely the same as it used to be. I am always analyzing and thinking. I sometimes think the better the book; the more I try to figure out why. I often have to reread books before I can just sit back and enjoy them.

Does anybody else have this problem? Am I destined to spend my life thinking about why words work instead of just enjoying them?

Does anybody have the number for Critiquing Anonymous?


Lavinia Kent never knew that most people don’t make up stories in their heads to pass the time. She still has a hard time understanding how those who don’t survive the doctor’s waiting room or a grocery store line without another world to escape into.

Growing up in New York state and Wisconsin, Lavinia graduated from Wellesley College and, for reasons that are still not quite clear, also holds an MBA from Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University. Lavinia has remained in Washington ever since.

She lives under the gracious (and usually benign) rule of Erzsebet, the cat, along with her husband, three children, one cockatiel, two rats, and Erzsebet’s younger, subordinate tomcat, otherwise known as The Golden Snitch.

As the mother of three, Lavinia finds “leisure time” to be ever-elusive, but when she is not reading romance novels, she watches far too much HBO and reality television. It must also be noted that she has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Buffy.

Lavinia is a two-term president of the Washington Romance Writers and is proud to be a four-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart nominee.
She is excited (and humbled and thrilled and over the moon) about the publication of her first historical romance,
A Talent for Sin in June 2009 by Avon Romance.

Lavinia hopes that readers will find this
excerpt as tempting as Lady Violet finds Lord Peter on Lavinia's Website.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome Lavinia, to Over Coffee. I have coffee, assorted pastries, and a comfortable chair just for you.

I have to tell you, I absolutely LOVE your Book cover. Look at that expression...

Chelle Sandell said...

Oh...your book will definitely be added to my TBR stack. With summer here, I tend to go through them pretty quick. But if you find that number for the crit anon group--please share. :) I'm guilty of it as well!

Adina said...

That's an interesting frame of mind when writing, to look at your work from a writer's perspective...I don't think I am at that point yet but i feel it creeping in ....

Lavinia said...

I love my cover too. I did a great happy dance around the room. The funny thing is that while the heroine looks almost like Violet, A Talent for Sin's heroine, did in my mind the cover actually looks exactly like I always pictured the younger sister (heroine of one of my next books) looking. I use it for inspiration as I work on her story.

Ken Coffman said...

This is a horrible curse--there should be a government warning.


Writing has been shown to directly lead to over-critical reading and in extreme cases, can destroy the joy of reading and cause death.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Ain't that the truth, Ken. I'm afraid I'm afflicted with the same curse and think there should be a mandatory attendence at "Critiquing Anonymous." lolol!

jrafferty said...

Lavinia, good point. I think it depends on how you're reading the book -- for pleasure or to improve craft by studying another's writing. I try to dive into the story as a reader, but find I'm noticing more these days about how well crafted a story is.

BTW, I really like the book cover.

James Rafferty

Sheila Deeth said...

Absolutely, Ken!
I'm working on only reading as a writer when I stop - which with family in the house is fairly frequent. That way I can pretend the reason I've not responded to them is that (maybe) I'm working.
'Course, they don't believe anything to do with writing is work, whatever my dreams.

Lavinia said...

I must admit that it is great to have a job where I can claim my writing is work. I haven't yet taken the books I buy off on my taxes, but I am thinking about it this year. My husband scoffs at the idea, but if I am going to be plagued with critical reading there needs to be some payoff.

Lavinia said...

I meant to say "where I can claim my READING is work." I need to learn to proof before hitting send.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Lavinia, sorry to be absent. Family emergency.

Helen Ginger said...

Sometimes I can read just for pleasure, but sometimes, like you, I get caught up in the book's structure and mechanics, the way the author put words together, the way the clues are hidden, the way the author describes things or introduces technology and explanations.

It think it's not that you're not enjoying the book; you're just enjoying it on a different level.

Straight From Hel

Vivian A said...

A slippery slope indeed. A story has to have grievous errors for me to pull out in general. I do go back and reread sections for crafting tips, but not during the first read through. I want to appreciate the storytelling, then dissect.

Wonderful exerpt Lavinia. Looks like another book to be added to the pile. Definitely intriguing. Much success with your sales.

Thanks Sia, another fabulous author to tweak us.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Actually, that's a good point, Helen. I hadn't thought about it like that.

~Sia McKye~ said...


If the story grabs me, and many do, I will mark certain sections to go back and reread them with the view to learn how they handled a certain area so well.

Anonymous said...

"How do you turn off the automatic editing/critiquing witch and just get lost in the book?"

Sia, that's a great question. I can't do it. I can be utterly absorbed in a book, then a typo happens, and bam, I'm out of it.

It's a blessing and a curse. It works out well when I'm editing for others, but it sucks when I'm trying to read something that I'm not supposed to be editing.

Rachael W.

Nicola Cornick said...

Oh, how I could identify with your post, Lavinia! Not only reading either - my family say that I'm the worst person to see a movie with because suddenly I'll whisper "plot device!" I try to hold it in but it escapes anyway. But I'm with Helen on this. When I'm reading or watching as a writer I can still be enjoying myself. A perfect example was the film Slumdog Millionaire which I analyzed as I watched - and I absolutely loved how cleverly it was constructed.