Currently as we dip down to the winter solstice and the evenings are long and dark, I take the opportunity to sink myself into reading.
Books pile up in different parts of the house - by my bedside, next to where I traditionally sit in the living room, in my study, on the teapot shelf in the kitchen. I can happily read several books at once and with the reading, comes long hours of thinking and thinking, stimulated by all the ideas which we find in books.
Currently I am working my way through Marilynne Robinson. I have read Lila, gone back to the start of the trilogy to Gilead and looking forward to Home. If you haven't yet read these novels, you have a big treat in store. They are not long books but each sentence could be pondered over for hours. Deeply philosophical, religious, political, with wondrous characters and a world which although set in America 1930s-1950s, are so foreign to our English world, they might as well be set on another planet. Yes, we know about the Dust Bowl, abolition and the influence of the church and yes, we've heard of Kansas and Iowa, but the depth of characterisation and the landscape the characters move through, is a galaxy away from England in that era. This is not The Grapes of Wrath - this is after that great book and takes us into new territory.
Once I have read the trilogy, I have another Robinson to read, When I was a child I read books. I don't even need to explain this title. I simply love books about reading by writers I admire. But before I read that I am reading - again rather slowly, to savour it - The Road to Middlemarch, My Life with George Eliot, by Rebecca Mead. Mead has written about how Middlemarch has been part of her life since she was seventeen and has re-read it every five years. Her meditation on Eliot is so absorbing I don't even notice how dark the night is outside my window.
I have read 'George Eliot, The Last Victorian', by Kathryn Hughes and most of Eliot's great novels (curiously not Adam Bede yet.) Her most fascinating character to me is Gwendoline in Daniel Deronda, because of the enormous changes she goes through - I wasn't that interested in Daniel himself.
I thought myself pretty well finished on Eliot and then along comes Rebecca Mead's book and I'm off again. I'll probably reread Middlemarch this winter and read Adam Bede.
Writing - who has time for it??
I also have a Selected Poems of Paul Celan which I bought at the Kiefer exhibition at the Royal Academy last weekend and a War Diary of a young woman from Austria.
So what does any of this have to do with being an Edgy Y.A. writer?
Probably I don't need to answer that because I know that to most people it will be obvious.
But perhaps its enough for me to say that when I read, I am inspired, my imagination flies off in all directions, I sit and think, I daydream and above all, powerful, strong, brilliant writing encourages me to write the best words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books I possibly can because the benchmark is high and I will always reach upwards.
Enjoy your reading this winter.