Recently, my Kindle broke.

Having lasted a good five years, its life was brought to an abrupt end when a passing two year old threw it from the sofa to the floor. This wasn’t a throw from a great height (two year olds aren’t tall). There was no force or venom involved (though two year olds can be both forceful and venomous). The child concerned simply wanted to reclaim that particular patch of sofa and was a little stunned by my yelp. It was a casual but, ultimately, murderous move, and has left me with multiple itches I can’t scratch in the shape of a collection of eBooks I can no longer access – one of which I was halfway through.

All of this is prelude to explain why I’ve yet to read Neil White’s latest crime book, ‘From the Shadows’. I want to, it sounds really good, but it’s currently only available in ebook (as of yesterday), so I need to fix my kindle situation. Fast.

Why so keen? Here’s the blurb:

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .

 Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.

When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.

But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost . . .

Intriging, yes?

With no further preamble, I’ll hand you over to Neil, who has been sufficiently lovely to visit Buried Under Books to chat about his reading and writing.

I can only presume that I’m like most writers, in that I wanted to write because I loved to read. This is where the desire takes a bitter turn, because being a writer means that I can’t spend as much time reading. It’s as if the pleasure of writing comes with a price.

The main reason for this is time. Time spent reading is time I could be spending writing, and it is writing that pays the bills and puts food in the cupboards. It is writing that will make me worry at night or panic near the deadlines, or see a weekend lost to the demands of quick editing turnarounds.

It is hard to quantify how much time is spent on writing a book. I’m sure there are some people who are very disciplined about how they go about their writing day, and I envy them for that, but I’m more like the majority, who can’t measure writing time by hours spent in front of a computer screen. Distractions happen. Minds wander. I have no idea if my imagination is any more active than anyone else’s, because my imagination is the only one I know, but there must be some activity there. This means that my mind wanders, and which means I spend hours pretending to write and very little time actually writing. I should learn to spend that wasted time with a book, but it is hard to step away.

It is hard to quantify how much time is spent on writing a book.

That is not the only change in my reading habits.

Deadlines create havoc for reading. I have less than a month to submit my next book and it isn’t finished, and one thing I won’t be doing is reading someone else’s book as I battle to finish my own.

There are two reasons for this, and the first is obviously the time factor. The second one, however, is one I’ve heard from other writers, and that’s the fear that my own style, my voice, will be affected by reading someone else’s work.

It doesn’t matter so much in the early stages, because the book will be changed and edited and sharpened and will assume my shape. At the latter stage, however, it is there to be influenced, even subconsciously. I don’t want that, and I see books from other authors as like the kid who turns up with chicken pox at your child’s nursery just before you’re due to fly out on holiday.

I am not unique in this. I have a to-be-read pile that is groaning, but I am avoiding all of it until April, when my next book is finished and submitted and I can wallow in the books I’ve wanted to read for so many months.

I’ve often wondered if writing books affects how I read books.

There is something else too, and I’m sure one that all bloggers are familiar with this, and that’s time spent reading books posted to me rather than selected by me in a bookshop. I don’t mean mail order, but books sent by other publishers looking for a recommendation or a blurb. I feel obliged to read those, because someone has deemed me worthy of receiving a free copy. Some I’ve really enjoyed (and some I’ve not), but they’re not books that I’ve picked myself and relished opening the pages. Someone else has chosen them for me. It is where reading becomes part of your job rather than part of leisure.

I’ve often wondered if writing books affects how I read books. In some ways it must do, like when I’ve seen what an author has done to a particular scene and I’ve admired how it was done, or when I’ve read a book that I wished I’d written, but fundamentally I’m looking for the same thing: to be engrossed in someone’s story. It is always great to read a book that has been lauded as this year’s hot property and turns out to be worthy of the title.

I’m sure a time will come when I’m no longer writing, although I hope that is some way off, but in some ways I’ll enjoy just being able to browse a bookshop, knowing that whatever I pick I can take home with me and enjoy straight away. No more shoving them behind review copies of books not yet released or shelving them because of some deadline. I’ll return to what all writers are at heart: a love of reading.

It will be crime. It will always be crime, I expect, but it would be good to rediscover the terror of a good ghost story.

Many thanks again to Neil for visiting Buried Under Books and sharing your thoughts about reading and the writing process. I am very much looking forward to reading ‘From the Shadows’.

Now to sort out this Kindle problem…


Neil White was born and brought up around West Yorkshire. He left school at sixteen but returned to education in his twenties, when he studied for a law degree. He started writing in 1994, and is now a criminal lawyer by day, crime fiction writer by night.