Reading like a Writer

Happy New Year! In case you missed my writers in residence series on Totally Random, here are my tips for reading like a writer.
First, get a library like this. Just kidding.
First, get a library like this. Just kidding.
Read as much as you can, as widely as you can: First, seek out other novels that orbit the same world you’re interested in writing about. Learn the hallmarks of your genre. (And by “genre” I simply mean “category.” All writing falls into a genre—from science fiction, to contemporary realism, to academic journals. Genre never is and never should be a pejorative term). Learn the rules and how to break them. Figure out what you think is most exciting about your genre and what you think are the biggest pitfalls. And then—pick up a book that is as far outside the world in which you’re writing as possible. Pick up a non-fiction book about popular science or a thick old Russian classic. Trust that you can learn something that will expand your mind and your capacity as a writer in every book you enjoy. But don’t waste your time. Obviously, not all books are for all readers. That is okay! I give most books fifty pages; if I’m not hooked as a reader after that, I move on to something else. Read several novels at once! When I started writing YA novels, I began alternating between one contemporary YA novel, one non-fiction book, and one classic novel—sometimes all in the same day. Right now, for example, I’m reading a non-fiction book about the history of tears called Crying, as well as Moby Dick and Margot Lanagan’s spectacular The Brides of Rollrock Island. I enjoy the way the texts interact with each other. It’s almost like all the books I’m reading at the same time are in the same room, bumping into one another, sometimes having to apologize for stepping on the other stories’ toes.
Don’t be afraid of being influenced: I often hear about writers shying away from reading a worthwhile book because they’re worried it’s too close to what they want to write about. This is a fear that I strongly believe must be overcome. Writers must write and read throughout their lives, and if they take time off from reading every time they’re writing…they’re going to have a lot of catching up to do. All great writers have their influences. In fact, naming your influences is a question interviewers love to ask writers and readers often love to know about their favorite writers. No writer should feel ashamed to have found inspiration in someone else’s story. We should only feel emboldened. Embrace your influences fearlessly. Borrow from the greats and don’t look back. Readers who look closely might see William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, Philip Pullman, Roald Dahl, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez all being paid homage to in my books. I’m honored to have loved their stories and enjoy being able to show my appreciation with small tributes in my own books. Of course, being influenced is not the same thing as being a plagiarist. It should go without saying that we still need to do the work to make the things we borrow our own. Roland Barthes famously said that “the text is a tissue of quotationsdrawn from the innumerable centers of culture.” As long as we remain curious and open to drawing inspiration from everything around us, our tissues of quotations will be rich and varied and uniquely our own.
Take notes: A devoted reader’s tendency with a truly remarkable book is to escape completely into the text, to forget his or her surroundings and enter the world of the story. I know this is a delicious activity, and occasionally, I allow myself the indulgence. But most of the time, I fight to keep my mind slightly above the surface of a great book so that I can ask myself the questions that will make reading it not just enjoyable for me as a reader but also productive for me as a writer. When a book makes me laugh, cry, or shout out “Wow!” I stop. I take a minute and ask myself how the writer pulled off this miraculous feat. I trace back the steps that led to my emotional response. How did the writer handle the pacing leading up to that critical moment? Did things slow down or speed greatly up? When did the character go from being a separate entity to the suit I put on, zipped up, and became? How and where were the seeds planted throughout the book to make this particular moment so effective? Do I have a sense that the author knew all along that this moment would be revelatory, or does it feel like one of those magical curveballs the brain sometimes throws at a writer in the heat of typing? All of these questions will produce highly subjective responses. If I were to answer them, to ask another reader to answer them, and to ask the writer to answer them, we would have three completely different sets of answers—that doesn’t matter. What matters is what lessons you, the affected reader, want to take away from your experience. What matters even more is how you can learn to apply these lessons to your own writing in the future.
Join a discussion group. Maybe some of the things I’ve been suggesting sound like good advice…but you don’t know where to start. Maybe to you, books have always been a private getaway, a chance to let your mind go, a place you want to experience but not have to scrutinize. Maybe thinking critically about your favorite novels feels like something best left inside a dreary literature class. Maybe you simply don’t know how joyous book discussions can be! I grew up with a mother who loves to read, who was always suggesting books to me, and who enjoyed talking about the things she read, so chatting about plots and settings and point of view, gossiping about characters as if they are real people is very natural to me. If you haven’t had that experience and you are interested in writing, I suggest seeking out some kind of community to discuss the books you love (and love to hate). Book clubs can be marvelous. Online forums are a great way to connect with people with similar reading aesthetics you might otherwise never have found. Stop into your library or local bookstore; they often host discussions of books, sometimes even when the author is present. I should add that the best book club discussions I’ve had often occur over a book that inspires varying opinions. It’s fun to bond with a group of people who wholeheartedly love the same book you love and have no questions or complaints about it…but it might help you more as a writer to get into the nitty gritty of a book that compelled you but also made you think: Why did the author make that choice? Why didn’t the author explain xyz? How does my worldview impact the way in which I read this book? Why did the ending bother me so much?
Cheers to fresh starts, new ideas, and endless inspiration!

Happy reading and writing,


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And the winner is…

Thanks to all who participated in my Thanksgiving Contest. You sent in wonderful, thoughtful responses. I loved reading your praise of fiction.

Congrats to Savannah W. on her winning entry (keep an eye out for your Fallen box-set in the mail!) And a special shout-out to  runners up: Adriana, Cara W., Carmen B., and Arrielle.

In Savannah’s own words: “Fiction makes me thankful because even in the most fantastical, most unrealistic stories, there is something very real about the characters that we grow to love. Characters in fiction books can show us the best and worst in humanity and help us to see those traits in ourselves. A great fiction book can give us a best friend when we feel we have none, find us love in an unloving world, and break our hearts as though it were happening to us. I am thankful for fiction for the days when it gives me hope for a better future, and the days of comfort when hope is nowhere to be found. I am thankful for fiction for keeping me up at night reading and for keeping me impatient as I wait for the next installment of a best-loved series. I am thankful to fiction for the days when I finish a book and simply cannot move from the spot where the story left me, because I am still too invested in this world that I love. I am thankful to fiction for the tears, the talks, the laughter, the smiles, and the fury. But most of all, I am thankful to fiction for taking me to a place outside of myself, but a place that is wholly within myself.”

Thanks again!

Below: Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom has great book style.

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Fallen Fotos, Part Three

Time for the Passion pics!

This batch made me think of Luce’s  journey into the distant past. Imagine what it would be like to travel through an Announcer and end up face to face with your former self in ancient Egypt…

Or Shakespeare-era London…

But the truth is, anywhere (and anytime?) can feel like home as long as you’re with the one you love. Happy Monday, angels.

Have you seen photos that make you think of Passion? If so, post a link to your Fallen-inspired Pinterest boards or Facebook photos below in the comments section. And be sure to check back next week for all things Rapture.

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Fallen Fotos, Part Two

This week I wanted to share these photos of the breathtaking Angel Island, off the coast of Sausalito, which remind me of the opening scene in Torment when Cam and Daniel meet to discuss the rules of the angelic truce. Doesn’t this transport you to their meeting by the water? Does it make anyone else want to head to Roland’s bonfire at the Shoreline beach?

Have you seen any photos that make you think of Torment? If you have, post a link to your Fallen-inspired Pinterest boards or Facebook photos below in the comments section.

And be sure to check back next week for a healthy dose of Passion

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A *Free* Fallen Chapter Sampler

Maybe you’re new to the Fallen world. Maybe you just got an e-reader and can’t wait to download something fabulous. Maybe you simply want to brush up on each book in the series before RAPTURE comes out on June 12th.

The Fallen Chapter Sampler is for you! And…it’s FREE! Here’s the story:

The Lauren Kate Fallen Series Ebook Sampler is the ultimate FREE introduction to the #1 New York Times bestselling series Fallen, the worldwide phenomenon. Featuring excerpts from all five of Lauren Kate’s bestsellers, Fallen, Torment, Passion, Rapture, and Fallen in Love, this free ebook preview is the perfect way to introduce the atmospheric and compelling Fallen world of supernatural romance and fallen angels to readers.

You can download it from:



Barnes and Noble

Random House

Enjoy–and get ready for the finale next month.

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Read a Book, Save a Life


For the past three months I have been training for a half-marathon with a group called Team in Training. Team in Training is a philanthropic organization that raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children and young adults under the age of 20 and is the number 1 cancer in senior citizens.

I was personally touched by the disease last year, when my grandfather lost his battle with leukemia. So now, along with my Team in Training running group, I am racing to raise money to help battle blood cancers.

By September 5th, the day of the half marathon (in Disneyland!), my goal is to raise over $2000 to go toward finding new treatments and eventually a cure for this devastating disease.

So what does this have to do with you, you ask? I have forty copies of my books (including some various fun editions, like a lush mass market paperback of Fallen from the UK, the audio book, a couple Spanish and Italian versions, and even a few advance copies of Torment!) that I will be auctioning off to the first forty people who make a donation (of $10 or more) through my Team in Training website. I will sign, personalize, and send a special thank you note with the book to anyone who helps me support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

You can visit my fundraising website here and make a secure online donation on the right hand side of the page. I’ll get an email notification when you do, and as long as you include your email and mailing address when you fill out the donation, I’ll have all the information I need to send you your personalized book. I will email you before I send your book to check whether you have special dedication wishes, or if you can read, say, Chinese and want that edition! I have no idea how many of you will be interested in this, but if we exceed the forty books I’m starting with, I’ll update my blog and maybe increase the quantity. (That would be incredible!)

These can be yours!

I know that many of you and the people you love have also been touched by some form of cancer, and it feels wonderful to know there are great organizations out there like Team in Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that allow all of us to get involved–even in a small way–to save lives.

Do I look like a girl who is about to run 13.1 miles?
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Comic Con

My first trip to Comic Con was a great time this weekend. I did a few video interviews that will be available on youtube very shortly. I got to sit on a Bite Me panel with  six other fantasy writers, where we spoke to around 350 Comic Conners about everything from demented unicorns, to how we do our research, to whether or not proper vampires have fangs.

I had a really nice signing after the panel:

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A little bit of news…

Hi everyone! Several bits of news today:

First off, I’m excited to report that I’ve been nominated for an Indigo Teen Reads award in the Best New Writer category. This is the inaugural year for the contest, run by the great Canadian bookstore, and the best part is: readers get to choose the winners! Please visit the site, fill out the very quick registration form, and vote for Fallen (and me) in the Best New Writer category.

This is what you’ll see after you vote. If you’re hard core, you can come back and vote every day!

Next up, I’m about to head out on a blog tour in the UK for a little armchair (or desk chair) travel. Tomorrow (June 30th), you can find me at Book Chick City, and I’ll be making about ten more stops after that. More details, dates, and links to come.

My Brit blog tour coincides with the perfect-beach-read mass market paperback release of Fallen in the UK, and I also have this wonderful new trailer to share. Some of you Brits might be seeing it during the theater previews for Eclipse this week!

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The Only Immortal Boy in New York and My First TV Appearance

I hear it was cold this weekend in New York. Luckily, this guy was there to heat things up.

On Friday, right before Valentines Day, “Daniel” hit Times Square to promote Fallen. People often ask me my favorite part of writing teen novels.  I’m not embarrassed at all to say that promo events like this are dangerously close to the top of the list? Look at this! It’s fantastic!

While Daniel was busy wooing the ladies of New York, I ventured back up to northern California for my first ever TV appearance. I used to watch Good Day Sacramento when I lived in Winters while I was in grad school, so it was a lot of fun (and very nervewracking) to be asked on as a guest. Here’s a shot of me prepping in the Green Room and a link to the clip on Good Day’s website. (It will load, eventually, on the right side of the page.)

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Snow Days

I’ve been friends with my oldest, closest friend Megan since we were three. We met in pre-school, spent every waking second we were allowed to together as kids, tormented her little brother together, were tormented by my older brother together, and ran up enormous phone bills when we moved away from each other to go to college. We have the kind of friendship where I’m not really sure something big has happened to me until I’m able to pick up the phone and tell Megan.

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Pictures of ze Day

The Fallen display at the ALA Midwinter conference in Boston. Sounds like it was a great weekend!

From my reading last night at the Borders in Mission Viejo. Thanks to Carlos and Rose at the store and to the great group who braved the apocalyptic storm to come out!

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Next Up: A blog tour and SoCal signings

On Monday, January 11th, I’m excited to embark on my first blog tour. I’ll be guest blogging about all sorts of things from forbidden love, to why I sometimes ignore my mother, to what it felt like to get the news that Fallen hit the New York Times Bestseller List. Here’s a list of the blogs where I can be found–and I’ll post what I write here as well:

January 11th Beatrice

January 12th Through a Glass Darkly

January 13th A Patchwork of Books

January 14th The Reading Zone

January 15th The Children’s Book Review

January 20th

January 21st The Book Butterfly

January 26th

I also have a few upcoming events in Southern California, so those of you who live nearby, please come out!

On Saturday, January 16th, I’ll be signing books at Chevaliers in Los Angeles from 1-3pm.

On Tuesday, January 19th, I’ll be reading from Fallen and signing books at the Borders in Mission Viejo at 7pm.

On Saturday, January 30th, I’ll be reading from Fallen and signing books at the Borders in Long Beach at 2pm.

When I was in Arkansas recently for the holidays, my publisher sent 300 copies of Fallen to my mother in law’s house for me to sign for the ALA mid-winter conference. It was a tough job, but at least I had a helper:

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I wish my nephew David Franklin could come to all of my signings with me, but I understand he’s got other things on his plate.

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That’s all for now. If you’re local, I hope you can make it to one of these upcoming bookstore events! If you’re reading this from afar, I hope you’ll join me on my blog tour.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Tonight I’m going to see a double feature of Crazy Heart (an overdue birthday present to Jason) and Youth in Revolt (because Michael Cera is the bomb). Living on the edge here!

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Fallen in the Random House Windows

In the Random House windows

I’m a sucker for a good window display. When I lived in New York, I walked past all the big department stores on my way to work and always loved when the holidays rolled around so I could see what Saks, Bendels, and Bergdorf had concocted. Though not quite as elaborate as a Saks display, this one made my week. I’ve been hearing about this poster but haven’t had a chance to see it myself (one of the pitfalls of living across the country). Thanks to my friend Cristin for sending this along!

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Details from the tour

The last week of October, I went on a six city pre-publicity tour to promote Fallen. Having finally caught up on some sleep and taken a little time to process all of the amazing things that happened, I’ve decided I feel about book tours the same way I feel about roller coasters:

They are wild. They are intense. There are moments when you think your stomach will drop out of your body—but as soon as the tour is over, you want to go again. And you wish you’d made a different face when that automatic camera snapped your picture after the first big drop. The point is: I loved it. I want a season pass.

The first stop on the tour was New York, my former home, which I miss. When I checked into the hotel, the receptionist looked down at her notes, then up at me and said, “Fallen. Is that that movie with Denzel?” Not yet, I told her.

I got to sign books at this very cool event called Teen Vogue Fashion University. It was swank-city. I think I got a full year’s worth of fashion inspiration from the teen girls ambling up and down the halls. Click for more details and pics after the jump…


Teen Vogue_2

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