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Why I Read by Roberta Rich

Roberta RichShow me a voracious reader and I will show you someone who I daresay had a lonely, miserable and isolated childhood -- at least, I did.

As a child, I read to escape, to find friends, to travel to distant parts of the world, and to try to make sense of a world that I found pretty baffling. I was the type of girl who read cereal boxes, the tags on mattress covers, and the comics in Hubba Bubba gum.

I never enjoyed history in school - too many battles, boring old politicians and stuffy monarchs. But now, as an historical novelist, I find social history, the day to day gritty details of how people kept warm, cooked, had babies, went to the bathroom and had sex, riveting.

My reading has changed since I started writing full time. I used to be a 'drive by reader', pick up a book, read a chapter, finish it if I enjoyed it, and toss it aside if I didn't. I read everything - thrillers, mysteries, historicals and literary fiction.I am now more purposeful. I devour anything I can get my hands on dealing with Venice and Constantinople in the 16th century. I wade through academic books which are often useful, not for the day to day details I need to make my settings and characters come alive, but good for a general overview, and a sense of the period in general. It helps me avoid the kind of cringe-worthy mistakes I come across in other historical novels. Recently I read a novel set in 15th century Rome that referred to Italy as a 'country'. Italy is the new kid on the block in terms of unification and only since the 19th century has it been anything resembling a country.

The Midwife of VeniceI confess I read other historical fiction with fear and trepidation. What if the book is better? Smarter? Wittier than anything I could write? And guess what? Sometimes they are.

-- Roberta Rich

Writers of a certain vintage always seem to boast of the variety of interesting jobs they held before settling down to write. Jobs like fire breather on the Reforma in Mexico City, or turkey plucker. I have not done anything so exotic. Moving from present to past, I have been: a divorce lawyer, student, waitress, nurses' aide, hospital admitting clerk, factory assembly line worker and child. I am also the author of The Midwife of Venice (Gallery Books, February 2012).

I live in Vancouver, B.C. and in Colima, Mexico. I have one husband, one daughter, three step-children, a German Shepherd, tropical fish and many over sexed parakeets. When in Mexico, I nurture my husband, and my vanilla vines. When in Vancouver I try to keep dry.

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