Writer in Residence

Between the pages

By Dietrich Kalteis


“When I'm really into a novel, I'm seeing the world differently during that time — not just for the hour or so in the day when I get to read. I'm actually walking around in a haze, spellbound by the book and looking at everything through a different prism.” — Colin Firth

To read something brilliant motivates me — I want my own writing to shine brighter too.

Some books are so compelling that I feel right next to the author, even the ones written by the greats of long ago. It’s like catching some of their essence by reading their words. 

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

Reading brought me to writing — that love of the way the words can be strung together, their power, and how they shape a story. Images fill my head as I’m transported to different places and times, with interesting characters that just walk off the page.

“A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.” — John Milton

There’s inspiration packed between those covers.

Nobody has ever come up with a Rembrandt with a paint-by-number frame of mind. For me, inspiration is not about trying to imitate another writer’s style in the hope of capturing his or her magic. It’s about being called to go deeper on every level and trusting I’ll make the connection that will elevate my own work.

“A book ought to be an icepick to break up the frozen sea within us.” — Franz Kafka

I’m always searching for what I consider great writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, as long as it pulls me in. The words need to make me feel something — emotional consequence.

“Books are … funny little portable pieces of thought.” — Susan Sontag

When I travel, I always have a few books along to keep me company. Sometimes there’s no better way to let air or rail miles tick by than by reading. Over the past several years I’ve taken many long journeys by train. When I’m not drinking in the vastness outside the window, the varied cityscapes, and the interesting others that cross my path, I usually have a book in hand. 

“Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” — Annie Proulx  

I read a lot over the course of a year, usually a book or two a week, and I’m always interested in authors I haven’t read before, along with the backlists of those I have. And then there are the classics that I love to read over and over again. Of course, I accept there are more good books than time, and I’ll only be able to scratch the surface and will never read them all.

“When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.” — Jorge Luis Borges


The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue, Poughkeepsie Shuffle, and Call Down the Thunder. His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, entitled Shootout, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. Cradle of the Deep is his eighth published work. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast.