I'm wondering about the process of writing genre fiction and I have several questions to pose, but before I do that I'm going to talk a bit about what I went through while working on my trilogy.
Being that Wolfmoon Trilogy is fantasy I decided to avoid Juliet Marillier, (a favorite of mine), or other fantasy/sci-fi writers once I got into the narrative, for fear that I might inadvertantly copy some aspects of their stories. I was bound and determined to write something fresh and different. (good luck, you say?) I wanted to create a world out of my imagination, as all writers do, concentrating on avoiding the usual suspects, such as elves, fairies, ogres, dwarves, dragons, wizards and witches. I researched Celtic myths for my gods and goddesses and found Gaelic names for the alien species that appeared in my imagination. As I write this I realize that I've forgotten how I came up with the name Crion, the people in my book who stand around four feet tall and are part of the 'keepers of the wisdom'. I'm sure there was something that brought that word to mind! The word Amuigh, another species in the story, a sort of cross between humans and apes, is Gaelic for 'outside', which I interpreted as outside the known. The Wildmen, a clan of humans that live in caves and have no laws, are also known as the duin fiain, Gaelic for wild or untamed.
In my first drafts I called the villains Fomorians, for a mythological race in Ireland, but later changed it to a Gaelic word, Oillteil, which means terrible or dreadful. Doing this allowed me to make up their description and not be hemmed in by myth or have them confused with comic book characters. Of course I've taken liberties with several myths that I hope will be forgiven in the over-all gist of the story. I also have to admit that there is a druid who is a wizard, although I don't call him that, as well as a 'seer' who is a witch.
So in conclusion I wonder how you genre writers approach your work. Do you avoid reading books in your genre or do you read them avidly? Do you worry that your characters might be too closely associated with characters in other books? How do you get around the 'usual suspects' issue?