Thinking Out Loud About Book Reviews and Author Interviews

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(Random pic I chose from Instagram)

My vacation is almost over. I’ve decided to act like a grown up about it and not cry. Something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, that I wanted to start doing on this blog last year, is book reviews. To do book reviews you need to be reading. I have been in a long non-reading phase. I tried to break it a couple of times last year and ended up reading The Typewriter Girl which I couldn’t finish for several reasons, one being that I’m not fond of the word “cock” or scenes in which tongues are urgently thrusting and exploring and “flicking”.

My main goal in doing book reviews is to be sharing more new authors and independent authors with others. I’m not interested in writing reviews that tear authors down. I want to build them up. I think it’s possible to write honest reviews that aren’t mean. Here are the aspects of a book I want to cover in a review:

Genre: did it live up to my expectations based on the genre the book claims to be? Or does it belong in a different genre? Or is it true cross-genre?

What was the most engaging aspect of the story for me?

Who was my favorite character and why?

What was the biggest theme of the book?

What is one thing I would like to have seen more of in the story?

What is one thing I would like to have seen less of in the story?

Describe this book in five words.

I want to address research and development too, but I’m not sure how to do this without sounding like a bitch. It’s like when one of the readers of Cricket and Grey questioned how Cricket got ammunition in a post apocalyptic world (are bullets readily accessible, for example) and I was annoyed because there’s a scene in which I specifically showed Cricket refilling bullet shells with a tool people use to do this at home. Something I actually did research on. Sometimes you can do research but somehow still leave a reader unconvinced you know what you’re writing about. Sometimes you just don’t do enough research. And this is important, few things will tear a person out of a story faster than some unrealistic action or a reader catching the author out in a poorly researched subject that the reader knows more about than the author. I will have to think on this more.

Historical novels that get the fashion wrong seriously irritate me. Victorians actually showed very little boob, for example. Cleavage was something you only saw on prostitutes or with ball gowns. In day-garments you would not see cleavage and the corsets were so tight, generally, you would be hard put to see a woman’s chest actually heave. But in the regency period, the foundation garments were different and you might see more cleavage during the day. These details matter. They matter because if you’re going to write about a tediously documented time period, you need to know the tedious details as an author. If you don’t want to stick to the details then you need to write in a genre that allows you to make shit up and do what you want that works for your story. Steam-punk is a good example of that. It’s Victorian-like but not.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on reviewing books. I also want to do author interviews. I want to do them where I ask every author the same questions. Things I always want to know about a writer.  Here are some of them:

What are the 3 main themes that show up in your novels?

Do you write in the genre you love to read the most? If not, why?

What’s your favorite part of the novel writing process?

What’s the hardest part for you in writing a novel?

Tell me 3 of your own characteristics you always give your main characters?

What is one characteristic you have given a main character that you don’t possess yourself but wish you did?

What’s your favorite book of all time and what about it do you love the most?

What’s your least favorite book of all time and what about it did you hate the most?

What drives you to write novels?

What is your biggest pet peeve that novelists commit in their books.

What do you think is the biggest pet peeve readers might have that you commit in your own books?

List your 5 favorite words.

List your 5 most hated words.

What is your best/favorite writing tool?

Favorite place to write?

What’s your preferred steam level in books?

1) G-rated, as in: no one is getting any

2) PG-rated, as in: people are getting some but once kissing gets heavy the curtain falls on the scene

3) R-rated, as in: people are getting thrusty and hard and you’re watching with popcorn

4) X-rated, as in: so explicit you have to put the popcorn down and actively participate

 

There you have it. I’m off to a pub now. I will refine these questions in time to start with my first book review of “The Parting Glass” by Katherine Lampe

4 comments

  1. With book reviews it’s tough to not sound like a jerk. For me, as a writer, the biggest thing is sticking with the problem. “THIS GUY SUCKS!” is not productive, “The author’s constant use of the word ‘fuck’ in every imaginable configuration really pulled me out of the story and made it hard to relate” is a lot more helpful. If you stay on point, you should be fine. If an author gets pissy about a review, they should toughen up. Negative reviews sell books too. I’ve seen plenty of people pass on books because they were rated so highly they just assumed it was faked somehow.

    Also, just a personal preference, I’ve done a few interviews for blog tours and such and I always dread the blogger that says, ‘here’s a list of questions, pick 3-5 and answer them’. If you have read the author’s work, an interview sounds much more genuine when you can control the interview. The best interviews I’ve produced have usually come out in ‘chat’ settings, blogger emails a question, I answer, repeat. Then it feels more like an interview. If you are dead set on having everyone answer the same questions, pick a number and ask those exact same questions, but make the questions damn good. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, ‘What inspires you?’. You know what I want in an interview, “Give me a fifty word flash fiction including the words rhino, propane tank, velociraptor, and fedora.” but that’s just my two cents.

    If this diatribe hasn’t offended you, I’d love to offer myself up for an interview and I can even get you a review copy of any of my work if you’d like. No pressure, just throwing it out there.

  2. angelina says:

    Hi Alexander! I’m not worried about interviewing authors. I would never say “here are some questions, answer a few of the ones you like”. The list of questions I’ve come up with here are questions I ALWAYS want to know about authors. I have already decided I want to do interviews in a chat mode. My personal preference is in G-chat but not everyone will go for that. I personally love the format of where interviewees all get asked some of the exact same questions. I know a lot of people don’t like the Actor’s studio show but one of the things I loved is that every single actor is asked some of the same questions and my favorite is “What’s your favorite swear word”. I think that it offers a kind of framework to show off how different all of the actors are from each other. If you ask questions completely tailored to each author’s individual books or projects – it isn’t as interesting to me.

    The review is to share with readers specific books and an overview that hopefully answers questions for people who are wondering if they’d like to read the book. The author interviews are NOT about the books I’m reviewing. They are separate. They would NOT be in the same post.

    Of course I’m not offended by your diatribe. I’m in no way seeking books to read right now. I would definitely be interested in reading your book down the line because you are part of my twitter writing crowd and I would like to eventually read all my twitter writer friends’ books. But as I said in the post (I think I said in the post? Maybe I didn’t?) I’m trying to come out of a very long non-reading phase and finding it hard. Kele’s book is the first one I’m finishing in a long time. I will do a review of her book first. Then I’ve got about 6 other books to read. This post is just me thinking out loud to organize my intention to do this soon.

  3. angelina says:

    NO NEED TO BE NERVOUS! I won’t do this for several days anyway. I’m going back to work tomorrow so will be adjusting to that. Plus – your book is good!

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