So I got interviewed as a book reviewer as part of an ongoing feature over at BlondeWriteMore. I think it went pretty well- I'm talking about me, after all- but I can't help but feel like I should've fleshed it out a bit more. Ah, well.
(reblogged from BlondeWriteMore)
Welcome to my weekly series – Book Reviewer Interviews.
I believe that book reviewers hold valuable insight for us writers and their answers to my interview questions make intetesting blog posts.
Please welcome my new book reviewer friend John Green and author of the blog Illuminite Caliginosus
John, thanks so much for sitting in my interview chair. Please tell us about yourself.
First one’s always the hardest. Lessee now- born, raised and still living in Brooklyn, NY. Wanted to be either a baseball player or paleontologist when I was little. Ended up joining the Marines instead, traveled the globe and can’t really say a bad word about my tour. To paraphrase Malcolm X: the plan was theirs, any mistakes were mine.
Worked for Virgin USA for over thirteen years; had a blast and met a lot of good people and had some great experiences. It was like getting paid for hanging out with your friends! If there ever was such a thing as a good retail job, that was it.
The last few years I’ve been in the Sports & Entertainment field; blogging and reviewing was something I kinda fell into, and I really enjoy doing it. I’ve met a lot of good and… interesting… people during my online career.
I’m also a member of Amazon’s Vine program and a former Top 1000 Reviewer on the site.
Been an avid & voracious reader all my life; I was that nerdy kid who’d always get “volunteered” to enter trivia contests, spelling bees, etc, and I always had to take something into the bathroom with me to read (once upon a time that wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Neither was being nerdy). One of these days I’ll finally finish my own novel and then get to see how the other half lives.
What made you start reviewing books?
During my time at Virgin USA I was the Magazines Buyer for the NY stores, getting my hands on more books and reading material than I’d thought possible (rubs hands gleefully).
**The store was located in the same building where Random House had their offices, and I was on good terms with the building guys so they always let me know when RH would dump out books. Discovered a lot of new authors that way- good, bad and ugly. I’ll always be proud to call myself a Dumpster Diver.**
**Our UPS driver, Joe, offered to grab a few books for me while he was delivering up there, and part of the stack he brought back included the first three books of GRRM’s Song of Ice & Fire- all hardcovers with original artwork.**
After Virgin USA closed I spent a lot of time on Amazon buying even more books. I got in the habit of sifting through the reviews for recommendations, etc, and picked up on a few individuals I felt I could rely upon not to steer me wrong, like EA Solinas, Chibineko and others. I’d always been the one my friends and family would go to for a critique because they knew I was hard but fair, and it finally occurred to me that I should write a few reviews myself- sort of give back a little and have my say. Next thing I know I’m making steady progress through the ranks and I wondered what I could do with this.
How many books do you review a month?
It varies. I’ve slowed down over the past couple years; used to aim for maybe 5-10 a month, right now maybe half that. One of my goals is to clear out some of my TBR pile; I know- we ALL say that, but my work schedule affords me a lot of free time, so I have a good shot at it. I’ve still got stuff going back to the 2010 BEA I haven’t checked out yet.
What is your selection process for reviewing a book?
Nothing set in stone. The easy answer is “whatever catches my attention”, but defining that is the trick. I’m a very eclectic reader; I’ve always been chiefly into Fantasy/Sci-fi but right now I’m really into Steam/Diesel/Atompunk- though I haven’t seen much of the latter two so far. There’s also Lovecraftian Horror, which I think’s been under-appreciated but seems to be enjoying a renaissance now. Guess we can thank the oversaturated PNR/UF genres for that.
Both the blurb and the cover are key, of course- you never get a second chance at that first impression. There’s been quite a few eye candy covers that made me stop to check them out, only to get let down by the synopsis. So many books nowadays, especially in the YA genre, immediately drop the ball from sounding like carbon copies of each other that it’s hard to find anything worth investing time in. I swear you can choose ten, TEN, YA novels at random and the blurbs will all sound the same! How many Chosen Ones with Destined/Fated/Soulmates stories does the human race need? When’s the next Alice in Wonderland/Brothers Grimm ripoff due out? Will this end up being Gregory Maguire’s enduring legacy?
For me, it’s gotta be something at least a little different; whatever the genre it has to be something that makes it appear like the author actually had something to say- a story they wanted to tell and not just aping the latest trend to try and make a quick buck. And that gets harder to find every day.
A good one was Pagan by Andrew Chapman. It’s a PNR/UF/Horror series about vampires having existed for centuries but only certain agencies like the Catholic Church knew of them. All the books, movies, etc, served as misdirection and softening up for when they finally emerged and basically sucker-punched the entire human race. Some countries tried to make nice and assimilate them True Blood-style while others said F-that! Even the werewolves sided with humanity against the vamps. Made for a refreshing change of pace from sparkle-pires and woobie-wolves.