About Me

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I read, write, craft and home educate. My debut novel Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase was published in 2014. My second novel, A Life Between Us, was published in 2017. I live in Northamptonshire. My website can be found at louisewaltersbooks.co.uk

Monday, 12 June 2017

Indie author Kathleen Jowitt

Today I'm delighted to welcome indie author Kathleen Jowitt to my blog. Kathleen is the first indie author to be short listed for the Society of Author's Betty Trask Prize, with her debut novel, Speak its Name. The Betty Trask Prize is awarded each year to a first time novelist under the age of 35, writing in a traditional or romantic style. This is an exciting development for all indie authors, and I was keen to hear more about this exciting news. Here's Kathleen...


Could you tell us about your decision to self–publish your novel Speak its Name? I wonder if you tried the agent/publisher route first; or if you always intended for this to be an indie book?  
I did try the agent/publisher route, but I didn't get very far with it. I think everybody – myself included – was a little confused by the genre, and didn't know how to go about selling it. I tend to blame Section 28 for killing the emerging genre of LGBT teen fiction. If I'd been trying to sell to American publishers then things might have been difficult.
When it came to it, the decision to self-publish wasn't particularly difficult. Or, rather, it was absolutely unthinkable until the moment that it was the obvious next step. I found that the confidence, to take responsibility for everything that went out under my name, landed just after I turned thirty. By then I'd already put in a lot of work into making the text as good as it possibly could be, and I was free to concentrate on all the practical considerations that I'd blithely assumed somebody else would be dealing with, and when I dealt with those one at a time they turned out to be much less hassle than I'd feared.


Kathleen

Could you tell us a little about Speak Its Name?
It's part Barchester, part coming-of-age, part coming out. It's the story of an evangelical Christian, and closeted lesbian, trying to navigate the troubled waters of university politics; it's about identity, and faith, and integrity.

What are the advantages of self-publishing?
You can write absolutely anything you like. There's no need to self-censor, to keep half an eye on what somebody else thinks is going to sell. You can go at your own pace, too, setting your own deadlines.

And the disadvantages?
You have to do everything yourself, or, if you don't do it yourself, you have to arrange for someone else to do it. I've had to be my own typesetter, cover designer, secretary and publicist. Fortunately, those are all skills that I've developed in the course of my day job – but there are still only so many hours in the day.

Yours is the first self-published book to be short listed for the Betty Trask Prize. How does that feel?
It's amazing. I've talked about having to develop the confidence to take ownership of my own work, but I must also admit that having had such a prestigious judging panel say such complimentary things about that work has been massively reassuring.
I can't overstate what a surprise it was. I was on holiday in northern Spain when I got the news; I checked into a hotel after a very long day on the narrow gauge railway, connected to the wi-fi, and, among the dozen emails that had accumulated while I was out of range, there was the notification. Reading the header out of context, I didn't immediately remember who or what Betty Trask was. I'd better not repeat what I actually said when I read the email itself! I spent the next week worrying that they'd made a mistake, that they hadn't noticed that I was self-published and that they'd change their minds when they did. That lasted until the press release came out, making it clear that the fact that I was the first self-published author to be shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize was a feature, not a bug!




Did any aspects of self-publishing surprise you?  (For instance, I found the marketing to be more work and more time consuming than I’d imagined…!)
I was surprised by how much it's changed in the past couple of decades. My parents have both self-published and my childhood memories are cluttered with stacks of books and rolls of bubble wrap. Print-on-demand technology and online ordering mean that somebody else deals with all that – which is a great relief.

Self-publishers talk about the “freedoms” of being an indie. They undoubtedly exist, but what about the limitations? Are there any? Or is the publishing world really our oyster? 
I think our reach is always going to be more limited than that of those authors who are represented by publishers with multi-million pound budgets. We have to fight harder for our credibility, too, though I'm hopeful that things will change there. Whatever happens, though, I think that the thick skin I've developed in the course of self-publishing can't help but be an asset.

The Alliance of Independent Authors runs a campaign, Open Up to Indie Authors, encouraging bookshops, book prizes and reviewers to include and embrace self-published books. What do you feel we as self-publishing authors can do to seek inclusion?
I think we just need to keep plugging away, to keep knocking at the doors until they open up for us. There seems to be a new openness, a new willingness to accept the idea that self-published authors can be producing good work. My own experience is evidence of that.

What’s next for you?
I'm working on a novel called A Spoke in the Wheel. The narrator is a professional cyclist who's been banned for doping. He's trying to re-establish his life in a place where nobody knows him and he never has to look at another bike. But of course the first person he sees is a cycling fan...
At the moment I've got some knowledgeable friends reading it for me, checking that I've got things right. Apart from all the bike stuff, I'm very keen to make sure that I haven't messed up anything around disability and the way the benefits system works, which is a major theme.

And finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I've nearly finished Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts – the first volume of an account of his epic hike from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. In this one he gets as far as Hungary. It's a fascinating portrait of Europe as it was between the wars, with a flamboyantly rich descriptive style, and it makes me want to be out on the road to somewhere.


A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube by [Fermor, Patrick Leigh]

Thanks to Kathleen for joining me today, it's been fascinating to hear from her. 

Kathleen's blog can be found here, and she tweets @KathleenJowitt

The Betty Trask Prize winner will be announced on Tuesday 20th June 2017. Good luck Kathleen! 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

From The Other Side: Margaret Bonass Madden

I'm delighted to be returning to my From The Other Side series this week, after a brief interlude during which I interviewed two of my favourite fellow authors, Isabel Costello and Rebecca Mascull. I then invited the hard working Bleach House Library blogger Margaret Bonass Madden to appear next on my blog, and she agreed! Margaret is a student, mother of five (like me!) and a foster carer. She also manages to find the time to read and review lots of books. Awesome. Here's what she had to say...

All book bloggers are surely book lovers. How and when did your love of reading begin?
I have always been an avid reader. My father used to take me to the library in our coastal village. Then children’s section was upstairs and I still remember the wide, wooden staircase and the big heavy doors. There was a large stuffed ladybird on top of the bookshelves and I wanted her SO badly. There were Beatrix Potter prints dotted around the room and the silence was deafening. The counter was really high and I loved the thud of the rubber date stamp and the little cardboard tickets that were inside each book. I thought I would never be old enough for the ‘grown-up’ library, which was downstairs. When the day finally arrived, I was so proud to have a blue library card instead of the child’s green one.



Margaret


When did you start your blog?
I wrote my first blog post back in July 2013. I cannot believe how time has flown!

Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading and reviewing?
Obviously, I have a love of Irish Fiction. For such a small island, we have a reputation of producing some of the worlds most talented writers. In general, I love everything except sci-fi and fantasy. I appear to be missing the gene.

Do you have a “day job” (work, children, and/or caring responsibilities) - and if so, how do you fit in all your reading, reviewing and blogging?
I am a full-time BA student and a foster carer. I am studying English and History, after returning to education after more than twenty years. I also review books for both The Irish Times and The Sunday Independent. It can be hard to fit everything in but, when it comes to books, I find the time. 

If I don’t like a book, I usually don’t review it on Goodreads, Amazon, Netgalley or on my blog. For me, that’s the kindest thing to do. As a writer, I know how disheartening negative reviews can be. I also appreciate not every reader enjoys every book. How do you stand on this issue?
I am different to you. I review for the readers, not the writers, so I review everything on Goodreads, Amazon etc. I try to find something positive to say, but will be honest. I won’t always put every review on my blog, as they may have been used in a newspaper. It is rare that I read books that I don’t like, these days. I think publishers now know what kind of books I enjoy and the ones I have bought myself were chosen for obvious reasons. I did read a title recently that was so badly written that I ended up chucking it at the wall. I chose not to review on my blog, as I had not finished it, but I did leave feedback on Goodreads and Amazon. I would NEVER tag an author in a negative review. That is just cruel and unnecessary.

Have you ever had a negative response from an author after reviewing their work, and if so, how did you handle it? (No names needed!)
Yes. The author responded to a review link on Facebook. I did not engage. It is not a wise move. My advice is to NOT respond.

How do you feel about indie authors? Do you consider self-published books?
I do review self-published books, but they must be well-packaged and be edited by a professional. I have read some that have been published without either of these being done and it is very obvious. Asking a few friends and family to read your novel before you press publish is not enough. [I quite agree! - LW]

On the other hand, how do you feel about those over-hyped books from the Big 5 publishers?!
I am usually sent very early copies of books from the Big 5 and can see how a big social media campaign can make a huge difference. I can receive up to thirty books per week, so getting a particular title noticed, very early on, needs some clever marketing. However, not all of these books deserve the hype. Again, this is where honesty comes into play. If you don’t post negative reviews, how will people know not to buy certain books?

There has recently been some negative stuff on social media about book bloggers. I know how this feels, as I am self-publishing my second novel, and lord knows how indie authors get looked down upon in some quarters! So - how do you respond to that negativity?
I don’t engage with individual angry/ranty/trolling social media posts. It is pointless. I did write a piece for the IrishTimes about this very subject, as there was an implication that bloggers are not real readers. This could not be farther from the truth. We are doing this for our love of books. We are not paid. We may be the most qualified to have opinions on books.

Have you made “real life” friends as a result of your book blog?
Have I ever! Since I began bleachhouselibrary.ie, I have met the most wonderful, like-minded people. From authors, bloggers, publishers, booksellers, librarians….
There is always someone I can call on if I am travelling to an event, home or away, that will be more than delighted to meet up. I get to launches/festivals/readings in both the UK and Ireland so I have been fortunate to meet many, many wonderful people. I wish I could attend more events in the UK, but it's financially impossible. Flights are not expensive, but hotels are!

Tell us about the art of writing a review. How do you avoid spoilers but manage to convey the sense or feel of a book? I find it difficult, so any tips will be gratefully received! I’ve seen some fantastic reviews, which I suspect were pretty tricky to write…
It can be SO hard. The short newspaper reviews are the hardest! Trying to get the story across enough to pique interest can be harrowing work. Seriously. Spoilers are an absolute nightmare and are a pet-hate of mine. I read a review last year, which gave the whole story away. I have not bothered to read that book since. What is the point? The only tip I have is to concentrate on the bigger picture; the characters; the location; the feel of the book. Some reviews can take me a long, long time to get right.

Big question: Have you ever been tempted to write, or have you written, a novel (or any kind of book) yourself?
I love short stories. Both reading them, and writing them. I love how you can get straight into the characters heads and compress an idea into 2000 or 3000 words, yet still have an impact. Often the endings are ambiguous, so this is a genre that not many choose to read. Maybe readers fear that short-stories are ‘arsey’ (my favourite word) but this is not the case. If done correctly, they can be both enjoyable and extremely memorable. I have no interest in writing a novel in the foreseeable future. I completely adore writing reviews and still get massively excited to see them online or in print.

Quick fire: E-reader or print?
Print.

Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
Letters from the Suitcase by Rosheen and Cal Finnegan. It is non-fiction, which I aim to read as much as possible.

Letters From The Suitcase by [Finnigan, Cal, Finnigan, Rosheen]



Big thanks to Margaret! Fascinating stuff, and a refreshingly uncompromising attitude to book reviews. As Margaret says, they are for readers, not the authors or publishers. I also like the sage advice for us self-published authors about the importance of decent editing and covers. 

Margaret blogs at Bleach House Library

... and tweets @margaretbmadden (bleachhouselibrary)


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Paris Mon Amour by Isabel Costello

Today I'm thrilled to welcome author Isabel Costello to my blog. Isabel cuts quite a dash in the book world with her wonderful blog, The Literary Sofa. I've twice been a guest on the sofa, and felt it was about time I returned the hospitality!


Isabel

Isabel is now also an author, with her debut novel Paris Mon Amour, published in ebook and audio in June 2016 with Canelo. Isabel made the decision to self-publish the print version of Paris Mon Amour, and that's what we're talking about on my blog today. Here she is...

Could you tell us about your decision to self–publish your novel Paris Mon Amour in print?
There are two sides to this.  Firstly, from the very start (even at the launch!) there was something about this novel that made people want a print version.  That’s largely due to the stunning cover by Dan Mogford, which we kept for the paperback. And like most authors, my dream was always to hold a book I’d written in my hand!
What actually made it happen was one of those random strokes of luck.  The Fiction Buyer from WH Smith Travel read the novel, loved it and wanted to stock it. For that, there obviously needed to be a print edition and when my and my agent’s attempts to find a print publisher didn’t succeed (the tight timescale didn’t help), I couldn’t let the opportunity pass and decided to do it myself.  It was a daunting prospect, but I really believe in this book and it would have felt like unfinished business not to.




What are the advantages of self-publishing?
It’s fantastic to be in control – you hear so many stories about authors being less than happy with their covers, blurbs, marketing efforts, etc. and I got to make those decisions and have everything just the way I wanted it, right down to the font size. I was lucky to have the support of everyone I needed to make it work: my agent, my digital publishers Canelo and the very impressive indie publishing team at Clays printers, who specialise in guiding the uninitiated through every stage.

And the disadvantages?
I suppose it’s the flipside of the above.  When you’re in charge, the buck stops with you. It was a massive learning curve and I worried about making some terrible mistake that wouldn’t come to light in time because nobody was looking over my shoulder. (It wasn’t until I’d read the finished paperback that I was fully convinced I’d sent the right version to print, despite checking a hundred times!) There’s so much to stay on top of and it’s hard work, but fortunately I’ve always enjoyed project management and collaboration and am fairly organised by nature. Finally, although the printing costs per unit are surprisingly low, overall it’s an expensive and risky venture.  Let’s just say I am not on the waiting list for any yachts!

As a self-published author, did you feel that any doors were closed to you? For instance, press coverage?
No, I have been pleasantly surprised - it was far more of an issue when my book was digital only. However, I’m not sure how representative my experience as a self-published author actually is.  This is a very unusual situation with the novel having first been commercially published in digital and audio a year ago. Wearing my marketing hat – I used to work in that field – I was able to make a virtue of the novel’s track record and the response from readers. Over half of the independent bookshops I approached individually with my Advance Information Sheet got back to me showing an interest – I was delighted.

Did any aspects of self-publishing surprise you?  (I found the marketing to be more work and more time consuming than I’d imagined…!)
The thing that surprised me most was how tricky typesetting still is.  Like many people, I na├»vely assumed that in the digital age you just run the text through a programme and it comes out looking lovely. In reality it’s an art requiring patience and painstaking attention to detail; solving one issue (such as crazy hyphenation) often causes another (‘widows and orphans’, anyone?). I am so grateful to Simon Collinson of Canelo for bringing his talents and sense of humour to the task. 

You set up your own Literary Sofa imprint to release the paperback. Do you think readers care who a book is published by?
In a word, no. I think readers mostly care about two things: whether a book appeals and whether it is any good, both in terms of content and presentation.  One of the biggest challenges self-publishers face is ‘discoverability’ – getting it onto readers’ radar in the first place.  Once that’s achieved, it’s down to us to prove we can compete.  One thing that seems to have surprised a lot of people is that the quality of my self-published book matches traditionally published ones, and I’m really proud of that.  Self-publishing has come a long way and is now an important part of the industry; disparaging it is an easy way to look out of touch.

What’s next for you?
When things calm down, I am really looking forward to making a start on my next novel, also set in Paris.  I have a detailed outline but bringing Paris Mon Amour out in print has taken over my life these last four months; it’s certainly true that self-publishing has a major impact on writing time. Otherwise, I am busy preparing for my new Perseverance and Motivation for Writers workshops with psychologist Voula Grand.  Without those ‘resilient thinking’ skills, I might not have had the nerve to tackle my paperback project, but I’m already very glad I did!

***

Many thanks to Isabel for joining me today. Her route to publication is a fascinating story in itself! Paris Mon Amour is a fabulous novel, which totally deserves to be available in print as well as in ebook and audio.  I wish her every success and can not wait to get my hands on a copy. 

Published on Monday 22nd May, you can buy it on Amazon, and of course in all good WHSmiths Travel bookstores. It is a perfect holiday read!

Next time I'm returning to my From the Other Side series of posts, in which I interview book bloggers. See you then! 







Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

I'm taking a short break from my "From The Other Side" feature to chat instead this week to fellow author, Rebecca Mascull. 





I got to know Rebecca back in 2013 when we had both been signed to Hodder with our debut novels (Rebecca's The Visitors and my Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase). We became online friends, and soon met in real life. I was thrilled to go to Rebecca's launch party for her second novel, Song of the Seamaid, where we found a few moments to hug and say "Hi"! 

Rebecca's third novel, The Wild Air,  is out this Thursday, 4th May. (May the force be with her!) Let's hear from her now...




The Wild Air is your third published novel. Tell us how that feels please!?
I feel like a proper author now. One could be a fluke, two a coincidence, but three? Well, it’s a magic number, innit!

How did you come by the idea for The Wild Air?
I saw a documentary on the Wright Brothers and loved the idea of it. Once I started researching it, I discovered about all these Edwardian female pilots I’d never heard of. I fell for all of them! I wanted to tell their story, especially since it was so unknown.

Your level of research is legendary! How much did you do for this novel?
Bless you! I did the usual obsessive amount. Dozens of books, documentaries, films, unpublished letters and diaries at the Imperial War Museum and even a flight in a light aircraft! That was the best bit and really made the novel. It became real at that moment, up in the air.

Wow, that is research extreme! How did the flight go? 
I was really nervous before, then frightened to death in the first 5 minutes, which then dissolved into absolute, unalloyed joy. To see the earth like that, to be at one with the air…It was utterly magical and it changed my life. I’ll never forget it.

All your novels have been historical. Are you considering writing anything contemporary? Do you think that would lessen the research workload?!
I do, I do! I’m thinking about it now, actually. Watch this space…




Now that you have written several novels, do you have a favourite among them?
I don’t actually. I love them all in different ways, for their beautiful bits and even their faults. A bit like children! The three heroines are all very dear to me, though very different women from each other. I’m so fond of all of them and each time I’ve finished the drafting, it’s been a terrible wrench and I’ve missed them awfully. Lately I really miss spending time with Dudley Willow, who’s in The Wild Air, and based on my grandfather.

You’re having a third launch party. Will you be as excited and/or nervous at this one as you were for the first?
I was sick with nerves at the first one and only very slightly less at the second one. So I hope this time to actually try to enjoy it a bit more and remember that everyone’s there because they are interested in the book or because they’re supporting me, so why be nervous? I’ll tell myself that on the day, anyway!

What’s next from you?
I really don’t know, is the honest answer. I feel like The Visitors, Song of the Sea Maid & The Wild Air are a kind of historical trilogy about the hidden histories of determined women. So I’d like to do something completely different, I think…




Finally, what are you reading at the moment?

I’m a teacher presently, so I’m reading very little except mock exams and homework! I haven’t read a novel for months. I do miss reading terribly, but I can’t find time for it in my head. I’m sure it’ll come back some day, maybe in the summer holidays, when I have a bit more space in my mind. And then it’ll be all my author friends’ books, with yours at the top of the list! Can’t wait. I’ve heard such great reviews! 


***

Rebecca blogs at Tumblr

And she tweets @rebeccamascull

Big thanks to Rebecca for joining me today. I've now read all three of her novels, and they are splendid reads. The heroines are all fighting in a man's world to live the life they want to live, and do the things they want to do. Adeliza, Dawnay, and Della are a trio of inspiring heroines, and I'm sure you will enjoy spending time with them. The Wild Air can be bought here

Next time on my blog I'll be chatting to another fellow author, Isabel Costello. After that all will be resumed with From the Other Side...! 






Friday, 21 April 2017

From The Other Side: Book Blogger Anne Williams

Welcome to the fourth in my series From The Other Side, in which I turn the tables and interview book bloggers on my author's blog. I'm really enjoying hearing from the bloggers and finding out more about them. One thing that's struck me so far is the time and commitment it takes to be a serious book blogger. So much reading... and then the writing and organising of reviews and blog posts. It's quite mind-boggling! 

This week it's a great pleasure to be chatting to the one and only Anne Williams, whose blog Being Anne is pretty famous in the publishing world, and for good reason. I know I was thrilled when Being Anne recently featured my book! 

OK, no further introductions necessary...let's have our minds boggled by Anne...

All book bloggers are surely book lovers. How and when did your love of reading begin?
I can remember starting primary school and wondering why the other children found it all so difficult. My mum introduced me to books at a very young age, and from that point on I was always the one found in the corner at parties, nose in a book, oblivious of everything. My love did falter a bit - taking a degree in English Literature (had to be, really!) nearly killed it forever, and there were years when I was working that it was easier to collapse in front of the TV. Thank goodness, I got over that!


Anne


When did you start your blog?
Just over four years ago, but at first only in a small way, to capture my thoughts on the books I read - it’s only taken over my life since I retired…!

Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading and reviewing?
I’m never sure how to define what I enjoy. Probably “women’s literature” sums it up best. I’ve developed a bit of an instinct in choosing books that I know I’ll enjoy, and when I agree to review I’ve usually spotted something that makes me think the book has “me” written on it. Above all, I like a book that makes me feel something - engaging my heart is the best guarantee for an enthusiastic review.

Do you have a “day job” (work, children, and/or caring responsibilities) - and if so, how do you fit in all your reading, reviewing and blogging?
I don’t work any more - I took early retirement just over three years ago, and never regretted it for an instant. Family issues have been something of a feature over the last couple of years - more difficult because I was in Yorkshire, the family in North Wales - and I have had to take occasional breaks. Now my 91 year old mum is living near me, things are very much easier. I spend a few hours a day putting the blog together, writing interview questions and reviews, dealing with emails, catching up with social media - and the reading fits into my every spare moment.

If I don’t like a book, I usually don’t review it on Goodreads, Amazon, Netgalley or on my blog. For me, that’s the kindest thing to do. As a writer, I know how disheartening negative reviews can be. I also appreciate not every reader enjoys every book. How do you stand on this issue?
I never review a book I haven’t enjoyed - my reviews are my personal reaction, and I only want to share the positive. I sometimes think - in my self-critical moments - that  people must think I love everything I read. I choose well most of the time, but if my negative feelings outweigh the positive, the book will quietly disappear. While I haven’t enjoyed a book, others might love it - I’ll leave the reviewing to them.

Have you ever had a negative response from an author after reviewing their work, and if so, how did you handle it? (No names needed!)
I don’t think I ever have. If I’ve included criticism amid the positive - something about the book that maybe didn’t work as well for me - people have always reacted well, and we’ve sometimes discussed it further (in a friendly, supportive way!).

If you are a member of the Amazon Vine programme, can you tell us a bit about that? Is it a big commitment? Do you have certain obligations to fulfill as a Vine member? 
I am an Amazon Vine reviewer, but very rarely review books through the programme - I prefer to stick with other things, and the stringent timescales for book reviews don’t really work for me. If you exceed the deadline, it blocks your list - nothing else to review - until you do it. And I really dislike the culture of “book bashing” that seems to have evolved within the group. I’d rather stick with my stationery and household equipment…

How do you feel about indie authors? Do you consider self-published books?
I choose to read and feature indie and self-published authors above any others. I’ve discovered some absolute gems that way, and made some lovely friends. Let’s face it, those big blockbusters are going to sell whatever I choose to say about them - but if I can help a small indie publisher or a self-published little star sell a few more books by reviewing or running a feature, I think that’s far better use of my time. I just wish I could support everyone who asks, but I do need to sleep occasionally.

On the other hand, how do you feel about those over-hyped books from the Big 5 publishers?!
I do review and join blog tours for the Big 5 - and I’m lucky enough that they ask me to do so.  There are good and not-so-good books from big publishers and indies/self-published alike - I review the ones I enjoy. And I do rather prefer reviewing books that everyone else might not have read and enjoyed yet - hype and over-exposure does put me off a little.

There has recently been some negative stuff on social media about book bloggers. I know how this feels, as I am self-publishing my second novel, and lord knows how indie authors get looked down upon in some quarters! So - how do you respond to that negativity?
I haven’t really engaged with it, but it made me both sad and angry. It’s so insulting when it’s said that book bloggers aren’t “real readers” - I certainly am, and so are all my blogging friends. If I promote books without reading, I do so because I know I would enjoy them, and because I want to bring them to people’s attention. I do it for love, and have never made a penny from my blog - I work very hard for no financial return, as do all bloggers, and when misguided people imply we have some other agenda, it hurts.

Have you made “real life” friends as a result of your book blog?
So many! Nothing gives me more pleasure than getting together with blogging and author friends - and I’m really lucky to be invited to so many launches and get togethers to meet up with friends old and new. The only little problem is that most meet-ups are in London, and I live in Yorkshire - but I do get to as many as I can (and I’m very grateful for my Senior Rail Card!). 

Tell us about the art of writing a review. How do you avoid spoilers but manage to convey the sense or feel of a book? I find it difficult, so any tips will be gratefully received! I’ve seen some fantastic reviews, which I suspect were pretty tricky to write…
Goodness, I can’t give advice on reviewing - and when I read “how to” articles, I think I probably do it all wrong. But - other than the cardinal sin of spoilers - there really is no right or wrong. I rarely repeat much of the story, only a flavour - and always focus on the impression the book made on me. Did it move me, make me cry/laugh/angry/happy? Did the dialogue work well? How about the characters? The setting - did it come to life? Did I look forward to picking it up? What feelings did it leave me with? I don’t know about you, but I’d always prefer to read a review where a reader clearly loved every moment of their experience (those are the books I buy) than those where I’m told the story.

Big question: Have you ever been tempted to write, or have you written, a novel (or any kind of book) yourself?
When I retired, I had great plans. I’ve always been comfortable in the world of words, I signed up for an OU writing course, and a couple of writing groups, looked at the RNA New Writers’ scheme, and really wanted to make a serious attempt - until life and those family problems made me take my eye off the ball. At the moment, I’m happy to be blogging - but never say never…

Quick fire: E-reader or print?
Ebooks (almost) all the way. I still love the smell, feel and look of print books, but have started to struggle with reading them, mainly because of my age and deteriorating eyesight - the back-light of my Kindle Paperwhite and the ability to increase print size makes life so much easier. And my handbag and holiday suitcases are far lighter…

Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I’m just finishing (and thoroughly enjoying) The American Girl by Rachael English - then I’ll be starting The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull (and really looking forward to it!).








Anne blogs at Being Anne

Anne tweets @Williams13Anne

Many thanks to Anne. It's been lovely, and enlightening, to hear from her. My mind is truly "bloggled"!!

***

On Thursday 4th May I'll be talking to The Wild Air author herself, Rebecca Mascull! 



Thursday, 13 April 2017

From the Other Side: Book Blogger Nicola Smith

Welcome to the third in my series "From the Other Side" in which I interview book bloggers here on my author blog. This week I'm delighted to hear from Nicola Smith, AKA Short Book and Scribes. (Great title!) Nicola is quite new to book blogging, but she is racking up a lot of reviews, and a reputation to go with them. Here she is...

All book bloggers are surely book lovers. How and when did your love of reading begin?
I can't remember a time when I didn't read and love books. I could read before I went to school and just couldn't leave them alone from then on. I started off with Topsy and Tim, I think. My mum used to read to me and later on I started reading aloud to her too. I remember reading The Wizard of Oz to her. Even as a child I clearly remember having a mini TBR pile at the side of my bed. It's grown considerably over the years!


Nicola... and a book!


When did you start your blog?
Very recently, at the end of October 2016. I can't imagine not having it now though as I love it.

Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading and reviewing?
I love contemporary/literary/women's fiction, crime and psychological thrillers, time slip and time travel. I can't resist books about books, or stories set in Scotland or Italy.

Do you have a “day job” (work, children, and/or caring responsibilities) - and if so, how do you fit in all your reading, reviewing and blogging?
I have a three year old son called Daniel who is just wonderful. After I had him I went back to work part time and so I work 10 hours a week as a church administrator (that's not my proper job title but it's easier to explain it if I say I'm an administrator). I work half of it at the church and half at home. In a way it's easier to fit in bits of reviewing and blogging during the day in fits and starts than it is to find time to read, which I tend to do mostly in bed. I need quiet to read and I don't get much of that!

If I don’t like a book, I usually don’t review it on Goodreads, Amazon, Netgalley or on my blog. For me, that’s the kindest thing to do. As a writer, I know how disheartening negative reviews can be. I also appreciate not every reader enjoys every book. How do you stand on this issue?
Reviews are subjective and one of my biggest bugbears is when people say things like "this book was rubbish" in their reviews. It can have an immediate effect on the person reading the review and put them off something they might actually like. I always like to try and stress that it's my opinion but that just because it wasn't for me doesn't mean that others wouldn't like it. Chances are that if I don't like a book then I haven't finished it and therefore I wouldn't review it (unless I absolutely have to that is. For instance, when reviewing for Amazon Vine you have no option not to review, whether or not you liked the book). If it's one of those books I thought was just OK, I always try and say something positive - I don't want to hurt an author's feelings!

Have you ever had a negative response from an author after reviewing their work, and if so, how did you handle it? (No names needed!)
No, not yet!

How do you feel about indie authors? Do you consider self-published books?
Of course. I wouldn't have read your lovely book otherwise! {Thanks!} I think more and more writers are choosing the less conventional publishing route and so to dismiss all of them would be unfair. I consider each book on the same criteria, i.e. is it something I would like to read?

On the other hand, how do you feel about those over-hyped books from the Big 5 publishers?!
I love them. I must admit I'm a bit of a sucker for a bit of hype.

There has recently been some negative stuff on social media about book bloggers. I know how this feels, as I am self-publishing my second novel, and lord knows how indie authors get looked down upon in some quarters! So - how do you respond to that negativity?
I'm not really bothered about it. Some people genuinely don't understand what a blog is and some people just don't want to read it - that's fine, I'll just keep plodding on.

Have you made “real life” friends as a result of your book blog?
I haven't met anybody in real life but the blogger community has been so welcoming so I have some great virtual friends now.

Tell us about the art of writing a review. How do you avoid spoilers but manage to convey the sense or feel of a book? I find it difficult, so any tips will be gratefully received! I’ve seen some fantastic reviews, which I suspect were pretty tricky to write…
Well, I'm no expert! I think people reading reviews want to know how the book made the reviewer feel so I try and say something about that. I think the biggest difficulty is trying to avoid saying the same sorts of things in each review. Everybody has their own style and it's very easy to end up using the same words and thoughts over and over again. The challenge is to find new ways to say what you feel.

Big question: Have you ever been tempted to write, or have you written, a novel (or any kind of book) yourself?
I seem to remember thinking I would have a go many years ago, but what I wrote was utter rubbish. I've never been tempted since. It's strange - although I have a vivid imagination I'm no good at dreaming up scenarios for a book.

Quick fire: E-reader or print?
E-reader because it's so much more convenient and you can store thousands of books on it. Win-win!

Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I'm just about to start Death of a Cuckoo by Wendy Percival.




Nicola blogs at Short Book and Scribes

She tweets @ShortBookScribe

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Big thanks to Nicola for chatting to me today. I'm really enjoying discovering more about how book blogging works. I'm awed by the amount of reading bloggers get through, and the time and effort they put into their reviews. 

Next time, join me as I chat to blogger Anne Williams of "Being Anne" fame...


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

From The Other Side: Book Blogger Linda Hill

Welcome to the second of my "From the Other Side" interviews, in which I chat to book bloggers on my author blog. My guest today is the lovely Linda Hill. I've been following Linda on Twitter for some time: I've noticed she reads a lot of books and writes a lot of reviews on her award winning blog! I was keen to find out what makes Linda tick, and it was fascinating to find out. Here she is...

All book bloggers are surely book lovers. How and when did your love of reading begin?

I was actually a bit of a late starter as I have terrible sight but it wasn't picked up until I was 7. I got glasses at 8 and a whole new world was opened up to me when I realised the smudges on the page were actually words and could take me on all kinds of adventures. I also have a sister who is almost 9 years older than me so she used to read to me, making me lazy!


Linda 

When did you start your blog?

I began on 7th February 2015.

Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading and reviewing?

I find this a tricky question to answer as I have quite eclectic tastes and enjoy all kinds of books. It's probably easier to say what I don't like and I'm definitely less keen on horror, dystopian fiction and sci-fi. If pushed I'd have to say literary fiction is my favourite, but I like historical fiction, women's fiction, crime, chick-lit and I love a psychological thriller.

Do you have a “day job” (work, children, and/or caring responsibilities) - and if so, how do you fit in all your reading, reviewing and blogging?

No! I am 'self-retired' which means I simply decided not to work any more so I can do what I like and this means spending around 4 hours a day blogging! In fact, I spend so much time organising blog posts that I'm actually reading less so I'm going AWOL this April to catch up a bit and just read and review. I also garden, write a little bit, drink a lot of tea, eat chocolate and love travelling.

If I don’t like a book, I usually don’t review it on Goodreads, Amazon, Netgalley or on my blog. For me, that’s the kindest thing to do. As a writer, I know how disheartening negative reviews can be. I also appreciate not every reader enjoys every book. How do you stand on this issue?

If I don't like a book, or it won't be 3 stars or more on the different sites, I don't post on Goodreads, Amazon and so on. I do blog about it, but I always try to be polite and constructive because no writer sets out to write a bad book and what may not appeal to me might be the perfect read for others. That's why I also try to say who the book would appeal to even if I'm not keen. That said, when I've had books that I think are truly dreadful and badly written I just don't post a review on the blog either because I probably won't have finished it and I never review a book I haven't actually read. 

Have you ever had a negative response from an author after reviewing their work, and if so, how did you handle it? (No names needed!)

Fortunately not! (I expect I'll get one tomorrow now!)

How do you feel about indie authors? Do you consider self-published books?

Always. I actually feel pretty guilty as I have a huge pile of indie books awaiting review and I can't get through them quickly enough. I would say that often I've read an indie book and can't see why it hasn't attracted a conventional publisher too. There's some wonderful writing out there. The odd one isn't as good but that's true of big names in writing and publishing too!

On the other hand, how do you feel about those over-hyped books from the Big 5 publishers?!

It depends. I have a couple on my TBR (not mentioning names) that I simply can't get into no matter how hard I try. I understand how books need the hype, but I always like to make up my own mind. There are some like Girl on the Train I haven't even bought, let alone read. At other times I've read what I thought was an over-hyped book and have been absolutely blown away by it.

There has recently been some negative stuff on social media about book bloggers. I know how this feels, as I have self-published my second novel, and we all know how indie authors get looked down upon in some quarters! So - how do you respond to that negativity?

I ignore it! Bloggers do a brilliant, unpaid, job and try to support one another and authors of all kinds. I've made some fabulous real and 'virtual' friends as a result of blogging and there will always be those in any sphere of life who are negative or jealous and try to put others down. I actually feel a bit sorry for them. It must be awful to spend your life being nasty about other people. How sad.

Have you made “real life” friends as a result of your book blog?

Oh - yes! I have made friends with both bloggers and authors, some of whom have been to my home and others I meet on a regular basis at different events.

Tell us about the art of writing a review. How do you avoid spoilers but manage to convey the sense or feel of a book? I find it difficult, so any tips will be gratefully received! I’ve seen some fantastic reviews, which I suspect were pretty tricky to write…

I'm not sure I'm qualified to give advice here! I only give a couple of sentences to set the scene of the book at the beginning and then don't reveal anything else about the plot. I'm one of those who hates spoilers of any kind and I even slide post-it notes onto the final paragraphs of books so that I can't inadvertently see the last few lines. When I write a review I concentrate on the quality of language, character, theme and setting and I always try to convey how a book made me feel. Reading is a really personal experience for me.

Big question: Have you ever been tempted to write, or have you written, a novel (or any kind of book) yourself?

I am part way through my first novel. I intended writing it during NaNoWriMo in 2015 but my husband was diagnosed with cancer on 6th November and that rather distracted me. So, I thought I'd crack on during NaNoWriMo 2016, but my father was dying and passed away on 9th November so I didn't have the emotional energy. Maybe NaNoWriMo 2017 will be my year. I have it all planned and 26000 words written but I doubt I'll ever show it to anyone. {26,000 words is a terrific start. Good luck with this Linda, how exciting!}

Quick fire: E-reader or print?

Yes to both! But print really!

Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 

I'm just starting Dawn O'Porter's The Cows but have only read 10 pages so far.




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Linda blogs at Linda's Book Bag, and she tweets @Lindahill50Hill


Many thanks to Linda for this fantastic interview. I don't know about you, but I'm curious about that novel she is writing...!


Join me again soon for another "From the Other Side" interview. I'll be chatting to Nicola Smith, AKA "Short Book and Scribes".