I am excited to present to you my very first EVER interview on my BLOG! I would like to do LOTS MORE! I have IDEAS! But what a great start!
Today I have Andrea Johnson, an avid reader and reviewer of Science Fiction and Fantasy. She keeps a blog at The Little Red Reviewer, and we all wait SLAVERINGLY to hear what she says about our stories.
(Now, you may be THINKING we’re using our Royal Plural HERE, but you can’t be sure, can you? WE MIGHT BE SPEAKING FOR THE HIVEMIND!)
Now Andrea has collected the best of eight years of reviews into a book for our shelfish pleasure (not SHELLFISH, autocorrect!), and she’s running a Kickstarter in the month of January to fund it!
She’s fascinating and lovely and she has books in her TBR pile that haven’t even been INVENTED yet! But I’m getting ahead of myself! Read this interview, and get to know her a bit for yourself.
And then, if you have a few bucks to spare, send them her way at her The Best of the Little Red Reviewer Kickstarter!
C. S. E. COONEY: Have you always written about the books you’ve read? Do you read differently when you are reading to review a book than when you are reading for pleasure? Are they one and the same? How are the experiences alike or different?
ANDREA JOHNSON: I’ve always enjoyed talking about the books I’m reading. Why am I reading it, am I enjoying it, that sort of thing. Writing about books I’m reading didn’t start until the internet and “blogging” was becoming a thing. Would you believe some of my first pseudo-reviews were on MySpace?
CSEC: MYSPACE! I HAD A MYSPACE!!!
AJ: Through a bulletin board, I’d gotten connected with someone who was started a review journal on MySpace, he mailed me a few novellas, I read them and posted my thoughts. It was way fun! I posted reviews on a few now defunct bulletin boards and e-zines, and many years later, Little Red Reviewer is a happy eight year old book blog.
I do read differently when I’m reading for review, I’m much more focused when I know I’m going to review the book. I like using a blank piece of paper as a bookmark, so I can take notes as I’m reading, even if it’s just a page number where something funny or interesting happened. If I have any guesses about what’s going to happen at the end of the book, I write that down too.
CSEC: (Gosh, that piece of paper thing’s a good idea. I have historically scribbled in the book itself. A big no-no for collectors, but . . . )
AJ: I recently pulled a book off my bookshelf to reread it, and found my old notes still tucked inside! (The whole writing notes on a bookmark thing doesn’t work so well with e-books, I’ve found)
If I’m reading a book with no plans for reviewing it, I might skim portions of it, I don’t mind if I fall asleep while reading and lose my place. If I’m not going to review it, I just enjoy the ride and treat the book like a perfect lazy summer afternoon. If I have no plans to review the book . . . I may not even finish it. When I want something breezy and satisfying with no pressure to review, I’ll pick up an anthology and read just one or two stories. It’s very relaxing!
CSEC: Why do you think reviewing, critiquing, just talking about books is so important—now, and throughout history? What are some reviews you are the proudest of? What would be your ideal reviewing job—if one exists?
AJ: It will always be important to talk about books. It can be any kind of discussion–chatting at bookclub, reviewing, or critiquing. Readers take it for granted because we are used it–books we read change our worldview, they inspire us, they help us understand the world, and different people will experience the same book in a completely different way. We talk about politics non-stop, right? Why should talking about books be any different?
I’m part of a local sci-fi book club, and my favorite part of our discussions is that everyone gets something different out of the books that we read and discuss. Think about ice cream.
CSEC: Mmmnnn. Ice cream.
AJ: If it’s chocolate ice cream, just about everyone who tastes it will say, “Yep, tastes like chocolate!” With books, one person says it tastes like chocolate, two people say it tastes like cherry, another person says it tastes like mango. They all read the same book, but came away from it with completely different feelings and experiences. Talking about our different experiences reading the same book, it’s a window into how we all experience life in a different way. And I just love that!
My Kickstarter, The Best of Little Red Reviewer, will feature the reviews I’m most proud of. The reviews I’m most proud of seem to be when I didn’t just read a book, I experienced it. These are books that shocked me, floored me, scared me, bewildered me, amused me. Instead of just reading them, I somehow got the IMAX experience. My review ended up being a reflection of my experience of reading the book. I’ve found that the more I enjoy a book, the less I talk about the plot in the book review. Because when the book is that good, the plot is the often the least interesting part.
CSEC: I love that.
AJ: The writing of those reviews can be an enjoyable intense experience unto itself, and the writing of the review often helps me remember the book even more vividly.
My dream reviewing job? I used to think being a professional reviewer was a dream job. Other than getting some free books, I do not make a penny on writing book reviews. No one pays me for my time or effort, my blog is not monetized, this is not a business, I don’t do this for money. If I did do it for money, I worry it would stop being fun and would just feel like a job. And jobs are a drag! You do them because you need to pay your bills, not because they are fun. I think right now, I have my dream reviewing job. It’s a hobby, I review fun books that I choose, and I don’t have to worry about meeting any style guidelines or deadlines.
CSEC: What are some books either in your To Be Read pile, or that you wish WERE in your To Be Read pile, that you are very much looking forward to—and why?
AJ: My To Be Read pile is completely unorganized with no rhyme or reason with books randomly floating in and out of it on a whim, so I’m going to make this a list of books I wish were in my TBR pile. Books that don’t exist yet, and some that will never exist.
I’d love to read a ton of Culture short stores by Iain M Banks. A sort of “State of the Art” type volume, but all the stories take place in the Culture.
Once upon a time, Catherynne Valente talked about self publishing the third book in her Prester John series (publisher went under after book 2, much disaster all around), or maybe Kickstarting it. She got sidetracked with her Fairyland series and other more marketable and profitable novels, so who knows when or if the Prester John book will happen. In the meantime, I’ll just read the first book over and over and over again.
I hope Steven Brust and Skyler White write a million more Incrementalists books, because I want to read all of them. Every time another side character gets the spotlight, I realize how little I know about that person and their past and that I want to know way more than could ever fit in one book.
THANK YOU, ANDREA!
Now, dear Readers. Go Ye Forth and Help Kickstart THE BEST OF THE LITTLE RED REVIEWER!