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Welcome to Laurel A. Rockefeller

Where are you from? United States (Pennsylvania.)

On average how many books do you read in a month?  I usually read one book every three to six months.  Since I do a lot of research, I tend to go through about 20 academic research papers per month.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? Reading is how we learn.  Books should expand our minds and introduce us to new ideas.  They should also expand our vocabularies and improve our language proficiency.

What genres do you prefer and why? I love history, well-researched historical fiction (the better the researched and more accurate to history, the more I will like it), science, science fiction, some fantasy, as well as books on herbalism and herbal healing.  My most read books in my library are reference books.  I have read “Guide to a Well Behaved Parrot” more than three dozen times as it helps me in my day to day interactions with my cockatoo.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? I am a huge fan of J.R. R. Tolkien. Professor Tolkien was a great world builder and probably the biggest influence on my writing.  I also really enjoy Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen.  My favorite American writer is Marion Zimmer Bradley who was also one of the founders of the Society for Creative Anachronism which I’ve been a part of my entire adult life.  Dorothy Fontana is my favorite teleplay writer.  Dorothy Fontana not only wrote “Journey to Babel” for the original Star Trek, but she’s also been part of the Society for Creative Anachronism from its earliest years.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? I am low vision, so I rely on audiobooks (that might shift once I learn braille) and large print books.  Sadly, not that many authors offer their books in large print.  This is one reason why I do not read as much as others.

How do you usually find the books you read? For example: recommendations from friends, promotion on social networks, your local library, following authors you already know? Good question.  PBS has given me a lot of my leads for great material, along with the BBC.  I love Ken Burns documentaries, so after watching one, I tend to research the topic further by reading books by contributors to his documentaries.  Biographical motion pictures also have this effect on me.  I read the “Dao of Jeet Kun Do” by Bruce Lee not long after watching “Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story.”

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look?  What makes you turn away? Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence the choice?Costuming on book covers — both ways.  I’ve been part of the Society for Creative Anachronism for over 20 years and have learned a lot about historical costuming by making, wearing, and being around others in the society.  I can pretty accurately date costumes I see on book covers and in films.  If the cover is wrong for the time period reflected, I will not read the book.  If it is correct, I will give it a second, third, and fourth look.

I am influenced by other reviews and have found some good ideas looking at reviews on GoodReads.

What is the most important aspect in a book for you? Plot? Characterisation? Well written etc? Authenticity and accuracy are critical to me with books.  Because if an author takes too much license, I just will not believe the story or the characters.  Details matter.

What aspects turn you off from a book? Are there things you avoid? I am turned off by fiction books with overt religious tones.  Religion is a part of our societies and our history, but if I feel like a book is preachy at me, that is a huge turn off.

I am also turned off by “historical” fiction that is really more fantasy than historical.  I have an academic background in medieval history and I read/explore a lot of history overall.  So when someone gets too fantastical, I’m turned off.  This starts with the book covers.  So if, for example, you set your book in Henrican England (perhaps a story about the relationship between Mary I and Elizabeth I during their father’s reign), that book cover really needs to feature clothing between 1520 and 1575 (Henrican to early Elizabethan).  If it clearly is not, then I just won’t consider the book.

The other big turnoff for me is explicit sex and violence.  I am not into erotica at all and, having lived a violent childhood, find too much violence rather uncomfortable.  Stories can be easily told without that level of detail.  Let me imagine the details; I do not need to read them in gory or pornographic detail.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? Yes, absolutely!