Reader Interview Number Eight – Heather Heffner

Welcome to Heather Heffner.

Where are you from? USA

On average how many books do you read in a month? On average, 5-10 if they are YA Books, 1-2 if they are Adult.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? I’ve always felt “on the periphery,” so to speak, when it came to growing up. I loved my life, but I was constantly driven to search out alternative ways of living, new horizons, and other peoples’ experiences, whether across the sea or in a completely made-up world. Books helped me make sense of growing up, like Judy Blume’s Beverly Cleary books, and others enchanted my imagination, like the Redwall series by Brian Jacques or the Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Reading brings a sense of wonder, a sense of clarity, and an opportunity to view the world differently.

What genres do you prefer and why? Fantasy and science fiction, which includes all of those little sub-genres like dystopia, paranormal, urban, and noir. I love anything with a surreal edge to it—a book that turns the world on its head in any bizarre or imaginative fashion makes life feel like it has more magic to it. Fantasy/Sci Fi are also highly effective genres to explore the implications of genocide, bigotry, and alternative forms of government because they are “pure fantasy”—but the consequences they uncover (Ender’s Game, or the Hunger Games) make them very relevant to our daily lives.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? My favorite book of all time has to be Roger Zelzany’s The Great Book of Amber series. In fantasy, we know the greats like Tolkein and George R.R. Martin because the world they’ve created feels authentic enough to lose oneself in. The Great Book of Amber introduces an equally nuanced and complex world, woven on so many different levels with King Arthurian mythology and contemporary, that you can get lost in it for days. For people who like dysfunctional families: Amber is ruled by the ultimate backstabbing, scheming, loveable band of royals.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? Paperback still takes the cake for me. When it’s hot and gorgeous out, do I want to take my e-book out to the backyard where the monitor gets hot and sweaty and dim under the sun’s brilliance? Or do I want a good old dog-eared paperback that can get a little grass stained and it’s all okay?

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? Usually through social networking sites like Goodreads or Those little recommendation lists are gold. However, with money being tight these days, I get most of my books from the library.

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? A flashy cover and an enticing description lure me in—but then I always, always read whatever chapter preview is available (if it’s online). For example, many YA books these days have the most gorgeous covers—but they hide a bare-bones story. If the first few chapters sound derivative of what’s been done before—paranormal activity at a high school comes to mind—then I’ll most likely stop reading. I know the substance I crave won’t be there in the end. I do read reviews by others, and usually the lower-star ones—but bad reviews don’t necessarily mean I won’t give the book a shot. Someone who’s rating a book low because the book challenges their religious beliefs doesn’t disqualify it from my list. I always look for the reviews that are constructive—then it’s not to say that the whole book is bad, but there are parts that could be more fleshed out. I weigh that with what attracted me to the book in the first place.

What is the most important aspect in a book for you? Plot? Characterisation? Well written etc? Characters, hands down. I want characters I can fall in love with, characters I can root for, characters who inspire. For example, I could never get into Dan Brown’s books, as twisty and curvy as they are, because the characters felt so lifeless to me. With George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series, there are so many competing storylines that sometimes the plot gets out of control—but I don’t mind, as long as I can flip to Arya or Jon Snow’s viewpoint and see what they’re up to. Dynamic characters keep me riveted to find out what they’ll do next.

What aspects turn you off from a book? Are there things you avoid? Wimpy heroines, passive characters who don’t take an active stance in their own fates, villains with no dark lurking presence, world-building that feels forced and not authentic, love triangles with no tension, plots with no urgency, vampires/angels who for some inconceivable reason remain in high school.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? As we know them, yes. However, that isn’t to say they can’t transform and create a new prosperous identity for themselves.

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