Hi and welcome to the Library of Erana, a place of words and of their magic. Words are power, they are knowledge and they are freedom. Readers play an important role in the life of books and words, for without readers books would sit unread, unloved and unknown. What makes a good book, or for that matter a bad one? Why do people read and how do they find their books?
Welcome to Cas Peace.
Where are you from? I’m a Brit, I live in the south, in the county of Hampshire. It’s where I was born.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Right now I’m an author and freelance editor. I’ve written the triple-trilogy fantasy series Artesans of Albia, and the first three books have been published. The fourth, The Challenge, is scheduled for publication in April 2014. I’ve also written a non-fiction book, For the Love of Daisy, which tells the story of a beautiful and mischeivous Dalmatian I used to own. I’m also a folk singer/songwriter, and have written songs to accompany my fantasy novels. They can be downloaded from my website. Before any of that I was a horse-riding instructor. And before that I was an avid book reader, which I continue to be to this day!
On average how many books do you read in a month? Due to pressures of work, I only get through about one novel a month. Pleasure reading has been relegated to the hour before I go to sleep. But I can also count editing, because although I’m working on whatever book it is, I still get a good sense of the story. So make that two books a month!
Where is your favourite place to read? For pleasure reading it’s either in bed or a quiet place in my garden. We’re quite rural and we have many seats in our garden. I love to pick one and relax with a great book.
What genres do you prefer and why? Do you have any genres you avoid? I’ve always loved fantasy and most of the books I read are in that genre. But I also enjoy crime, thrillers, adventure, romance, sci-fi, mystery, and especially historical drama. I occasionally read horror. I don’t read vampire stories much, and never erotica.
Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? One of my earliest childhood memories is of curling up in a big comfy armchair in front of the fire on a cold and rainy winter day with a wonderful library book and a bag of chocolate buttons. This is still my idea of heaven. Books are so important because they are a way of communication that is unparalleled anywhere else. A reader can get so much out of a book, and often more than the author intended or realized was there. The written word can take hold of the imagination in so many diverse ways, allowing each reader to gain a unique and totally personal insight into the world contained within that cover. Art can do the same thing, but many people feel that art can be false and pretentious. I guess books can be too, but they don’t generally gather much of a following if they are!
What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? I still prefer paper books. I don’t know if it’s simply my age, but even though I have an e-reader and spend much of my reading time looking at a screen, I still don’t consider a digital file to be a ‘book’. It’s not just the feel and smell of a paper book, it’s the fact that you can see illustrations and maps and the book cover better. I also like to be able to keep one finger in the map page or glossary so I can flip back and forth as I read the story. This is not as easy with an e-reader. And I do find print on paper more restful on the eyes, especially as I spend most of my working day (whether editing or writing) looking at my laptop screen. So it’s definitely ‘real’ books for me. But I do value e-readers and also audio books. My late grandmother got so much enjoyment from her audio books, and I hope to release audio versions of my own books soon.
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? These days, most of the books I read come to me from friends and authors I know. But I also like trawling through Amazon to find new books. Years ago I used to use the Library a lot, and although it’s much easier looking online, I do rather miss going to the Library!
When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look? What makes you turn away? The first thing I look for is the genre. The second is the cover, and the third is the back cover copy. I will always be attracted by a well-designed cover, but that’s not the only thing that makes me pick up the book. The author’s name will do that too. However, liking the author and the cover will not overcome bad cover copy. I have to feel excited or engaged by it. If I’m not, it’s unlikely that I’ll open the book and read a few lines. A badly designed or unattractive cover will always make me turn away.
Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence the choice? Definitely, to both. Although I’m rarely completely put off by bad reviews. Pretty much all my favourite authors have some bad reviews, it’s only natural. And I often find scathing reviews quite funny. I might not find scathing reviews of my own books so funny, but fortunately I’ve not had any yet!
What are your views on authors commenting on reviews on sites such as Goodreads? As an author myself, I always think it’s a mistake to make any kind of comment on someone else’s review. All I ever do with reviews of my own books is maybe write a ‘thank you’ under a 5* review, or click the ‘was this review helpful to you’ button. I would never engage in an argument about a less than favourable review. I really don’t see the point. Arguing is not going to make the reviewer retract or change their bad review, and it only makes the author look a bit desperate. I appreciate it must be soul-destroying and upsetting to have someone slate or revile a book you’ve spent years perfecting, but there will always be people who don’t like even the most popular book.
Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? Sadly, I think they are. We had a few independent bookstores in our area and they have all now closed. We do have the two major English bookstores – W H Smith and Waterstones – in our nearest large towns, but nothing else. I guess they find it really hard to compete with the online stores, both on price and on the space books occupy. I used to adore browsing through bookshops, but I didn’t realise, until the Internet, how limited the choice was. I’d often go looking for a sequel from a loved author and not be able to find it; now I can very easily order it over the Net, or find out from their website when it’s due out. It’s hard for brick and mortar shops to compete with that.
For reviewers. I’m going to answer these questions too, because I also write book reviews
If you are a reviewer why do you review? I review mainly because I like to help the authors of books I’ve enjoyed. I feel I’m giving something back to someone who has worked hard to produce a book that gave me enjoyment. I also enjoy reading reviews, and if I can draw other readers to a good book, then I think I should. It’s all part of the reading experience.
What factors are important in a review? I’m not one of those reviewers who writes a synopsis of the plot, or who quotes the back cover copy before getting to the actual review. I don’t see the point of that. What I like to do is mention what I enjoyed about the book, and what I got out of it. I often mention the writing style, and whether I thought it added to my enjoyment or hindered it. Many fantasy writers have wonderfully lyrical prose, and I love that. I also believe reviewers should never give spoilers, even if they put a warning first. It’s too easy to miss the warning and have your enjoyment marred!
Do you think it is appropriate to discuss author behaviour in a review? I would never do this. I think this only happens in bad reviews, and I don’t give bad reviews. If I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. If it’s a book I’ve been asked to review, I’ll email the author and explain why I won’t review it. Bad reviews are pointless and often hurtful. Adding comments about the author’s behaviour is inappropriate.
What are your views on paid for reviews? Again, I think they’re pointless. Many people consider good reviews to be fake anyway, so why would you pay for one? I’d much rather get honest reader reviews, even 2 or 3 star ones, because honesty always comes through and I think other readers appreciate that. Having said that, Amazon’s marketing machine is geared around book reviews, so I understand why some authors would pay for them. It’s a system that encourages false reviews.