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Welcome to Melanie Fraser

Where are you from? Born in South Africa but have lived in the UK since the age of 10.

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m an Actress (and former singer and dancer) and performed in theatre, TV and film for several decades. I started my professional training aged 5 in Cape Town before moving to England. I have a  recording studio in a peaceful part of the Isle of Wight where I record voice-overs and narrate and produce audiobooks.

 I have two pet rabbits and also enjoy jazz music and reading – mostly historical espionage and crime thrillers.

On average how many books do you read in a month? Oh, usually one and a bit as I read fiction and non-fiction although I don’t get much time to read so it takes a while to complete a book.

Where is your favourite place to read? At night at bedtime!

What genres do you prefer and why? Do you have any genres you avoid? My favourite genre is espionage (love the mystery and intrigue)

Other favourites are historical fiction and non-fiction (one learns so much about the world’s past events – if only history lessons had been so interesting)

Crime/thrillers I enjoy too as I like to guess whodunnit and enjoy the suspense.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? Those with non-fiction elements are the most important. Reading is my special treat at the end of the day.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? I have many favourite books and authors – too many to mention here. However, the following are some of them:

 Rachel’s Shoe by Peter Lihou
Rachel’s mother’s ingenuity in protecting her daughter and Rachel’s admirable strength of character in dodging her former captors had me hooked.
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
The graphic detail of the killer’s methods and the pursuit of the Illuminati were compelling.

Birth of An Assassin by Rik Stone
Great atmosphere and descriptions of the terrain as a backdrop to Jez’s dangerous challenges – one of the best books I’ve found so far.

I also love the styles of authors, Simon Sebag Montefiore and BenMacintyre.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? I prefer hard copy as I like the feel of a book. However, e-books are convenient for downloading and as one can increase the font size, that helps too.

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? I browse bookshops and charity shops as well as finding them on Amazon and Goodreads – the latter through information in groups. Once I find an author whose style I really like, I follow their upcoming books. Recently though, I found Ted Allbeury’s “The Twentieth Day of January” after hearing about it on BBC Radio 4 and loved it.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look?  What makes you turn away? The blurb will attract me if it is a subject that intrigues me. Then the first page has to capture my interest for me to continue to read it. The cover isn’t vital but it helps if it is suitable for the story.

What makes me turn away is if there are glaring grammatical and editing errors – I feel this is insulting to the reader and shows sloppiness and a lack of professionalism. If the book doesn’t capture my interest on the first page – as mentioned above – or the writing is clumsy, I move on.

Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence your choice? Yes I do read reviews but usually after reading a book as I prefer not to be influenced by anyone.

Do you “judge a book by its cover?” No. Often a cover can be ghastly but the writing is superb and vice versa. The writing is much more important to me.

What do you think is the most important aspect of a book for you? Plot, world-building, strong characters etc.? What turns you off? Short sentences, good grammar and spelling and excellent research are vital as well as the plot and believable characters. I like a good pace to the book. Too much description hinders pace and can be monotonous which would definitely put me off.

Does the behaviour of an author affect your choice to read one of their books?No, I don’t think so.

What are your views on authors commenting on reviews on sites such as Goodreads? I think it’s fine for other people’s books but I don’t think authors should give ratings or reviews for their own books – that’s bizarre.

If you had to pick three favourite books to take to a desert island what would they be? I’d say the three I listed above! Although I’m currently reading a wonderful book which meets all the criteria I mentioned above called “Beneath Sunless Waves” by Stephen Makk so If I could squeeze in another one, that would be great!

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? Hopefully not. I’m sure there will always be a need for actual books for us in venues.