Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Reviewer Time" Guest: Mihai and "Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews"

The “Reviewer Time” wagon makes another stop this week and this Sunday we have another all time favorite for readers and bloggers alike: “Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviewers”. If you stay long enough on the whole blog-reviewer scene it would be hard to miss Mihai, who is linked to virtually every fantasy review blogs and his user name Dark Wolf appears quite frequently in the comment sections [hopefully mine too after awhile]. It’s impressive that he managed to get the word of his site around for just about a year with his first post being in March, 2008, but this is our Mihai, always driven and always everywhere and producing.

“Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviewers” is not fashionable. The layout is simplistic, white and not flashy at all, which is a sort of in the grey zone quality. From one side it leaves the quality of what he posts speak for itself; grab the readers’ attention, but a fast browsing random person [who more or less might need a hook for the eye] might judge the site by its layout pretty much the same way a person judges a book by its cover. But a blog is not all about the colors and right here Mihai displays a well rounded and diversified array of blog posts even though the center is traditional fantasy.

Review-wise I am not exactly comfortable to judge, since I have a different perceptive of how a review should go down. What I find positive is that Mihai manages to keep his reviews short and yet informative, also balancing what he thought of the book through his personal point of view and also as a critic. His reviews are perfect for the busy individual, who wants to know something quick about a book enough to buy it and yet they arouse curiosity that is left unsatisfied. I have been on both ends of this spectrum, so I know what I am talking about.
Above all the most important quality is that Mihai keeps his reviews honest about what he likes and doesn’t like and doesn’t fall into complex explanations why, how and etcetra [a flaw I sometimes am guilty of]. Also don’t be afraid to comment with the thought that your comments will be left without response, since Mihai is incredibly friendly and is always ready to help. He really did help me out back in the beginning, when I was green and did most of things wrong from my perspective.

Besides the reviews there is much more for the reader to expect from “Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviewers” like the occasional giveaways, information about awards and other news in the pub business. We both have been having conversations about fantasy art and interviewing artists and chronologically he did start his own feature with artist interviews, who are always impressive and strong. For fans of fantasy art, who are curious about the work process and also about the artists themselves will fall in love with Mihai’s interviews. As an extra art bonus you can find art previews and ‘In the Mailbox’ specials, which usually make me and I think every book addict green with jealousy.

There is basically no reason not to visit “Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews”. So just do it now.


Harry Markov: Since we know so little about the people behind the reviews, let’s start with some personal questions. Who are you in your real life and how does one typical day look like for you?

Mihai Adascalitei:
My name is Mihai Adascalitei and I am 31 years old. My greatest passion is literature, but I do enjoy art and photography too. I’ve studied Economics, but at my work I’m not doing only this. My usual day is spent mostly at work, but I have time for reading and hobbies. Usually I read at breakfast a little, at lunch break I deal with the blogging and in the evening it depends.

HM: Tell us three things that people would probably never ever guess about you.
I don’t know what to say, I don’t consider myself such a mystery.

HM: How did you start your blog?

Well, first of all I discovered the blogs as a reader. I started with Robert’s Fantasy Book Critic and Chris’ The Book Swede. But not only these two, there were others too. After about 6 months I tried to write a review for a book and I liked it. And when a publishing house offered reduced titles for reviews I tried that. My review was published on their blog and that was the catalyser. And with the initial advices and help from Robert and Chris I’ve started my blog 

HM: How did you choose your name and your genres?

When I started reading I was attracted by these genres, although Fantasy and Horror titles were hard to find and the Sci-Fi were pretty scarce. Anyway, after the December 1989 Revolution the market of books became free also. And I discovered the works of Stephen King and “The Lord of the Rings”. I enjoyed these ones so much, that it became obvious that they were my favorite genres.

As for the name, I used to play a lot of computer games (I still am when I have the time) and the majority of them asked for a screen name. That screen name was Dark Wolf, a nickname born from my love for wolves and dogs and for a particular Dark Elf ;)

HM: Was it easy to start, was it easy to supply enough books and how were you received at first?

It wasn’t hard at all. The books were easy to find in my personal library, which is growing every day. And I believe that I was received pretty well, because I made a lot of friends after starting my blog.

HM: What’s your approach to writing reviews, your signature so to say that makes you different from all the others? Can you give a tip or share something you do to make it easier?

I try to be honest in all my reviews, because otherwise I believe I will full myself and the author. I would not praise a novel if I don’t like it. When I write a review I try to point to the things I liked and focus on the positive aspects, but I will not neglect those I don’t like either. Still I try not to be rude, because I know that the authors put a lot of work in their novels. They deserve an honest opinion, but not an offending one.

HM: What’s your reading schedule? I see how many books you review in so little time. How do you arrange your day to find time to read and review as fast?

I am not a fast reader, but I try to read as much as I can. I almost always have a book with me and if the time allows it I will read it. When I was in college the time permitted more reading, I wish I have that time now, but I’m not complaining.

HM: In retrospect, have you ever done a negative review and how did you handle the situation? Every once in a while a book comes that doesn’t agree with a reviewer and there was a heated discussion revolving around negative reviews and what comes afterwards. Was there any fear of ruining your relationship with publishers?

I’ve done negative reviews. And in the majority of the cases the authors were very nice and understanding. I felt sorry a little after talking with them, but like I said before it wouldn’t be fair for me or for them if I write a positive review only because of this.

If someday one of my reviews will be very different from others I will not change my opinion. I consider that the review must reflect the opinions of the reader and we can’t be all the same. And even the greatest writers don’t have only fans.

As for the relationship with the publishers, it is true that sometimes I have a doubt in my mind when it comes to negative reviews. But until now that didn’t affect my relationship with the publishers. And hypothetical speaking if a publisher will demand a positive review for a book than is better not to send that book, because I will not do that.

HM: Now, how do you think you and your blog have grown from your first post up until now? Did the formula ever change and can you describe the path of your evolution?

MA: First of all, after starting my blog I learned many new things and I learned them about the things I like best, Fantasy literature and Fantasy art, so I grew as a person. And with the help of my blog I made new wonderful friends and I met a lot of nice people. Also I am still amazed and happy when an author or artist answers my mails and agrees for interviews. I don’t exactly know the evolution of my blog, but I hope that it’s because those who read it like what they find there. And I want to thank them for reading it 

HM: So as we know some bloggers that review books and know enough about literature, have writing aspirations. Do you want to stand on the other side of the business?

MA: No, I don’t have writing aspirations. But I will certainly like to work in the publishing process.

HM: Whose your favorite author and why? And who is the author you will never ever read a book from and why?

Well, they are so many and for so many different reasons that is very difficult to pick one in particular  Too many, honestly, but to name a few Stephen King, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Henryk Sienkiewicz, F.M. Dostoievski, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Dean Koontz, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Arturo Perez-Reverte and so on.

And there is no author I wouldn’t read. If I have a novel by a new author or with only negative opinions about him I would still like to read at least one of his works, because I like to have my own opinion about him.

HM: What are the clichés in what you read on a regular basis?

Oh, there are quite a few. But I try to ignore them or to take the best of them. If only those clichés are too obvious I’m having a problem.

HM: Is there a tendency for these clichés to resolve?

Well, I don’t think there is an actual solution. The main one it will be the originality, but now it is very hard to come up with something completely new and unheard before.

HM: What motivates you to go outside just book reviews and host interviews with fantasy artists? It’s a very good move, which I myself have been thinking of.

The motivation is simple. I always loved art, I grew up in a house of artists, my mother is an amateur painter and my father is a drawing teacher. So I was surrounded by art since my early days. This is the main reason. For the second I like to spice my blog a little and add an original and personal touch. That’s why I like to make posts about Fantasy art.

HM: Do you think there are still areas fantasy has slipped that you would like to cover in other mediums? And how far do you think the fantasy/sci-fi culture will enter our own culture?

I believe that these genres are a constant presence in our lives. Everybody dreams or has a dream, so fantasy plays a part of our lives. I know that Fantasy genre is denied and seen as without much value, but I believe that is because some people just forgot to dream.

HM: I am not sure what a closing question sounds like at this topic, so you are free to say some closing words on your own regarding reviewing.

I love reviewing books and as long as I would have fun doing it I will do it. I hope that those reading them like them. They are another reason which makes blogging so pleasant. So I want to thank them very much 

Thank you very much for this interview, Harry.


Hagelrat said...

Salut Harry & Mihai,
I love Dark Wolfs reviews, Mihai was one of the first bloggers to really make me feel at home in this community and I am definitely in favour of the style of his reviews. I've really enjoyed the artist spotlights too.

ediFanoB said...

Well done Harry and Mihai.

I really appreciate Dark Wolf's reviews because he is honest and I can trust them.

Harry and Mihai, I hope you will stay a long time in the blogosphere. Keep on your good work.

Dark Wolf said...

Thank you very much. It means a lot :)

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