Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BBAW Interview Swap: Books on the Nightstand

In my recent attempts to be omnipresent I signed up for the "Book Blog Appreciation Week" and plan to stick with the short program, where I can. Thankfully the Internet gods have decided that a week has been enough and I am allowed to receive my connection back, both at home and at work, so that I can be back on track. Anyway, back to Tuesday, when it's time to post the official Interview Swap. My partners in crime this time are Michael and Ann from Books on the Nightstand. You can check their site later out to see how I get to answer to the same question with slight variations to the last three.

1. Since we are all book reviewing blogs, it would be interesting to share some origin stories. How did you become enamored with the written word and transform into a book worm?

Michael: I don't remember being read to as a child, but there were always books in my house. I was a prototypical book nerd in school and preferred to read rather than do sports. I started working in a bookstore when I was 15 and have been working with books ever since. Reading is still an escape for me.

Ann: Like most avid readers, I think I was born that way. I was fortunate to be born into a family that encouraged reading; trips to the library were a regular weekly occurrence, and I was permitted to choose any books that I liked. A cadre of teachers along the way taught me to be a discriminating reader, but I have never been a literary snob. I spent much of one teenage summer reading nothing but Harlequin Romances that I'd bought $10 for a dollar at the library book sale. And I was always the one who told my friends what books to read.

2. What was your first contact with the world of blogging?

Michael: I started a personal blog 2 years ago and lost interest after a month or two because it was just about the minutae of everyday life. I didn't reallys tart reading a lot of blogs until we started Books on the Nightstand.

Ann: I started a website for our dog (a Clumber Spaniel) back in the mid-nineties, with frequent updates. When our daughter was born in 1999, I posted monthly updates to her site so that friends and family could see photos. These were really rudimentary blogs, though of course the software wasn't at all user-friendly, so neither site lasted more than a year. When the word "blog" started being spoken aloud, I had a few friends who started LiveJournal accounts, but that type of personal journaling wasn't interesting to me. Several years later, when I took up knitting, discovered that there were many knitters blogging about their hobby. That's when I realized that a book blog would be a natural thing for me to do.

3. What was the moment you felt brave enough to start your own blog?

Michael: I never felt brave enough and Ann needed to do a lot of convincing. I knew I was comfortable talking about books, but wasn't sure about writing about them on a regular basis. That's why the podcast part of Books on the Nightstand is still easier for me.

Ann: I'm not sure there was one particular moment. I was looking for a book blog that I would enjoy reading, and just decided to create it instead. Because Michael and I both work for a major book publisher, the trepidation came not from starting the blog, but from making it public within our company.

4. What is the greatest thing about blogging that gets you back to it?

Ann: Reader feedback, no question. I get so excited when there are new comments on a post, or when someone cares enough to take the time and email a suggestion for a post or podcast episode. And it's really a thrill when someone reports that they loved a book that we recommended.

Michael: Yes, definitely reader feedback. I have "met" so many fantastic readers and have gotten wonderful recommnedations from them as well.

5. How many books have you read at one time and what is your reading schedule like usually?

Michael: Usually 2-3 books at a time, though sometimes I can go up to 5 or 6. Usually 1 or 2 of those is a graphic novel, and one is an audiobook. I always read at least 1/2 hour before going to bed, though lately it's been more like an hour or two.

Ann: I usually have 3-5 books going at once, though I really do try to concentrate on one at a time. I typically read for 2 hours in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed.

6. What are the stories you like most reading about?

Ann: I love books where the writing is strong and the plot/storyline is equally strong. Literary and strong commercial fiction are my main category of interest. I also like very good narrative nonfiction -- the type of true story that reads like a novel. I do read across almost all categories, though I usually rely on recommendations from friends for science fiction and romance. Those aren't categories I usually seek out on my own. When I'm sick or need a vacation, I always turn to mysteries, serial killer novels, and thrillers. I am currently obsessed with dystopic/postapocalyptic fiction, both adult and young adult.

Michael: Because there's so much out there, a book has to grab me pretty quickly. I love it when I can't wat to get back to a book. I tend to read mostly fiction, though like Ann, narrative nonfiction is always a treat. I used to read a lot more science fiction than I do now. These days that type of reading for me is mostly done through graphic novels, which I love.

7. What are your personal pet peeves, when it comes to published novels?

Ann: My biggest gripe is when the author does the expected -- when I know exactly what's going to happen in the first 50 pages of the book. Other than that, I'm not sure I have too many pet peeves, except for clunky writing -- though I confess that a very strong plot that makes me turn the pages to find out what happens can allow me to overlook pedestrian writing. I guess another pet peeve is flap or jacket copy that gives away the entire story.

Michael: Like Ann, clunky writing always seems to stand out for me, and is usually the number one reason I'll put down a book.

8. So how did you guys become a blogging duo?

Michael: Ann did have to drag me into this whole blogging world, but I'm so glad she did. We talk to each other every day about work stuff, so it was easy to continue that conversation for Books on the Nightstand.

Ann: We work together very closely in our day to day job, and part of that entails giving book presentations to the general public in bookstores. Our blog and podcast is really an offshoot of those presentations, so it was just natural that we would do it together. I like having a wider range of books and topics that 2 people can bring to a blog.

9. How do you keep an organized schedule?

Ann: I'm not sure I'd call it particularly organized, or even a schedule, but it seems to work. We talk on the phone almost daily, have a list of topics to draw from. We mainly make it up as we go along.

Michael: Yeah, we always try to have a schedule, but we always seem to talk the night before and say "what are we going to talk about tomorrow?" I think we're getting better about scheduling topics and planning further out.

10. What is this Podcast feature you post regularly? How did you start it and where did the idea come from?

Ann: The podcast is a weekly 20-30 minute audio show that is accessible from our website and also through iTunes. We talk about many things related to books and reading. Our usual format is 3 segments: the first segment is a topic of general interest related to books, reading, the publishing industry, or happenings in the book world. The second segment is usually a bit more focused, revolving around a specific theme: dystopic fiction, for instance, or books that are good for book groups. We usually provide book recommendations in that segment. Segment 3 is either "2 books we can't wait for you to read," or occasionally, "2 books *we* can't wait to read." Here Michael and I each talk about 1 book that we love or that has grabbed our attention and made us put it on our nightstand to read. This segment is primarily new books, and often will be about books that will be published in the next month or so.

The idea for the podcast actually came before the blog. Because we both travel by car frequently, we both listened to many podcasts. However, there just weren't many book podcasts out there -- so we decided to create our own.

Michael: Ann described the podcast pretty well. It really did grow out of the presentations we've given to bookstore customers. We love talking about books to the readers, and the podcasts seemed the perfect way to do that.


Heather J. said...

Great interview. I’m so glad to have found your blog – I’ll definitely be checking it out more once this crazy BBAW week is over.

Marie said...

Great interview. I'm so excited to have found your blog. I actually read a Bulgarian novel earlier this year, Angel Wagenstein's ISAAC'S TORAH. have you read it too?

Harry Markov: daydream said...

@ Heather J: That is super sweet of you. BBAW leaves me with too many places to check myself. I am overrun with new blogs. Google Reader can't keep up with me.

@ Marie: No, I haven't read that novel, because I am not a fan of the topic presented. World War fiction is not my cup of tea.

Literary Feline said...

I look forward to reading your interview over at Books on a Nightstand, Harry. I don't comment often here, but I am a faithful reader and look forward to getting to know you better.

Michael and Ann are new to me--it's so nice to meet you both. I look forward to checking out your blog further.

Harry Markov: daydream said...

@ Literary Feline: Thank you for the comment here and over at Ann and Marks' place. My google reader handles subscriptions and I am in the know about blogs, but I am not always able to comment.

Paula said...

Found your blog through a posting my library penned on BBAW. Loved seeing all the nominated blogs and will visit yours in the future. Great interview and interesting to learn a bit about Bulgaria!

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