Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reviewer Time: Ana & Thea [The Booksmugglers] Part 2

Yesterday, what you read was just the beginning. The warm-ups of all warm-ups. Today we kick it high geers and have the girls talking... explaining in great detail... rambling with no end [delightfully at that ~ my sould sings while re-reading these answers] about literature and reviewing:

8. 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?

Thea: Oh yes. We’ve done a number of so-called negative reviews, but thankfully these haven’t ever really escalated into full blown internet fiascos. I think the nastiest it has ever gotten (for me) was when a loyal fan of an author whose book I rated a DNF (did not finish) told me that s/he wished the pornomancer (a character from said book) would turn me into a hamster on Folsom Street. **Note: Folsom Street is noted for its S&M getups, in which poor hamsters are used in…how shall I put this gently? Uncomfortable areas**

I think this is a soul searching question any reviewer worth her salt has to face eventually – what to do when you read a book that you really didn’t like? For our part, Ana and I pride ourselves on our reviews, and we aren’t a site that will give recommendations for every book we read. No matter how much we may like an author, we’ve resolved ourselves to brutal honesty. We try to be tactful and respectful, but if a book didn’t work for either one of us, we aren’t afraid to man up and tell it straight. A “negative” review can be just as useful as a “positive” one.

Ana: I think this fear is always at the back of our minds but we don’t let it control us or our reviews. I think publishers and authors have thick skins (and if they don’t, well, they should), and are prepared for the fact that not everyone will like their books.

As for an example: I recently wrote a review of The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett to which I gave a 6 (which is not a bad grade in our site) but I mentioned how I was not happy AT ALL with one particular plot point. To my surprise Brett not only left a comment on the subject, it sparked a range of posts, not only at his place but also elsewhere about Authors Commenting on Reviews and I was so surprised that a review that was not even that negative would create such a tumult. In any case, the entire discussion that ensued was very interesting and healthy and I was honored that it was my review that started it.

9. 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?

Thea: When we first started the blog, Ana and I agreed that we would write one review per week. ONE REVIEW PER WEEK. *bursts into wild caws of laughter*

So…yes, you could say we’ve changed a lot from our first post until now!

On the technical side, we started with a plain, generic two column blogspot address. After a few weeks, I got the itches and started playing around with the CSS formatting, and added another column. Then, at the end of last year Ana and I decided to take the plunge and switch over to a privately hosted website (which caused me, as the masochistic “techie” of the group – I’m laughing as I type this because I have no technical skills whatsoever – an enormous month-long headache due to conflicting poltergeist feeds I never even knew we had, Google page rank & forwarding issues, and a minor Feedburner fiasco).

Ana: I think the greatest chance was in format. The gist of what we do and how we do it, haven’t changed so much. I think we, as reviewers, have changed more than anything, as the more we read and review, the more conscious and critical we become. We started pretty laid back but as we got more readers , we became really focused. I can honestly say that the blog has taken over my free time in a way I did foresee. We take reviewing VERY seriously but we still have tons of fun.

10. What’s it like to work together as a team on this blog? It must be different that doing it solo. So? What’s it like to share the limelight with a contributor?

Ana: Harry, I will share a secret: it is HORRIBLE. You have no idea how bossy Thea ( I call her miss Bossypants to her back) is and she makes me do thinks like watch Zombie movies or read Stephen King! Can you believe it?

No, seriously? I have no idea how people can do it on their own, especially if they post everyday. I think Thea and I are a perfect team to be honest. We are both easygoing, we are both organized and driven and since we read different genres, it provides for a great eclectic blog. I have no problems sharing the spotlight as you say with Thea. I am actually very proud to do so, the woman writes some wicked reviews, has the most amazing sense of humor. I stand by Thea 100% and I don’t think I would ever want anyone but her to share a blog with me. She…completes me.

Thea: You had me at hello, baby. You had me at hello.

(Why, dear Ana, when you say that I complete you, do I hear the Joker instead of Jerry Maguire? Wait, does that mean I’m Batman? Oh snap, I’m Batman!)

I have to echo what Ana said – I have no idea how solo bloggers do it. It’s exhausting to put up reviews and content on a daily basis, and there’s no way I would be able to do so on my own. Ana’s fantastic; she picks up the slack when I’m busy and vice versa. She writes kickass reviews, and no one is better than her at Jedi mind-tricking authors and publishers into giving us review copies and agreeing to interviews.

Plus, Ana keeps me honest. It’s awesome to have someone I can talk to about a book, to work through reviews with, geek out over films with…oh, and best of all, go absolutely bananas with over emails from authors or publishers, or reader comments, or web stats…

Suffice to say, I love Ana as my blogging partner in crime and friend. Even when she takes over the page with hideous romance novel covers.

11. Have you had any quarrels? Despite being generally good tempered, did you have diva gone wild moments?

Ana: I honestly, don’t remember. I don’t think so. Have we had any quarrels Thea? I know she didn’t like when I asked her to read some of Kresley Cole’s books but other than to tell me to go to hell *g* there wasn’t anything major.

Thea: Oh man. Keep those books far, far away from me. In that same vein, Ana was really upset when I made her read Stephen King’s It because of a scene near the end which was an automatic deal breaker for her. I swear, I didn’t think it would be such a big deal! But it was.

And who says we’re good tempered? Hah! Both Ana and I have similar dispositions – we get worked up about certain things, but I think that’s another way we “complete” each other (awwwww). If Ana gets pissed off about something she read online, I’m here to listen to her rant away. And when I see something that gets me into redrage territory, Ana’s there to restrain me from jumping into some kerfluffle.

Other than getting into some heated debates over whether a book is good or gawdawful, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten into a real quarrel. I kinda wish we had a Diva Gone Wild moment though, now that I think about it…

12. So as we know some bloggers that review books and know enough about literature, have writing aspirations. Do you ever feel the need to grab the keyboard and write the world’s next best novel ever?

Ana: You know, I think I may well be the only blogger that I know of that has no writing aspirations. I know, I am unique that way. With so many books to read and so much competition out there, why would I? I do not think I would ever write anything as good as the stuff I like to read. So…nope.

Thea: Actually…yes. I secretly dream of writing the next great horror novel or screenplay. But dreaming and doing are two completely different things. Maybe someday. For now, reading is good enough for me.

13. Whose your favorite author and why? In the same vine, there must be an author you had the misfortune of reading and will never ever approach. Who is it in your case and why?

Ana: Favorite author? Oh, Neil Gaiman. My god of writing. Why, because The Sandman is the most perfect piece of literature that’s why. If that wasn’t enough, the man goes on to write American Gods, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, etc etc.

I don’t think I would say I would NEVER approach an author but I am cautious about Stephen King. I was traumatized by It and the children’s gang bang.

Thea: Oh my fucking GOD for the last time it is NOT a “gang bang”!!!! (This is the closest thing we have ever had to a fight, as mentioned above)

My favorite author for sentimental reasons has to be Stephen King. Yes, I know his writing is deeply flawed and bloated and overly verbose. But, oh, the stories he tells! I love them. I’ve loved them since I was twelve years old, and nothing will ever change that. The Dark Tower books will always be my all time favorites.

As for authors I have had the misfortune of reading and will never ever approach again? *rubs hands together eeeeevily*

While I have read some good paranormal romance under Ana’s orders, there have been some doozies in the past year or so. The most notorious would have to be the dreaded Kresley Cole. I ABHOR “I will possess you at any cost! SNARL!” soul mate stories, and I have the maturity level of a twelve year old – which means I go into giggle fits when I read the word “nipple.” So…Kresley Cole and I don’t mix well. And most recently, I’ve sworn off the droningly repetitive make-my-brains-melt-out-my-ears Lilith Saintcrow. There’s a day of my life I’ll never get back.

14. What are your personal pet peeves when it comes to the genres you like to read?

Ana: My favorite genre is romance and I do have some pet peeves (like too much sex that has nothing to do with the story) but my main pet peeve when it comes to the genre I love (and I am going on a tangential here) is how people refer to it as Trash or as Bodice Ripper. I freaking HATE that. Not only it assumes that everything in an entire genre (the most popular one in the US by the way) is crap but bodice rippers? No one writes those anymore and they have been out of the genre for the past oh, 20 YEARS. As in any genre, it has its good and its bad writers and tropes.

Thea: Hmm. I don’t specifically read only one genre, I like to jump around a lot. But for the sake of argument, I’ll take the popular female centric Urban Fantasy subgenre. I freaking HATE idiot, tough chick heroines clad in leather with big guns that have no other characteristics besides being bitchy and badly written. I am exhausted from reading about vampires and werewolves.

And the most irritating thing about this stupid stereotype?

It gives GOOD Urban Fantasy a bad rap. I’m not just talking about Neil Gaiman or Charles de Lint or Emma Bull (who fans seem to have deemed instead as “contemporary fantasy” in an attempt to distance these ‘acceptable’ authors from the UF label), but also really great female centric Urban Fantasy like Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, or Rachel Caine. Briggs and Harrison DO write about vampires and werewolves and fairies, but they actually can write, and theirs are awesome stories that go beyond PMS-y idiot heroines in tight outfits. And Caine’s fantasy deals not with fangs or fur or fey, but in a version of earth where some humans are born with elemental powers, locked in an ongoing battle with Djinn.

I get really worked up about people that think Laurell K Hamilton and Lilith Saintcrow are the best the genre has to offer.

15. Is there a tendency for the clichés in fantasy to resolve?

Ana: I will change the question to clichés in Romance, because I am THAT cheeky. So, yes of course, and I think the greatest of them all is the HEA – Happily Ever After but that is never going to change (and I don’t want it to) because it is what defines the genre. For the record, I don’t think that the certainly of a HEA makes it for a dull read because there are so many ways of getting there and in romance what really matters is the journey.

Thea: Sure there is. Every genre has its clichés and tropes – but that’s part of the reason we like our genre fiction, isn’t it? Fantasy novels are no exception: the Dark must be staunched, the King must return, Peace must be restored to the land. Maybe at extremely high costs, with all the main characters dying, but in general the good guys always win.

In fact, thinking about it, I’d say the only genre fiction that does not rely on the resolved good-guys-winning cliché would have to be horror. Evil can prevail in horror where it cannot otherwise.


Ana said...

Opps. It turns out I am not that unique , damn it! Jessica from Racy Romance Reviews also does not want to be a writer. I forgot about that....conveniently. *g*

KT Grant said...

Great interview!! :D
I adore my Smuggles.
These two ladies are changing the way sites review books.

Ana said...

KB, you are way too kind.

Sarai said...

Katiebabs is right I love these ladies and their site. Even though I only stalk it usually I get so many great new books and authors due to them!

Harry Markov said...

Ana: Even if there is another person with the same trait, you are still pretty much the unique queen of planet awesome.

KB: Yes, these two are pioneers in their field and thank god it's them to not take themselves too seriously.

Sarai: I stalk from the shadows too, because I can't always write comments, but it's true I learn so much. :)

Thea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thea said...

KB - *hugs* You're the sweetest.

Sarai - I am a big fan of the silent-stalking-blogs-from-the-shadows thing ;) And we are more than happy to continue enabling book habits!

Harry - Again, you are the King of Awesome. *grin*

Harry Markov said...

Much appreciated, Thea. Thank you!

Tracy said...

Another great installment Ladies - and Harry.

I have absolutely no aspirations to be a writer. My husband doesn't understand of course - he figures if I can read I can write. Wtf? lol Uh, no. I'm a reader and love it that way.

Ana said...

*highfives* Tracy - I know right? Dear Partner thinks the same way.

Harry Markov said...

Tracy: Thanks and doesn't that mean thgat by definition all of the people, who enjoy reading are writers by deault, cause that would make competition way harder. Hah!

Ana: I think he means that you actually write reviews and that's pretty much as close as writing a novel to anyone outside our field.

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