I have had many writers stop by here to talk about their novels and writing projects. But this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to interview someone who blogs about books for a living. Welcome, Stephanie M Hopkins from Layered Pages!
|Stephanie M Hopkins|
Layered Pages Blogger
Thank you for having me chat with you today, E.M.! I am so delighted to be here and to have an opportunity to talk about my love for blogging, about my favourite pastime-reading books, and chatting with so many wonderful authors.
I once had a wise boss whose best advice was ‘never assume.’ So I’m assuming that not everyone who reads this will know what a book blogger is. Can you explain what’s involved?
Gosh, where to start…there is so much! (Smiling) First off I want to say that Amy Bruno inspired me to start book blogging. I first met her on Goodreads through Ladies & Literature-a book club I’m co-founder of. I soon discovered that she has a virtual tour website and a book blog. I thought, “What a fantastic way to share one's love of reading and to connect to readers and writers.” So it began….and boy, did it really take off and soon I discovered a world of brilliant authors and readers alike.
There is so much involved in book blogging. Many have their own method. A large part of it is setting up author interviews, reviewing books, guest post, posting book lists, formatting, contacting authors, scheduling post and so on….I have spent hours upon hours doing so. Often times neglecting my own writing or getting enough sleep. But I’m not complaining. I love what I do and I’m so honoured to do so. Here is my method at Layered Pages.
That sounds wonderful! I know people might be thinking, ‘Hey, that’s for me!’ But I’d like to get into some of the detail about what’s involved. How do you get the books that you review?
That is a good question. Strangely enough, when I began reviewing I didn’t have to search for books to review nor was I in the mind-set that authors would ask me to review their books. I was posting short reviews on Goodreads of books I had read on my own time and then I had authors start to approach me not long after. Then a few months later, author Helen Hollick with the Historical Novel Society, contacted me and wanted me to be on their indie review team. Things really took off from there.
Occasionally, I will post that I’m open for reviews on Facebook and then immediately I’m flooded with review requests. Needless to say…..I’m a bit back logged and have been for quite some time. Which I know most reviewers are. It can be over whelming at times but rewarding all the same. There is nothing like getting books in the mail or authors wanting you to review their books.
Obviously reading a novel takes time (which people don’t see) as well as writing the review (which they do). How many book reviews can you manage in a week?
I used to produce two to three book reviews per week. But I have had to really slow down. I’m a fast reader but not a speed reader like book my friend and fellow book blogger, Erin Davies. Now she is an incredible reader and blogger! She inspires me to no end….
I would like to do more…..but reality gets in the way and often times leaves me having to put reviewing aside for a while. But then I always pick reviewing back up.
For example, in the last four weeks I have had six reviews to write and I have three more coming up for July so far. I’m swamped at the moment! And to add to that, I conduct author interviews and promote the B.R.A.G. Medallion for indieBRAG.
That translates as a lot of hours! And timescales must be really important. How do you manage deadlines for your reviews?
To be honest, sometimes I barely make the deadline but seem to pull through every time. Some reviews I can write right after I read the book. Other times I need to really process what I have read and how I want to articulate my thoughts onto paper. My reviews are really simple though. I’m not one for big words or trying to impress. I just love books and hope it shows through what I share in my reviews and blog.
Your bio mentions your interest in Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction. Is that the only type of book you review? And how broadly does that category stretch?
Historical Fiction and Non-fiction are my first love and always will be where my passion for reading is. I love history and the writers who give a voice to the people of the past. To me there is nothing more thrilling than that in reading.
In the last three years or so I have really gotten into alternate history. Matter of fact I’m currently writing a story in that genre.
Occasionally I do read epic fantasy, women’s fiction, crime thrillers and general fiction.
We will definitely have to hear more about that writing project- I think you'll have to visit again! Now, about the reviews themselves. Do you have set criteria against which you evaluate each book? Or is your process more fluid?
I either down load a sample of the book first or read the first fifty pages of the story before agreeing to review the book. But there are a few authors I accept immediately because I have love their previous stories.
My process tend to be more mechanical at times…..really it depends on the author and if it’s a debut.
First I look at the overall layout of the book. That includes, the cover, title, formatting, editing, and then on the plot, writing style, flow of the story, character development and so on….
Secondly, the story has to really grab me from the start and I need to feel a connection to at least one of the characters. I’ve read enough book to know if I’m going to like it or not after the first few pages.
I’m pretty much your typical reviewer in that regard.
And of course we come to the inevitable question: what happens when you read a book that you really, really don’t like?
I won’t write a review for it, period. I know that is tough and many don’t agree with that concept. But my passion is to share-with the world- books I love. And I will tell the author that in the beginning…..
I respect authors too much to write an insulting review-which I see a lot of today in social media. I just won’t do it. It’s not engrained in me to be unpleasant and rude. But I have been known to give construction criticism. Which I think is important.
Reviews can provoke strong reactions in both authors and reviewers alike. I’ve seen examples of where reviews have been the source of much online strife. For anyone thinking about book blogging, this is something they have to be aware of. How do you deal with negativity about your reviews?
That is something people need to be really aware of going onto this industry. To this day, I’m still blown away by the bad behaviour of people on both sides of the camp.
You really have to develop a tough layer of skin and I admit, I don’t often times show that. I’m a passionate, sensitive and caring soul. I don’t like to see people hurting, nor do I like to feel that awful pain in the heart.
So it can be hard for me at times. So when I see that going on, it really takes me a lot to carry on at times.
I have learned to ignore negativity towards my reviews. After all, you can’t please everyone. I’m the type of person that when I’m upset about something, I need to talk about it so I can move on. So MANY of my friends (laughing) hear from me often. And they are so supportive and patient with me and they know they have a shoulder to cry on with me as well. That is what friendship and good supporting fellow bloggers is all about.
The far nicer side of reviewing is that books will come along that you love. What does that feel like? Do authors respond to you when they get a glowing one from you?
Oh, it is a most wonderful feeling. To this day when I’m done reading a book I love, it stays on my nightstand for a very long time. It does tend to get a bit crowded! Lol. And I have a particular space on my book shelf for them.
Many authors do respond kindly and that too is a wonderful feeling. Often times I will be on cloud nine for weeks!
If you could deliver one golden nugget of advice to your pre-blogging self, what would it be?
Hmmm…….the process has been a learning experience for sure and I’m still evolving and learning new things about blogging.
I would have to say my one golden nugget of advice to pre-blogging is to pace yourself. If you don’t, often times you get overwhelmed and then you won’t produce your best work.
How can authors or publishers contact you about reviewing their book?
I have become great friends with many authors, so they normally contact me through via Facebook. However, I can be contacted through my email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, Stephanie for stopping by- it's been so great to talk to another book lover. And it's been such a fascinating insight into the world of book blogging. I'm sure we'll talk again!
Stephanie M. Hopkins conducts author interviews, writes reviews and helps promote the B.R.A.G. Medallion. She participates in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, has reviewed books for the Historical Novel Society, is Co-Admin of English Historical Fiction Authors Group on Facebook, and is an avid reader of Historical Fiction, Alternate History, Non-Fiction and History. She currently has several writing projects under way. When she is not pursuing her love of a good read, chatting with authors and fellow readers (which is pretty much 24/7). Stephanie also enjoys creating mix media art on canvas. She is into health & fitness and loves the outdoors. These days she has no idea what rest is!
To find out what Stephanie thought of my #1 Amazon Bestselling Historical Thriller, The Fifth Knight, click here. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight, will be published by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014. Find it here on Amazon.com or here on Amazon.co.uk.