In case you've been living under a rock or don't read any blog other than mine (because I'm that awesome), this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Today book bloggers are swapping interviews with each other.
I was paired with Hist Fic Chick, which turned out to be providential because she will be at the National Book Festival next week too! Yay for getting to meet other bloggers! Her site is gorgeous and has inspired me to give some historical fiction a try, even though it's not a genre I typically go for. Please take a look at her site and see for yourself and enjoy hearing her advice. And I'm not the only one impressed: Hist Fic Chick has been shortlisted for Best Historical Fiction Blog! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she wins because her site definitely deserves it!
1) How long have you been blogging and what got you started?
I had just quit my very Devil Wears Prada-esque job doing PR for a high-end fashion company in May 2009 and knew I needed to take a break for the summer before I went back to working again. My decision to leave the company after two and a half years was somewhat last minute, so I didn't have anything planned ahead of time to occupy me over the summer, other than a few trips out to the beach (during which I read copious amounts of books!). There were a few blogs I read regularly that I really enjoyed, but not so many that focused specifically on my favorite genre, historical fiction. And one day it hit me: "Hey! I can do that!
The rest is history...I actually just celebrated my one year blogoversary in July!
2) Your blog focuses on historical fiction. What is it about that genre that you love?
History and English were always my two favorite subjects in school. I consider myself somewhat of a history-buff, but I'm certainly not one to kick back and relax with a stuffy academic account of history! Historical fiction grants the author a creative license that biographers and non-fiction authors do not have. Often times a good portion of a biography is already pure speculation as it is; HF authors have the opportunity to get inside their character's heads and explore these speculations on a deeper level, filling in the "gaps" of history with fiction. My favorite HF authors tend to be those who make a strong effort to keep the fictional aspects of their stories as close to the truth as possible.
3) Any other genres you particularly enjoy?
Chick lit is my guilty pleasure! And while in the past I haven't been much into vampire lit, I recently ordered the 8 book box set of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris out of my love for HBO's True Blood. Narrative nonfiction is great, too, because it often reads like fiction, but tells a true story. The same goes with memoirs.
4) What is your favorite blog?
Wow, that's a tough call! But if I had to choose just one that I find myself recommending to people over and over, I'd have to say Devourer of Books. Jen and I really bonded during BEA, but I have long been a fan of her site. We have nearly identical tastes in historical fiction. Our reviews almost always draw very similar conclusions! And I like that although her blog does have an emphasis on historical fiction, it's not only historical fiction, so I often find great recommendations for books outside the HF realm that I can confidently recommend to friends who don't necessarily read the same genre as me.
5) Do you plan your posts/what you read in advance or do you choose books and post as the mood strikes? Do you think one way is better than the other?
I try to plan my posts in draft at least a week in advance (it doesn't always work out that way, though!). And I keep an editorial calendar in Wordpress to keep me on track. I plan the books I'm going to be reviewing for a particular month about four months in advance; I schedule them in after I've received a pitch from a publicist and then mark it as confirmed in my excel spreadsheet once I actually have the book in hand.
I think each blogger has his or her own system of organization and no one way is better than the other. You have to do what works for you and your schedule. I'm a really big list maker, and I get a little crazy when things are disorganized, both in my real life and on my blog, so pre-scheduling is key for me!
6) What is the biggest obstacle you've faced in creating/maintaining your blog?
This question actually really hits home right now! I recently switched over from a Blogger/Blogspot blog to self-hosted Wordpress. The transition itself wasn't all that difficult, but I had trouble getting all my posts from Blogger to redirect readers to the corresponding Wordpress post. So, say I had a post located at HistFicChick.blogspot.com...it wouldn't link itself to the new site, HistFicChick.com so that readers of my old blog would be automatically redirected to the new place. I now have all the broken links fixed as well as the redirects (whew! finally!), but the formatting of some of my older blogger posts need to be fixed, and photos/graphics need to be re-inserted into the posts as well. I try to get a little bit of these tedious tasks done every few days so that slowly but surely, the new site will be officially no longer under construction!
7) Congratulations on being shortlisted for Best Historical Fiction blog in BBAW! Can you give us some tips on how you've been so successful?
Thank you so much, Julie! I was so excited (and surprised!!!) to find my blog on the shortlist, and to find myself in such excellent company. You know something, I never really considered myself "so successful" until I read this question (which made me blush and smile and turn all "who? *ME*?!"). So thank you for that ego boost! :)
In all seriousness though, without being totally cliche...authenticity is key. Be confident in who you are. Don't compare yourself to other bloggers, and don't try to imitate others' styles (most people can spot a copycat from a mile away, and people also love calling out copycats on twitter, so just don't even go there!). I think it's about finding your own voice. People enjoy reading your blog because of what YOU have to offer. I also think it's important to be an active member of the blogging community. Participate in challenges, join Twitter, comment on the blogs you love. If you can, try to attend industry events like BEA and the Book Blogger Convention. And of course, get your BBAW on!
8) What book would you recommend to someone who has never read a historical fiction novel before?
Good question! I always recommend the Josephine B trilogy by Sandra Gulland. It's about the life of Josephine de Beauharnais (later Bonaparte), the first wife of Napoleon and Empress of the French. The first book in the trilogy is The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. Each of the three books in the series is written in a first person diary format and Josephine is such a wonderful, loveable character. I'd also recommend Robin Maxwell's The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. It's much better than The Other Boleyn Girl (although Philippa Gregory's books are nice page turners and I've really been enjoying her new Plantagenet series) and offers a great introduction to Tudor historical fiction.
9) Do you devote time to doing research on the people and periods you are reading about?
Absolutely. It's one of my favorite parts of reading historical fiction on a new-to-me historical character. After I've finished reading a fictitious portrayal, I can usually be found on Amazon ordering up biographies on the same subject, by the cartload! I've tried to think outside of the box a little bit in terms of blog posts...so my blog isn't only book-related posts. Readers seem to enjoy my "editorialized" recaps of different historical periods/people, and a lot of research goes into those posts.
10) What are some of your hobbies outside of books and blogging?
I'm a big film person. I don't go to the actual movie theater often, but my Netflix subscription is certainly put to good use! I play tennis, and I also sing constantly, though most of it gets done in the shower and not at actual venues. I used to perform a lot when I was growing up, but I've somehow fallen out of it. The NYC music scene is pretty competitive, and since I do it more as a hobby and not as a career, I haven't really gotten into my groove here. I also love to paint. Fittingly, I tend to paint lots of historical characters! I'm currently working on a portrait of Nell Gwyn - she was the scandalous and witty mistress of King Charles II of England. I'm a student at the Art Students League of New York where I get studio space and study with instructors. Oh! And this past weekend I picked up a new hobby - I was convinced by my friend Nicole (Linus's Blanket) to join a bocce team! It was so much fun, and we won our first game of the season!