Interview at The Spark (the alternating current press blog)

Happy World Book Day, readers! While I work on a new review please direct your attention to The Spark – the blog of Alternating Current Press (an indie press & promotion team).  A few weeks ago Lori from TNBBC’s The Next Best Book Blog asked if I’d be willing to answer some questions.  I agreed and the results of that interview went up today.

I’m not the type of blogger who reveals a lot of personal information, so if for some crazy reason you would like to learn more about the girl behind the blog (and about the publishers, books & bookshops I love) this might be your one & only opportunity. Click here to read more

 

The Rise of the Short Story – RobAroundBooks

TheRISEoftheShortStoryWelcome to The Rise of the Short Story:  a series dedicated to exploring the short story  and its current renaissance.  To that end – all during the month of February some of my favorite bloggers and podcasters will stop by to tell us why they love (or hate) short stories, why they think they’re back into vogue and to (of course!) recommend some of their favorites.

Rob is a self-proclaimed “literary evangelist” whose website, RobAroundBooks is truly a place of literary worship.  From his castle in Scotland (and with his trusty wolfhound at his feet)* Rob reviews the best of literary fiction, translations, essays and – apropos – short fiction.  Below he shares his love for this oft under-appreciated literary form, his thoughts on why readers might have shied away from short fiction in the recent past and his hopes that short stories will continue to grow in popularity for the foreseeable future.

There’s definitely been an upturn in interest in short fiction in the past year or so and this is heartening, but I think we still have a long way to go before the short story is embraced by the majority, despite it being in my opinion the most accessible literary form we have, in an age where so many other things are vying for our attention.

The problem I think, lies with people having a perception that they can only enjoy an immersive and involving reading experience with longer works of fiction. I appreciate that people like to climb into the skin of characters and walk with them on a long and winding road of a novel, but hidden beneath the surface of a well written short story is as much immersion and involvement as any reader can take, and it’s all wrapped up in a concentrated form, making it all the more potent and intense.

Thankfully, due to advances in technology which are facilitating a wider distribution and exposure to the form (mainly through ereaders, tablets and smartphones etc.), more and more readers are beginning to see the light when it comes to short fiction. They’re realising just how powerful and rewarding short stories can be, and how satisfying it is to able to consume an entire literary creation in a single bite, without having to return to it.

The short story is certainly regaining the popularity it once had, and publishers are cottoning on to this, but there still exists much hesitancy. Thankfully, there are a few brave souls out there leading the way (in the UK – Bloomsbury, Salt Publishing and the Bristol Review of Books, for instance), and what with literary awards such as the Costa Book Awards picking up on the interest, the picture just keeps getting rosier.

I adore short fiction for all the reasons I’ve stated above, but mainly because I think it’s the purest and most glorious of literary forms. There are certainly plenty of masters out there that one could read in order to get an education on this (such as Anton Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant who explore every aspect of the human condition, through to contemporaries such as Simon Van Booy and Alexander MacLeod who are breathtaking in their ability to paint incredible pictures with words), but an absolute favourite of mine is Kevin Barry and his riotous collection, There Are Little Kingdoms. In my mind there is no better short story writer alive today, and with this collection Barry offers a taste of a marginal side of Ireland that one is unlikely to forget. Alternately, if one is looking for a more general survey on the short story, then one can’t go far wrong in picking up a copy of the Oxford Book of Short Stories, edited by the late, great V.S. Pritchett.

Rob’s recommendations:  There Are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry & The Oxford Book of Short Stories edited by V.S. Pritchett.  Rob has a whole section of his site dedicated to Short Fiction, where you can read more of his short story reviews and recommendations.

Thank you Rob for sharing your thoughts and adding to our TBR piles!

*Rob has repeatedly (and patiently) explained to me via Twitter that he does not live in a castle.  Nor does he own a wolfhound.  And yet the dream lives!  You, too, can follow Rob (who does live in Scotland) on Twitter @RobAroundBooks

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Duck… Duck… Duck… BOOKDUCK!

If you saw my post yesterday you’ve already gone to look at Bookduck.  If not, what are you waiting for?!  Click here.   I had the opportunity to ask Sarah, the blogger behind Bookduck,  some questions.  I hope you enjoy our interview as much as I did.

I love the story about how your blog, Bookduck, got its name.  Can you tell it again for readers who haven’t visited your blog yet?  And I couldn’t help wondering…was Duck ever your nickname?

My name is Sarah, which starts with an “S”. With the addition of a simple beak and a dot for an eye, cursive “S”s look a lot like ducks. An older girl in my neighborhood showed me that when I was just learning cursive, and I’ve been BookDuckSignatureplaying with it ever since—although I don’t use it on my real signature. Add that to the fact that I like books, and you get “Bookduck”.

Duck, however, was never my nickname.

When did you start blogging?

Bookduck has been around since 2008.  I started on Livejournal and moved my reviews over to Blogger this summer. I still mirror my posts on Livejournal.

So after almost a year of blogging, what do you feel your roll is as a book blogger?

I feel that my role is to post reviews that will help people find books that they are likely to enjoy. As a reader of reviews, I find more books I like because a) I now know they exist and b) a good review often leads me to books I would’ve rejected after seeing the cover and reading the book jacket. Book blogging also gets people talking about books, which is rarely a negative thing.

Is that why you started Bookduck, to get people talking?

I started Bookduck for fun as well as to keep track of what I liked/disliked about what I read. Also, I read a lot of book blogs and one day decided I wanted to join the discussion. I don’t have any big plans for Bookduck, but I would like to try doing more interviews in the future —bloggers, authors, readers, whatever. I do have an author interview coming later this year, and I’m incredibly excited about it. I’d love for something like that to come up again, but if it doesn’t I won’t be heartbroken. As I said, I started Bookduck for fun—and I hope it stays that way.

And you post music to Bookduck as well.  (I love the videos!). Do you consider BookDuck primarily a book blog?

Most of my posts are book related, so I would say yes: Bookduck is primarily a book blog. When I read other book blogs, however, I enjoy reading occasional posts about other topics like current events, art, music, and movies. It’s also interesting to hear a little bit about the person whose reviews I am reading.

I like to post about whatever interests me or might interest others.

What kind of books can a reader expect to find reviewed on your blog?

I read mostly YA fiction with the occasional adult novel or work of nonfiction. As far as genres go I read all over the place, but I do enjoy books that contain realistic fantasy–as in something out of the ordinary that occurs in an ordinary situation and feels like maybe it could really happen. This often takes some research–for example, historical–on the part of the author.

Would you say you lean more towards historical fiction or more towards fantasy?

That’s difficult–I like them both.

I wanted to ask you about your reviews.  Do you try to stick to positive reviews or do you post about the books you don’t like as well?

I mostly post positive reviews of books I enjoy because I’m absolutely terrible at finishing books I don’t enjoy—I have too little free time for that, and since Bookduck is just for fun I don’t feel bound to finish every book I touch. In other words, if I finish a book it’s automatically an okay read. It does not, however, mean that I’m in love with it, and I often have complaints. This is where it gets fuzzy because I want to be honest without being rude.

On the other side of this, just because I put aside a book today doesn’t mean I won’t pick it up later and find it un-putdownable. Some of my favorite books are ones I couldn’t stand when I first cracked them open.

That’s a great word “un-putdownable”!  What are some of the books you’ve changed your mind about – that went from put aside to un-putdownable?

The Murderof Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty;  The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope;  A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray;  Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle;  Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

I’m sure there have been more, but this is what I’ve got off the top of my head.

When you’re looking for something to read to you go to the any traditional book review outlets – like the NY Times or Entertainment Weekly?

Not on a regular basis, no.

So you stick mainly to the blogs?

Yes. The great thing about blogs is finding people who tend to like books you like, which makes finding books to read easier.

Did you discover these bloggers before or after you started blogging?

I discovered them before I started blogging. They were fun to read, and suddenly I started finding all these fantastic books I never knew were there. And I was hooked.

Were you influenced by other blogs?  Any recommendations?

Yes, I was.

The blogging community has affected my blog by being an example–seeing what people write about and how they deal with their layout has definitely shaped Bookduck. And the blogging community has definitely effected how I read books! I’m now more careful to note what I think about books as I read, and also to try to read books I don’t like. Having people to be accountable to makes the page turning easier.

My favorite sources of inspiration are Bookshelves of Doom (http://www.bookshelvesofdoom.blogs.com/), The Story Siren (http://www.thestorysiren.com/), Natural/Artificial (the author blog of Stephanie Perkins) (http://www.naturalartificial.blogspot.com/), and Grow Wings (the author blog of Laini Taylor) (http://www.growwings.blogspot.com/). They’re all great reading.

There are a lot of book blogs out there, so there’s a little something for everyone.  Which is great.

So, here’s the hard question.  What’s your book of the year?

Ooh, that’s a tough one… So far I really like Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. It’s funny and smart and I got lost in it.

Sarah, thank you so much for the interview!