In this series of interviews, I’m talking to a bunch of people who are the lifeblood of the #indieauthor. Their hard work and time, their enthusiasm and commitment, enables the #selfpublishing community to thrive. Simply put, if they didn’t review and promote our books, no one would know about us. Which is why I thought it was time to turn the tables and ask them the questions.
My guest is Caitlin from the Realms of my Mind. Caitlin is a great reviewer of all things fantasy and science fiction related. She also runs a BookTok account under the same handle where she posts book recs and the latest in SFF book news, as well as being a member of the Fantasy Book Critic team too. Let’s find out more about her.
1. Tell us about yourself, Caitlin.
I’m an all-around geek who primarily enjoys books, video games, and TTRPGs!
2. What prompted you to start blogging and reviewing?
There were a couple reason! Mostly, I needed an outlet for all of my Feelings when I finished a book. Not a lot of my friends are as into reading as I am, and I needed a space where I could gush or vent, and where others could gush or vent in return! I was also just not creatively inspired by my job at the time, and writing is something I enjoy doing (even if I don’t have the patience to ever write a book myself). Blogging just fulfilled a lot of things that were missing in my life!
3. In a typical week, how much time do you spend reading and blogging?
I try to read about an hour a day, usually before bed (though I can certainly read more if I’m invested in a book!). Blogging probably takes 3-5 hours a week, depending on how many posts I’m writing. I also spend a few hours a week recording and editing content for BookTok.
4. Do you have a favourite type of book? Or genre? Can we tempt you to list some favourite authors?
Oh man, making me pick a favorite child! Based on my reading stats, I love fantasy more than sci-fi. A lot of times though, I think I just gravitate towards books that are FUN. That isn’t to say they don’t have stakes, but I want to go on an adventure! Some of my favorite authors: Robert Jackson Bennett, J.S. Dewes, Melissa Caruso, Brandon Sanderson, K.B. Wagers, Michael McClung, Fonda Lee, V.E. Schwab, Margaret Owen, K.D. Edwards, just to name a handful.
5. Reviewing and blogging requires energy and commitment. What sustains you?
While I’m an introvert at heart, I also derive energy from talking about things that I love. On the good days, writing for my blog and recording video for BookTok don’t drain me, they invigorate me! But I’ve also been careful to give myself “time off” when I’m not in the right headspace. This is a hobby and it’s supposed to be fun. If I’m having a bad week, absolutely nothing is going to be gained by me forcing myself to make content.
6. Conversely, what annoys you about this job?
Whenever I recommend books for a particular genre/trope/etc. and commenters show up outraged that I didn’t include X popular series. 75% of the time, I didn’t include it because I simply haven’t read it! (I know, it’s shocking, I haven’t read every book known to mankind.) I always encourage people to share their own recommendations in the comments, but those who act like I’ve committed a great travesty by omitting a title just drive me up a wall. People, I’m not claiming this is the definitive list of sci-fi adventures, these are just some that I’ve read and enjoyed!
7. What “ingredients” does a book need to have to really get you excited. I’m not talking generic things like world building or character either. More specific things.
I love competent characters. Much as training montages are fun, I want to watch people who are experts in their field, whether it’s monster hunting, thievery, or navigating court politics. And on that note, I love conflicts that are more social chess games than they are actual fighting. Where not inviting someone to tea is tantamount to declaring war, or two characters have a conversation that amounts to “I know that you know that I know, even if nobody else in this room knows.”
8. If you were a character in a fantasy story, what kind of role would you play? And would you survive to the final page?!
I’d be the reliable second-in-command in the world-saving crew. You know, the one that’s arranging the logistics and asking the practical questions before we all rush ahead without thinking things through. I’m also on hand to talk through any brooding our main hero might have, and stop the thief and the mercenary from fighting and killing each other. I’d have a 50/50 shot of surviving to the end, I might die tragically in a third act mission gone wrong to take the party to its lowest depths before they can rise heroically from the ashes.
9. You’re going on holiday and you’re going to have lots of time to relax (so without the family!) What five books would you take with you?
SORCERY OF THORNS by Margaret Rogerson for my comfort read; I adored that book and I haven’t had a chance to reread it! THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS Omnibus by Rachel Aaron (okay, technically that’s three books, but it’s one book on my shelf – and it’s been there for a while!) SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED MAGIC by Andrew Rowe – I’ve had a lot of people recommend that indie book to me and it’s massive and I never seem to find the time. Likewise to PATERNUS: RISE OF GODS by Dyrk Ashton, another self-published book I keep meaning to read but never make time for. Lastly THE ADVENTURES OF AMINA AL-SIRAFI by Shannon Chakraborty because I have not heard a single bad thing about that book and I want some pirate mom adventures!
10. You help authors in lots of ways. Tell us how.
Besides reviewing the actual books, I think the most important way I help authors is just by simply talking about their books at all! Word of mouth is huge, especially for smaller authors, so I do what I can to at least mention books when I can. That includes books that I haven’t read yet. Talking about why I found a premise interesting enough to put on my TBR spreads the word to others who may also find it interesting!
I’ve also started doing a weekly book news roundup on my BookTok. It’s limited to sci-fi/fantasy, but I talk about any cover reveals or book announcements that caught my attention, so that people can get things onto their wishlists or start their preorders that much sooner.
11. Tell us what qualities matter when you write a book review. Not everyone finds them easy to do so what do you comment on and why?
I think besides the obvious of saying things you liked and didn’t like, it’s important to contextualize what the book even is. Fast-paced action adventure? Sedate character study? Heavy on the romance and light on the world-building? Explaining those elements helps the book find the right readers at the right time. I find that nothing makes me unintentionally bounce off a book than going in thinking it’s one thing, and finding out it’s something completely different. If I’m picking up a book because I’m in the mood for heavy action, but the book is actually really slow and introspective, I’m going to reject it, even if I would have enjoyed it at another time.
Other than that, I comment on the things that just really stick out in my mind, good or bad. I want to focus on the things that really make me want to rec – or not rec- a book. If the magic system isn’t memorable, I probably won’t talk about it extensively, if at all. But if you had a supporting character who stole every scene, that probably gets a mention!
12. You’ve always been an active supporter of #indieauthors. Why?
Because I’ve read some absolutely great books by indie authors, and I want others to read them too! And setting aside the quality of the books, I just love seeing how supportive the indie community can be, helping each other promote their books and just generally being encouraging.
13. Which superhero would you be? (Marvel or DC!)
Hawkwoman! Give me wings and a blunt weapon to smash things with!
14. When you read, do you listen to music? If so, what kind?
Nope, no music for me! I don’t want it to distract me or subconsciously influence the mood of a scene.
15. Finally, if our readers want to discover more reviewers/bloggers, who would you recommend?
Sahi at My World of Books
Celeste at A Literary Escape
Tammy at Books, Bones & Buffy
Chris at Biblio Nerd Reflections
Nick at Out of this World SFF
Mogsy at BiblioSanctum
Lois at AquaVenatus
Shazzie at Reader at Work
Jodie at Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub
And I’m sure I’m going to be kicking myself over others I completely blanked on putting here!
Thanks Caitlin! (And I highly recommend the Paternus trilogy by Dyrk Ashton. My signed copy is pride of place on my bookshelf!)