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 Benedict from BookishBenny. Bookish Benny is a book blog for bookreaders by bookworms. There are articles on SFF books like the So You’ve Played series where I recommend books to read if you enjoyed a certain hit videogame and of course SFF book reviews and also manga reviews.
1. Tell us about yourself, Benedict.
I’m 38 and work as a project manager. I currently live in Staffordshire with my girlfriend. I’m originally from Slough although I lived in Sennelager, Germany when I was younger. I adore animals and love getting close to them.
2. What prompted you to start blogging and reviewing?
I think it started when I realised I had no-one to talk to about SFF books. I really wanted to discuss books with those who read them. Once I did this and saw reviewers posting their thoughts, I wanted to do the same!
3. In a typical week, how much time do you spend reading and blogging?
Oooh good question. I’d say around work and fitness training I manage to get in about 6-8 hours a week reading and maybe 1-2 hours blogging. Although I spend a lot of time “microblogging” via Twitter.
4. Do you have a favourite type of book? Or genre? Can we tempt you to list some favourite authors?
I really like dystopian stories but find it harder to find big 5 star stories as opposed to fantasy and sci-fi. I like how dystopian stories can almost be in our future and it’s that element of realism that adds to my enjoyment I think.
There are a lot of good authors out there and we each have our own. For me I’d recommend Mike Shackle, Fonda Lee, Brandon Sanderson, G R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, Daniel T. Jackson, Rob Hayes, J R.R. Tolkien, Koushun Takami, Joe Abercrombie, Ben Aaronovitch, Thilde Kold Holdt, Suzanne Collins.
5. Reviewing and blogging requires energy and commitment. What sustains you?
It does! I think the reason I can continue to do it is because of the readers. There are only so many books we can read in our lifetimes and so if I can recommend great books for others to enjoy then that is a big part of the enjoyment from blogging. It feels really good to have someone say thanks for recommending X book to me, I really enjoyed it.
6. Conversely, what annoys you about this job?
Other bloggers lying on their reviews. There could be a bad book, badly written but because blogger and author follow each other, or blogger doesn’t want to offend publisher and ruin their chances of free books, the blogger will omit or lie about their honest thoughts and their rating/review will reflect this. We all need honest reviews because if we lie or fluff up our reviews you’re only going to a) make the author think their work is great and doesn’t need improvement, meaning you can lead them to a place of delusion that creates further bad work, b) you put other readers onto a bad book or a book that isn’t as good as you’ve listed which inevitably makes them waste time/money and they might then write a negative review which may hit the author harder because of point a), and c) readers will not trust that blogger’s reviews anymore.
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 like grimdark. Characters you can’t trust. Political intrigue is always exciting but I don’t want a full political story but sprinklings of it are always good. Magic is good too provided it is unique and interesting to use but without a manual to understand it. I really like underused fantasy creatures/entities too. Dragons are great but what about skeletons, goblins, cyclops etc! Also a good heist story!
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 play… an assassin or a thief 😂 I’d love to be in a book recreating my time playing Skyrim pickpocketing people and sneaking around.
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?
Five books…I’d take The Hobbit, Ready Player One, Battle Royale, Jade City and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!
10. You help authors in lots of ways. Tell us how.
I suppose writing reviews are an obvious one but I also like to do other things such as when I created The SFF Oasis (now called Keymark) which brought together readers and authors, helping the authors to connect with the community and get awareness for their debut novels.
I’ve also championed Mike Shackle’s The Last War trilogy and I’m hoping through my constant tweeting that Gollancz & The Broken Binding will produce (first time) hardcovers of this fantastic fantasy.
I’ve helped Alice James get her first agent too via Twitter. Alice writes very fun fantasy that has skeletons, zombies, a bit of romance and an estate agent. I really liked the first story and interviewed Alice on my old Booktube channel. When I saw she needed an agent I put her in touch with a person who I knew had space for authors and now Alice’s third book is coming out being published by Solaris books (Rebellion).
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 used to write book reviews broken down into characters, world building, plot and then anything specific like magic or technology but now I just write what I enjoyed since that’s what people are reading my reviews for. Almost any review will provide the blurb or the outline of the story and this is helpful but can be a bit boring. I tend to write what the author did well, the characters and how I felt about them, what I liked and what I didn’t like.
12. You’ve always been an active supporter of #indieauthors. Why?
I think it’s because writing is hard. I’ve written a book which came in at 120,000 words and this is around working full time and being in a relationship. It’s not easy! If I can make it just a bit easier for an indie author and/or help them see the light at the end of the tunnel then I will. I think there’s a misconception that all authors are on Tom Clancy, JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins money. The reality is that they’re not earning enough writing to quit their main job and they’re having to do both. They write because they enjoy it and are passionate. Becoming a full time writer is a goal for many so if you enjoy the stories, help them by reviewing on your socials, Goodreads and probably most importantly, Amazon!
13. Which superhero would you be? (Marvel or DC!)
Hands down Spider-Man! He’s so cool! I used to read ASM comics as a kid and didn’t really get into DC until recently and even then it’s been through the films rather than the comics.
14. When you read, do you listen to music? If so, what kind?
I do sometimes! It’s normally music without words so cinematic music from films or songs by Ludovico Einaudi or Hans Zimmer. Words in songs are just too distracting for me to concentrate.
15. Finally, if our readers want to discover more reviewers/bloggers, who would you recommend?
Ah! There are so many. I will heartily recommend:
Alex - Spells & Spaceships @BlogSpells
Taylor - Maed Between the Pages @maedbtwnpages
Isabelle - The Shaggy Shepherd Book Reviews @dshaggyshepherd
Thanks for having me Phil! Really nice to be able to answer some book and blogging related questions.