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Surrealistic Planet

Meet the Bloggers: Celeste from A Literary Escape

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.

In this interview I talk to Celeste from A Literary Escape. Her site not only includes her reviews but also great discussion-prompting posts about the wider issues around reading and writing.

1. Tell us about yourself, Celeste.

Hi, everyone! I'm a 30-something book blogger who lives in northern Virginia. Some may call me a middle millennial. I work full time, so book blogging is purely a hobby. I've been reading all my life, though high school assignments and college meant an extended hiatus from it. When I'm not reading, my other hobbies include gardening, traveling, and cuddling with my cat. I'm privileged to have traveled to over 30 countries, most of those with my husband, though much of Europe remains unexplored to me. A fun fact about me is that I used to have a travel blog, but the upkeep was a lot more intense, so I decided to close up shop on that.

2. What prompted you to start blogging and reviewing?

I feel like I've seen other bloggers have a similar impetus, but in short, the coronavirus pandemic. I was feeling pretty down nearly a year in and on a whim I opened my Kindle for the first time in quite a while. As fate would have it, A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR) was on sale. That was my gateway back into reading and I promptly read all four books that were out at the time. I had a major book hangover from that series and really wanted someone to talk to about it, so I decided to start my own blog. And here I am, still here 2.5 years later! It's been such a great time, albeit a lot of work.

3. In a typical week, how much time do you spend reading and blogging?

I don't keep track of that even though I've told myself I should, so these times are just estimates. I wouldn't be surprised if I spend a minimum of 10 hours per week reading. And I probably spend about 5 hours per week blogging, which includes blog hopping. So at least 15 hours per week minimum on this hobby.

4. Do you have a favourite type of book? Or genre? Can we tempt you to list some favourite authors?

My soul craves fantasy romance or romantic fantasy, and bonus points if a book includes the fae. But overall I enjoy most types of fantasy. Needless to say, considering my answer to question 2, Sarah J. Maas is a favorite author. (However, I haven't read anything other than ACOTAR. Oops!) I really love Olivie Blake for her extremely atmospheric writing; I usually dislike things that err on the philosophical side, but she writes in such a way that just captivates me. I also recently discovered indie author Nicola Tyche, who wrote the Crowns trilogy, of which I've read the first book. I do also read outside of my preferred genre so I don't burn myself out on fantasy. Sometimes I'll read nonfiction, contemporary romance, and the occasional literary fiction novel.

5. Reviewing and blogging requires energy and commitment. What sustains you?

In short, this community sustains me. Reviewing and blogging is such a time-intensive hobby that I don't think I'd still be doing this if I hadn't found my little niche within the larger bookish community. Most of us appreciate and want a community with which to discuss like things and I'm not different. I try not to care too much about engagement statistics. But I do admit it's nice to see them go up because it means someone cares enough to read what I have to say. It's even nicer when a fellow reviewer can relate to how you felt about a book.

6. Conversely, what annoys you about this job?

My first thought went right to all of the bookish drama on social media. But I think many of us agree on that. So I'll branch out and say that it annoys me when both newcomers and senior book bloggers expect to get engagement without putting the work in. If you want mine or others' time, it helps to reciprocate it. Please don't complain about not getting retweets or blog comments if you're not also doing the same. I wrote a whole blog post exploring this topic. In short, I spend my time where I know it will be appreciated.

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.

Call me basic when it comes to fantasy romance, that's fine with me. Sticks and stones and all that. But I get excited when a story includes the following: fae, enemies to lovers, morally grey love interests, and/or political intrigue/court politics. I really appreciate that last ingredient when it comes to reading historical fantasy. I fart in the general direction of the miscommunication trope.

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?!

This is a really hard question to answer! I admire all of the strong female main characters, so I'd like to say I'd play that role. But what they endure can be downright difficult at times. Instead, I think my personality leans more toward playing some sort of lead spy advisor or something of the sort. Meaning, I'd observe and receive reports and work my influence behind the scenes and hopefully not get my head chopped off. Or I could be a castle groundskeeper since I like gardening. Totally in the same field as being a spy advisor, right?

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?

I'm going to stay away from rereads, so I'd take with me: 1) THE ATLAS PARADOX by Olivie Blake; 2) SHADOW QUEEN by Nicola Tyche; 3) TO FLAME A WILD FLOWER by Sarah A. Parker; 4) HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD by Sarah J. Maas; and 5) THESE TWISTED BONDS by Lexi Ryan.

10. You help authors in lots of ways. Tell us how.

I feel reviewing books on my blog is the main way I help authors. It's free marketing for them, especially when I share it on social media to help potential readers to discover something new to read. I also retweet book announcements. I participate in blog tours, though honestly it has been a while since I've done one. I also participate in judging competitions. Last year I was a judge for the Book Bloggers' Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) and this year I'm a judge for the inaugural judging season of The Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). I also have some upcoming publication day announcements for indie authors.

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?

Personally, I need more than a one paragraph review because I want a more in-depth look into what specifically did or did not work for the reviewer. I appreciate when a reviewer discusses whether the characters were well rounded or flat and if the plot made sense. As someone who does this, I also like seeing the themes of the book addressed (whether or not the perceived theme is what the author intended). I like seeing tropes mentioned, but some people don't. Additionally, it's helpful if the reviewer makes a broad statement about who might like the book they're reviewing, e.g., "This book is perfect for readers who love heist plots and morally grey characters." The hardest part of reviewing for me used to be creating my own synopsis. So I stopped doing that and use the official one instead. I figured someone was already paid to do that, so why agonize over creating one myself?

12. You’ve always been an active supporter of #indieauthors. Why?

Before I joined this community I honestly didn't know what an indie author was. I thought all publishing was done through publishing houses. But obviously that's not so! There are smaller independent publishers as well as those who self publish. While I like many of the traditionally-published books I read, I like to also read and support indie authors because, simply, indie authors have great stories to tell. There is plenty of amazing stuff to read outside of big publishing houses. However, indie authors don't have the same marketing budget, so I like to try and leave a review on my blog when I can. Some of my more popular reviews have actually been those about indie books. And I love it when an indie author becomes so popular that traditional publishing swoops in and acquires them so that more readers find them.

13. Which superhero would you be? (Marvel or DC!)

Please don't hate me, fellow bloggers, but I've never been big into comics or superheroes! If I have to pick I would go with Superman. It was one of the Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch as a kid. I was a fan of the 1990s Justice League cartoons as well as Batman Beyond, not to mention the WB series Smallville. I always thought it was cool to have basically all of the powers. Why choose? When it comes to all of the recent Marvel stuff, I'd pick Loki, though I'd probably make a terrible Loki because I'm way too logical.

14. When you read, do you listen to music? If so, what kind?

Most of the time I don't listen to music when I read. If I do it's instrumental music because I find lyrics very distracting. I might listen to random lo-fi music on Spotify.

15. Finally, if our readers want to discover more reviewers/bloggers, who would you recommend?

Before I list reviewers/bloggers, keep in mind I can't list everyone, so please don't be offended if your blog isn't here! That said, I often visit blogs of: Tammy at Books, Bones & Buffy; Janette at Wicked Witch's Blog; Chris at Biblio Nerd Reflections; Shazzie at reader@work; Caitlin at Realms of My Mind; Leah at Leah's Books; Julie at One Book More; Athena at One Reading Nurse; and Amanda Kay at Your Book Friend. Sahi at My World of Books also has great reviews, but she's on a bit of a hiatus at the moment.


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