In this series of interviews, I talk 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.
1. Tell us about yourself, Eleni. Hi! I’m gonna tell you right away, I’m feeling some impostor syndrome because I definitely do not feel on par with the actual life bloods of indie author you’ve interviewed ahahaha. In fact, I like to joke I have NPC energy sometimes; I’m happy to chat but I need to be approached by someone else first. I like to contribute where I can with the Indie community but compared to most of our fellow bloggers, I’ve barely dipped a toe really. Other than that, I am just a 26 year old Greek gal who, for family work reasons, moved to Italy and grew up there. I eventually ended up in Scotland for uni because I had always been a huge Literature nerd and I wanted to study a comprehensive course of it in English, which wasn’t something I could’ve done in Italy.
2. What prompted you to start blogging and reviewing? I’ve been an SFF fan since time immemorial and my degree wasn’t your typical, droning professor going down the Classics curriculum sucking the life out of you. Instead, it incorporated modern SFF into the literary mix, we did movie adaptions modules and stuff like that. Plus, all of my profs almost were huge impassioned nerds themselves. All this lent itself to me wanting to explore the online side of things as well. Reading had always been something pretty private, you know? But discussing modern SFF in classes and so on, I felt the draw of a community. So, I set up my first blog, Late Night Books, with a friend. We had so many plans for it and just wanted to write down all our passion about the books we read and discussed not only in class but also for hobby. Buuut Worpress editor is brutal ahaha, and uni work load kept piling up so that fizzled out a bit, at least as a duo activity.
I had tried to peek in on the Twitter book community in that time, to try and get the blog some views, but I ended up making many awesome friends instead, and, eventually I got to join two awesome blogs full of hilariously chaotic people. Not having to actually manage a blog but just needing to ‘hand in’ as it were, my long rambles, gave me the opportunity to partake in the book community but without infringing on my study time. It started purely as a throwing my thoughts out into the wind, sharing what I loved about the books I read and hopefully finding other like-minded people who felt the same.
In time, I learned the ins and outs, the power we reviewers and bloggers have, how authors are amazing people that deserve all the boost we can give them, and the importance of word of mouth. It went from a passive thing into an active interest in making a difference if I could. Even if that difference was to give someone a little extra cheer that day because they saw me being silly about their work. This also gave me a great look into the publishing world which in turn prompted my current research topic, studying all of these online impacts etc on the reading community. I am living my nerdiest dream right now!
3. In a typical week, how much time do you spend reading and blogging? I am a mood reader which means I either read full throttle, several books in a week for a few weeks at a time, or, I read maybe a single book over the course of three months. There is no in between and. It. Is. Aggravating. However, if given a deadline, like with ARCs, I will actually set myself a schedule and sit and read daily so I can make that deadline. I try my best to meet them all because authors take a chance with us reviewers and they’re awfully nice about not making demands of us. Yes, we get free books, but I’m not in it for that. Free stuff is always nice sure, but sometimes I just want to do my part in boosting the hype of first sales or preorders. If it’s an author I know it’s just pure impatience haha. Reviewing will take me anywhere between an hour or three, depending on how coherent I am being that day. The more I liked the book the harder it is to put into words. You want to do a work justice and sometimes just keyboard smashing isn’t enough. Which also means my reviews have the pesky habit of being long as hell. Kudos to anyone that reads through them honestly.
4. Do you have a favourite type of book? Or genre? Can we tempt you to list some favourite authors? Oof that’s a tough one! I really do enjoy almost anything in SFF, and depending on mood I’ll veer more toward certain subgenres in it from time to time. I’ve recently become a fan of some subgenres in Romance as well, but these last few months I’ve been back on my original love for horror, gothics, thrillers, and grittier fantasy. But Fantasy remains my number one love. I also love a book that’ll go down some epic, badass road, with good character work and feels, but that will also not take itself too seriously. Enter Sebastien De Castell! Anything he writes is an auto-buy for me as he ticks every box. Michael J. Sullivan has a place of honor, his Riyria books are very special to me for a variety of reasons. Anthony Ryan, I always recommend, as well as John Gwynne, for anyone looking for their epic fantasy fix. Rachel Aaron for more lighthearted fantasy, Runyx and Tillie Cole for Dark Romance, Lucy Score for frivolous romcoms that have a lot of heart. Taran Hunt and Chris Wooding for scifi that melds adventure, humor, and horror/thriller antics. Katherine Arden and Chelsea Abdullah, for folklore inspired historical fiction and fantasy. The list could be endless ngl.
5. Reviewing and blogging requires energy and commitment. What sustains you? Have I mentioned I ramble a lot? I can’t help it, especially for the things I love and that get me excited. It’s not a chore for me at all unless I’m struggling to try and get my point across concisely and clearly. But mostly the fact that I have two amazing and supportive blog parents/bosses! We joke that David W. and Beth Tabler share joint custody of me since I joined BWGB before I did FFA, but when I had the opportunity of joining the latter, I didn’t want to abandon the former. I owe my reviewing presence to Beth, she gave me a chance and a platform when I was a nobody fresh into Twitter and the book community (she says as if she were some big deal now haaah). They each highlight that what we do is for fun and is free (we ain’t getting paid contrary to some people’s belief) and we don’t have set deadlines and expectations to meet. We get to contribute as we can and like. That makes all the difference in the world to someone like me.
6. Conversely, what annoys you about this job? Frankly not much. I’m a very chill person that takes things in stride. You won’t see me in a thread war with anyone, I just don’t have enough fs to give nor do I owe anyone my time, and I prefer keep my online presence light-hearted and fun. That said, I do love me some chaos (the fun kind) and I will defend my own if need be. As with everything, extremes are annoying for sure, and the book community is not immune to the random jackass du jour who thinks their opinion is law. If there is one thing I really don’t like is the light speed jumping to random conclusions that tends to happen when touchy topics are brought to light (see what happens if you say AI three times in a mirror). FFA seems to attract a lot of it from time to time but it happens when you have followings past a certain number. We do our best to stay focused on the positives. I wish it were my actual job ahahah.
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. A right balance between heaviness and lightness. I read to escape so I can’t deal with utter bleakness. I need fun and I need wonder, I can go down the deepest darkest topics no problem but I need that occasional crack of humor and hope in there even if it’s dark humor or gallows humor. Vice versa, it can be a fun adventurous ride with whatever level of stakes throughout, but I’ll always want that hit to the feels from out of the blue. It will make me care about the characters more. Also, short chapters. I’m not saying I’m entirely opposed to long ones, but short chapters just make me read more and faster. They give the narrative a different, more vigorous flow, and any book that feels like I’m being sat down by someone and told the story that way, is a book that wins for me.
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?! Bahahaaha, this is a tough one too. I don’t have enough redeeming qualities to be a protagonist, unless we’re talking antiheroic ones. So probably the sassy/snarky side character, you know the “looks like a cinnamon roll, could kill you” ones. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m generally chill and nice but I can be ruthless, ‘cause I say shit like it is. You won’t see me sugar coating, even if I try to be polite about it. Sometimes. If I like you. May sound conceited, but yes. I would definitely make it to the end. I am far too stubborn and spite driven to do otherwise. Also, I’m told I am reasonable and logical so I can be handy and figure my way out of tight spots ahahahah.
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? Ooooh do I go with rereads or do I go with new reads? I’ll do both! I would take DE Castell’s The Greatcoats (shhh I know it’s cheating to pick a whole series), and Miles Cameron’s Artifact Space, since it’s been a while that I read those. As for new books, I am on holiday and I have just started reading Belladonna by Adalyn Grace, Death as a main character, yes, thank you. Bad Mother by Mia Sheridan since I’ve read her once before and want to see more of her work. And finally, one of my next upcoming ARCs, Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison whom I’ve never read but it seems like she dabbles in dark humor so I’m intrigued.
10. You help authors in lots of ways. Tell us how. Authors are some of the most interesting people, I’ve found. It’s not easy writing down all that’s in our heads, and giving it coherent form. And to keep doing it, and showing it to the world, opening ourselves to critique as authors do. So I encourage and compliment them first, be they published or not yet. We are creatures that thrive on sincere validation, and I don’t dole out nice words at random. I mean it when I say, congratulations to each accomplished step of the way. I try to promote and at the very least retweet if I’m busy in that moment, any events or activities they are involved in, because even if it’s not something I may be interested in at that time, maybe someone that follows me is, and I’ve passed the word around. If it’s an author I know that is in their sequels or non-debut books, I will preorder even if I haven’t read the previous entry yet, because those numbers may mean the difference between their contracts being renewed or not if they are trad pub. (Obviously I don’t mean just my singular contribution but it is a domino effect). If I get ARCs I do my best to make sure it will be a book suitable for me so that I can be the best audience and judge for it, and on the rare occasion it turns out not to be, I make sure to discuss with the author, if possible, whether they still want an honest but negative review out or not. My reviews are mostly positive not because I am not discerning or critical – you will always find me pointing out what doesn’t work for me - but my intent and interest is to talk about what I liked, not rant on what I didn’t so that I can be taken as a more “serious” reviewer. Finally of course, if it’s an author I know I love, I’ll be recommending them at any hint of request for something I know is in their work.
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? Reviews are for readers first and foremost, regardless of how much support you want to show an author you enjoy and wish them to succeed. So, honesty first. I am perhaps a little too technical on occasion, hence the long form, and that is a carryover from my academic writing and textual analysis. I know that a few things that stand out to me for that reason, your normal reader could give two shits about, so I try to be self-aware when critiquing style and writing. I try to give myself a general structure of, overall feelings the book gave me, what it reminded me of, be it a comp title or just vibes from another medium, how the writing flowed, what worked for me character wise if it’s a character driven book, same for if it's plot driven, and then what, if anything, I didn’t entirely get along with, like for instance if a pov behaves out of character at random just for shock value and so on. But mostly I try to not to be too generic. Reviews that say, the next best epic fantasy novel! Epic worldbuilding! Unputdownable! Are all well and good but they won’t tell me if that book has the specific things, I know I’ll enjoy; they only tell me a lot of other people liked it, and, on the rare occasion that is enough, if it’s someone I know and whose opinion I trust. Otherwise, it’s pretty useless to me. So, I write, with as few spoilers as possible, about the specific things that I loved finding in the books. Artifact Space for instance has swords in space. That was all I needed to hear at the time to give it a second look. And at the end of the day that’s what I hope my reviews will do. Get people to look at the book a little more intently and give it a chance.
12. You’ve always been an active supporter of #indieauthors. Why? We’re all stories in the end. (Yes, that is from Doctor Who, why do you ask?) And some of us get the guts to write them down and publish them out of sheer will and spite, without the aid of a traditional publisher. I always strive for equal opportunities and sadly, indie writers simply don’t get the same reach that trad pub allows. So when I can I do my best to give equal opportunity to any story that’ll pique my interest, regardless of origin. If there is one thing I respect, it is that sort of drive. I also like to follow the “do what you wish others did for you”, line of thought here, and even though I never know whether I’ll ever publish my own thing, I respect the hell out of the people who do. And I wish to give them the same time of day I would like to be given myself. I see no reason to give indie any less hype and fanfare than I would give trad pub, if anything, Indie deserves it more for clawing its way to being thought of as respectable writing compared to how it was seen before.
13. Which superhero would you be? (Marvel or DC!) In spirit I’d be Iron Man, in means, probably Spidey let’s face it ahahah. But seriously, whichever hero is not good at STEM. That would be me, from any universe.
14. When you read, do you listen to music? If so, what kind? I used to be able to listen to anything, but lately I can only read with it on if there’s no lyrics, so anything from movie soundtracks to epic music like Thomas Bergersen, Two Steps From Hell, Brand X Music and co. Sometimes there are songs I’ll hear while having music in the background for studying or writing a review, and it’ll hit me as the perfect soundtrack to a book scene. Try reading the chapter of TLOLL where Lynch does that sweeping description of the city for the first time, while listening to Mares of the Night by Glen Gabriel. Chills honestly.
15. Finally, if our readers want to discover more reviewers/bloggers, who would you recommend? Well, I know it’ll sound obvious but you can’t go wrong picking the brains of anyone from either Before We Go Blog or FanFiAddict. These two groups of lovable maniacs, are as varied as they come in reading tastes and preferences, that’s why it’s so fun to be around them.
From outside the two blogs, I can always count on the wonder duo of Dylan and Charles from Friends Talking Fantasy Podcast for some awesome content and endlessly interesting author interviews.
The Shaggy Shepherd Book Reviews is guilty of filling my shelves more than once.
MasqueReads is always a great chat about books any time you want to go more in depth with your theories. And finally, Alex from Spells and Spaceships, as well as Fantasy Book Nerd, have been two of my oldest twitter buddies from when I first joined book twitter, their recs have never steered me wrong.
Sorry to anyone I am forgetting right now but I am answering this question right after walking two teen dogs who got the absolute insanest zoomies at the end of their walk, so my brain is a little frazzled. A mega THANK YOU for having me!!! This was my first interview actually, I’m honoured.