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 Timy from the Queen’s Book Asylum. Timy has a varied collection of sections to enjoy on her site, (including the fun ‘What the Hungarian?!’). She also leads a team of wonderful reviewers who are regular judges for #SPFBO. Let’s find out more about Timy.
1. Tell us about yourself, Timy.
Hey Phil, thanks for asking me over! I was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary where I still live. Some people know me as Queen Terrible Timy. I can neither confirm or deny any rumors about regular beheadings in the Asylum.
I love listening to music, I like to travel, I like crafting, and above all, I'm a tiny bit obsessed with pandas. I was hoping to finally go and see one in real life this summer, but then life happened *sigh* Maybe next year. Fair warning to anyone reading this interview: I like giving long answers, sorry… I hope you are sitting comfortably and have some snacks at hand. Can I have some?
2. What prompted you to start blogging and reviewing?
Where to start? I always liked the idea of blogging. My first blog was a traveling blog writing about my experiences of my 5-week stay in Santa Barbara. It was mostly for friends, though. When I started getting back to reading I had a feeble attempt at a book blog in Hungarian. But since I had no audience or anyone to share with, and I also got bored, it died within a month. At the time what I wanted was to find some like-minded friends who liked the same books as I. By that time I already read more and more in English, so joining GoodReads seemed like a good idea. I made some good friends there in a group, and I started discovering indie authors. I also started writing reviews, even though I never quite enjoyed that, but understood how important it is for authors. In 2018 I contemplated taking a step back from reading as I was burning out. But then I had two ARCs on my hands, and I thought, well, shit, I should start a blog because these guys deserve to have a bigger audience than I can give them at this point. And so, Queen's Book Asylum (well, its previous version anyway) was born. I honestly didn't expect to have it for more than a couple of months, or to have any readers, but here we are.
3. In a typical week, how much time do you spend reading and blogging?
I don't think there is a thing such as a typical week. It all depends on how busy work is, how tired I am, in what mood I am, what we have scheduled, etc. After climbing out of a massive burnout, these days I'm trying to keep a better balance. During the week I mostly audiobook on my way from work to home, and before bed. I sometimes read in the evenings, but usually, I do most of my reading over the weekends. As for blogging, I'm terrible at working ahead, so most of my posts are being written on the day they are supposed to be posted… with feature posts, it's mostly easy as I use the same templates, but when it's a review, well… then I'm stuck at the computer for hours. But since I keep tight schedules, I always know what I'm planning for which day, so I can prepare myself or make changes if needed. These days we post 4 days a week from Monday to Thursday. I prefer to stay away from the blog over the weekend so I can recharge and do other stuff.
4. Do you have a favourite type of book? Or genre? Can we tempt you to list some favourite authors?
I've never been good at genres, or picking favourites… but I'll try. Obviously, I mostly read Fantasy, but that wasn't my first love when it comes to books. I think it was Historical Fiction, actually. I *loved* The Three Musketeers as a kid and a famous Hungarian novel that was set in the 16th century. Then came crime novels. My dad used to love Ed McBain's books, so I read a couple of them we had at home. I also read The Hound of the Baskervilles for hell knows how many times. Later I found C.J. Sansom's amazing Shardlake series.
I was pretty late to Fantasy, actually. I started with some YA novels, and I was more hooked on the romance than the fantasy elements. Then came the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman and I really got into UF, which still remains closest to my heart when it comes to Fantasy subgenres. To list some of my favourite authors (it's not a complete one): Benedict Patrick, RJ Barker, T. Frohock, Peter McLean, A.J. Lancaster, Olivia Atwater, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Craig Schaefer.
5. Reviewing and blogging requires energy and commitment. What sustains you?
The blood of my enemies. Okay, no, seriously. After I worked myself into a very bad burnout, I also lost enjoyment for blogging - I never had much to begin with for reviewing… and there were times when I was *this* close to chucking the blog in the bin. What kept me from doing that was the fact that I have responsibilities - towards the books I had as ARC, towards SPFBO, and most of all, my team. It wouldn't have been fair to them, so I soldiered on. I made changes, I'm mindful to take a better balance, and though the enjoyment didn't quite return, I still find moments of fun. Plus, I spent 5 years building up my blog, I'm not going to walk away just like that. I worked way too much to be where I am, built connections and had some cool opportunities. I'd hate losing the people I made friends with over the years, and I honestly don't know what else I would be doing.
6. Conversely, what annoys you about this job?
The constant need to hustle and network. You have to be active on social media if you want to keep the favor of algorithms, and if you don't want people to forget about you. There are so many blogs out there, that it's easy to find someone new. Thankfully written blogs still have a place among all the new video-oriented platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. But yeah, finding a new audience and keeping the old is a constant battle I could do without. That and Twitter being the shitshow it is these days.
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 mythology and folktales, those usually can get me excited, although, I'm not really into retellings, and I also think Greek mythology is overused, even if it has some great materials to work with. I also have a fondness for found family themes, and grumpy, snarky older characters.
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?!
So many choices… I'm in the lucky position where I am already a character in a few published fantasy stories. And in an upcoming one too. Peter McLean made Terrible Timy a cutthroat character in his amazing War for the Rose Throne series - it was only fair (okay, fine, I made very not subtle hints that this would be awesome) since he gave me this nickname in the first place; and Bjørn Larssen plans to behead Queen Timy in one of his books. I guess that showcases that I have a few sides to me, lol. I also appear in the last book of Mike Shackle's The Last War series, and in David Hambling's War of the God Queen (I'm not said queen).
If it was up to me, though, I probably would be an antisocial, eccentric noblewoman who likes to scandalize her peers. Someone with a comfortable life, not too much responsibility, just enough things to do not to be bored, with interesting friends, and some adventure here and there to amuse myself. Maybe I'd be a witch too in secret. With a lot of snark. I would definitely survive, someone has to complain all the way through.
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?
Why do you hate me? Okay, I'm going to pick 5 books that I already have and have been planning to read sometime soon.
Age of Assassins by RJ Barker
Her Majesty's Royal Coven by Juno Dawson
The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The Deathless by Peter Newmann
*sneaks her Kindle into her backpack while Phil looks the other way*
10. You help authors in lots of ways. Tell us how.
Well, first of all, I write reviews, duh.
Other than that, I'm a judge in SPFBO, raising awareness for indies; I like to host authors for different kinds of stuff such as cover reveal, interview, guest post, and some other fun things such as Stuck in the Pages, What the Hungarian?!, To Be Continued… and Tales from the Asylum. I'm trying to move people out of their comfort zones with these fun features and give something different to readers. Plus, it's fun to watch how differently people approach these features.
I used to run a blog tour service with the amazing Justine Bergman for almost two years before we wrapped it up - it was a great experience and boy was it a big cause behind my burnout.
And I also like to do beta reading from time to time. For a while, I fancied trying to turn it into a side job, but these days I only do it for friends as a favor. I love working with my favorite authors to make their books as amazing as they can get. Plus, I get to be among the first people to read them, which, honestly, is the biggest appeal to me. Although waiting for others to read and gush with is a killer. But if I'm being honest, this is my favorite part of being a blogger.
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?
To me, the hardest thing about reviews is that I can't always comment on things I want to, due to spoilers. I also try not to write a summary, and keep it to a minimum - the blurb is there for a reason. I don't have a template for reviews, so usually I just wing it. I usually touch upon the plot (lightly), characters, writing, and my overall impressions. I like to keep it as balanced as possible between praises and criticisms, but that's not always easy. I don't believe in writing only positive reviews.
12. You’ve always been an active supporter of #indieauthors. Why?
Oh, you wanted a longer answer? Fiiiiine. When I started blogging, I didn't know much about publishing (indie or otherwise). I just wanted to help authors, talk about books, and make friends. I just happened to make friends with either indie authors, or big indie supporters. But as with my reviews, I always aimed to have a balance and not prioritize either indies or trad authors - I have both on the blog. As a newbie blogger, indies were more likely to give me a chance, and I got into SPFBO very early too and I always loved giving them a platform. Just because they don't have a publishing team behind them, doesn't mean they don't deserve the attention. And some of those books are way better than some trad books I got to read. It's time we got rid of the stigma, because self-publishing doesn't necessarily equate to low quality anymore.
13. Which superhero would you be? (Marvel or DC!)
Um… okay, don't judge me, but I'm not really up to date with superheroes. I'm not really into that stuff. I saw a couple, but wouldn't say I'm a fan. And so, I don't have enough knowledge to pick one. I think I'd prefer to be my own kind of superhero when it comes down to it.
14. When you read, do you listen to music? If so, what kind?
Now that's an interesting question. Up until very recently, I used to listen to music while reading. Since my preference is rock music and pop rock, usually that. Anything that came up on my player, I wasn't picky. As long as there was background noise, I was good. I never thought this would change, but these days I prefer either quiet (the blasphemy!) or something instrumental (my younger self would kick my arse for this), preferably something with a pop/rock beat. I like the sound of violin and cello, and there are some artists that do great stuff covering popular songs. I also found that the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks work really well as background music.
15. Finally, if our readers want to discover more reviewers/bloggers, who would you recommend?
My team, obviously (Arina, Jen, Paul)
Liis from Cover to Cover (she is part of my SPFBO team, and a friend of mine)
Lynn from Lynn's Books (she is awesome and always looks out for me, plus we have very similar opinions when it comes to books)
Dini from Dinipandareads (she is a nice lady and my fellow panda enthusiast)
Imyril from There is always room for one more… (I always love chatting with her when we meet up)
Filip from The Grimoire Reliquary (my fellow Ben Patrick fan, and one whose opinions I always value)
Nick from Our of this World SFF (he's been part of my SPFBO team for a couple of years and it was always great working with him, plus he is a big fellow indie supporter)
Thank you, your majesty! (Moves backwards, head bowed in respect).