I’m a simple girl. I’m looking for a book to scare me into nightmares. Keep me on the edge of my seat and looking over my shoulder for the monsters that are surely coming for me.
Shay Festa – 4 November 2013
How did you get started?
I spent a lot of my teen years grounded and got to spend a lot of time reading while locked away in my bedroom dungeon. Pretty soon I realized that I had a love for literature and began reading for fun, not just when I wasn’t allowed to watch TV or talk on the phone. A couple years ago I discovered Goodreads and began adding newly read books to it. That list has grown to over 400 titles in the past three years alone. More than half of them being in the horror genre. My friends tend to read trashy romance novels and hubs will only read computer programming (yawn) books. With no one to talk to after having read a fantastic gory book I decided to publish my book reviews in blog form to get my opinions out. My blog had been out for only two days when I started receiving requests en masse from authors to review their hard work. Talk about an ego boost? I quickly learned that the writing community is an amazing group to belong to and gained an immense respect for those authors.
How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?
I tend to make notes as I go. I focus on plot, characters, quotes should I find any noteworthy, and my likes and dislikes. I put my notes into those buckets as I read through a book and then work it all into something legible to post. If I waited to review at the end I would miss out on my favorite parts and a lot of subtext. I really enjoy when I book makes me think, so I like to pause and ponder things sometimes along the way.
What are you looking for?
I’m a simple girl. I’m looking for a book to scare me into nightmares. Keep me on the edge of my seat and looking over my shoulder for the monsters that are surely coming for me. I want a book to run me ragged through an array of emotions. And most of all I’m looking for moments of laughter to give me a breather from the fear and suspense.
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
Meh. There’s less than perfect and there’s just sloppy. Whenever you have human interaction there’s bound to be a few errors here and there. I was talking to a co-worker recently about an employee having computer problems and he said “I suspect the problem is between the keyboard and the chair”. Made me laugh, but it’s so true. Heck, I’d be biting my fingernails should someone take a good hard look at some of my posts. I’m sure they’d find some dangling participles. OK, I admit it, I just wanted to say dangling participles. For some reason it makes me giggle.
The best piece of advice I’ve gotten about editing for errors is to read things from the bottom up, backwards. I find nearly all my errors that way.
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
I read disgustingly fast. In fact, sometimes just to slow myself down I opt to listen to audio or make my phone read a book to me. When not reading for review, or during the workday, I could probably read two to three books
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
I cannot tell a lie. I use the same rating scale as Goodreads. Though at times I will give half stars. I love love LOVE being able to give a 5 star review, and I always qualify my reasons for not awarding a perfect rating. The last thing I want is to hurt any feelings. I realize how much of themselves an author pours onto the pages of their work so I go into every read with the assumption that I will love the book. It’s just as disappointing to me when I don’t love a book, because I know that work is someone’s blood, sweat and tears. On the other hand, I will never compromise my integrity and award a rating that I don’t believe within my heart of hearts a book deserves.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
Plain and simple, just ask. I can’t speak for others, but I am honored when an author asks for my opinion. Not only that, but I have noticed I pay much closer attention to the details and ruminate over a book more when it’s a request. With that personal touch, I feel more connected to a book. However, I would pay close attention to the genres that a reviewer tends to read. For example, I received a request to review erotic poetry. I tried to read it and quickly realized I’m just not into poetry, erotic or not, and had to decline the request. Also, authors really should peruse the submission policy for each reviewer before just sending them a book. Be sure to include everything that is requested in that policy.
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
Holy moly do I ever! It’s got to be one of the best feelings when an author thanks me for reviewing their work. All but one author has contacted me after my review went live. I have been blessed with an amazing group of authors so far and we work together to get word of the review circulated. I also get a lot of feedback that a review I published has sparked the purchase of a book. I feel pride on behalf of the author when that happens.
My advice to authors on getting a “bad” review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. Under no circumstances to “argue” with the reviewer – would you agree with that?
Absolutely. It’s never personal. My reviews are unbiased and uncensored. Strictly the ramblings from one girl’s point of view. Before I publish a review I search for other reviews to see how they felt about a book. Sometimes I am disappointed with some of the things I see and feel bad. Just because we all have a voice does not give us the right to bash or slander anyone’s hard work. I learned early on in my career as a psych nurse that I had to sift through A LOT of bull to get to the message. I’ve learned to filter out a lot of the words and identify what a person is feeling. I am by no means a self-actualized woman, but I like to think this is a step in the right direction. Plus I kind of live by the motto of “Meh, whatever” and let a lot of things rolls off my back. Reading is totally subjective and you can’t please everyone. But if I can please the majority then I call it a job well done. Learn to take the good with the bad and use the constructive criticism as fuel to move forward.
We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. Why do you think people love reading. We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a past-time is dying – do you think that’s the case?
It’s all about what people are into. I said earlier that my husband will only read books about computer programming. It’s still reading. It would be a shame if this were truly the case. I attribute my vocabulary and much of my critical thinking skills to reading. It keeps my mind going.
There are so many reasons to love reading. For me it’s a way to shut down my brain and unwind. For those hours spent behind the pages of a book, the stress and hustle of everyday life disappears. I equate reading to a good massage. I feel relaxed and replenished after a good book. I’m frequently awed and amazed by the ingenuity of authors and their ability to think up things I couldn’t have come up with in my wildest dreams.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
Mistake is a tough word for me. Because I see things as more of preference than mistake. For me, I don’t enjoy getting a lot of backstory on a character that’s just going to die. Unless it’s an epic death, I don’t want to become invested in a character then have to start over with another.
Other times I find that an author may have a lot to say. Thus causing them to throw in everything including the kitchen sink. Sometimes less really is more. I’d prefer to get to know a few characters than too many. It makes it difficult for me to connect with a book.
We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel, what do you think about that; if a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down?
I give a book a good hour before I put it down. But I always try to go back to it out of respect for an author. If after three attempts I can’t make a go of it, it comes off the list.
Is there anything you will not review?
I think by now we’ve discovered that erotic poetry is not my cup of tea. I tend to stay away from non-fiction, religion, trashy romance novels (OK fine! You got me, I totally read the Fifty Shades trilogy), and while I have read a lot of Nicholas Sparks, I usually try to limit the amount of drama. I love the scary!
What do you think of the oft quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
I think nothing of it to be honest. I’m glad that there will always be a way for someone to get their work out. Be it digital or print media, there must still be a sense of pride knowing that your creation is out there. Not every book will be a winner but who am I to deny someone their dream of publishing their baby.
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to Indie or self-published titles?
In fact, I do. I recently did a little research on this and found that my favorite publisher is an indie publisher. I myself see a benefit to self-publishing. No extensive rewrites at the behest of others. No compromising your vision with demanding publishers. I believe the stigma that once shadowed independent authors has been lifted and they have garnered the respect they deserve.
Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can “filter” good from bad, aside from reviews?
Social media is gospel. People are the best filter. Even if someone doesn’t review a book, chances are they’re talking about it somewhere.
End of Interview:
Read Shay’s reviews at The Bookie Monster.