An Interview with Johanna (Creator Spotlight) - The Fantasy Review

An Interview with Johanna (Creator Spotlight)

I am very happy to introduce my interview with Johanna! Johanna creates book review and discussion videos on YouTube – find her online:

an interview with Johanna

The Interview

I discovered your channel a while ago with videos discussing Malazan Book of the Fallen and really enjoyed your conversations! How did you get into reviewing books online, and why?

I started my channel thanks to Allen, from the Library of Allenxandria, who welcomed me into the community and got me involved in a book community Discord. What started as a lighthearted joke–making a Q&A video for the milestone of 5 subscribers–turned into a hobby. That was how my channel was born. 

I have always admired the art of a good review, which is why I have that content on my channel. To me, it seems natural that if you love a book, you want to talk about it. While I don’t believe in specific rules on how to review books, I do have preferences as a reviewer. For me, reviewing a book is a process of understanding the themes an author is exploring and the techniques they use to create specific effects. Additionally, I appreciate the ability to describe how a book functions within (or deviates from) a particular subgenre or period. This is a skill I admire in some of the reviewers I follow, and I hope to develop this skill as I read and review more books. 

Although many BookTubers say that reviews don’t receive many views, I think the process is rewarding for several reasons.  Reviewing books helps me reflect on an author’s work in more depth, and this usually enhances my appreciation of a book. This next point may sound a little odd, but creating a review allows me a sense of closure. I sometimes feel like I need to review a book before moving on from that story, and I have the added benefit of being able to point back to a review if any new viewers want to hear my thoughts on that book. Last but not least, as a reviewer, it is incredibly rewarding when people want to pick up a book or series based on my reviews. It’s also validating when a fellow fan of a book or series appreciates what I have to say. 

How have you found being a part of the book community, talking with authors/reviewers etc?

The community is the best part of BookTube! Everyone will say it because it’s true. This is the most generous and collaborative community I’ve come across online, and I’ve been down a few other YouTube rabbit holes before finding BookTube.

I love that this is a community of readers and writers. I’ve had the opportunity to be in discussions with a few authors, including Steven Erikson, Janny Wurts, Michael R. Fletcher, and Gourav Mohanty. As a kid, I dreamed of being able to meet my favorite authors, and I’m honored whenever I get to have these meaningful discussions.   

What makes you pick up a book? Is it the cover art, the author, premise…?

All of the above! I don’t think cover art should be underestimated. Cover art can serve the purpose of priming an audience with expectations regarding tone and genre. Writing style or prose is important to me, so knowing the author’s skill and style will contribute to whether I will pick up a book or not. The premise is important, but I am more likely to pick up a book based on an interest in the prose, theme, setting, and tone.  

When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?

I think I started reading in Kindergarten. My mother read to me every night, but as soon as I was old enough to read, I had to read to her every night (and then she’d fall asleep while I read). The first book I remember reading multiple times was The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, and I’m guessing that was an abridged version. When I was 10 years old, I discovered a young adult, suspense-horror author, Lois Duncan. She was my first favorite author.  

What are your favourite books/authors?

My favorite series is Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. The Crippled God, book 10 in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, is my favorite book. That series was the most impactful and immersive reading experience of my life. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were my entry points into fantasy and will always have a special place in my heart. 

Recent new-to-me authors I’ve been loving include Robin Hobb, Janny Wurts, R. Scott Bakker, Bernard Cornwell, and literary fiction writer, John Williams. I’m also currently loving Cormac McCarthy’s writing though he’s not new to me. 

What do you like to do outside of reading and creating content online?

I haven’t been as active with my art in recent years, but I love painting and digital art drawing. I also loved playing a tabletop game called Gloomhaven, but our group finished the campaign and is now playing D&D, which I’m not as crazy about so far. My husband and I love to travel! We’re planning to go to Singapore and Australia later this year. We also enjoy cooking together and walking our dog when the weather is nice. If I’m in the mood, we sometimes enjoy playing video games or watching shows. I also enjoy journaling and being active through walking, running, or riding my stationary bike. I’m also passionate about daily meditation. 

Who are your go-to content creators?

I find great inspiration from many of my friends on BookTube. They all know who they are since I comment on their videos, buddy read, or have discussions with them. 

Big Think is my favorite non-BookTube channel right now. I love learning about psychology, productivity, and living a healthy, fulfilling life. 

What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a BookTube/Bookstagram/Book Review website?

I like the advice to be yourself, but sometimes it takes time to find your voice as a reviewer and BookTuber. Start the process and let it evolve with patience and gentle persistence. 

Getting involved in the community can be a great way to find support and gain meaningful feedback. If you have the time, consider joining channel discords or interacting on Bookstagram or Book Twitter. 

Learn from what others are doing but also honor what does and doesn’t resonate with you. Some people love tag videos, TBR videos, book hauls, and vlogs. Others prefer group discussions, reviews, or recommendation videos. There is no one-size-fits-all model to being a BookTuber or book reviewer. High-quality lighting, sound, editing, and thumbnails are all important considerations but having meaningful things to say is most important.  

Once you have a channel, there can be a great emphasis on growing an audience. That can create a lot of pressure to increase the subscriber count. If that’s the case, it’s worth remembering that sometimes the best growth happens when we’re not reaching for it. 

If you could be any fantasy character, who would you be and why?

I am already an assassin elf 😉 

Related to our Interview with Johanna

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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