I am so happy to introduce my interview with Alex from Spells and Spaceships blog. Enjoy!
How did you get into reviewing books online, and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been doing it since November 2019, a few months before the impact of COVID-19 was felt. Over the next months, people spent more time on social media and reading so I think these circumstances helped my blog to grow. I came up with some reading related events that I hope brought some distractions to the community during that new period of lockdowns and uncertainty. I basically started doing it though because I’d been back into reading after a break from books (university can do that to you!) and had really redeveloped a passion for fantasy and sci-fi. I thought blogging would satisfy my creative urges. I also wanted to engage with the community more and feel part of it.
You must have met many authors, reviewers etc. online – How have you found being a part of the book community (across all the platforms)?
For the most part it’s been a really nice experience – obviously social media can be a bit of a hellscape and I’ve taken a few short breaks but all in all it’s been great. We have no real opportunities to chat with music, movies and sports stars. For a book lover though, authors can be held in just as high esteem – and we can chat to many of them! It’s a real pleasure when you loved a book and are then able to talk to the author about it. There’s also something nice about writing a positive review and the author deciding to read it. In some cases I’ve been able to interview them, which is fantastic!
What makes you pick up a book? Is it the cover art, the author, premise…?
Going against the well known expression, I always judge a book by its cover I am almost ashamed to admit. But don’t most of us? A cover can tell you so much about a book from a short glance. Of course, the premise is technically the most important, but often if the cover doesn’t draw my eye I probably won’t be at that stage where I’m actually reading the premise and seeing what it’s about. After being part of the community for 3+ years now, I would strongly recommend self-published authors try their best to produce a professional looking cover before they reveal their book. It’s not exactly fair and the costs involved are probably a real hurdle to being a successful self-pub author, but from my experience it’s what is going to bring the readers in to consider reading the book and first impressions always count.
When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?
I was reading as far back as I remember – my Mum says I’d have rather gone to bed without food than without a book. It was non-fiction for a long while as a young kid as I just wanted to know all about the world and I have to admit I used to read encyclopaedias! I’d love to feel that childlike wonder and discovery again, when the whole world was waiting to be revealed. The first fantasy series I loved was The Edge Chronicles but I was also on the Harry Potter hype like most people my age at the time. I tried Lord of the Rings but found it hard reading as a 10 year old – I did love The Hobbit though and can see why it influenced so much of what came after. I’ve never really been one for re-reading a series. There’s always another unread book to be found.
What do you like to do outside of reading and creating content online?
Mostly look after my son and take him to nice places. We really enjoy going out in nature and looking for bugs. When he’s in bed and I;m not in the mindset for reading I do really enjoy gaming as it’s easier to switch off. Again though it’s still mostly fantasy – Warhammer Total War, Elden Ring, God of War. A favourite game of mine though is Ghost of Tsushima – incredible.
Who are some of your favourite book reviewers online right now?
Wow, there are so many! It would be hard to name several without feeling guilty that I’d missed some out. If you check out my blog though, I have a series called The Bloggers Spotlight, where I highlight many of the awesome bloggers in the community and most of my faves are in there.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a book review website?
Enjoy it and don’t make it feel like work. Read exactly what you want to and don’t oversubscribe yourself. If you have several arcs on the go it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and then you end up not enjoying a book you might otherwise love, forcing yourself to read it by a certain date. So basically just take your time to begin with and see what works for you. There are different review styles but ultimately I think a reader of your website just wants to see whether a book is worth reading. If they can see your passion for a book, that will mean more than an in depth analysis. If you really enjoy writing a lot then that’s awesome; if it becomes a chore then shorter reviews are fine and can sometimes be even more impactful.
If you could be any fictional character, who would you be and why?
Most of the characters I enjoy live in very gritty worlds! However, I’m going to go with Grimsa from Josh Gillingham’s Ten Trees Saga (first book is The Gatewatch). The book’s location is a Nordic world with ice and magic, with halls filled with roaring fires and hot food, lots of drink, magical mountains, hot springs and adventures to go on. Despite the threat of trolls, I wouldn’t mind living Grimsa’s life of enjoying hot baths, feasting and drinking and exploring the natural world outside the walls of the town. Maybe an adventure here and there too.
What are some of your favorite recent reads, and what are you reading right now?
I read a variety of genres, not just fantasy and sci-fi, so I usually have a few books in progress at once depending on my mood and which genre I fancy. These can be historical fiction, horror, science and nature, history and more. One of my favourite recent reads was Peter McLean’s ‘Priest of Lies’ which is book 2 in his War for the Rose Throne series. It’s a sort of tudor era-inspired fantasy gangster book that has several parallels with Peaky Blinders. I’ve not read many books where every single chapter keeps you on your toes but Peter McLean really nails it with these books. I’m currently reading a book from a new author, R. S. Moule. The book is called The Fury of Kings and it’s the type of medieval-inspired fantasy I really enjoy, with warring kingdoms and political maneuvers. I’m also reading Killers of the King by Charles Spencer. It’s a history book detailing the events of the execution of King Charles I and how his son Charles II hunted down his killers when the monarchy was reinstated. It’s a tale of brutal revenge and a really important part of British history.
Thanks for having me Tommye, I’ve enjoyed answering your interview questions!