Day two of Book Blogger Appreciation Week and time for an interview swap with Megan of Write Meg, one of my favorite book blogs. I know that you will enjoy getting to know this bright, talented, and funny lady as much as I did. You can read the other half of our diptych interview as Meg asks me some great questions that realy made me think, and laugh, by following this link. Enjoy everyone.
1.) There are so many book blogs on the net these days that it is a challenge to know who to visit and trust. The first time I visited Write Meg, I was immediately struck by your ability to relay your thoughts – good or bad – in your book reviews so succinctly. What is your writing background, and who inspired you to be a writer?
You’re too kind! Like most folks who write, I’ve been crafting prose since the tender age of six—around the time I learned to hold a pencil (though I greatly prefer pens). My father is a journalist and my mother a lover of the written word, so I like to think I come by it all naturally. Growing up, I was fortunate to have great English teachers who encouraged me to try my hand at poetry and novels, and I harnessed that energy even more when I got to college. I graduated with a BA in English Language & Literature from the University of Maryland in 2007, and I’ve worked for newspapers in the Washington, D.C. area for the past four years.
2.) Another thing I love about Write Meg is that it is visually appealing and beautifully designed. Do you have a design background, or are you just a natural at web design – creating by instinct and the seat of your pants?
My web design is probably an extension of what I do for a living—editing and designing print layouts for a newspaper. I’m completely OCD on the job about making sure everything is aesthetically pleasing, sleek and, most importantly, properly aligned! Crafting tables and importing graphics on my blog is just another way I tinker with that obsession. I do use a template I’ve customized on Write Meg!, but I hope to be self-hosted in the future and gain complete control over the look and feel of my blog. Until then, I’ll keep tinkering with what I have!
3.) Your tag line for your blog reads: fearless blogger / editor / writer / Anglophile / book queen. These are obviously important keys about yourself that you share online. Can you rank these attributes by their importance and tell us why?
I’d have to say I’m a writer first and foremost—it’s been such a huge part of my identity for so long, as both a passion and a profession. Next would have to be editor, as I spend all day with the English language and never tire of toying with it. Book queen comes directly from my obvious love of reading—and my obsession with books is another way I “define” myself. Without a doubt, I’m a huge Anglophile—and my penchant for all things British has gained plenty of rueful grins from family, friends and coworkers (and taken me across the pond!). Being a “fearless blogger” allows me to combine everything I love—and reminds me to always be honest about anything I’m discussing: books, life, love. Striving to be fearless in all facets of life is a main goal of mine!
4.) You read a variety of books. I do see a trend in your selections, but would like you to explain your choices. What motivates you to select and read a book?
All sorts of fiction appeals to me, though I do tend to read a great deal of women’s fiction (or chick lit), young adult and Austenesque fiction! When reading a book, I’m always looking for some sort of “truth”—something that I, as a reader, will draw away from the work and apply to my own life. If I think a book can do that for me, I’m definitely going to grab it. On some level, I’m probably looking for myself. I get motivated to read a novel after recognizing some piece of myself or someone I know in the story—or, conversely, finding nothing familiar about it! That’s always intriguing, too.
On a basic level, I’m motivated to read books if they come personally recommended by friends, coworkers, fellow bloggers and reviewers on LibraryThing, a site I frequently haunt. If someone I really trust recommends a book to me, nine times out of ten I’ll pick it up.
5.) Why do you blog? What inspired you to devote so much of your free time to sharing your insights and reaction to books and life?
My parents raised my younger sister and me to believe we had something unique and valuable to say, and I’ve never lost sight of that! I don’t know if they realized just how much I would take it to heart, but I have—and Write Meg! is the grown-up product of my young aspirations of grandeur!
Blogging about my life allows me to get some perspective about what I’m doing, feeling and thinking. I love sharing anecdotes about working retail or trying to put into words something that’s probably a universal truth, like being afraid to grow up, but feels scary and uniquely personal. Writing about it—and getting feedback—reminds me that I’m not alone, even if a “quarter-life crisis” can feel isolating sometimes!
When it comes to book reviews, I absolutely love sitting down to think about the 300 or so pages I’ve just spent with a motley crew of characters—and blogging about them reminds me of the power of the written word. Nothing is more fun to me than trying to come up with another way to express something so perfectly expressed by another author—it’s like a really fun game and, though I’ll never really win, it’s awesome to play. I love it so much, spending so much time on the blog feels like no time at all.
6.) As a fellow Anglophile, I am curious what is it about the British that draws you to their culture, politics, history, art, and literature? How and why are they unique and watchable?
There’s some allure to what is completely distinct from ourselves and, being American, British culture has a crazy fascination for me. Since making a trip to London with my family in 2007, I’ve been totally obsessed with the UK—its literature, history, celebrities, slang. You name it and I’ve probably looked for it on BBC America! A trip I took back to London in May just furthered my fascination.
What makes the products of British culture unique and watchable, to me, is the sense of propriety! Even BBC shows like “Skins”—definitely of the modern era—don’t seem so outrageous when characters speak with those awesome, lilting accents! Viewing a culture, and a people, from the outside is like doing an anthropological study, and I love peering into British culture as an outsider to figure out what really makes it “tick.” And I think spending time in a foreign place—or reading about a foreign place, or watching a film set there—really makes you appreciate your own world just a little bit more.
7.) As an admirer of Jane Austen’s wit and biting social commentary, I appreciate your frank and sometimes humorous reaction to books. Above all, I trust your honesty in your writing, fearlessly reproaching a book or praising it to the skies. How do your feel about your challenge as a reviewer with publishers who may send you an advanced copy of their book to review expecting only free publicity and praise, and your need to be completely honest with your readers.
Thank you, Laurel Ann! When I first began blogging about books, it honestly never occurred to me that publishers or authors would pay me any mind. As I’ve begun to receive advance reading copies and frequently have personal correspondence with authors before and after I read their novels, my perceptions of the power of writing about another’s work have changed—and it is a little intimidating, thinking that the people who actually wrote the work you’re analyzing will actually read and comment on your words. Actually, it’s scary!
Of course, my first obligation as a blogger/reviewer is to be sincere. Though it’s sometimes a challenge, I try to always keep my snark in check—my goal is to openly discuss a book’s qualities and foibles, but never to lapse into pettiness about an author or work. As a personality, I’m pretty colorful—but I try to always maintain a level of professionalism in my writing! I’ve definitely had awkward moments where I had to e-mail an agent, informing them my review of their client’s book was posted—and I pretty much, um, hated it. Thankfully the publishers have always been professional, too; they understand not everyone is going to love a book, and sometimes the negative press is actually beneficial.
8.) We all have our favorite authors, and let’s face it, mine is very obvious. Who are your favorite classic and contemporary authors? Who do you return to for re-reads, and who is a quickie?
As far as the classics go, you can’t go wrong with Jane Austen! Every re-read provides me with something new to experience, which is how I feel every time I pick up Pride & Prejudice. I’m also a fan of Virginia Woolf, though I’ve only read Mrs. Dalloway! She’s quite classic, I think, and I definitely intend to read more of her work soon.
Favorite contemporary authors include two of my fellow Megs: Meg Cabot and Megan McCafferty! Both are outstanding, funny and intelligent writers who bridge the gap between young adult and adult fiction seamlessly. They’re huge inspirations to me! Other writers I can’t fail to note include Jhumpa Lahiri, Laurie Notaro, J.K. Rowling, Marisa de los Santos and Sarah Dessen. As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of women’s fiction—and who better to compose it than this fine group of ladies? And young adult author John Green is fantastic, too! He’s totally my writer crush.
Though I don’t often re-read books, I’ve returned to parts of Megan McCafferty’s books—they’re very fast-paced and always have me frantically turning the pages, desperate to figure out what’s going to happen between Jess and Marcus. For me, they’re emotional reads, but in a good way! Definitely quick books that leave you with much to consider.
9.) Writing and maintaining a blog of the quality of Write Meg is a big commitment in your personal time. Readers only see the end result and crave more. How do you inspire yourself when you are in a writing slump? Have you ever just hit a writing wall and could not finish writing a review or blog? Which review are you most proud of, and which one would you like to forget?
I’ve absolutely hit writing slumps, typically when I’m feeling uninspired in my personal life! That slump can carry over to writing blog posts, novels or work-related articles . . . never a good thing! The fastest way I pull myself out is just by forcing my fingers to keep moving. If I don’t have books to discuss on Write Meg!, I always turn to the humor and silliness that is my everyday life—and my obsessions with everything from John Mayer and The Killers to food and Starbucks coffee. Like writer Jen Lancaster, I’m always up for sharing some embarrassing anecdotes with my self-deprecating humor! That usually reminds me not to take myself too seriously and pull forward.
I’ve never been unable to finish a book review, though I have had to pause and return to one later. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief was probably the hardest review I’ve written because the book was so moving and mind-blowing, I wasn’t sure how to even start talking about it. I knew nothing I could say would possibly do justice to the story of Liesel Meminger, a German girl who survives the horrors of World War II in Nazi Germany, but I knew that I needed to try! So I wrote for a little while, decided I was merely summarizing the plot and then deleted much of it. I thought about what I really wanted to say: how this book actually affected me. Because as readers, isn’t that what we want—to feel something, even if just for a little while? I do. And that’s what I want to read about on other blogs, too.
A review I’d like to forget? Probably Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s The Anglophile, if only because the experience of reading it was so disappointing! I wasn’t sure how to discuss it without whining and getting rude. I’m only human.
10.) If you won the lottery tomorrow, how would you spend the money? Would you share your largess with others, and with whom? What luxury items would you buy for yourself?
My first major purchase would have to be my own house! I’d pay off all my parents’ bills and throw down some cash for my sister’s college tuition, in addition to anything else they would need. Once all the basics were paid off, the real fun could begin!
Though I enjoy my work, I’d have to quit my full-time job—at least for now—because I’d be traveling all over Europe with my extended family! We’d all take a month-long sabbatical to Ireland, Scotland and England, eventually hopping over to France and returning to Italy. Once I tired of the Continent, I’d come back to America and spend some time on the West Coast, writing. Money spent on travel is money well spent! I’d rather be rich in experience than anything else.
Thanks Meg for your thoughtful answers. Best of luck with winning the lottery! I’d like to be in that group that travel to Europe and the UK! What fun we would have visiting Gothic castles in search of Henry Tilney!
You can check out all the other great book blogger interview swaps at the BBAW blog. Get to know the blogger who you trust your future reading to, discover new blog, and have a few laughs.