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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Interview of Reader/Reviewer ELF

Today I'm thrilled to present an interview of reader and reviewer, ELF!

Q: What type of genre do you enjoy the most and why?
A: I am an incurable romantic and really have to have my HEA in order to be satisfied but I also enjoy the imagination and creativity that is displayed by the great science fiction authors such as Julie Czerneda, Lois McMaster Bujold and Linnea Sinclair. I enjoy playing the game of ‘what if’ with them and imagining the heights that mankind can reach and what our interaction with others in our universe (or someone else’s) can be.

Q: What inspired you to read romance books?
A: Life at home when I was growing up wasn’t always happy so it was always nice to imagine a world that was filled with happy endings where the hero cared so much for the heroine that he would sacrifice anything so that they could be happy together.

Q: Do you read ebooks, print books, or both? Have you thought about getting an ebook reader if you don’t already have one?
A: I reluctantly read e-books but really prefer print books. I was very fortunate in that my brother gave my husband and I an iPad for Christmas a few years ago but I tend to read pretty fast and it is not always convenient for me to use an e-reader since it tends to hiccup, not to mention the grief it gives me when I try to bookmark errors or passages that I want to note for my reviews whereas a torn off piece of paper and a pen work just fine in a print book. I also find it really inconvenient when I want to refer back to something...I can usually remember the approximate location in a print book but can waste quite a bit of time trying to remember exact wording to search for in an e-book.

Q: Besides those of us at Romance Books '4' Us, who are your favorite authors?
A: The list is very long and varied and covers a variety of genres. In addition to the authors I named above, I have long been a fan of Nora Roberts, Iris Johansen, Jayne Anne Krentz, Sandra Brown, the late Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Patricia Briggs, Dana Stabenow, Stephanie Laurens, Tanya Huff, Robin Hobb, David Weber, Lilian Jackson Braun, C.J. Cherryh, Rita Mae Brown, Jim Butcher and others and in recent years have come to love Shiloh Walker, Eden Bradley, Maya Banks, Cheyenne McCray, Sylvia Day, Eileen Wilks, Jeri Smith-Ready, Thea Harrison and Jennifer Estep and of course I grew up on Robert Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Alan Dean Foster, Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley...well, the list could continue but I am sure you only have so much room, lol.

Q: Do you visualize the hero and heroine as you read? Do you use the cover (if they’re shown) as images for them?
A: I generally tend to be pretty oblivious of covers although I do enjoy the eye candy that has sprouted over the past few years. I don’t usually picture the hero and heroine except in very vague terms. I rarely ever resemble any of them so I don’t really spend time thinking about their physical characteristics although I do enjoy a well-written description. The one thing that will jar me is the discovery that the person or persons on the cover have an entirely different hair color or body type than the description being emphasized.

Q: Have you ever been to a writing conference/convention? If so, what did you think about it?
A: I had the opportunity to attend the Romantic Times reader’s conference last year and the very thrilling privilege of attending RWA this year. They were definitely very different experiences and I am ecstatic to have had the chance to interact with so many lovely authors and fans. There is definitely a different flavor between the behind the scenes activities at the two events but I must say that as a reader, I was so thrilled to be able to meet and (unfortunately) become tongue-tied in the presence of so many people whose books I have read and loved.

Q: What is your all-time favorite romance book? Why?
A: That is a tough one but I think it is more there are some that make my heart clench every time I read the series romances that Iris Johansen used to write. They were set in a fictional country and the characters had extraordinary powers. Some of the J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts tales also have that effect and there are scenes in some of the Thea Harrison books that I just melt over every time I re-read.

Q: When do you read and do have “comfort food” as you read?
A: Lol...I read ALL of the time. It is pretty rare that I do not have a book in hand and if I am stuck anywhere for longer than 10 minutes, I will usually pull out a book. It is a little easier on my poor husband now that there are e-books but I still usually take several print books with me when we travel. I particularly like to read in bed and like nothing better than snuggling in with a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie or two or maybe even some See’s chocolate candies but I tend to try to avoid eating while I read so that I am not getting things all over the pages. One of the best gifts I have ever received is a weight that will hold the pages open so I can read while I floss and brush my teeth or cook dinner or fold the clothes. You laugh, but I usually get a chapter or two done during that time. Now aren’t you sorry you asked?

Q: What kind of promo items (bookmarks, trinkets, brochures, etc.) do you enjoy receiving?
A: I love thong bookmarks but tend to lose most of the other kinds because they get in my way as I turn the pages so I take them out and put them down somewhere and never find them again. Unfortunately, I like things like pens with beautiful bright blue or purple ink, lip balm, mini flashlights for keyrings and sticky notes.

Q: Do you enter contests? What type of items do you enjoy getting if you win?
A: Oh, do I ever enter contests! I am incurable...and am still on a quest to win a Kindle. I have won all sorts of books (yes, I am definitely an addict) which is usually what I am entering for but I have had the great fortune to win many other things, including a trip! I like to win giftcards, especially ones to eating places but I do enjoy winning print books, especially if they are by one of my favorite authors.

Q: What one question would you like to ask an author?
A: Hmm, I had the chance to speak with so many at RWA that I am pretty satisfied but I think that it would depend on the author. Perhaps it would be, what is the one thing that you have had to compromise on in order to get your work published that you regret?

Q: How important is a cover when you’re looking to buy a book?
A: It depends. If it is an author I already know, I don’t pay so much attention except to admire the man candy that seems to be prevalent nowadays. I used to be pretty embarrassed to be seen reading books with scantily clad women on the cover. I don’t like really lurid covers anyway but I admit that some catch my eye if they are in my favorite color or have animals. It irks me sometimes that titles are re-released and I don’t realize it because the covers have changed so I always appreciate it when it says that something was previously released since I don’t always remember to look at the copyright date.

Q: Do you read blurbs and excerpts? Which one is most important in your decision to buy a book and why?
A: I definitely read both. I read blurbs to see whether I recognize the story because again, sometimes books are re-released. I read excerpts because I am one of those anal retentive people who really doesn’t like a lot of typos and poorly edited sentences and that will let me know that this isn’t the book for me. Sometimes I can also tell that the author’s logic or sense of humor isn’t going to appeal to me.

Q: Do you like reading first or third person books? Why?
A: I prefer third person books because I think the action flows smoother if the author follows the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule. I don’t like being lectured to or subjected to long rambling explanations behind a character’s actions.

Q: What story premise would you like to have an author write?
A: I enjoy anything that has a bit of danger, a few obstacles to overcome, romance and some humor that has a HEA ending. I appreciate it when the author remembers that not all of us have a perfectly toned abdomen, are outgoing or amazingly uninhibited and that some of us can no longer (or never could) wear spike heels and teeny bikinis, lol.

Q: How did you get started as a reviewer?
A: It’s funny, I recently was clearing out my parents’ house and discovered review cards in a little file box that I had written for my own benefit while I was in junior high so I guess I started a long time ago! I have always loved books ever since my mom taught me to read and I have always had an opinion about them, rereading some of my favorite books countless times. I submitted an application to a couple of websites a few years ago because I thought it would be a great way to get my hands on new books to read and, although it took awhile, one of them responded and I slowly worked my way up until I am now allowed to have up to 30 titles assigned at any one time. I have had the privilege to read and review more than 300 books and novellas over the past three years and it has been a blast!

Q: What's the hardest and easiest part of being a reviewer?
A: The easiest part is choosing new titles to read and enjoying them. Fortunately I have eclectic tastes so there is usually enough of a variety to choose from that I always have a wonderful pool waiting to be read and I read pretty fast so I can usually read 4-6 titles per week. The downside is that it is difficult keeping up with the titles of authors that I love when I miss out on receiving their works to review.

The hardest part is actually sitting down and writing the review, especially if I didn’t like the work. I agonize over what to say because I know that this represents somebody’s hard work and long hours, no matter how much I feel that it is illogical or poorly written. I struggle with the ‘if you can’t say something nice....’ adage and try to frame my review in a diplomatic manner. Usually I exhibit typical avoidance behavior and go off to read a new title (or two) while I am pondering what to say. That usually works right up until my deadline! I am often reminded that our perception of a story is very much affected by our individual backgrounds, especially when I read other reviews that criticize characters’ behaviors. It startles me to discover that people start viewing these fictional characters as real people and react accordingly and I hope that my reviews don’t fall into that trap but I also think that there should be a certain logic to characters’ actions and I am afraid that I really don’t want to read books that feature mentally ill people, lol.

The other difficulty I am experiencing nowadays is trying not to bite off more than I can chew. I always want to support authors, especially if I have won their books so sometimes I have more titles to review than I have time for and I feel badly if I don’t get their book read in a timely manner. This also impacts what books I choose to review since I am an avid science fiction fan but those titles tend to be weightier and more time-consuming to read since they often involve a very intricate story (e.g. I have had to give up on the David Weber series for now because I just don’t have enough time to devote to reading it). What a lovely hardship for an addict to suffer from...too much to read!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: One an avid reader and a busy reviewer, I read a ton of books. I occasionally contact authors to ask them if they want to know about the errors that I have found. I am NEVER trying to be insulting...I just want to improve the work so that when it is reprinted or issued in a different format, that little error is taken care of. I do the same thing when I am reading a blog post or a newsletter because I think that is often the first impression you are giving a reader who may be new to you and I think that you want to put your best foot forward, especially since your vocation is sharing your thoughts through words. I realize that sometimes it is beyond your control but as a reader, it gives me the impression that someone doesn’t care about quality when there are glaring errors. If there are tons of errors, I am probably not going to want to read another book by that person because it is jarring to me when I read. I realize that there are usually more than I notice while I am casually reading but if I am struck by more than one or two errors per chapter, I think there are editing problems. I have had authors tell me that it is out of their hands and I realize that many are at the mercy of their publishers but I think that in this digital age, it is much easier to correct errors than ever before and it is a sign of quality control and integrity to take that extra step. This is particularly pertinent to those authors who are self-publishing because they do not always have access to a team who will polish their work. And no, that is not a pitch, it is something that I have been passionate about for most of my life!

Photos: Flickr: D. Sharon Pruitt, toephoto,  and qthomasbower's photostreams


Elf2060 said...

Thanks so much for the interview Marianne...your insightful questions made me stop and think about why I love doing this so much!


And thank you, Elf, for the insight into you and reviewing. I especially like the reading everywhere part!

Katalina Leon said...

Elf, you gave me a a wonderful Top Pick review the first summer I was published and I want you to know IT MEANT SO MUCH TO ME!
A little encouragement early on was what I needed to get past some rough spots. Thank you.

Katalina Leon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harlie Reader said...

Hi Elf! Nice to meet you. As a reviewer myself, my tastes run the gabbit.

Great interview and Romance Books 4 US is a great loop. Hope to see you around.

Harlie's Book Blog

Elf2060 said...

Vicki...I wasn't sure that wasn't TMI, lol..but the person who gave me the bookweight had listened to my stories of trying to use an elbow to keep a book open for so long that she knew the gift would be perfect for me.

Kat...I loved "Nobelsword" although I was a little nervous as it was one of the first erotica works I was reviewing for that site. I always regretted that I didn't have room to request your works (we have a limited number of titles we can sign up for at any one time) when I saw the later titles offered because I was so impressed by that one!

Elf2060 said...

Hi Marika! Thanks for visiting...nice to meet a fellow reviewer and yes, I have enjoyed lurking on the loop and getting insights into the life behind the books.

Tammie - Night Owl Reviews said...

What a great and insightful interview.

You gave me some ideas on what to ask authors when it comes to interviews. Now I wonder what an author has given up to pursue their dreams.

We all give up something when say we marry, move or take a new job, but what has a writer given up. Time would be the easiest answer. Some might also say a thin skin since once you publish you are now putting yourself out there for public commenting.

Anonymous said...

Great interview, ELF! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on interviewing and seeing just how much you read! Your reviews are so well done, BTW. I always enjoy them. :-)

Savannah Chase said...

Elf, it is so wonderful to read this interview and get to know more about you. I've had the chance to talk to you and it has been a pleasure.

Congrats on the interview...

Terry Spear said...

Hey, Elf, I loved your interview and getting to see you at RWA!!! Okay, got to say that when I was working at the library, you would NOT believe the stuff readers stuck in the books. The thing of it is, these are borrowed books, folks!!! Anyway, raw bacon was probably the all time ickiest!

We had lots of toilet paper...ewwww. You know how we have to show and not tell as writers? Well, I don't EVEN want to imagine how I'd write that scene!!

LOL Great interview, Elf! Loved it!

jean hart stewart said...

It's a pleasure to get a little insight into the mind of a reviewer. I thought I was an avid reader but you're got me beat.

Elf2060 said...

Thanks for visiting Tammie, I always enjoy the interviews you do on Night Owl. You know that I greatly appreciate you taking a chance on bringing me on as one of your reviewers and am extremely grateful for all of the wonderful books you have allowed me to read for the site!

Kim in Hawaii said...

Elf rocks! She is my-go-to reviewer for all genres!

Elf2060 said...

Hi Chey,
Thanks so much for dropping by. You know that I am such a fan of your work and I appreciate the care that you take to ensure that you provide a thoroughly checked story for your readers. Thank you also for taking the time to explain that it is a very complicated process to correct errors that are not caught until books are published, especially given the fact that formatting is different for each venue.

Elf2060 said...

Hi Savannah,

I always love the positive energy I get from reading your postings and I wish you much success in your writing.

Elf2060 said...

Hi Terry,

That is why I try so hard to get books from the library just as they are I don't have to smell the cigarette smoke or brush the crumbs from the pages...and I take special care not to eat when I am reading a library book but I have been known to leave little fragments of tissue to mark places where I noted typos or passages I want to note (although I try to take them out when I write up my reviews, lol). Good luck on the new release, I enjoyed reading about a jaguar shifter!

Elf2060 said...

Hi Jean,

Thank you for visiting. You are such a prolific author it is amazing that you have time to read anyone else's work so I think I have a slight advantage over you, lol.

Elf2060 said...

Aloha Kim! You write some pretty impressive reviews yourself and we are all very grateful to you and your hubby for your service and for your unfailing support of your fellow military personnel. Thanks for taking the time to visit (but I am still jealous of your ability to visit those beautiful places you display so wonderfully in your blog,lol).

Shiloh Walker said...

:) Fun interview... thanks for the mention!

Elf2060 said...

Thanks for stopping by Shiloh!

Michael J. Sullivan said...

4 -6 books a I'm envious. Nice interview - ya gotta love people who tirelessly help the reading community by blogging their reviews.

Laura Griffin said...

Hi Elf!
What a wonderful interview. I fell in love with reading as a kid also.

I'm envious of your 4-6 books per week. That sounds like heaven!

Thank you for taking the time to review authors and share your opinions with other potential readers. You're doing a great service!

Elf2060 said...

Hi Michael & Laura!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I am so thrilled that you are continuing the Riyria series (but sad that we have to wait until next August for "The Crown Tower"). know how much I loved "Scorched"! Good luck with its release and hurry up with the sequel, lol!

yung edwards said...

Hi Elf, great interview! Your enthusiasm for your work really shows. I am going through the same issues you are having with e-books or printed books. I like e-books best when traveling. Otherwise, I prefer the printed version. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Sandy said...

Marianne, you did a great interview, and Elf gave inspiring answers. I enjoyed getting to know more about you, Elf.

Larissa Lyons said...

Howdy Elf! Great insight into the mind of an avid reader. My favorite part? How you mentioned reading while you floss...I always read while I brush my teeth, but I just never thought about coordinating that with flossing. Classic! :-) Larissa

Elf2060 said...

Thank you for taking the time to read this very long-winded post Sandy. I was so embarrassed to re-read the instructions realize that I was only supposed to answer SOME of those questions but Marianne was very gracious and didn't mention it (0:

Hi Larissa,
Now people who just THOUGHT I was a little strange are completely convinced, lol. Thanks so much for visiting.

Lockard said...

Great interview, ELF! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on interviewing and seeing just how much you read! Your reviews are so well done, BTW. I always enjoy them. :-)

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