Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BBAW - My interview with Ana of Things Mean A Lot

One of the elements of BBAW that I've enjoyed already is being paired up with Ana who blogs at Things Mean a Lot. I had not read her blog before but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Plus, we interviewed each other about our blogs and I got to know her even better. You will too! We both answered the same questions, so after you are done getting to know Ana here, then click over to her blog and read what I had to say. I'm sure you'll find it quite profound! LOL

What are your two favorite genres of books to read? Do the two relate or are they completely different? How do they relate? Are your favorite to read also your favorite to review?

Ana: My absolute favourite is by far fantasy. My second favourite is perhaps historical fiction, although I haven't read it much in the past few years.

I actually do think they relate. Nobody has access to the past, so whenever someone writes about the past, they are recreating something that isn't quite what once was, but what could have been. And it's the exact same thing with fantasy. No matter how far-fetched a fantasy world is, it's an answer to the question "What if?". And a well-written fantasy novel is, in a way, something that could have been, because it portrays how people would have thought, felt and behaved if they lived in a world with certain characteristics. The world may not be real, but the people and their emotions have to be if the book is to be a good one.

Fantasy is also my favourite genre to review. It's still a marginalized genre in some ways, and when I post about my favourite fantasy books I try to show that they aren't quite as silly as some people might have assumed. Nothing makes me happier than having someone tell me that they don't normally read fantasy, but I convinced them to give it a try and they were surprised by how much they enjoyed it.

What made you decide to start a book blog? Did you stumble on one and liked an idea, or were you introduced to it by a friend, or--?

Ana: I started blogging more or less by accident. I had never thought to look for book blogs, but then I came across the first Once Upon a Challenge hosted at Stainless Steel Droppings, and I decided to join. What could be better than reading my favourite genre along with other book lovers and exchanging ideas about what we were reading? I already had a blogger account that I used for comments, so I created a blog and started posting my thoughts on the books I read for the challenge there. By the time the challenge was over, I had discovered a great community of fellow book addicts and belonging to it had become such a joy that I couldn't see myself leaving anytime soon. So a year and a half later here I am, still blogging almost every other day.

Have you had any books that were hard to review? Either you didn't like them and didn't know how to say that in a nice manner or just didn't know what to say about the book even if you liked it.

Ana: Oh yes. For example, I always have a hard time posting about classics. I'm not quite sure why that is. There's the fact that so much has already been said about them, but it isn't just that. I think it also might be because these tend to be books I've been hearing about for years before I read them, and I suspect that all those preconceived notions make their way into my mind and influence how I react to them – even if it is by making me surprised to realize that everything I thought I knew about the books was wrong. So sometimes I have a hard time balancing what was actually in the books and what I thought I knew before. I hope I'm making sense here.

Enjoying a book but having no idea what to say about it happens to me too. For example, it happened with Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight, which I read a few months ago. I ended up blabbing about Calvino's other novels in my post because I had no idea what else to say.

I often see bloggers talk about how enriching book blogging has turned out to be, and I think that all of us who have been blogging for some time feel similarly about it. So I'm not going to ask you how blogging has enriched our life, but rather what the most unexpected consequence of blogging has been. What surprised you the most about the whole experience?

Ana: Being approached by publishers and authors was definitely surprising. I know it happens very often, and I actually don't get many review requests compared with most bloggers, but at first I had no idea that this ever happened at all. It seems that more and more publishers are beginning to understand the potential of the internet, which is a great thing for readers and writers alike.

There was something else that surprised me. I thought I already bought a lot of books as it was, but after one year of blogging the amount pretty much doubled! I blame it on all those irresistible reviews by fellow bloggers.

Do you blog about things other than books? Why or why not? If you do, what other things do you blog about?

Ana: For the most part I don't, but sometimes I do mention things that aren't related to books. Actually, there are 52 posts under my "Random" tag, so perhaps it's more often than I realize.

I like posting pictures of places I visit, for example, or pictures of my pets. I also like to give my readers an idea of who the person behind the blog is. I don't share anything too personal, but some of my readers are fellow bloggers that I've come to think of as friends, so I like to share some of the things that are going on in my life with them.

I don't share more because I don't want to feel too exposed, and I want the main focus of the blog to be books rather than my life, but I also think that maybe my readers want to get to know me a little bit – I know I love getting to know my favourite bloggers, and their non-book related posts are often my favourite.

Do your family and friends read your blog? How do they feel about it?

Ana: Most of my family doesn't speak English, so they can't read it. But my boyfriend does, and he says he enjoys it. I think he thinks of me as his personal "book filter" – I read dozens of books and then pass him the ones that I know will be worth his time :P

We both have a long history of belonging to internet communities of different kinds, so he doesn't think it's weird that I mention other bloggers in conversations or that I think of them as friends.

How has your reading and/or reading choices changed since you started book blogging? Or have they not changed? Are you happy about the changes?

Ana: They have definitely changed, and I'm very happy about the changes. Blogging has made me become more adventurous. It made me venture out of my safe little reading niche and try out things I know I wouldn't have picked up otherwise. This resulted in some very pleasant surprises.

I was thinking that maybe it would be fun to name three books you haven't reviewed on your blog both would really recommend to our readers. And maybe you could explain why you'd recommend them in a sentence or two.

Ana: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – hilarious, unlikely and unforgettable.

Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice – a lovely and heartbreaking story about childhood, loss and the imagination.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – one of the saddest stories ever told, and I mean that in the best possible way.

What are your hobbies beyond reading and blogging? Do you think you'll blog about these things at some point? Do you like to read books about those hobbies?

Ana: My biggest hobby besides reading is music. I love listening to music, discovering new bands, going to shows, etc. There are a few music blogs that I follow, but I wouldn't consider starting one of my own. It's a very hostile world for the most part, and I wouldn't want to be a part of it.

I do love reading books that have to do with music. It's a joy to be able to conciliate two hobbies.

Are there any tips you'd share with any readers that might be thinking of starting a book blog themselves?

Ana: The first tip would be "Do it!" It will be fun for sure. The second would be: don't get discouraged if you don't get many readers at first. Try to get involved in the community – join a few challenges or events, comment on other blogs, be friendly and genuine and receptive. Before long you'll feel right at home.

I wanted to say something about your favourite book blogger and favourite non-book blogger but not sure I want to include – might be hard to limit and does it really tell about us?

Ana: I can't pick a single favourite book blogs, but one of my favourite non-book blogs is Fabulist. It's great for music, art and just random cute and joyous things.

A BIG Thanks to Ana for taking the time to answer all these questions. It was fun to learn so much about a fellow book blogger! Thanks as well to My Friend Amy for putting this together!

Okay, now go read about me! And when you get done with that, go here to find links to other blogger interviews. It's so fun!


Nymeth said...

A big thank you to you too, Michele! This was a lot of fun :)

Literary Feline said...

I like the term "book filter". I sometimes find myself in that role too when it comes to my husband. :-) Great interview!

Heather J. said...

I love reading "Things Mean A Lot" and it was great getting to know Ana (aka Nymeth) a bit better - thanks!

Ali said...

Great interview! I especially enjoyed reading Ana's answer to the question about sharing non-book stuff on her blog, because that's something I've been pondering lately. I have a personal blog that most of that stuff goes on, but I think blogs that combine the two to some extent are more interesting to read. Trying to find the right balance for me!

Madeleine said...

Great answer about startinng a blog, I was a little discouraged at first, there wherent many participants. Through posting at sites I liked I began to connect with quite a few boggers and like in the real world versus the virtual world I even started friendships.

I enjoyed both your answers and Ana's answers, thank-you both :)

Serena said...

I never thought to make that connection between fantasy and historical fiction. I love that answer from Nymeth, very intuitive--you can tell she enjoys both genres.

I have been equally surprised that authors and publishers contact bloggers out of the blue. I never knew it would be that easy!

Debi said...

This was such fun to read!!!
And it was such fun to read your answers over at Nymeth's blog, Michele! Can't wait to check out more of your blog!

Alix said...

Great questions and answers, this was a really nice idea and I'm happy to have found you through Nymeth's blog :)

Julie said...

Great job to both of you!

ken said...

Great interviews, thanks to both of you for your thoughtful answers!
...and Ana's a bonafide book filter for a whole bunch of us!

Dawn said...

I don't know how I missed this pair of interviews until today! I've said it before, but I'll say it again, these interviews are one of my favorite parts of BBAW.

I enjoyed getting to know both Michele (one 'L') and Ana (one 'A').