I’m quite excited about today’s Behind the Pen as my guest is fellow blogger Tracey Allen, author of Carpe Librum, a blog containing book reviews, giveaways and author interviews.
When and why did you start your blog? Had you been reviewing on a different platform (such as Goodreads) before that?
I started my blog in 2005 as a way to record my opinions before noticing I was beginning to rely on it as a place to record my thoughts on the books I was reading. I posted my first book review in March 2006 and didn’t join GoodReads until February 2011, so I had been reviewing on my blog for 5 years by that time. I remember weighing up the decision to publish my reviews on GoodReads as well or have them exclusively on my blog but ended up posting them both places; which is what most bloggers do now too.
What is your most definitive blogging highlight to date?
In December 2013 I achieved the major milestone of 100,000 hits and celebrating my 10 Year Blogiversary in June 2015 was a huge highlight for me.
In December 2017 I celebrated 1,000,000 hits which was a massive accomplishment and something I’m incredibly proud of. It took a lot of work to get there though.
Approximately how many books do you read each week?
Eeek, I read a lot less than you Theresa, but my goal is to read 65 books – and 20,000 pages – this year. This works out to be a book every 5.6 days, or a little more than one a week. I’m comfortably ahead of my goal so far, so we’ll see where I end up.
Do you review every single book you read?
I don’t review children’s books I read with nieces and nephews and may leave out the occasional cook book or craft book, so I guess I review almost all of the books I read.
What do you do when you finish reading a book? Do you write up your review before settling into a new book?
When I finish a book I often let it ‘sit’ and percolate in my mind a few days before reviewing it. I’ll never wait to settle into a new book, life’s too short for that! Sometimes I’ll finish books in quick succession, so if I start to get more than 3 reviews behind then I’ll feel a bit anxious about it.
Do you have a particular reviewing process? For example, do you take notes while reading or use sticky notes to mark places you want to remember within a book? Or do you just think about it all at the end?
I read in bed, so sometimes I’ll send an email to myself from my phone with a page number of a quote I want to remember. Other times I’ll start the draft of my review on my blog and enter thoughts and ideas I have on the book while I’m reading it. I’m mostly motivated to do this for books I’m not enjoying much and I’ll record the reasons for disinterest or irritation so that I don’t forget them when it comes time to write the review.
What authors and types of books do you love the most?
I love books that keep me turning the pages; either a riveting plot, fascinating character or terrific writing. Over the years I’ve come to enjoy historical fiction the most, but I always seek variety in the books I read. I try to incorporate at least one classic per year, and this year it was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. (I hated it by the way). Favourite authors include: Philippa Gregory, Stephen King, Ken Follett, Kate Forsyth and Kate Morton.
Are there any genres you really don’t enjoy at all?
I’m not fond of romance novels, and if a book contains too much romance I can lose interest quickly. This means I’m generally not into chick lit (sorry guys) although there can be the odd exception. I’m also not into spy thrillers or espionage novels, and if a blurb starts with the mention of a virus or MI6, I’m out. Oh, and you’ll never see me reading biographies about sporting celebrites or political science books either.
Do you have an all-time favourite book? Why is this book so significant to you?
I don’t think I’m alone in saying this is one of the hardest questions for an avid reader to answer. For many years my favourite book was A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole before it became Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, but now I’m not sure. I’m going to have to ask for a pass on this one I think.
What is your favourite character of all time from a novel and why?
I love the character from A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole because I’d love to have the vocabulary of Ignatius J Reilly. Professor Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series has to be my favourite character of all time though. He’s an interesting villain throughout the series but you only learn later that he loved Harry the entire time, and his self-sacrifice is heart wrenching.
What is your favourite scene from a novel and why?
My favourite scene would have to be the ending of Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. It’s the most memorable scene in a book for me because it made me cry and that hardly ever happens when I’m reading. The ending of the novel is a happy one for the character of Fish and yet also a tragedy for his family members. It’s such a fine balance of climax and conclusion that it’s the most memorable and perfect ending imaginable.
What book is currently on your bedside table?
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak has been on my bedside table for a while. It’s a whopper and I’ve been struggling a little to get through it. The story is told by an omniscient narrator who is actually one of the characters. How’s that even possible?
What is the best book you have read this year?
My favourite book so far this year has to be Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to Her Books by Annie Spence. Just holding the stunning edition I have brought a smile to my face, and it truly celebrated my love of books in an intelligent, funny, refreshing and exciting way. Loved it!
Let’s talk about book to movie/TV series adaptations. Best one in your opinion? And what has been the worst?
The Green Mile by Stephen King is an all-time favourite of mine. I still remember being excited to hear Harry Potter was going to be adapted for the big screen and wondering who was going to play Dumbledore. An adaptation I was disappointed in was Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice; I felt the film didn’t do the book justice.
Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people would know?
My blog wasn’t called Carpe Librum when I started it. I love to cross stitch and I’m afraid of spiders.
If you could trade places for a week with any other person, living or dead, real or fiction, who would it be and why?
I’d trade places with Nostradamus and find out if he really could see into the future. Even if he couldn’t, what better way to spend a week than sitting around in the 1500s writing creepy quatrains on vellum and dabbling in a little astronomy and alchemy. He was also an apothecary and was into necromancy. Now that’d be a week to remember!
Perhaps the only other answer here is I’d trade places with God. In doing so, I’d find out if God was real or fiction and then I’d know everything.
Tracey Allen is the author of Carpe Librum Blog