A Boxing Day treat! My final interview with a book blogger…

Happy Christmas all! Are you having a relaxing Boxing Day or are you hitting the shops?

Whatever you are doing this afternoon, I hope you enjoy the final interview in my series with independent book bloggers. Today I’m talking to a lovely blogger from Northern Ireland… Do you know who she might be?

1) Hi Bronagh! Welcome:)  Please tell me more about yourself. What are your three favourite things?

Hello, my name is Bronagh, I live in Northern Ireland and I enjoy books, tea and new adventures.

2) Where can we find your blog and how long have you been reviewing? 

My book news, interviews and reviews site Handwritten Girl started during the hot summer of 2011 and has been growing ever since. Not only does the website include book reviews, it also features author interviews providing tips and advice for aspiring writers, which I hope readers of the website find useful and encouraging.

3) Nice one! Why did you start blogging?

I started reviewing for a number of reasons. As a reader I was constantly telling people about a great new book that I read or people were asking me for a recommendations so the website became a shortcut for this and appealed to a wider community.

4) What’s the best and worst thing about being a book reviewer?

The best thing is of course getting to read so many wonderful books and the worst is not always having the time to read them!

5) What’s your favourite book of all time and why?

I have never really had a favourite character of all time, but having just finished and loved Mhairi McFarlane’s new book ‘Here’s Looking At You’ I must admit I did love the female lead in the story. Her name was Anna and had quite a dark and witty sense of humour and a kind aura about her, she was the type of girl that you would like to have as a friend.

6) How do you feel about books being made into films. Do you think this is a good thing?

I used to be quite cynical about books being adapted for film as it’s hard to compress a whole book into a two hours or less. But, I’ve now come to the conclusion that for people who aren’t readers, if they see the film and enjoy it, then maybe they will seek out the book and experience the story in its original form. After all every film starts with a script, which isn’t to far removed from the format of the typical book.

7) How do you handle it when you have read a book you don’t like? Will you still review it? 

If I read a book and I don’t enjoy it and just like books I that I do enjoy, I still review it. As a writer myself, I appreciate the time and effort that an author has gone to write a book— just because the book isn’t for me, doesn’t mean that others won’t enjoy it, so it is worth pointing out the elements which do work, as well as do not, in those stories.

8) Do you read books quickly, or slowly?

The speed which I read is based purely on how much I like the story. If I think the story is brilliant and I can’t wait to see how it will end, I could easily devour it in a day. Well, as long as I don’t have any other distractions. Usually I read a book in two days.

9) Do you prefer a genre? If so, why?

I enjoy comedy, romance and you cant beat thrillers. Give me anything with a good narrative, regardless of the genre though, I will give it a go!

Thanks Bronagh!

You can connect with Bronagh on Twitter – @handwritten

 

Celebrating book bloggers part three: Kevin Loh

1) Hi Kevin! Welcome to my blog. Can you tell me more about yourself? What are your three favourite things?

Salutations! I am Kevin, 19, from Malaysia! A country where I am at a crossroads. I can freely choose between UK and US editions of books. Hurrah! My top three favourite things? Gosh, this is hard. I’ll go with chocolate, books and hoodies!

2) Nice! Where can we find your blog and how long have you been reviewing? 

I started I Heart.. Chick Lit in May 2012. So I guess I’ve been blogging for a year and a half? As of October 2013, I’ve reached my 100,000th pageview (not to gloat, but I am immensely proud and absolutely chuffed!).

3) So you should be, well done! Why did you start blogging?

Hmm. Blogging. I started blogging because I read, quite a lot. OK, I read a lot. I love reading. I figured if I could pen down my thoughts on a blog, I’d share book recommendations with the ‘blogosphere’. And blogging has been an amazing experience. I get to befriend authors, publishers, fellow bloggers and readers who are just like me! All in all, I wish I could read and review books for the rest of my life. Guess I should start investing in gold?

4) What’s the best and worst thing about being a book reviewer?

Well, the best thing about being a reviewer? *looks up at ceiling and thinks* I guess it’s the camaraderie you built with “bookish nerds” – that’s a good thing! And of course, the perks of the job: being sent books for review. It’s such a privilege to be sent books for review because the publishers trust you with honest reviews. I think I love what I do because I am able to be the bridge between authors and readers. I feel that by reviewing books, I can let people know about books that are worth reading.

Everything has a dark side, yes I know. The worst thing about blogging is.. reviewing a book you didn’t really enjoy. Hand on heart, I hate being rude to an author, but I find it the hardest to write a review on books I didn’t particularly enjoy. Other than that, I really encourage readers to give blogging a go. You might love it!

5) What’s your favourite book of all time and why?

Oh my, this is harder than deciding whether I want M&M’s or Snickers for a snack. If I have to pick ONE (I have more than 20!), then it would be The Secret Dreamworld of A Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, my first chick lit book which sparked my passionate love affair with chick lit. I loved the book – I even bought two copies, both UK and US editions. I adored the plot and Sophie Kinsella’s writing style is as comforting and addictive as hot chocolate on a cold night (bad analogy, sorry..).

6) What do your family and friends think about your passion for books? Are they supportive?

Well, when I started blogging, none of my family and friends knew about it. Then when I started getting more and more books in the post they were amazed, and very supportive. I guess my parents are secretly pleased that I am not wandering around at 1AM with my friends in town, instead I’ll be reading in bed. Meep.

7) What is it about books that you love so much?

Books will always have a special place in my heart. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than reading. Oh, and lusting over gorgeous covers. When I read, I’m transported to a different places. A place where all my worries are forgotten and I am free to live vicariously through the characters. Books grant me the ability to dream and aspire and even inspire.

8) How do you feel about books being made into films. Do you think this is a good thing?

I don’t have any strong feelings against books made into films. I wouldn’t mind watching the film adaptation of books I’ve enjoyed. If you hate the film adaptation, stick to the book.

9) Do you prefer to read print books or ebooks and why?

Hands down, print books. I believe you can never get the same experience from reading an actual book when you read from an e-reader. I’m sorry to e-reader owners, but I’m sticking to print books. Here’s the reason why: you can NEVER take a delicious whiff of the book in between chapters. I do that ALL the time and I don’t plan to stop. And, it’s bad for your eyes to face the screen for too long, right? Print books, healthy and more real. Keep it real, lovelies!

10) Do you prefer a particular genre? If so, why?

Definitely chick lit. Hands down. The BEST genre there is. Chick lit is such a wide, versatile genre and the themes are often varied. You have the funny girl-about-town books, the weepy romantic comedies, and the darker side of chick lit, which is often more emotional. Let’s face it, there isn’t one genre which is as diverse as chick lit.

Celebrating book bloggers…

Google definitionOver the next couple of weeks I’m putting the spotlight on independent book bloggers.

I’m planning to publish some interviews with reviewers here. This time it will be me asking all the questions!

Have you ever wondered how many books reviewers read in a week?

What do they do when they don’t like a book very much?

Or perhaps you’d like to know which book they rate as their all-time favourite when they have so many to choose from?

With the internet being a huge part of our lives, and new social media outlets popping up everywhere, we can be whoever we want to be. Twitter and Facebook have turned us into poets, stylists, photographers and comedians… We can have what we want in seconds, and everything’s so fast and instantly gratifying. But there’s something really quite special about people who are keeping books in focus while technology flourishes around us and everything picks up speed. Book bloggers are taking the traditional medium of books into the future.

Book bloggers know how technology and books can complement each other – novels, reading and how we consume fiction has to move with the times, but we must also treasure the heart of it all, and where it came from. Simply being lost between the pages of a good book when there is so much to tempt our concentration elsewhere.

A lot of the book reviewers I speak to are so passionate about what they do it’s inspiring.

Most of them have a lot happening outside reviewing, and it can be tough going when they’ve set themselves a schedule of books to read around the twists and turns of their own lives. But most of them just do it for the sheer love of reading.

I would have loved to have asked all the reviewers I’ve got to know to over the last few years, but I could only pick a small selection of people to speak to.

Ultimately I want to say a big thank you to all of them.

Without independent book reviewers and bloggers I don’t think we’d have such a fantastic the sense of community that we have in the book world. That’s a difficult thing to achieve. I’m grateful to them for encouraging reading in the general chaos of our lives, where our attention spans are under more demand than they ever have been before. I’m also grateful to them for all the support they give to writers, and for opening up debate and conversation about books between people all over the globe who may never meet face-to-face.

The first interview will be published on my blog at midday on Monday December 9.

But who will it be?

Exciting!

What’s with all the squirrels?

*SPOILER ALERT. Avoid this post if you haven’t read This is a Love Story*

When Sienna meets Nick it's not the way it happens in love stories. It's because of a squirrel on water skis...

When Sienna meets Nick it’s not the way it happens in love stories. It’s because of a squirrel on water skis…

I had a lovely conversation with a reader this week about the hidden surprises in my first book This is a Love Story.

If you’ve read This is a Love Story you may or may not have noticed them… There seems to be a 50/50 split between readers who pick up on it and those who don’t.

For those who are curious, *whispers* here comes the ‘spoiler’…. there are quite a lot of SQUIRRELS in the story…

They appear randomly throughout the book, never really playing much of a key role, but just running on the top of fences, looking cute with their fluffy tails and generally being awesome.

There have been several different reactions to these little surprises, ranging from mild irritation to sheer delight. But this week was really nice because a reader not only asked me directly what the squirrels meant, but also came up with her own pretty detailed (and very clever) theory.

I responded by saying that the squirrels mean whatever they mean to each individual reader. Now I know we are just talking about fictional squirrels here (let’s not take this too seriously!) and I know this is a little cheesy, but this got me thinking about reading and its wider context. It reminded me of something I have taken for granted for a while…

It struck me once more, that one of the most beautiful things about books, art and anything you really absorb in a similar way, is that it means something very special to you and that is often quite unique.

My own view is that people naturally react differently to fiction depending on their own personalities and life experiences, so ultimately the valid truth behind symbolism in a book is entirely subjective and belongs solely to the reader…

A writer could put one book out into the world and get a thousand different reactions to it. How do we ever know that a book we read makes someone else feel exactly how we did, even though as humans we share so many feelings in common? How do we know that the imagery the words conjure would be the same as it would for a person sitting next to us on the bus, reading the same chapter through different eyes?

Readers bring words to life in their own special way and as a writer it’s lovely to think about this, about all the different experiences and feelings your work might conjure in people, from passivity to joy, or even real sadness. You do some of the work, but readers take it somewhere else and I’m so grateful to the people who get in touch to tell me what their experience was like, and those who write reviews.

I want to thank the reader who took the time to share with me her own theory. I also spoke to someone who told me that he saw the squirrels as a symbol of experience. He highlighted (in a tongue-in-cheek way, of course) that in life you collect experiences – these are the ‘nuts’ – and then like a squirrel, you stash them away until some time in the future, when you might want to go back to those experiences again, and do something better (or differently).

I thought that was lovely too.

In truth, the squirrels in This is a Love Story came about accidentally.

My editor mentioned to me that a few were popping up and I didn’t even realise I was doing it… It was totally subconscious. We decided to keep them in because we liked them, and I’m really glad I did because today they reminded me of something wonderful about literature. Something that had, shamefully, passed me by recently.

If you want to go on a This is a Love Story squirrel hunt, or you know someone who likes squirrels too… the Kindle ebook is available through Amazon at the moment for just 99p.

This offer ends early next week.

Three Little Words is published in Germany…

coverI’m so excited to tell you that my second novel Three Little Words was published in Germany yesterday.

I was delighted when I saw the cover… I think the sketch-style pictures are gorgeous, there are some London landmarks on there too…

I’m really grateful to Bastei Lübbe, my publisher in Germany for giving it such a fab jacket.

The novel is called Ein Tag Im März, which translates to ‘One Day in March’.

Three Little Words was released in paperback in the UK in August this year. You can find out more about it here.

x

P.S If you are looking for a book bargain, my debut book This is a Love Story is still just 99p via Amazon Kindle until December 3…

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The creation of a book cover…

I was digging through some old photos on my laptop when I found these planning sketches for the cover of Three Little Words. I’m so glad I kept them because they bring back lovely memories.

It took me back to that very exciting time when a book is almost finished… Fellow authors I’m sure you treasure this moment too. Perhaps you are editing and making last minute changes, and finally, after what feels like forever…. the jacket is being designed!

Often you have a chat with your publisher about the kind of thing you are looking for and what they envisage. After I had this conversation with my publisher Hodder, the creative team there came up with some sketches. Below are the original drawings that Hodder came up with for Three Little Words.

A planning sketch for the cover of Three Little Words by Hodder

A planning sketch for the cover of Three Little Words by Hodder

A planning sketch for the cover of Three Little Words by Hodder

A planning sketch for the cover of Three Little Words by Hodder

A planning sketch for the cover of Three Little Words by Hodder

A planning sketch for the cover of Three Little Words by Hodder

Even though they are a little difficult to make out because they’ve been scanned, you can see the kind of things that were planned and how those elements eventually made it into the final design.

Once these very rough sketches have been created they are sent to an artist so those pencil lines can be brought to life.

The wonderful Zeena Shah created the cover for This is a Love Story and also the export edition of Three Little Words.

For the UK paperback edition of Three Little Words, Hodder approached Pietari Posti who is a Finnish illustrator, graphic designer and artist. Below is what he created, which is now on the shelves!

I adore the work of both Zeena and Pietari, and am so grateful to them, and Hodder, for creating beautiful book covers… THANK YOU! x

The final cover of Three Little Words

The final cover of Three Little Words

Thank you for sharing your three little words…

@LillyLoveYou4's three little words...

@LillyLoveYou4’s three little words…

Since my publisher launched a Twitter competition to celebrate the UK paperback release of my second book, I’ve been smiling a lot.

And why? Because over 100 of you (wow!) took the time to Tweet the three little words that mean the most to you with the hashtag #ThreeLittleWords.

The entries were wonderful. Some were funny, others were really moving and loads of them were inspirational. If you haven’t seen them yet do have a look on Twitter. I’m sure some of them could inspire creative writing… that might be a really interesting short story writing exercise…

A massive thank you to everyone who took part, and do keep your three little words coming.

Hodder picked the five winners today and announced them on Twitter… They will soon have a copy of my second book ‘Three Little Words’ land on their doormat.

The winners are:

@annelie_rainbow with ‘dream, love, believe’

@sneezycharmed with ‘family is everything’

@jaustenrulesok with ‘right beside you’

@Happy0blong with ‘I’ve got it!’

@LillyLoveYou4 with ‘Yes I Can’

Hodder have created some gorgeous pictures featuring the winning entries and some of the others too. You can find a whole album of them on the Hodder facebook page and please do share them with your friends and loved ones if you have three little words you’d like to send their way…