Thursday, September 18, 2008

BBAW Guest: Andromeda Romano-Lax, Author of The Spanish Bow

(Ok, I have to admit this is one of my favorite posts I received. Andromeda donated two copies of her books as giveaways. To be eligible to win one, leave a comment about the last book you read that you couldn't put down. Open to all. Also, be sure to visit her very awesome book blog for the Alaskan perspective.)

Book Bloggers, an author’s perspective

By Andromeda Romano-Lax


Yes, the New York Times Book Review coverage of my debut novel THE SPANISH BOW, published one year ago, was exciting (and terrifying). Without national reviews, I might have had trouble garnering respect in this dog-eat-dog book world.

But can I be honest? The book bloggers really got my novel. Their reviews -- in some cases, more than many print reviews -- captured my novel’s multiple facets. Their honest, unvarnished reactions would have told me, as a reader, whether or not I wanted to buy this new novel, one among millions clamoring for attention.

An author is supposed to be up in her tower (or in my case, remote Alaska cabin), confidently oblivious of how the world is reacting. But that’s unrealistic. We want to be read, discussed, mentioned to friends. The blogosphere is facilitating that, and though as an author I am supposed to be alarmed about the loss of print review coverage (and I am alarmed), I am also grateful that online book reviewers are keeping the passion for books alive.

What does a book blogger say that a convention-bound print reviewer often can’t, or won’t?

The blogger at One Good Thing mentioned that she’d given a copy of my novel to a coworker, whose husband had taken the book away and locked himself in the bathroom to read it. “He won’t give it back to me until he’s done,” the coworker complained.

Book Sandwich compared my book to “dark rich chocolate” and like many bloggers, admitted that the subject matter (politics, Spanish history) wasn’t her usual thing, but that the book surprised her. Bloggers always seem more comfortable saying that – “I resisted this book at first, but…” They’re also more likely to tell you that a book sagged, or just didn’t work, even when they’re not sure why.

I recently read a major print book review of a nonfiction book I had enjoyed immensely. I couldn’t tell if the reviewer liked the book, disliked it, envied it, or just wanted to show off his own intellectual pedigree. By contrast, blogger Ex Libris started her review of THE SPANISH BOW with “Stop what you are doing and read this book.” That’s nice and clear.

Moonrat at Editorial Ass (with whom I’d had no prior connection of any kind) made it her “inexplicable personal crusade” to champion my book. She praised it as a book about friendship, which I appreciated. (The print reviewers thought it was a book about music and politics.) She gave away copies and started a “Buy a Friend a Book Week” to encourage other people to buy books for friends.

I love the fact that book bloggers interpret a novel through the lens of their own experience. Where one person sees a message about art, sacrifice, or morality, another person sees a story about love, or the difficulties of parenting, or something else entirely. Where one person sees something serious and dark, another sees humor. (Bloggers seemed to realize, more than print reviewers, that parts of my book were meant to be funny.)

I can share more examples, but you understand, because you already read and write your own reviews. What you may not know is that we authors are out here, sniffing around online (perhaps more than we should – it can become a vice), hoping to find the readers who understood, who responded, who cared.

We don’t want you to shower us with adulation. (Okay, we do want that. But we shouldn’t need it.) What we want is more of what you are already doing so well, with honesty and integrity. You are unsung literary heroes. We read you. We need you. And we appreciate you, every week of the year.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is the author of THE SPANISH BOW (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007), and a blogger at 49writers.blogspot.com and thespanishbow.blogspot.com.

43 comments:

Julie P. said...

I have had two this week! THE LAST QUEEN by C.W. Gortner and THANK YOU FOR ALL THINGS by Sandra Kring!

Jen said...

There have been so many great books that I've picked up and had a hard time putting down this summer. Some I didn't want to end. Most recently I had that experience with a book called POWER IN THE BLOOD by Michael Listen. But I also experienced it with DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY (Craig Johnson), THE FOURTH WATCHER (Timothy Hallinan), ENVY THE NIGHT (Michael Kortya), CHASING DARKNESS (Rober Crais), KIA (Thomas Holland), and ANGEL'S TIP (Alafair Burke). I have a pile more that I've been advised are equally wonderful, too. I can't wait to get to them!

Fyrefly said...

Very cool post! I've been wanting to read this book entirely based on what I've seen about it on book blogs, so I'm very excited about this giveaway!

There have been quite a few books I've read this year that I really enjoyed, but the two that I think were the most skip-work-to-read, glued-to-my-hands were Black Ships by Jo Graham, which I got from LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and Talyn by Holly Lisle, which I got from my LibraryThing Secret Santa.

Tammy said...

I loved, loved, loved Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Black Dogs by Ian McEwan was also very good.

On a side note, I have to say that I agree with the statement regarding professional reviewers and not being able to tell if they liked the book, were just showing off, etc. I read the NYTBR every week and I've frequently been frustrated by the reviews. Too often they go on and on without telling you anything about the book, it's infuriating.

wordlily said...

You're right, I love this post!

Does a children's book count? I read Frindle by Andrew Clements this past weekend, and was enthralled. It was so fun!


hannah DOT free AT gmail DOT com

Lana said...

What a great post! I love the shout-out to book bloggers - I find myself terribly frustrated with print reviews. I do think that a lot of the time they're an exercise in showing off their English degrees rather than telling you anything you want to know about the book. I don't really need an essay about symbolism, I want to know whether it was gripping.

I also think that print reviewers often give away too much about books they're reviewing. They tend to be riddled with spoilers so that I won't read a print review of a book I might find interesting until I've either read the book or given up on reading it - which sort of defeats the purpose of the review, doesn't it?

That aside, the last book that I just couldn't put down was Maya Rodale's The Heir and the Spare. It's a Regency romance about a young woman unknowingly being courted by identical twins. But it's not nearly as goofy as the premise might lead you to expect. It was funny, sure, but there was a lovely focus on true deep emotions. Gorgeous.

thisredheadreads said...

This week, I read The Eight by Katherine Neville and couldn't put it down. Much, much earlier in the year, I read "The Garden" by Elsie V. Aidinoff and I still recommend it to people.

I do have to say that I completely agree with the sentiment about professional reviewers. I'm always left thinking "Well, yeah, but... was it good?"

thisredheadreads at gmail dot com

Sunny said...

Wiser Than Serpents by Susan May Warren!

sj3girls(at)hotmail(dot)com

Book Zombie said...

Wow that was a great post. I read/buy books based on the info I get from book blogs. I read print reviews to see what new books are being released - that's it - I could care less about the opinions of "pro" reviewers because I don't trust them to be honest, whereas bloggers go out of their way to tell the truth.

And the last book I couldn't put down was The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond Atkins.

Jen - devourer of books said...

Just last night I finished "Immortal" by Traci Slatton. It was a bit out of my usual fare, but I couldn't put it down, it was so engaging!

Alyce said...

I just started blogging and reviewing books a couple of months ago. It's nice to know that the authors appreciate bloggers' opinions. I know I enjoy reading other blogs to discover new books.

The last book that I read that I couldn't put down was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

Chris said...

Wow! What an awesome post! I also love how honest bloggers are. And when they like something, they aren't afraid to say it.

photoquest said...

That was a wonderful post!
The last book i read that i just couldn't put down was Simming Lessons by Mary Alice Monroe.
I would love to be entered in your contest.
photoquest(at)bellsouth(dot)net

Anonymous said...

The last two books I couldn't put down were Where the River Ends by Charles Martin and The Lace Rader by Brunonia Barry. The Spanish Bow sounds great and is now being added to my TBR pile.

shell688[at]aol[dot]com

Bluestocking said...

Well I just finished two fantasy books I couldn't put down my Michael Scott- The Alchemyst and the Magician.

Amber said...

Thank you for the visit, Andromeda!

The last book I couldn't put down was "Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name" by Vendela Vida.

Nise' said...

The last book I could not put down was A Passion More Pure by Julie Lessman.

Sandra said...

What a great article for book bloggers to read.
And The Spanish Bow sure sounds good. The last book I read that I could not put down was "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" by Mohammed Hanif. I just had to know what happened.

Icedream said...

I loved this article, it's nice to know an authors perspective on the book blog scene.
I just finished a book I couldn't put down. I was up until 3am to finish The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent.

Ruth Schaller said...

GREAT article here.

The last book that I read that I couldn't put doen was Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer.

I know...I know...there were a lot of mixed reviews about this book. But it earned it's way to my keeper shelf along with the rest of the series.

Aerin said...

I can never put a book down. Seriously. I know NOT to open a book - ANY book - unless I have a three-hour stretch in which to read it in its entirety. Just finished re-reading Half-Blood Prince and before that Purple Emperor.

And, I have to say.......THREE CHEERS FOR MOONRAT!!! I <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 that rodent! So glad to see her name pop up here, when I wasn't sure there was a connection. YAY!!!!!!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

This is such a lovely blog. It is nice to see what authors have to say about book bloggers. :)

As for the last book I read that I couldn't put down...hmm...okay, I got a bit sidetracked with this one, but it wasn't b/c of the book and I really did love it: The Society of S by Susan Hubbard.

A review for that will actually be on my blog as soon as I can get it written.

-Lauren

bookroomreviews said...

Great post! It's great to an author's opinion on book blogs and makes me feel appreciated.
Your books sounds really good! I just finished The Last Queen and loved it!

Yasmin said...

I love this post and so enjoyed what the author had to say that I wrote a brief blog about it! Thanks for sharing. And even tho' I might not always comment, I'm reading and enjoying these interviews. Wow, I can't believe that BBAW will be over tomorrow...I'm already starting to get sad...but the good news is that I've found so many other book bloggers to connect with and I'm looking forward to getting to know at least 25 of you personally!
xoxo

Barefoot in High Heels said...

Sorry if this is a duplicate (having techie difficulties) but the last book I couldn't put down was Water for Elephants.

LisaMM said...

Wow, I suddenly feel so appreciated!! I'm definitely going to look for THe Spanish Bow!

The last book I couldn't put down (and it, too, has a Spanish connection) was The Last Queen by CW Gortner, about Juana la Loca.

The Tome Traveller said...

What a fantastic post in support of book bloggers! I would LOVE to read this book! I am currently reading "The Heretic Queen" by Michelle Moran and I can't put it down, it's engrossing.

Anna said...

I couldn't put down "Falling Under" by Danielle Younge-Ullman. It took me only two days just during my commute to finish it!

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)
diaryofaneccentric[at]hotmail[dot]com

Jena said...

The last one I couldn't put down was... well, from beginning to end, I don't know. It's been a few months. Dare I admit--I think it might have been Meyer's Twilight (I spent a weekend reading the first three books); I wasn't crazy about them, but the first two had me absolutely glued to the chair. I really hate having to admit that those were my last refuse-to-put-down books. I'm currently rereading Deerskin, which I usually devour in two or three sittings... Can you count that as my answer instead?

Ronnica said...

GK Chesterton's A Man Who Was Thursday. It's great!

avisannschild said...

What a fantastic post! The last book I read that I couldn't put down was Someone Not Really Her Mother by Harriet Scott Chessman.

Ello said...

WHat an awesome post! And I definitely have this on my list of books I need to read! And I totally think book bloggers are simply awesome!

Heather J. said...

Wow, now THAT is a ringing endorsement of book bloggers if I ever heard one! And it's exactly what I need to hear, as it's the topic I'm speaking on at the Baltimore Book Festival next weekend. Thanks Amy and Andromeda - you've given me more fuel for my panel discussion!

Shelly Burns said...

Due to Hurricane Ike, I have been without power since Saturday. Luckily, I had stocked up on books from our school library. The two that I couldn't put down this week were City of Ember - read because of the upcoming movie and reccommended by a blogger, and The Silent Boy - read just because I saw it in our library and thought it looked interesting - had it read in about 3 hours yesterday...absolutely loved it!

Serena said...

This is a great article, and I am glad to hear that authors appreciate our reviews.

"The blogger at One Good Thing mentioned that she’d given a copy of my novel to a coworker, whose husband had taken the book away and locked himself in the bathroom to read it. “He won’t give it back to me until he’s done,” the coworker complained."

I just love this little anecdote. I think that is a great testament to a book.

The most recent books I couldn't put down were "The Adoration of Jenna Fox" about a young girl's struggle to come to terms with her parents' fateful decision. I also couldn't put down "Bloodsucking Fiends" because Moore's dark humor kept me on my toes.

Tracee said...

I too was unable to put down The Last Queen by CW Gortner. A professed history snob, my view has totally changed on this aspect of the book world and I actually seek out historical fiction now.

mari said...

I just started and finished Coraline yesterday. Read it in one sitting. Couldn't put it down. :)

Callista said...

What you say is so true. I've been asked why I prefer book blogger reviews to newspaper or magazine ones and I couldn't put the words together to explain it but you said it perfectly!

A month ago I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the first time and I couldn't put it down! I read it while cooking, while eating, while in the bathroom and pretty much all day long.

callista83 AT cogeco DOT ca

blueviolet said...

The last one I couldn't put down was Sweetheart by Chelsea Caine. I love when that happens!
doot65{at}comcast[dot]net
Elizabeth

darbyscloset said...

Greg Iles "True Evil", long read yet one I just couldn't put down!
Thanks!!
Darby
darbyscloset (at) yahoo (dot) com

Lenore said...

Def. The Hunger Games from Suzanne Collins!

tanabata said...

This was a great post! It's nice to hear that authors appreciate bloggers and their honesty in reviews.
The last book that I couldn't put down would be Maus by Art Spiegelman.

Megan said...

Hope I'm not too late to enter this one. Oddly enough, the last book I couldn't put down was on a subject that should have made it more putdownable but didn't - it's Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir (the author's memoir of her life in Sudan before and during genocide).

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