Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting to Know Lana from A Hoyden's Look at Literature

Today I'm hosting an interview with a fellow blogger involved in Book Blogger Appreciation Week. For those who don't know about this little element of the celebration, we had the opportunity to sign up prior to BBAW to be put in the interview exchange. The committee in charge of the interview exchanged arbitrarily matches up two bloggers and they interview each other.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Lana from A Hoyden's Look at Literature. And I'd like to start out the interview by saying Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Lana! And congratulations. She received a nomination for Best Romance Blog. You can see her nomination information as well as the posts she submitted for the nomination panel here. But, let me quit yapping and let Lana tell you about herself - and her blog:

Q: It appears that you have been blogging for several years now? What got you started in book blogging?

Lana: I really got started blogging last summer. I’d been playing around with it before then, but a lot of the posts you see before May 2009 are back-dated posts of reviews from elsewhere (mostly LibraryThing) that I wanted to expand on.

What got me started was that I got a job in London. Moving to a place that was several hours off time-wise from all my friends meant that I got a lot of reading done… and that I had nobody to talk to about it! So I started tossing my thoughts out there to see if anybody would respond – and to ease my way back into writing for fun. And it worked! Some friends dropped by, some strangers left encouraging comments, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Q: And since you’ve been at it for several years now, what aspects of your blog keep you going – because it’s a significant investment in time to maintain a book blog?

Lana: Comments. I love comments. There’s nothing like opening up the email inbox and finding a comment! I love being able to participate in all these conversations around the blogosphere. I love to share my experience with books, from those that just make you giddy because you love them so much to those that make you throw them away in frustration (there’s a lot of comedy to be had from reading bad books!). And the best part about it is when someone finds a post of yours and leaves a note to say that you managed to capture part of how they felt about a book – or at least re-evoke it for them. I love that.
Q: What do you find most challenging about your blog?

Lana: Keeping on top of things! I love to work on my blog, I do, but I’m kind of like a kid doing homework. I’ll put off doing it and let reviews and everything just pile up, get overwhelmed and petulant. But when I finally sit down and actually work on it, I enjoy it so much that I just want to shake myself for being such a dreadful procrastinator!

Q: If you were going back to start the whole blogging process again at the beginning, is there anything you’d want to do differently?

Lana: Hmm, I probably would have jumped into the community sooner. I sort of dabbled in my own corner of the pool for a while before I worked up the nerve to comment on anyone’s blog. I shouldn’t have worried about it, the book blogging community has been really helpful and welcoming. A while back, I started linking to others’ reviews at the bottom of each of mine (and leaving comments) – and I wish I’d done it from the beginning!
Q: Obviously, you are fond of the romance genre – or else you probably would not have been nominated for Best Romance Blog – but looking at your blog you actually read quite an eclectic selection. So what helps you to determine what’s on your to be read list? And how do you determine what order you read books from your TBR list?

Lana: My TBR pile is mountainous, really. It includes just about anything that I find interesting – anything with sailing ships, pirates, archaeology, witty romance, Shakespeare-inspired fiction, forensic profilers, spies, psychics, all kinds of things! I’m fascinated by all kinds of topics, and it’s ever-expanding. Which of course makes it difficult to figure out what next!

When it comes to deciding what comes next, I don’t really have much of a system. Books I was sent for review come first if I have any, but after that it all depends on my mood. I browse through my unread shelves until something grabs me. If I just can’t make a decision, I’ll sometimes ask friends to pick something for me at random – always an adventurous move! But I do try to mix things up a little. If I’ve read a bunch of Regency romances, I’ll try for a young adult novel or a mystery to mix things up and avoid the dreaded reading slump.
Q: What authors do you drop everything to read? And what about them puts them in that category?

Lana: I’ll drop absolutely everything when a new Tamora Pierce novel comes out. I love her heroines who are all strong and clever, but in different ways. Alanna is hot-headed but has more determination than anyone; Daine is emotionally and empathetically strong; Kel is calm, sensible and protective. I love to see what they can do when they put their minds to it. Pierce’s books have meant a lot to me over the years, and the few times I’ve been lucky enough to meet her, she’s been amazing.
I’m in love with Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody, so everything takes back seat to her when a new mystery comes out. Amelia is just such a character – digging in the Valley of the Kings, matchmaking, smacking people with her (reinforced) parasol! Add her irascible husband and charming son into the mix and what more could you want?

Perhaps surprisingly there aren’t a lot of romance authors that fall into this category. It’s rare for me to find someone whose books consistently hit just the right note – but Maya Rodale (The Heir and the Spare (http://caramellunacy.blogspot.com/2008/09/heir-and-spare-maya-rodale.html), The Rogue and the Rival (http://caramellunacy.blogspot.com/2009/02/rogue-and-rival-maya-rodale.html)) is about as close as I’ve gotten. Her books are funny but emotional, they deal with real issues without bogging down – they’re just charming.
Q: You also rate the books you read with a star rating. What constitutes a 5-star book?

Lana: To be honest, my star ratings are mostly about my emotional response to a book rather than anything like literary merit. I don’t really have much in the way of articulable criteria. But a five-star book is one that just leaves me feeling perfect. There’s something powerful about the book that really touches me and finds its way into my heart – a book I could never give away, that I feel like I HAVE to have with me because it’s become a part of me. Not a lot of books qualify!
Q: If you were choosing a favorite book of all time, what would that book be?

Lana: You know how dreadfully hard that question is! Since you asked it anyway, I’m going to cheat and give you two. The book that’s been most meaningful in my life, and the book that I would give you to figure me out today. As for the most meaningful, we go back to Tamora Pierce – when I was eleven, someone gave me my first Pierce book, Alanna: The First Adventure. I actually wrote a little tribute about this for the book’s 25th anniversary (http://caramellunacy.blogspot.com/2008/09/tamora-pierce-and-alanna-of-trebond.html). This book really shaped me growing up, and it still means a lot to me. It definitely goes with me wherever I go.

My current favorite is Anne Gracie’s The Perfect Rake. It’s just about the most perfect romance (for me) that I can think of. The heroine, Prudence, is smart and fiercely protective of her younger sisters Gideon, the hero, is utterly charming and oh-so-funny – there’s a hilarious scene where he talks about the dangers of musicale evenings… among many others. It’s emotional, touching and always makes me laugh. A fantastic read!
Q: What kinds of things do you enjoy doing when you aren’t blogging?

Lana: When I’m not blogging, I love to go dancing – particularly ballroom dancing (although I’m not much good at it at all). Though I recently got to go to a Regency ball at a fantasy convention that was a ton of fun!

I like to travel, and I’m particularly fond of visiting castles and art museums. I dabble in painting, cross-stitch, writing silly stories and I love to bake! And lest anyone get the idea that I’m particularly ‘girly’, I also like to help my parents fix things (my latest project was a weed eater) in my spare time – I get a real kick out of making something work again! IKEA was totally made for somebody like me!

Thank you, Lana, for taking the time to swap interviews with me. And thank you for all the work you put into your blog on a regular basis. This was fun. I hope you have a wonderful Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

And thanks to all the readers who stopped by. Be sure to say "hey" and wish Lana well. If you're interested in my interview with Lana, you can check that out over at A Hoyden's Look at Literature!

Happy Reading!

Bouchercon countdown: 30 DAYS!!! 1 Month!!


5 comments:

Lana September 15, 2009 at 12:25 PM  

Thanks so much for hosting me Jen!

Serena September 15, 2009 at 12:39 PM  

don't we all just love comments. I think I would post every five minutes if I could speed read.

Heather J. September 15, 2009 at 5:53 PM  

great job - I enjoyed getting to know BOTH of you!

♥Jen♥ September 15, 2009 at 7:35 PM  

Thank YOU Lana! It was a blast to have you visit here.

Serena, you're spot on. Comments just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Thanks Heather! So glad you could stop by and meet Lana.

Michael Shawn Keller September 16, 2009 at 11:35 PM  

As a new author I found your blog to be Very helpful and inspirational, just knowing that reading and books is still very much alive! I love what you are doing and am now going to be an avid follower. Have fun!
Mike Keller
author
"Life In A Week"

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