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Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Book Bloggers Alexa & Elena & A Giveaway!
From L-R: Erin Bowman, Susan Dennard, Elena, Alexa, Sarah J. Maas, & Kat Zhang!
So, a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of finally, finally meeting Alexa (of Alexa Loves Books) and Elena (of Novel Sounds) at BookExpoAmerica. They’re two amazing, unique book bloggers who are incredibly knowledgeable & excited about books, and are truly just a shining example of how book bloggers brighten, enrich, and help the publishing industry thrive.
Along with a few other PubCrawl ladies, I had an amazing time talking to both of them in New York (they are both seriously just some of the loveliest, coolest people you will ever meet), and thought it’d be awesome to have them here on PubCrawl for a behind-the-scenes look at what their lives are like as book bloggers! AND in honor of having them on PubCrawl today, I’m also giving away a copy of each of their favorite books—so check out the details below!
Okay, I'm dying to know: How did you guys get into blogging in the first place (was there a certain book that inspired you to start reviewing—or was it a certain book blog)?
Elena: This is such a standard answer, but I got into book blogging because I saw a bunch of book blogs and thought, "this looks fun. I can do it too!" It was a "why not?" sort of thing.
Plus, I had a LiveJournal where I liked to make my posts aesthetically pleasing and wanted to apply it to a wider audience. It's so weird because I'm actually friends with some of the bloggers that inspired me now and I'm like, "wait, how did this happen?!" The blogging community really IS nice and welcoming.
Alexa: I've seriously always loved to read, ever since I was a little girl. That love never wavered, and in fact, continued to be a constant no matter what else changed in my life. I was late to the game in discovering book blogs, as the first time I ever read one was in January 2011! My family and friends barely read books, so it fascinated me that there was an entire community of people who loved books as much as I did! After lurking for several months, I launched my blog in April of 2011 - and the rest is history.
Elena and I met through mutual blogger friends, and it was online at first. We shared a similar taste in books, for one thing. I adored her blog, admired her talents and totally listened to her when she recommended songs for me to listen to! We started chatting online, then did a blog event together and finally got to meet when she came up to NYC for the J.K. Rowling event last year. It was so cool to see each other in real life! This year, I got to see her again when she came up for BEA as she stayed with me for a few days. Elena is one of the sweetest, cutest people I know, and I'm so glad we're friends.
Wahh! You guys are so adorable. To switch gears a bit... I know book blogging is suuuper time-consuming (some book bloggers have likened it to having a second job)... On average, between reading & maintaining your websites/social media platforms, how much time do you spend blogging?
Alexa: Oh, it's DEFINITELY like a second job! I've tried to quantify how much time I spend working on blog posts + social media + commenting/visiting other blogs, and have come up with a figure of roughly around 8-9 hours from M-F (since I don't do any blog-related things on weekends, unless I feel inspired to!). It takes a whole lot of work to write reviews, format posts and then to promote your posts and interact with other people too! I enjoy it though, so it never truly feels like actual "work" to me. My real job would probably drive me crazy if I didn't have this other "job" to preoccupy me!
You might notice I don't include reading in my time count. Reading is something I do purely for fun. With or without the blog, I would still be doing it, so I don't really want to count it as a "blog" activity. If I did though, I'd probably get close to around an additional 3 hours just for reading (and that's usually during my commutes to the office).
Elena: You added "social media platforms" in there which means I basically spend ALL my free time blogging, ha. I am way too addicted to social media and I'm one of those sad people who are permanently glued to their phones. But like Rainbow Rowell said, "I’m pretty addicted to my phone, but less addicted than you’d think considering all my music, books and friends are inside."
Real talk though: blogging is SO time consuming. I didn't expect it. I thought you could just put up posts, reply to comments, visit some blogs, and that's that. It's not. You have to constantly market and network yourself if you want to be known. There are a lot of blogs out there and to make sure you stand out, you have to interact constantly. People tend to like you more if they know you exist. Just saying. It can get really tiring but it's worth it.
Time to get a little personal. So, it's no secret that the writing community can be a bit competitive (especially since social media allows for us to constantly play the comparison game)... Do you guys feel like there's competitiveness amongst book bloggers (& about what)? If so, how do you combat that?
Elena: In my dreams, blogging is all sunshine and rainbows and everyone loves/supports each other. It's like that a good portion of the time but insecurity is basically a part of life. Even though people are so supportive and friendly, it's very easy to feel like you're not good enough. Why didn't you get comments on your post? Why did that person get the ARC over you? Why does this person have more followers when they just started three months ago? Etc. It's so easy to fall into that hole of self deprivation and pity. Here are some ways I combat it:
Eat ice cream. I think I find way too many reasons to pity eat but whatever, you feel crappy so might as well cheer yourself up with the little things.
Talk to friends privately. DO NOT rant on Twitter or public social media sites. There have been many times I am sorely tempted to tweet things I'll regret (and tweets I have regretted) but that's not the time and place to do it. No one likes constant negativity. Friends help. I have sent many paranoid and whiny e-mails/texts to friends and I am very glad they are still my friends.
Think about all the positive traits you have as a blogger. You have an audience. People like your blog. Remind yourself you're awesome.
Alexa: There's a bit of competition among bloggers. This competition revolves around stats + advanced copies for the most part, since those are usually the things that seem to indicate that you're a successful blogger to the rest of the community. It's definitely okay to want to be better at what you do, and to work towards continued success and growth when it comes to blogging. But there are people who take it too seriously sometimes, and that's where these "numbers" start to come into play.
Personally, I don't let that influence what I do on my blog! I enjoy reading, and I enjoy sharing what I've read, particularly if I'm passionate about a book, series or author. My blog is primarily an outlet for me to share what I love. Sometimes, I do get caught up in things and feel like I have to do more, be more. But then I remind myself that I do this because it's something fun and it's something I love. I almost always end up scrolling through old posts or reading old favorites, up until the point where I've relaxed about the entire thing.
What is the best part of being a book blogger? Any personal stories to share about particularly awesome moments?
Alexa: The people, without a doubt, are the best part of being a part of the book blogging community. By people, I am referring to fellow bloggers, authors and publishers. It's a wonderful thing to be able to immerse myself among a crowd that genuinely loves books, loves reading, loves writing as much as I do - and aren't afraid to show it! It's been such a relief, honestly, to be able to talk about these things with people who are passionate about them. Plus, to get the chance to interact with authors (who are seriously celebrities to me) is always a good thing! I love how I can immediately let them know how I feel about what they've written, especially if I feel like gushing. And the publishers and their reps are always so generous and so very kind!
There have been many awesome moments that blogging has brought me! Every single time I receive an ARC, for instance. That always manages to make my day, especially if it's for something I'm excited about. There's also BEA, which I've now been to TWICE and love! But my favorite kind of awesome moments are the ones with authors—interacting with them on Twitter, emailing them and having them featured on the blog. But it's particularly when I go to an event to meet them and they know who I am! That surprises me every. single. time. I mean, I fangirl over authors a lot, so to have them know my name and Twitter handle definitely gets me all excited!
If we're talking specific moments here, I'd have to say that spending some time with Kat Zhang, Erin Bowman, Susan Dennard and you Sarah, was definitely a highlight for me this year. It was really fun!
Elena: The best part of being a book blogger is the interaction. This would be so boring if I'm just shouting out to an empty space. I've met so many fantastic people I wouldn't otherwise and I feel ridiculously lucky that they're now in my life. It's also surreal to go to a bookstore and be like, "oh! I talked to that author before! they know I exist!"
I am going to sound like a broken record now if you know me but BEA was a very awesome series of moments. I live in states where people don't tend to visit (like come on, I have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. how is that not a good incentive?) so it was overwhelming at first to suddenly have all these people from the Internet be you know, real people but it was really really great. Very fortunate in fact to meet some of the Pub Crawl ladies who were on the Young Authors Give Back Tour and very fortunate I didn't come off as the heavy breathing super fan I not so secretly am.
Sarah: Awwww! You guysss! It was a highlight for me/us, too!!!
Elena—Music is a huge part of your fabulous blog (I adore your "Soundtrack To Your Life" feature)... So I have two questions: 1) If you were stranded on a desert island, what's the one album that you'd want with you? And 2) How long does it usually take you to select/find the music to accompany each review? Does it usually just strike you as you're reading, or do you ever have to do some research/browsing for the perfect song?
Elena: 1) First off, I hate you because this is torture. My automatic reaction was something classic like a Beatles record or The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground & Nico. Or maybe something super long that sounds like multiple albums such as Sufjan Steven's Illinois. In the end, I decided to go with my favorite album by my favorite band, Beach House'sTeen Dream. I am sorely tempted to rhapsodize over this album and the band but it can get pretty long and this interview is about book blogging and not why Beach House Is The Dreamiest. (but really, they are.)
2) It depends! Sometimes, I know it right off the bat like with Laura Marling's "Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)" for Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and The Dodos' "The Season" for Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. It could be something I was listening to while reading such as Little Joy's "The Next Time Around" for My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. I definitely have to search at times and I usually just scroll through my library until I find a song title that I think may work and then I look up the lyrics. There are some very tricky books though such as children/middle grade so I usually end up going with an instrumental song, ha.
Alexa, I know you're an aspiring writer... Do you think that impacts how you review books? I know some writers who stopped reviewing books once they got agents/book deals/etc (or at least stopped reviewing the books they didn't like, because they didn't want to potentially burn bridges). Do you ever worry that you'll someday have to stop reviewing in favor of professional publication?
Alexa: It's interesting that you'd ask me this question, as I was just thinking about this the other day. While I'd like to say that writing in the hopes of being published one day certainly affects the way I review books on the blog, it really doesn't. I review books based on how I felt about them - BUT I'm a positive, nice person. I gush over the ones I loved; I try to stay objective and point out positive things about the ones I didn't love so much. I don't think that there's anything wrong with sharing YOUR opinion on different books. Everyone feels differently about each book in the world, so as long as you're respectful and reasonable, there's no harm in not liking something.
I honestly wouldn't be able to say if I'd stop reviewing if it would affect my chances of getting published. I like getting my thoughts on books out there, I really do! It always makes me happy to share about other books that I've fallen HARD for on the blog. Perhaps, if anything, it would affect WHICH books I chose to review on the blog, and stick primarily to the ones that garnered positive reactions from me.
If you could spend a night at a pub with any 3 authors (alive or dead) who would it be and why?
Elena: I discussed this with my good friend, Sarah, and I am going to shamelessly steal her answer because it is genius: Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen Fry. They would be so British, so charming, so delightful, and I would be in shock. Seriously, can you imagine how freaking amazing that night would be?! Best night of your life, hands down! You'll have the story for the ages! "One time I was drinking with Neil, Jo, and Stephen..." I want to cry thinking about it because it's not real and I so badly want it to be.
Alexa: This is probably the hardest question yet! I really, really had to think about this one. I would want to hang out with Tamora Pierce, so that I can chat with her about her books, her world, her characters and basically her amazing writing skills. I think William Shakespeare would have to come to this party, as he was a writer I found particularly fascinating even at the wee age of 10; I'd love to discuss his tragedies and comedies and the impact of his work on the world. And the last spot would have to go to JK Rowling, and I don't think that requires more explanation than to say that she's one of my favorite people in the world. (I'm going to assume that Elena + her authors + all you amazing ladies behind Publishing Crawl will be there too. We'll make a party out of it!)
Yayyy! Thank you so, so much for visiting Pub Crawl, Alexa & Elena! In honor of your visit, I’m giving away one copy each of your favorite books—Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Elena’s pick) and Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Alexa’s pick)! The giveaway is US—only, and will end a week from now (7/9/13)—fill out the form below to enter!
Alexa is a twenty-something book blogger currently living in New York, who reads every chance she gets, whether it’s five minutes while waiting for the subway...or on long car trips to another state.” She’s an aspiring writer as well (she started out writing fan-fiction!), and some of her favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Christopher Paolini, Rick Riordan, Tamora Pierce, Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah MacLean, Julie Garwood & Veronica Roth. You can visit her blog here, and follow her on Twitter & Goodreads.
Elena runs the fabulous blog, NovelSounds.net—which, in addition to combining her passion for music & books, also includes super-fun book pairings with things like ice cream, poetry, and films. She’s currently a double major in East Asian Studies & Telecommunications, and has a major case of wanderlust. Her favorite book is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and her all-time favorite band is Beach House. You can visit her blog here, and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.