One can safely say, that the majority of book bloggers are based either in the UK or North America—at least the majority of the blogs I follow. This isn’t actually too surprising as I follow blogs written in English, as that is the language I prefer to read in, so it would stand to reason it would be thus. In the past two years though, I have found some non-native English-speaking bloggers to follow from The Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, Sweden and Norway to name a few. For today’s interview we’re taking a trip to Norway, as this week I put my questions to Ole of Weirdmage’s Reviews. In fact, Ole was a lifesaver as he agreed to answer my questions at the last minute when I realized last weekend that I actually didn’t have anyone scheduled for this week. So thank you, Ole! Apart from writing well-thought out reviews and articles for his blog, Ole is quite active on Twitter and always up for an interesting discussion or a friendly chat. He’s also one of the few non-Dutch people who gets my Dutch tweets and actually reacts to them. I wish I could read Norwegian as easily as he can read Dutch! Fortunately his answers to my questions are in English; here’s what he had to say…
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Ole Imsen?
The basic; I’m a 38 year Norwegian male.
And I really don’t know what else to say. I think the rest of the answer I give will give you some idea.
What got you into blogging?
Where I live there’s not a lot of people who I can share my love for books with, so I wanted to have a place where I could do that in more depth than on Twitter. I was actually thinking about it for over a year before I started in May 2010, my only regret is that I didn’t start earlier.
Why Weirdmage’s Reviews?
When I got my own internet about four years ago, I registered on a SFF site (can’t remember which it was now) and originally I was going to use Chaosmage. Chaos Mage is a class in AD&D which I played in the 90s, but that was taken, so I ended up with Weirdmage. In retrospect I think that suits me much better, so I should thank the person who had already used Chaosmage. When it came time for me to start my blog, I had already used Weirdmage several places, including on Twitter, so it was only natural to call it Weirdmage’s Reviews.
What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?
What I’m going for with my reviews is to be as detailed as possible without giving any spoilers. It’s not the easiest way to review a book, but I know there’s lots of people who don’t want spoilers out there, and I hope they like that I try to give them a general idea without giving away anything. I’m not sure how unique that is, but I can’t say I’ve seen anyone else doing it in quite the same way as I do. I’ve also written a couple of articles that I have researched extensively, something I don’t really see much of in blogs.
What are your goals for your blog?
Mostly I’m just waiting until I get my own internet that will hopefully be more stable than the one I share now, so I can blog regularly. That means I’ll be able to do more articles, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Other than that I don’t really have any specific goals in mind, except keep sharing what I read with the rest of the world.
One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?
I’m not totally opposed to ratings, but I often find that ratings doesn’t necessarily reflect the text of a review, so I don’t pay much attention to them myself. So for my own blog I have chosen to not use any.
Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?
Absolutely! For me it’s a question of integrity. I think a reviewer owes it to their readers to be honest about what they read. If you refrain from posting negative reviews, I’d go so far as to say you’re not really a book-reviewer, but a book-promoter. If I think a book is not worth reading I will say so. But I will explain why I think so, and as much as I am able to, give reasons for why others will find it interesting to read the book even though I did not.
You’re a non US/UK-based blogger, like me. How did you end up reading and blogging in English?
I started reading comics in English back in 1986, and from 1987-1993 I read a lot of Marvel comics. So when I started moving more and more into books, it became natural for me to do so in English. And being a SFF fan, there is not really that much that has been translated into Norwegian. And the books that are, are usually translated years later. On top of that, books in Norwegian are really expensive, new hardbacks usually cost about £35. [Ed. note: Ouch, hardbacks are expensive in The Netherlands, but not quite that dear! Also, we seem to have less of a wait for translations, at least according to the bookshop site I just checked.]
As I’d assume that the regular Norwegian bookstore’s SFF shelves are about as limited as the Dutch ones are, where do you get your books? Brick and mortar stores, library, online?
I live a 90 minute bus-ride from Oslo, and there are some well stocked SFF specialty book/comic/games stores there. And the larger bookstores there also have a good selection of English books. Since my brother lives just outside Oslo, I usually combine my book shopping with visiting him and my 13 year old nephew.
How important are blogs to your reading choices?
I have some blogs that have a tremendous influence on what I put on a buy list. That being said, I follow so many publishers now, that I often know about books long before they are written, so when it comes to new books it comes more down to checking out bloggers whose opinion I trust if I’m uncertain as to whether a book is for me.
How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?
I’d like to think that bloggers are “citizen journalists”. In reality I think bloggers straddle the line between being journalists and opinionated consumers, with each blogger being closer to one or the other. There is also no doubt that there are bloggers out there that function as little else than promoters for publisher’s products. What line you choose to go for, I think has to be the individual blogger’s choice.
And with what I said above, I’d say it’s hard to say where bloggers really fit in, it’s really individual. And I think that makes it hard for anyone to really fit bloggers into the industry as a group.
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?
I’m currently reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I’m going to be voting for the Hugos, so I feel I should read the nominees.
There are so many books I’m looking forward to. Sam Sykes and Mark Charan Newton both have books out soon that I’m impatient to read. And looking further ahead, I’m curious as to whether Brandon Sanderson can keep up the quality he showed in The Way of Kings. There’s tons more of course, I could probably go on for a few pages. [Ed. note: I think that’s a regular blogger’s affliction that!]
Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?
I’m really into history and archaeology. I buy about four history magazines a month, and the few archaeology magazines I can get hold of. And I watch lots of history and archaeology on TV, and also related to that, almost all antiques programs there is.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
I have three main sections: non-fiction, SFF, and the rest of the fiction. And I think I’ll have to make Historical Fiction a section of its own soon. The non-fiction is sorted by subject, and to bore anyone who is not a librarian, I have history first. Sorted in general history first (starting with a Norwegian 16 volume world history followed by single volumes that cover several periods), and then chronologically for each work that is just about one period/person. Then the same for archaeology, and after that it becomes more arbitrarily as to how interested I am in the subject. The fiction is sorted alphabetically by author, and chronologically by publishing year for the individual author – but series in sequence from the year the first volume was published. And for SFF authors, I have English first, and if I have any books translated to Norwegian they come after all the English ones. And collections come after the individual novels (but before the translated novels). Stephen King is a special case, I have his individual novels first, followed by collections, and then Eyes of the Dragon followed by The Dark Tower, and the two books he did with Peter Straub. –Oh, and I have SFF anthologies on their own shelf.
Once again, thank you, Ole, for sending me these answers on such short notice. I found them quite interesting and I’m sure my readers did too. If you haven’t been following Ole’s blog or Twitter feed, make sure to pay them a visit soon!