Blogger Query – Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review

In 2011 Wiebe and I visited London and spent the Saturday with Mark and Liz from My Favourite Books and Amanda from Strange Chemistry. While we were visiting Forbidden Planet and ended up queuing for a Brandon Sanderson signing, we ran into Graeme Flory, making him one of the few bloggers I’ve met in real life (so far). I’d been following Graeme’s blog Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review for ages and we’d chatted on Twitter regularly, so it was really cool to run into him. So, of course Graeme had to be one of my guests on Blogger Query. Fortunately, he agreed, so here we are. Let’s see what he had to say.

Let’s start with the basics. Who is Graeme Flory?

The bottom line is that I’m a guy living in London; happily married with a daughter who always makes me laugh and a commute to work that makes reading a neccessity if I don’t want to end up flipping out on the tube. I read a lot by the way, all of it Fantasy, Sci-Fi or Horror based. Except when I’m reading Peppa Pig to the little one at bedtime that is.

What got you into blogging?

A succession of incredibly boring day jobs with internet access… ;o) Years ago I won a reviewing competition, in a magazine, which inspired me to take things a little further and see if I could post regular reviews that people liked to read. And, I’m not going to lie, there were several series that I was following and I wanted to get hold of the next books as soon as I possibly could. I love reading :o)

Why Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review?

I was walking back home from work, with Sue, and I was trying to decide what to call the blog. I couldn’t think of anything cool, Sue suggested the name and it stuck. A boring answer, I’m afraid, but that’s all I’ve got!

What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?

I wouldn’t say that my blog does anything that other blogs don’t. [Ed. note: I’d say it’s your love of zombie literature!] I mean, we’re all blogging about books aren’t we? It’s a bit of a cop out then but I’d say that it’s our perspective on books that is the unique selling point really. How we read books and then lay out what we think of them. We’re all delivering our viewpoints in a way that no-one else could because they’re not us :o)

What are your goals for your blog?

I’m the guy who still doesn’t know what he wants to do when he leaves school, and that was over twenty years ago! You can’t ask me that! What, you can…? Damn… Funnily enough, I’ve been blogging for a little while now and I have started to wonder how I can freshen things up a bit…

Ok, I guess the main goal is to improve on my review writing; maybe become a little more coherent when all I want to do is be a big old fanboy and gush. Other than that, I want to use the blog to somehow get Tad Williams to buy me a beer the next time he’s in London. Ditto with Michael Moorcock I think :o) I don’t think it will happen but a guy can dream… 

One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?

You probably know that I rate my reviews, right? Well, most of the time I do, every now and then I leave the numbers out and see what happens. Rating a book is habit forming though so I think I’ll probably carry on, but I really don’t think it’s worth the huge debate when people could be, I don’t know… reading a book instead ;o) It’s a big ol’ internet out there with thousands of people talking about books. If you don’t like the reviews with ratings, go and find a reviewer who doesn’t rate (there are loads out there) and vice versa. There you go, argument solved ;o)

Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?

Oh yay, definitely yay, although I’d personally aim for a little balance if you can. Makes it look as if you’ve thought about the book rather than just got hacked off with it ;o) You’ve got to be honest about how you found a book, otherwise what are you trying to tell your reader? If you’re worried about upsetting/confronting the writer then I’d say that I’ve never come across a writer that won’t accept constructive criticism about their work, just don’t make it personal. If you say why things didn’t work for you then no-one can argue with that really. I try and keep things balanced but will come down on parts of a book that didn’t work for me.

You have a major love for zombies. How would you convince someone, namely me, of their attraction and what exactly is it that makes them so compelling to you?

I think I probably said it best when I reviewed Mira Grant’s Blackout the other day, ‘I love zombie novels, zombie films, the works really. I don’t think there’s any other form of media where you can get such an honest insight into someones character while the guy next to them is having their lower intestine pulled out and eaten by hordes of the hungry dead. It’s a sub-genre that pretty much ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned :o)’

Zombie fiction gives me the best of two worlds, all wrapped up in one book, but only when it’s done right. You’ve got the spectacle; the post apocalyptic landscape and the living dead moving through it, feeding as they go… So, plenty of gore then! More importantly though there’s the potential for some amazing tales to be told here. The zombie apocalypse is a really extreme situation that will force any survivor to confront a whole load of tough questions while having to face up to their limits and push past them. You’ll have to do some
nasty things if you don’t want to get eaten, are you up to it? That’s where the story lies and that’s why you’ll find me reading this stuff.

There is a lot of good zombie fiction out there but I’ll just stick to recommending The Walking Dead comics (obvious choice) and Joe McKinney’s zombie books (less obvious but worth looking for, start with Dead City) Having said all that though, I read The Walking Dead #100 the other day and the ending there was pretty grim, even for me…

How important are blogs to your reading choices?

Pretty important, books like Myke Cole’s ‘Control Point’ would have flown right under my radar, if it hadn’t been for American bloggers talking them up, so it’s always worth keeping an eye open. A lot of the time though it’s just interesting to see what people thought of a book, even if I’m not going to read it. A lot of the time, these days, blogs for me are all about the person writing them rather than what they are reading. If Adam (The Wertzone) picked up a paranormal romance I’d still read the review as it was him writing it. Same deal with a few others.

How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?

The blogger/publisher relationship is still in its infancy really (maybe only a few years older than my blog), and very much a work in progress, but I think we have a better idea about how we want to work with publishers than they do with us, no doubt about it. There’s x number of publishers, all working to a certain model, but many times the number of bloggers/reviewers all working with wildly differing aims (and for different lengths of time). Blogger A accepts everything but only reads a fraction of it, Blogger B only reads in certain genres, Blogger C won’t touch ebooks and so on… All we really need is a publicity contact, what they’re trying to do is figure out how to use us to get the best exposure for whatever book they’re trying to plug. I get why they do that (it’s their business) but they can be a little heavy handed when they really don’t need to be. The good thing is though that both publishers and bloggers love books and that’s great common ground to build a relationship on. Maybe the best way forward is for us all to concentrate on our own individual relationships rather than worrying about things as a whole?

What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?

I’m just polishing off Chuck Wendig’s Mockingbird (which is superb, you need to read it) [Ed. note: I have that on my review pile] and then I’ll be onto James Maxey’s Hush after that. What am I looking forward to…? Nothing springs to mind in a big way (I’m trying to concentrate on the reading pile rather than what’s appearing in bookstores) but I am looking forward to having some time to crack open The Sword and Sorcery Anthology. I’m getting into ‘Sword and Sorcery’ more and more so a whole anthology of the stuff is just what the doctor ordered. Actually, thinking about it, I’m already looking forward to the next trade paperback of The Goon but that’s a year away at least… And I’ve got a long train journey, next week, where I’m looking forward to reading at least one thick book (The Heroes? Maybe…) that I haven’t been able to pick up yet. Maybe I am looking forward to some books after all!

Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?

Strawberry Fruitella and trying to teach my two year old daughter not to use all the swear words that I do (she can come up with her own). [Ed. note: That sounds familiar!] Other than that, dunno really… The saturation of the media with Dr Who has awakened my inner six year old so I am enjoying catching upwith all the old Dr Who shows on DVD… I’m also trying to wean myself off buying those really cute little Lego figures that you can buy in Forbidden Planet. I say that they’re for Hope, when she’s a bit older, but I’m not kidding anyone…

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 used to shelve my books by author and in series order; I also used to have ‘Fantasy Shelves’, ‘Sci-Fi Shelves’ and ‘Horror Shelves’ that my books would go on. Sad but true, at least I knew where everything was. My wife though… Sue favours a ‘chaos shelving’ system where everything is thrown on the shelves at random and you never know what you’re going to find next. I was out at work when we had the new shelves put in and Sue was the one who put the books back… You can guess what it looks like at the moment… :o(

Thanks so much, Graeme. I really enjoyed your answers, though I still don’t know whether I’m sold on zombies! If you haven’t visited Graeme’s blog before, what are you waiting for? You can also follow him on Twitter.