One of the biggest names in SFF book blogging is The Wertzone. I think there are few book bloggers who haven’t heard of it and its proprietor Adam Whitehead. Covering far more than just books, The Wertzone is one of the places to keep up to date with genre news. Of course I wanted to know more about the man behind the blog, so I asked Adam to participate in a Blogger Query and he was kind enough to say yes! Here are his answers.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Adam Whitehead?
I’m a 33-year old guy who lives in Colchester, the oldest town in the UK. I’ve been into SFF since my parents took me to see Return of the Jedi as a four-year-old and bought me lots of Transformers toys the following year. I’ve had a lot of jobs, including working as a hospital housekeeper and a mobile phone salesperson, but currently work in electrical sales. After years of confirmed bachelordom, I’m also about to move in with my girlfriend of three years :) [Ed. Note: Exciting! Congrats :-)]
What got you into blogging?
It was suggested to me as something I could do after about a year of working as a moderator on the Westeros.org forums and posting reviews and thoughts on various topics there. Also, I’d been publishing Amazon reviews for several years and it seemed a good way of collecting them together in another place.
Why The Wertzone?
My tradition forum and online name – Werthead – came from trying to register my real name as an email account, failing, and trying to find something similar but distinctive. The blog name was derived from that. I probably should change it to something less random, but every time I suggest it people complain, so I think I’m stuck with it!
What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?
Covering the genre across multiple media, with special focus on computer games, as well as just books. [Ed. Note: Yes, the games coverage often leads to Wiebe exclaiming that he needs a new PC.]
What are your goals for your blog?
To inform and hopefully entertain along the way.
One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?
My reviews are reposted to various other places where ratings are required (such as Amazon), so I rate. However, I don’t take it too seriously. The review is the important thing and the rating is, at best, an at-a-glance summary of limited value by itself.
Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?
Definitely yay, but only if I finish the book in question. Since I tend not to finish books I hate, bad reviews are relatively rare on the blog. I am trying to finish more bad books to give more balanced reviews, but it is difficult to justify delaying reading better books for that.
You’ve recently been published for the first time as a contributor to Beyond the Wall, a book of essays on Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. What was that experience like? Was it fun to see the process from the other side for a change?
It was fairly straightforward. It was particularly rewarding to see the process by which I’d come up with ideas and the editor would identify areas which required further exploration and development, which would in turn spark further ideas and make the essay much stronger. However, seeing the back-and-forth across just 3,000 words made me appreciate more how much work it must take to edit a 100,000 word novel!
You’ve written quite in-depth about the three major sagas of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Jordan’s The Wheel of Time and Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen, though more on the first two than the latter. Which of the three is closest to your heart and why?
I started reading The Wheel of Time quite early in my fantasy reading days, so there is a strong element of nostalgia there. A Song of Ice and Fire and its fandom has had a much greater personal impact on me, however, including inspiring me to start the blog and meeting lots of my favourite authors, so I’d have to go with that one.
How important are blogs to your reading choices?
Fairly. Seeing books get a lot of early buzz on blogs can determine how much coverage they get on other blogs (such as mine) as well as among the general readership, and that can inspire reading choices. However, it’s also great fun to find a really good book that’s slipped past everyone’s radars and has come out of nowhere.
How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?
They’re a fairly important part of the system now, with blogger buzz helping build up and promote books. Reviewers do have to be careful not to be co-opted by the system too much, however, and they should try to retain their impartiality.
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?
I’ve just finished Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson. [Ed. Note: The review for it is up already!] My most eagerly-awaited book at the moment is probably A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time novel.
Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?
SF TV shows, music and Formula One racing :)
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?
Favourite authors on top of the shelves and then moving down fairly randomly. Due to the number of review copies I’m sent, there’s also usually towering piles of books in every spare corner, at least until I’m inspired enough to take them down the charity shop!
Thank you for the interview, Adam! If you don’t already know where to find The Wertzone, you can find it here. And you can also follow Adam on Twitter.