I’m always excited when I discover another Dutch-speaking blogger, so discovering DraumrKopa‘s Cindy Callens a few years ago was rather cool. I also had the chance to catch up with Cindy, albeit briefly, at World Fantasy two years ago and hopefully I’ll see her again at Nine Worlds later this year. Cindy is not just an interesting blogger, she also has some really interesting hobbies and I was glad she agreed to be a guest in my blogger query series.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Cindy Callens?
I’m a 23-year-old Belgian girl, currently living and studying in the UK. I’ve been passionate about books since I was little. Fantasy and Science-Fiction have always been the main genres that I read, but I also like to read a classic from time to time, or a good thriller. I’m a scientist, specialized in Plant Biotechnology and I’m currently working in a lab at the University of Nottingham, finishing my Masters degree.
What got you into blogging?
I discovered book blogs about a year before I started blogging myself. I was surprised that there was something like it out there! I’d always been quite alone in my passionate love for books. A lot of my friends did read, but nobody came near the amount of time and energy (and money) I spent on books. I’d been trying to blog before, but I could never really find a subject that I could keep talking about. But reading those book blogs I slowly formed the idea of starting one myself. After that it was just a matter of making the blog and writing the first few posts. It was scary at first, but I’m really glad I did it. It has giving me more than I could have hoped for.
Why Draumr Kópa?
That’s a really good question! (Confession time) I honestly don’t really know how to pronounce it myself! It is a spell, used in the Inheritance Cycle written by Christopher Paolini. It shows Eragon an image of what or who he wants to see on the surface of still water. It is a name I used for my previous blog that contained just a few random posts. I used that same blog, that was already set up, to write my first posts about books. Somehow I never got around to changing the name and when the time came that I did want to change it, I figured it was a bit too late. I’ve now really grown to like it though.
What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?
I don’t think I have a really unique selling point at the moment. I’ve been swamped with work for school the previous two years. Getting to graduation day has been a priority that has taking up a lot of my time. These days I mostly post reviews, spotlights and the occasional interview. I’m trying to get a few of my original features back on track, like the monthly Cover Artist post. The ‘Featured Series’ is also something I’d really like to continue, though I had to take a break from that unfortunately. Taking whole series with you when you’re moving to another country isn’t really an option.
What are your goals for your blog?
Reviving the monthly and weekly features would be great and getting a more consistent stream of posts once I graduate in June is also one of my goals. So far though I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved. I never had the ambition for my blog to become something big. I think the most important thing is that I could doing what I love and that is reading lots of books and telling other people about that. As long as I can keep doing that, I’m more than happy.
I do have some new ideas that I carefully write down in my notebook. I hope I’ll soon have the time to work on them properly.
One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?
I don’t rate on the blog. During the first year of the blog’s existence I did do it, but I soon stopped. Most of the times I can’t put a rating on my feelings towards a book. The way I feel after reading a book is hard to convert to a mere number or amount of stars. It’s far more complex than that. That’s also why I don’t like rating on Goodreads either. I’m always conflicted about the number of stars I should give. Three? Or maybe four? Three and a half? It only causes frustration (on my part) and I think my review represents my thoughts about the book better than any rating can.
I did get some comments when I stopped rating the books I reviewed. Some of my readers really depended on the rating to form their final opinion about the book. It might sound weird, but that gave me the ultimate sign that I’d made the right choice. The rating shouldn’t be the thing that decides if you’re going to buy/read the book or not. I want you to decide that based on the whole package.
Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?
Sometimes negative reviews are way easier to write than positive ones. I think all reviewers have been there. When a book is great and you loved it and you want to shout from the rooftops that everyone should buy it, that’s mostly the only thing you have to say about it for a while. I often started at a page with the words “This was just awesome. Buy it. Read it.”, but of course you have to write more.
Negative reviews are easier because most of the times you know what is bothering you about the book. It might be the characters, the story line, the writing style or the narrative; it’s easy to write a whole paragraph about it. Do I like writing negative reviews? Not particularly. I know the author has poured their heart and soul into their book and I know that getting critique is scary and can be hurtful. I try to never be harsh or snarky. When I write a negative review I want it to be clear that this is just one opinion, mine, but that another reader may as well like all the things I didn’t.
One of the most important things for me personally as a book blogger is honesty. If I didn’t like the book, I’ll say it and I’ll tell you why. In that way, I think negative reviews are just a part of the bigger whole.
How important are blogs to your reading choices?
Very important. I have picked up on some amazing books that I might have missed otherwise by reading book blogs. They have definitely broadened my knowledge of books and they have presented me with new and exciting choices that I wouldn’t have had just in the bookshop on my own.
How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?
I think they play an important role in the book business. If a lot of book bloggers are excited about a book before it is published, the readers of those blogs will automatically get curious and want to read it as well. Bloggers and reviewers can have a big impact on how a certain book is perceived and they can create a ‘hype’ that can boost a books sales and readership quite a bit. (This is all personal opinion and guessing by the way, I have never seen actual numbers of the impact of book blogs on sales.)
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?
I’m currently reading ‘Knight’s Shadow’ by Sebastien de Castell. It’s a book I’ve been looking forward to since finishing ‘Traitor’s Blade’. I absolutely loved that first book in the Greatcoats series and the second one is already living up to its promise. So far, it’s already been a great read.
Do I have to choose only one book that I’m eagerly awaiting? Because I can think of quite a few. There are the obvious ones: ‘The Winds of Winter’ by George R.R. Martin, ‘The Doors of Stone’ by Patrick Rothfuss and ‘The Thorn of Emberlain’ by Scott Lynch.
I’m also really looking forward to reading ‘Day Four’ by Sarah Lotz. ‘The Three’ was a phenomenal book and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
A completely new book that I’m looking forward to is ‘The Dinosaur Lords’ by Victor Milan. It just sounds and looks really awesome!
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
Yes, I am very passionate about quidditch. Not the book kind, the real kind. You’ve heard it right, quidditch is an actual, real life sport! It’s been around since 2005 when two guys in America decided it would be fun to try out quidditch in real life. What started as a game has now turned into a full blown sport with one of the most accepting and loving communities I’ve ever seen. Quidditch is a mix between rugby, dodgeball and handball, but with a broom! It’s a rough game, but it’s so much fun. It is the only full-contact, mixed-gender sport out there and it’s known for its inclusivity. Everyone is welcome! I’m currently playing for the Ghent Gargoyles, with whom I will be competing at the European Quidditch Games in Oxford next month. I’m also their PR and Social Media “Guardian” and I have a position as Communications Director in the Belgian Quidditch Federation. Feel free to ask me any questions you have about the sport or look on youtube for some awesome videos (tip: ‘Southwest Fantasy Tournament’ and ‘Our Sport Quidditch’)
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 them alphabetically, but now I’ve changed everything and now they’re all sorted by publisher. Within a publisher “group” of books, all series are together, but there is no particular order really. I like chaos too much.