You guys know the drill by now, right? Or do you? Yes, it’s that time of the week again where we go out into the big World Wide Web and hunt down a blogger to answer questions for us. Because we love bloggers. A bit. Just a little bit. And this week, we have Aidan Moher of A Dribble of Ink answering questions for us. So sit back with a cuppa, relax and have a nice little read of our interview with him. And if you like it, come back next week for our guest post kindly written by Aidan for us .
1. Why did you start blogging?
In the spring of 2007, I graduated with a diploma in web design and, not falling immediately into a job, I wanted some avenue to flex my newfound skills, as well as something that might act as a centre piece for the portfolio I was assembling for myself. Around that same time, through a series of fortuitous events, and knowing the right people, I had acquired ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) or two novels: Acacia: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham, and The Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks. Durham’s novel was gaining some steam, through the publicity work of the tireless, and always awesome, Colleen Lindsay, and Brooks is, well, Terry Brooks, the man responsible for launching contemporary Fantasy to its current levels of popularity. I have piles of ARCs sitting around my apartment now, but the feeling of having those two books, before anyone else, was pretty special. So, I thought I’d write about them.
Naturally, a sense of self importance played a role in establishing A Dribble of Ink. I mean, those ARCs were nice, and surely there were some readers out there that would be interested in hearing the thoughts of another random Internet dude, right? I mean, they were already listening to the guys at Neth Space, SFF World, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist and the other early blogs, and if they could do it, why not me?
Of course, that was a lot of hot air. I never expected to reach an audience like those blogs, I was just desperate for the opportunity to write about a genre that I loved, and (hopefully) connect with a few other readers with similar tastes to mine. I don’t have a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy readers in my life. Well, scratch that, I didn’t have a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy readers in my life at that time. Now, thanks to A Dribble of Ink, I’ve got hundreds.
2. Are you on Twitter? If so, do you think it’s useful?
I’m on Twitter, (@adribbleofink) and have been since before most people knew about it. It’s become a vital part of marketing the content on my blog, becoming closer with my readers and the SFF community in general, and providing a venue for those everyday, quick hit conversations and bits of news that constantly keep me on my toes as a blogger. There’s no better way to connect with your favourite author/editor/blogger than by seeking them out on Twitter and sending them a friendly, polite ‘hello!’
It’s been interesting to watch Twitter’s evolution and how it has grown symbiotically alongside the blogosphere. In many ways, the relationship between the two is immensely beneficial to blogs. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a terrific venue for advertising blog content and driving traffic to the various bits of awesome content that appears online each day. Conversely, I’ve often found myself thinking that the relationship is becoming more parasitic than symbiotic. Blogs provide all of the meaty, worthwhile content that Twitter isn’t suitable for (you can’t write a 3,000 word piece of criticism on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy on Twitter), but I’ve noticed in the past couple of years that Twitter is severely cutting into the amount of discussion that happens in the comments section of my blog posts. These days, people come to the blog, read the article, and then head back to Twitter for snark and discussion. I’ve spoken with several people who have indicated that Twitter is directly responsible for a decrease in their blogging activity.
At the end of the day, the important thing is that discussion and the overall health of the SFF community is strong. Blogs and Twitter as mediums for discussion both bring strengths and weaknesses to the table, but, they strengthen the community and play a role in allowing the SFF conversation to continue to grow larger and more passionate than ever.
3. What are your favourite blogs and why?
The blogosphere is a big place, and most of the blogs that have been around for over six months generally have a feature or two I admire, whether it’s the deep insight and wide knowledge of Larry Nolen at The OF Blog, the humour and torrid reading pace of Justin Landon at Staffer’s Book Review, or the sharp, intelligent writing of Sarah Chorn at Bookworm Blues. I find that my favourite blogs change from month-to-month, but those three, along with The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review, The Ranting Dragon and Pornokitsch, are mainstays that I find myself visiting on a regular basis. A lot of this has to do with the relationships I’ve built with these bloggers, who I now consider friends.
In addition to this, there are many author blogs that I adore. Daniel Abraham, N.K. Jemisin and Jim C. Hines are always writing intelligent things. Sam Sykes alternates between amusing, thoughtful and downright brilliant. The World SF Blog, edited by Lavie Tidhar and a few others, is a terrific resource that opens up the worldwide realm of genre fiction.
But, now I feel like I’ve listed so many different blogs that I’ll end up offending those I’ve forgotten or left off the list. For more, the sidebar on my blog contains links to all my favourites. Check it out.
4. What are your all-time favourite reads?
Oh, goodness. Does anyone ever feel comfortable answering this question? I’ll limit myself to three, chronologically.
Childhood: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Forget the ridiculous (though beautiful) Spike Jonze film. This book, written and illustrated by Sendak, is a beautiful exploration of youth, growing up and finding strength and compassion within one’s self. I grew up on a small island, and much of my childhood was spent adventuring in the forests that surrounded my home. It was alive with dangers and magic, journeys, heroics and wondrous imagination. So much of that was inspired by Where the Wild Things Are.
Adolescence: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
As I grew from childhood and into adolescence, I veered away from Fantasy, magic and adventure, replacing them instead with laser guns, time portals and spacefaring. Science Fiction ruled much of my pre-adolescence. I still remember being in grade four, I was nine, and getting gruff from my teacher because I wasn’t reading the assigned novel during silent reading. It was The Cay by Theodore Taylor, appropriate for most readers my age. Instead of reading The Cay, I was reading Jurassic Park. I lost touch with Fantasy because, well . . . I was a boy and Fantasy was full of princesses, unicorns and other such girly stuff. I don’t know where I got such ideas, certainly not from my parents, but there they were.
At age eleven, however, my mom finally convinced me to give The Hobbit a shot. She was an avid reader of both Fantasy and Science Fiction, and rarely steered me wrong. I expect the only reason I gave The Hobbit a shot, however, was because of the languorous, fiery Smaug, stretched out atop his pile of gold, scrolls of gold-etched dwarfish runes capped the top and bottom of the book’s cover. It was pretty cool. I still own that copy of The Hobbit I read it, and fell in love. The rest, if you’ll pardon the expression, is history.
Adulthood: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
One of my good friends, Shawn Speakman, often spoke of the magic in this book, mentioning time and again how important it was that I read it. Being somewhat stubborn, as evidenced by my previous dismissal of the entire Fantasy genre, and anxious about the idea that a novel couldn’t be that good, and only disappointment awaited if I decided finally to read it, I put the novel off for years. Until, finally, on a backpack trip through Eastern Europe with my (now) wife, I bent to pressure and brought it along. Maybe it was the romance of travelling by train while reading it, maybe it was the magic love and adoration for literary treasures that form the book’s core, or maybe it’s just that good, but, again, I fell in love. A tale of love lost, and love found, The Shadow of the Wind is tragic and heartening, melancholy and funny, and everything in between.
5. What are you reading at the moment?
Funny enough, I’m not reading genre fiction at the moment. I’m currently devouring Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is an accessible book on science, creation, life, space and everything in between. It’s not the deepest read, and I’m often frustrated that he doesn’t further explain some of the concepts and ideas that he discusses, but it is fun.
Up next, like many others, I plan to re-read The Hobbit in preparation for the film. I mentioned in the previous question that I consider it one of my all-time favourite novels, and it’s always a delight to fall back into Tolkien’s world.
6. What platform do you use when blogging?
I use the only platform I feel is a genuinely viable option for any blogger: WordPress. Blogger is generally more popular for the average blogger, it’s easy to set up and people can be going in minutes, but nothing beats a self-hosted WordPress blog. I host on my own domain, built my blogging template from the ground up, so it runs silky smooth and looks (in my opinion) pretty great. Of course, I’m a web developer by day and welcome the challenge of maintaining and establishing a blog that goes above and beyond the average.
7. What is your best blogging moment? (i.e. did you get to interview a certain author? Were you contacted by a publisher personally?)
In 2011, Guy Gavriel Kay, one of the most celebrated Fantasy authors, well . . . ever, was doing a signing in Victoria, BC, about an hour-and-a-half from where I lived.
Great! I thought. I’d love to hear him speak, and I can even get one of my books signed.
You see, Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my literary heroes. Every book I plot out, every sentence I write, strives to incorporate something that I’ve learned from reading his novels. I often (always) fall short, but that is my goal, however lofty. So, meeting him would be pretty cool, yah? I hopped in my car, drove through several storm clouds (literally, I had to drive through a high mountain pass, capped in a tremendous storm), and made it to the signing just in the nick of time. Kay spoke, read from his novel, and enchanted the 75 or so people who had shown up. Everyone lined up to have their books signed. Being alone, I decided to wander around the bookstore, and wait until the line died down a bit. Forty-five minutes later, I was more-or-less the last in line, a bookstore employee came over to me and asked for my name.
“Aidan Moher,” I said. He wrote it down on a sticky note and stuck it on the appropriate page in my book.
When it was finally my turn, I put my book down in front of Kay and thanked him for coming all the way to Victoria for a signing. He was gracious and we shared a few more words. Then, he opened my book and looked down at the yellow sticky note. He looked up at me, then back down at the note. Then he said, “Why . . . I know you!”
Shellshocked, I believe my reply was, “Argh, hrmerglll, um . . . eek?”
Kay went on to explain that he was familiar with my blog, and introduced me to several of the staff members at the bookstore. We spoke for a while longer, and have since kept up correspondence via email.
It was one of the first moments where my blog felt real. And for that, I’m eternally grateful to Mr. Kay.
8. What advantages does blogging have for you?
I mentioned earlier that one the most advantageous aspects of blogging is its role in introducing me to the general Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom that I would struggle to find otherwise. I’ve made many good friends in the five plus years since A Dribble of Ink opened its doors, and I’ve had endless entertaining discussion with terribly smart people whom I wouldn’t otherwise have made contact with.
Oh, and all the free books. It’d be remiss not to mention those.
9. Do you plan to extend your blog in the future? If so, how?
Absolutely. A blog is an organic entity, always evolving, growing and changing as the environment changes around it. The blogosphere in general has changed quite significantly since I first arrived, thanks in part to the publishing world noticing that we’re more than just an enthusiast crowd and are actually an integral (if, at the end of the day, small) cog in the bookselling world. It’s important for bloggers to continually think about their place within the overall discussion of the genre, and how they best want to fit themselves into it. For some bloggers, that’s reviewing as many books as they can, or keeping up with all the latest news. For me, the evolution of my blog has led me to try to create a place that challenges readers, encourages discussion and gives a voice to a wide variety of people within the genre fandom, which is why I’ve been working on publishing more guest posts these days. Hopefully that continues into the future.
10. What would you recommend to anyone looking to start a blog?
The best advice? Find your voice. Or, rather, allow it to find its way into your writing naturally. It’s so easy to tell yourself that you’re doing it wrong. “Pat does it this way.” or, “Staffer’s Book Review does it that way.” Well, sure, they are. They’ve both taken the time to figure out what kind of content they want to produce, how they want to produce it and allow themselves to write and join the discussion with their own voice. Most leaders, in any industry, have gotten to where they are because they’ve allowed their voice to shine through.
This isn’t a call to be complacent, it’s healthy to challenge yourself, to put yourself up against your favourite bloggers and learn how you can become a better pundit yourself, but don’t feel like you’re expected to do something one way, just because the other guys do so.
11. Do you write yourself? If so, has blogging helped or hindered your writing?
Absolutely. I’ve been writing since before I can remember, and am actively pursuing a side-career as a novelist/short story writer. But, then, aren’t we all?
The relationship between blogging and writing is something of a double-edged sword, though. See, I’m an adult. I have a full-time job, a wife, a social life and other commitments. Like anyone, I have to carefully juggle my time and very consciously divide it between my various hobbies. Blogging is one of those hobbies, one that borders on a second job, and occupies the same time during my day that I would normally spend writing. After I’m done working on blog-related stuff, I have to then find another handful of hours to write. It’s tough, but I manage.
On the flip side, blogging has opened so many doors for me in a professional sense that it’s been worth every hour lost where I could have been writing fiction. I’ve become acquainted and formed friendships with some of the brightest and kindest authors/editors/publicists and fans in the industry. When it comes time, those connections won’t make or break any potential publishing deal, only a rock solid manuscript will do that, but it might give me a small little push in the right direction, a leg up over the writer I’d be if I hadn’t started my blog. Which is pretty cool.
Wow – so all that remains for us to say is a big THANK YOU to Aidan for giving us these wonderful answers and to remind you to check back later for a guest post from him. If you fancy chatting to Aidan, you can follow him on twitter: @adribbleofink or you can head on over to his blog www.aidanmoher.com/blog.