Hello everyone! On this fine Wednesday we give you a blogger interview with Stefan Fergus of Civilian Reader – you know the drill by now, so without further ado – I’m handing you over to him!
1. Why did you start blogging?
Because I wanted to talk about what I was reading. I was introduced to blogging in university, in an online journalism class. At the time, I’d been writing, editing, and distributing a music fanzine which was rather expensive. Blogging seemed to be the answer! So I started to blog about music. When I started to think about writing about what I was reading, it made perfect sense to do it online. So I did. (Incidentally, even the fanzine had a SF/F link: it was called M.W.R.I. – “Music With Rock In” from Pratchett’s Soul Music.)
2. What keeps you blogging?
Obsession? I’ve always written about stuff I like. My entire life, I’ve always wanted to be a journalist or writer. And I enjoy doing it, so I just keep doing it. It’s fun and relaxing, and I like to keep myself busy. Originally, it was practice for my studies – my first book reviews were actually non-fiction books I was using for my research, so writing about them helped me organize my thoughts, etc. I will always read, and I think I’ll always want to write about what I’ve read.
3. Are you on Twitter? If so, do you think it’s useful?
Yes and yes. Before I stumbled onto Twitter, the blog was getting bigger slowly. When I started spending more time on twitter and through re-Tweets, shout-outs and just making connections with authors, publishers, and other bloggers, traffic just exploded (it’s more than doubled in the past eight months alone). At the beginning, I benefited a huge amount from RTs from Amanda at Floor-To-Ceiling Books, Michael at Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review (who I met in New York and is just as nice in person as on Twitter), Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, and even a couple from Pornokitsch and Aidan from A Dribble of Ink. Which was awesome, because I love all of those sites. I’ve discovered many other great blogs through Twitter (Staffer’s Musings, Fantasy-Faction, Fantastical Librarian, Speculative Scotsman, Bookworm Blues, Ranting Dragon,Iceberg Ink – to name but five), as well as more awesome authors than I can probably ever hope to read.
4. What are your all-time favourite reads?
This is one of those questions that always makes me nervous. How long can the list be? How can I only pick a small selection?! I’ll give you a small selection from the ever-growing Favourites Shelf.
My passion for reading was ignited by Tai-Pan by James Clavell, which I devoured over a holiday. Terry Pratchett’s Guards series as a single pick – I’ve read them so many times, each time I find something new. I’ve also bought them multiple times – I think I’ve given them as gifts to at least five people. The man is a genius. Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned, which I always read together. James Patterson’s Violets Are Blue – it’s not necessarily his best novel, but it was the one that introduced me to his Alex Cross series and thrillers in general, a genre I still very much love. Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, the book that got me back into fantasy. Mark Charan Newton’s Legends of the Red Sun also belongs on a list of favourites – I love the world, premise and Mark’s writing. Peter V. Brett’s The Painted Man was also one of my favourites read in the past year. Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Loved it. Best new reads? Daniel Polansky, N.K. Jemisin, Myke Cole, and Aaron Dembski-Bowden.
5. Has blogging changed how you read?
Absolutely. Most notably, I read a lot more than I used to. This is partly because I have more to read. I don’t re-read as often as I used to, which is a pity. Sometimes, given the size of the tottering TBR pile, I can sometimes feel “obliged” to read certain books. Which can affect the enjoyment of any book, the classic “GCSE reading list effect”. I read fewer “old” novels, too, which is something I really want to remedy. Strangely, and this is only a recent realization, I finish fewer series. I have no idea why, but the number of final parts of series I have unread on my Kindle or on my TBR mountain is increasing. I really ought to spend a month this year finishing off and catching up with certain series.
6. Do you use any book-specific social networks? (For example Goodreads)
I use Facebook, but I haven’t really made much of a push into Goodreads. I have a Goodreads account, and I do use it, but probably not as much as I could. I’ve found Twitter is most useful for Civilian Reader at this point. I should probably experiment with Goodreads, and try to make more of the Civilian Reader Facebook page.
7. What is your best blogging moment? (i.e. did you get to interview a certain author? Were you contacted by a publisher personally?)
There have been so many! The first author interview (MD Lachlan) was pretty awesome. Being approached by an author or publisher about a book that’s coming out in a few months, asking if I’d like to review it or something, is always nice.
I wrote a post that was a reaction to a New Republic article about the “conservative monopoly on thrillers” (I thought the author of the piece was drawing excessive conclusions) in the United States, and Joe Finder sent me an email complimenting me on the piece – that was very cool.
The first time I had a quote on a finished book (it was actually the French edition of The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay-Grimwood). Going to Book Expo America was eye-opening – and insane! Meeting other book bloggers has also been really inspiring. I met quite a few, now, and it was great to be able to think, “These are My People,” and just geek out about books.
Getting to hang out with a few authors in New York was great. Myke Cole and Peter V. Brett were particularly friendly and welcoming, and one day we met up in a bar, and spent a couple hours talking about books, the potential death of bookstores as we know them, writing, fans (theirs, not mine…).
8. What content does your blog cover? (i.e. Just books, or other things?)
It used to be just book reviews – fiction and non-fiction, but then splintered into two blogs to keep them separate. Then I added interviews, guest posts, news posts, etc. And then I added comics and graphic novels in the past year. I’ve also been posting the occasional movie/TV-related post, and a handful of music posts (I’m still obsessive about rock music).
9. What would you recommend to anyone looking to start a blog?
Don’t do it because you want to make a name for yourself. That’ll happen organically, if your site is good and people can tell that you know what you’re talking about and have something to say. Just do it because you love reading, and write about what you love. Also, find someone to edit your work, and someone who you can talk to about it offline – Alyssa has probably been the single best thing to happen to Civilian Reader since it started, and she’s helped me improve my writing tenfold. And there are now fewer typos, etc!
10. Do you write yourself? If so, has blogging helped or hindered your writing?
I do, yes. Blogging has… well, it’s done both. It’s helped because I’ve learned about the publishing process. A novel will never be perfect when you first submit it to anyone. That’s why there are multiple drafts, agent input and editor input. So it’s helped me loosen up a little my own expectations of what a first draft should be.
It’s hindered, though, because I’m also slightly intimidated by what is out there. There are also just too many good books I have to read! Which gets in the way of writing a little more often than I should let it…
Thank you to Stefan for agreeing to let us interview him, we hope you enjoyed this blog post! Let us know what you think of our new blogger interview initiative below!