Let me introduce you all today to Diane Nelson....let's get to know a little bit about her shall we!
1. Tell my readers a little bit about yourself before we go on.
I spent most of my formative, wage-earning years doing a lot of technical writing, both in academia and in the corporate world. Over time I specialized (conscripted might be a better term) in helping authors for whom English wasn’t their native language. That gave me an entirely new skill set in looking at sentence and narrative structure (yes, even technical papers have those requirements), economic use of language … everything except POV (point of view). That little devil required a few mis-steps and a boatload of word count before I figured out exactly what it meant and how to evaluate it.
Experience is the mother of all…
I read, a lot: on average 300-500 books per year. My record marathon was 14 Janet Evanovich Steph Plum books in less than 72 hours (OK they aren’t Shakespeare but words is words). I am, in short, a speed reader with the added bonus of having an above average reading comprehension score.
I also read *everything*, even literary fiction, although my strong preference lately has been for dark urban fantasy, paranormal and SciFi. What I don’t read is non-fiction (after a lifetime of technical papers). My bad, but who knows, that could change.
2. When reading a book that you are reviewing, what are you basically looking forward to when you do read the book?
First off, I look for a well-developed plot without glaring continuity errors (flying from NYC to Moscow, without the assistance of teleportation in a couple of hours, getting from midtown Manhattan at rush hour over to the Bronx in 15 minutes, geographic boo-boos, etc). Secondly I zoom in on character development: are they realistically portrayed, are they sympathetic, can I root for them, do I *care* about them. Next, I analyze narrative structure: too much passive voice, purple prose, POV, tense mishaps, unwieldy run-on and on and on sentences, punctuation challenges. Dialog is always on my mind: is it realistic? If your MC is a teenager from the inner city, then that informs how your character thinks and talks. How well does the author handle accents, the sex of the character (you would be surprised how many female authors feminize their male characters). I also look for the author’s ‘Voice’ – it’s the way of organizing and presenting a story that’s unique to the writer.
As if that’s not enough to worry about, I also consider the genre. Each one has its own unique forms that dictate not only how a story is told but also how it concludes. Most romance sub-genres all require the HEA or the less-than-satisfactory HFN. The reviewer also has to be mindful of current trends/styles/popular-culture preferences and be able to anchor this book or author to others like it.
In other words, you need to understand the history of a genre and be able to speak to how well what you are reading now fulfills the expectations of the craft in general. Obviously if you don’t read a lot, that simply isn’t going to be part of your skill set as a reviewer.
3. Is there a specific genre that you read the most? If so, what is it and why?
Dark urban fantasy speaks to me at a visceral level because my preference is for morally compromised MCs who find themselves in situations where doing the right thing is not an automatic gimme. I think it’s sometimes easier to press against boundaries, or even step outside them, when you have command of a ‘Verse that allows suspension of disbelief.
4. If you could tell us fellow authors anything from the reviewer’s point of view to make our stories better, what would it be?
And while I’ve gone on a bit about ‘current fashions’ in writing and being able to craft stories to fit those parameters, the truth is that popular expectations (or the vicissitudes of a publishing industry committed to the if-you-liked-this-lemme-give-you ten-more-just-like-it mentality)are not necessarily the best way to tell *your* story. But before you decide to break the rules, make sure you understand completely what those rules entail.
5. What is probably the best book that you’ve reviewed so far and why did you like it?
*Gulp* THE best book. I’m not sure I can answer that in a typical fashion. Instead, let me tell you about a very *unique* book: The Preservation of the Olive Branch by Brendan Gisby, a very talented Scottish author for whom I’ve developed a great deal of respect. It’s introspective at an astonishing level. It’s the author looking at himself and why he wrote what he did years before, a self-analysis without artifice, a neverending surprise at the insights that exist just at a level of perception you might not have been aware of. If you ever wondered how you might look at your own work at some distant future time, give this a read. My review: http://sandinmyshoesreviews.wordpress.com/literary/
6. Have you ever thought about writing a story yourself? If so, what would you like to write?
Well, I am a published author with a pen name (Nya Rawlyns for ‘not YA’) and my own. The ‘real me’ writes YA and contemporary women’s fiction/chicklit/romcom. The Nya-me writes dark urban fantasy (whoah, surprise!), erotic romance and paranormal.
Review site: http://sandinmyshoesreviews.wordpress.com/
Nya Rawlyns (Books Worth Reviewing): http://www.romancingwords.com/books-worth-reviewing1.html