Today, I interview Lauren, the popular authority on what makes a great beach read or in her words–a sexy little romance.
I don’t know how much weight readers put into book reviews when it comes to choosing the next great read. For me, I look at a book jacket first—an eye-catching cover, an intriguing blurb and finally, a first-page-hook that will prompt me into giving it a whirl. I do consider reviews when I’m on the fence. But I’m also one of those people who believe that if the opinions are fifty-fifty, it still may be worth my time. After all, opinions are subjective.
For authors, reviews can be a bit more important. They can make or break them—if not in sales, in confidence. A smart writer will learn to read them, extract useful feedback, and then put those opinions behind them. Well, maybe not the shiny 5-star ones with the gushing compliments. Those are for framing—if not on a wall, then in the author’s mind.
As much as we writers crave an honest opinion, the sad truth is, not many readers will take the time to rank a book, let alone pen a review. So, we turn to those who are only too happy to provide such services. We lay our necks on the chopping block and let a stranger decide if it will be thumbs-up or down. I ran across just such a reviewer when I was looking for feedback on my first book. She gives an honest opinion on the work of well-known authors and newbies alike. Her name is Lauren and her award-winning blog is Romance Novels for the Beach. She is known for her razor-sharp honesty, comedic wit, and seemingly superhuman book consumption. Lauren devours books like a restaurant critic tending her last meal, savoring each morsel and then summarizing it with glaring candor.
She is my hero. (I’m a slow reader and even slower reviewer.)
Let’s get to know Lauren.
Generally speaking, how far into a book do you get before you know if you’re going to like it or not?
I would say I have a pretty good feel for a book within the first 10% or so. I’m all about first impressions! By that time, we’ve usually been introduced to most of the main players, and are somewhat familiar with the writing style of the author. I’m not a huge fan of slow builds in novels or waiting until the very last minute for things to come together. Gotta get me hooked from the get go!
What is your read and review process? Do you take notes as you go, or read and then write your impressions when done? Tell us, please!
I feel like if I took notes as I went along I’d have a book of my own by the time I was done! It would also probably feel more like work, or a book report. I always wait until I’ve finished the book before I pull out my blogging notebook, and jot down some general first impressions. That way I can actually sit back, relax, and enjoy the reading process. I find it can take me a while before I actually have the time to sit down and format my reviews at the computer, so taking notes right when I finish is a good way to capture all of my initial thoughts. I also limit myself to only taking up one page in my blogging notebook for notes on any one particular book. Again, I have the tendency to ramble, so I’ve got to limit myself somehow!
On any given day, how many books do you have in your TBR pile?
Oh, my goodness. The infamous TBR pile. As of right now, I have about 210 books waiting for me on my Kindle which I could start immediately. However, I have a pretty nasty habit when it comes to series. If I read the first book in a series, and absolutely love it, I’ll immediately go online and get all of the other books in the series right away. So, technically if you add in all the sequels and prequels which I’ve purchased for books I haven’t even read yet, that TBR list jumps to about 700. I know, I know, I have a problem.
You clearly spell out your submission policy on your blog. However, I’m betting some people choose to ignore that page or simply believe that you’ll love their book no matter what. Reading is subjective and not everyone is going to love the same thing. Receiving a bad review comes with being a writer and most of us put on our big girl/boy pants and deal. Have you ever had an author unleash on you because of the review you gave their book?
Yes, I have, and it was one of the worst experiences ever. My review policy is actually a fairly recent addition to my blog, and it’s solely because of the negative reaction one author had to my review of her work. It seems she took a lot of the problems I had with the protagonist as a direct attack against herself. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be for authors to put themselves out there, and ask others to review their work, but they must keep in mind that we reviewers are just stating our opinion. If you don’t like what we have to say, just move on and eat some ice cream, or maybe keep some of our critiques in mind for future work. After that one nightmarish experience, I reached out to a few authors I’ve worked with previously, and asked them what they would have liked me to do as a reviewer if I didn’t like their work. They said that as an author they have to realize that negative reviews are part of the business, and that as a reviewer I shouldn’t sugar coat whether or not I liked a book. Each author I contacted also suggested I create a review policy, which clearly states what kinds of books I enjoy, and that at the end of the day I’m going to give my honest opinion, whether it be good or bad. Since then, I haven’t had any other author outbursts!
Good or bad, your reviews are succinct, informative, and funny as hell, which tells me you enjoy doing it. Has there ever been a time when you thought about quitting your blog?
Believe it or not, I once considered shutting down my blog, and it ties back to the previous question. I’ll never forget what it was like to be sitting at work one day, and suddenly get a bunch of dings on my phone indicating that people were commenting on one of my reviews, only to see that they were writing some of the most hurtful things about me that don’t really need repeating here. It was like I couldn’t breathe. I’ve never had so much hatred directed at me for simply sharing my opinion, and it went on for several days. I thought to myself, this blog was supposed to be for fun. I didn’t sign up for people to attack my intelligence, and tell me to get a real job. I’m all for debating different opinions when it comes to books, but at that point they weren’t even talking about the book anymore. They were just calling me names. Funnily enough, when I went to block all of these commenters and I found out they were all coming from the same IP address as the author, I felt a little better that it was just one person out there who had a problem with me instead of 50. The support of friends and authors really helped me move on. So, I’m still blogging, but it’s hard to explain how much that one experience has altered my entire blogging experience. I used to jump at my phone in excitement whenever I found out someone new commented on one of my reviews, but now there’s always a moment of hesitation and anxiety. I’m hoping that after just a bit more time I’ll experience that exciting rush again, but for now I just have to keep on reading!
Your blog is all about the romance genre with some cross over into suspense, paranormal, and such. Will there come a time when you’re interested in reading and reviewing other genres? Will there ever be a Horror in the House blog or Post-apocalyptic Trip blog?
Never horror!! Sorry, I just can’t do scary. I’m sure at some point I’ll review a couple of books from other genres that don’t feature romance, but for now I’m sticking close to my sexy romance roots.
Describe your ideal novel, the perfect blend to satisfy your reading needs.
Oh my, this is a tough one! I guess, for me an ideal novel is one that seems real. Don’t get me wrong, I love the occasional romance that features billionaires and rock stars, but I’ve found that my favorite novels are the ones where the story feels like it could happen to someone you know. A little drama mixed in is always welcome, but I prefer when it’s an issue that requires our couple to come together to overcome those obstacles. Misunderstandings about former significant others aren’t exactly my thing. And, as always, a sexy roll in the sheets before the halfway point is always welcome.
I noticed that you post many Ryan Gosling photos. Be honest, do you have a fangirl crush?Um, who doesn’t?! There’s just something about that smirk he does that makes me go weak in the knees! Although, I must say I’m starting to feature another crush of mine more prominently, and that would be Mr. Henry Cavill. Mmm, it’s like he’s staring into your soul!
What is your favorite movie adaptation of a book?
Does TV count? Because I must say the Starz adaptation of Outlander is on point! I mean, the actors who play Claire and Black Jack Randall are just phenomenal. I think Sam Heughan, the actor who plays Jamie, still has some room to grow with his portrayal of the hunky Highlander, but damn if that man doesn’t look amazing in a kilt.
I totally agree with you on Outlander! Fans of Romance for the Beach already know you like reading and reviewing for fun, but what else do you do in your free time?
I’d like to think that happy hour counts as an extracurricular activity, but for those of you who think that’s a cop out I also play the piano. Mainly classical, but in December it is all Christmas Carols. I took lessons for about 10 years when I was younger, and I must say it can be very relaxing to sit and play for an hour or two. Pachelbel’s Canon in D is my jam!
It’s not surprising that Pachelbel’s Canon in D is a fave, consider it’s a major player in many weddings and you love romance!
Other than the computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?
Some people are all about their phones, but I think I would go through legitimate withdrawals if I didn’t have my Kindle. It’s my window into other worlds, and thoughts of other people. Which sounds slightly stalkerish now that I think about it, but you know what I mean! Books can take you anywhere, and introduce you to a multitude of lovable and quirky characters. I take my Kindle with me everywhere.
I get it. It took me ages to give up paper books and embrace a Kindle. Now, I can’t live without mine.
Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of yourself with us, Lauren. Best of luck on the TBR pile!
I highly recommend Lauren’s blog romance4thebeach It is sheer entertainment!
Here is Lauren’s review of my debut novel, STILL LIFE from back in October 2015. Enjoy! Lauren’s review of STILL LIFE
Additionally, here are a few of my favorite non-review posts from Lauren’s blog:
That Looks Familiar (Until I read this, I had no idea!)