Hi Anne and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Hi Jo, and thank you so much for inviting me to join you today – I always enjoy your Tuesday Talk interviews, and it was lovely to be asked to do one! I’ve lived in the beautiful Yorkshire market town of Wetherby for 25 years now, but I’m originally from a village near Bangor in North Wales (and people tell me I still have the accent!). I worked as a civil servant (DWP) for more years than I want to remember – project management, marketing and communications – but was lucky enough to be offered early retirement four years ago. My plan was to spend my time doing all the things I most enjoy, and I do – but I also care for my 92 year old mum who has vascular dementia.
You run a very busy review blog ‘Being Anne’. When did you first begin as a reviewer and what made you decide to make it a full time occupation?
Not quite a full time occupation, but reading has always been my passion – nowadays it’s the way I escape from life’s realities, and I love every moment. I’ve reviewed the books I read for as long as I can remember, and started my blog just over five years ago, when I was still working – but really it was just so that I could keep my reviews in one place, and I never expected anyone else to read it. When I retired – and 220,000 post views later – I thought it might be nice to step it up a little. I taught myself the IT skills, bought my own web domain, and moved everything across to WordPress – and when I relaunched, I was quite astonished when #BeingAnne trended on Twitter. I’m taking a little break at the moment, but usually post six days a week, sometimes more than one post a day, and have over 8000 followers.
I now also have a page on Facebook, I tweet about my posts, and share those from people I know to help them get a larger audience. I always copy my reviews to Amazon too, and that really makes a difference for authors – I’m a Top 500 reviewer there. And I’ve been particularly delighted to win the Best Pal Blog Award at the Annual Bloggers’ Bash for three years running. The blogging community I’m part of is a constant delight, and I’ve also made so many real friends among the authors it’s been my pleasure to feature. Blogging has helped my social life too, and I travel regularly to book related events – and I’m lucky to be invited to some of the very best launches and parties!
When you are approached with a request for a review or to join a book tour, how do you decide whether to accept or not?
I’ve developed a bit of a sixth sense now about books I’m likely to enjoy, and I’m rarely disappointed – if I get it wrong, you won’t read about them on Being Anne. I’ve grown out of chick lit a little, and I’m a bit selective about crime or thrillers. I particularly like women’s fiction, and particularly look for older characters and issues I can identify with. I tend to read books that are independently published more than those from the big publishers – authors find it so difficult to get their books noticed, and it gives me such a lot of pleasure to be able to help a little. I do sometimes join blog tours for books I haven’t been able to read – a feature, interview or guest post – but the books do need to be ones I’d like to read if only I could find the time.
Have you ever been tempted to write?
When I first retired, writing was actually my plan. I signed up for some writing courses, thought I might try NaNoWriMo – then family issues intervened, and I’ve never managed to get going again. If I really wanted to write, I guess I’d find the time – and I’m not sure I have the creative imagination it takes. Never say never, but for now I’m happy to leave it to all those other authors who do it so well.
Beach or city girl? Where are your favourite holiday destinations and why?
Ah, holidays – other than reading, travel is my other real passion. I’m not really content lying on a beach any more, and I love long haul holidays, the more exotic the destination and the more to see, the better. I’ve been to some of the most wonderful places – seen the sun rise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia, walked on the Great Wall of China, spent early mornings on rivers in Borneo to see the wildlife, watched whales at Hermanus in South Africa, rafted under the Iguazu Falls (and flown over them in a helicopter), cried at the majesty of Macchu Pichu, seen the glorious sunset from a junk on Vietnam’s Halong Bay. Just at the moment, I can’t plan any new adventures because of my caring responsibilities, but I do have the most wonderful memories to sustain me – and a long list of other destinations I hope I’ll still be able to get to before age or infirmity make me unable to do so.
What Advice Would You Give to Newbie Writers
I can only give advice from a blogger’s perspective, but I’d always urge new writers to put a little effort into building a network of contacts who can help them spread the word about their books. I receive so many emails from new authors looking for features and reviews, many of which I dismiss immediately – some haven’t even looked at my blog (I can tell!), call me by the wrong name, or ask me to read books that are many miles away from something I’d enjoy. I’d really recommend a presence on Twitter – not to ask for reviews, but to get to know reviewers and other authors, and to sell yourself rather than just your books. And I always urge new writers to join Book Connectors on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1466353170351020/), full of authors, bloggers and small publishers, a great source of information and support and an excellent way of making those all-important contacts.
And finally, you are hosting a dinner party and can invite four celebrity guests (dead or living). Who would you choose and why?
Of all your questions, I found this one the most difficult to answer – as I mentioned, no creative imagination! After due consideration (and much head-scratching…) I’ll go for Dorothy Parker, Mae West, Oscar Wilde and Bette Davis – and then retreat to a safe distance…