Authors and narrators greatly appreciate the people who take the time to listen to our audiobooks and then write thoughtful reviews. In this installment in my series of interviews with audiobook bloggers, I’m excited to welcome Susan Voss from Dab of Darkness and find out about her review interests and process.
Susan has been a lifetime reader, mostly of SFF. It’s rare for a week to go by without her completing 1-3 books. She currently lives on a little 6.5 acre farm in northern NM with an adoring husband, too many cats, 2 dogs, mammoth and standard donkeys, chickens, and some ornery goats. She has a BS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and this makes her an awkward dinner guest as she is always spouting some disgusting, yet fascinating, facts.
10 Questions For Susan
1. When did you start listening to audiobooks?
Years ago when I had a really long commute to and from work 5 days a week. The radio was driving me crazy since it would cut in and out much of the way and music CDs had lost their charm. It’s rural northern NM, so the radio stations are limited to begin with and I was so tired of all the repeating commercials. A friend from knitting circle suggested audiobooks and like the little snot I was back then, I scoffed that I could read quite fine on my own, thank you. And I can — just not while driving. So I visited my library and picked out Drood by Dan Simmons. It probably wasn’t the easiest audiobook to cut my teeth on, but I stuck with it, and I have been hooked ever since then.
One of my earliest audiobooks was Bonk by Mary Roach, a non-fiction on human sexuality. It is hilarious and educational. I had to explain that to the guard at the check point when he overheard the part about where a pig’s clitoris is located. Yep. Audiobooks – breaking with ice with armed security officers.
2. What prompted you to start writing audiobook reviews?
I was already writing book reviews for a blog, Dark Cargo, when I started listening to audiobooks. So it was a natural transition. I quickly learned that the narrator and sound effects/music (if any) could make or break a book. So I definitely wanted to comment on those elements in my audiobook reviews. I think this is even of more interest when an author narrates their own work; some have that skill set, and some don’t.
3. Where do you write your reviews? If it’s a public place, why did you choose it? If it’s at home, describe the room and/or stuff on your desk. A picture would be fabulous!
I generally get out my laptop and get cozy in the big bed with my furballs. It’s quiet – no TV or radio to distract me. Also, our house is heated only by 2 wood fireplaces, so generally, the bedroom is the warmest room in the house during winter. I have worked on reviews while taking a lunch break at the office or even while waiting for an oil change in the customer break room. I’m not picky, it’s just that I am home like 90% of time since I left the office job for a home business. Plus, there aren’t many cafes in the area (only 1, but it’s hours are unpredictable), so it’s not like I’m going to head out 2-4 times a week for a fancy tea with my laptop.
4. How do you decide whether to read a book or listen to it? Do you ever do both for the same book?
In general, I like to listen as it frees up my hands. Occasionally, for read alongs I will have both the audio and a paper version going on. I find that I have a much harder time figuring out how to spell character names and place names if I am listening, as much of what I read is SFF. So sometimes I refer to the book, or the author’s webpage if it has the info, to get the correct spelling for my reviews.
The past 18+ months I have done rather little eyeball text reading due to a chronic illness, so audiobooks have kept me sane. I recently started a new-to-me drug for one of my illnesses and it has the side effect of letting me focus a bit more, so I have been experimenting with eyeball reading again, just having fun with it, as I don’t know if it will last.
5. Do you have a go-to genre?
SFF. I love the pure escapism of it. I can turn off my analytical brain and not be constantly looking at this fact or that to see if it’s true, as I sometimes do with other genres, like historical fiction. SFF has such breadth when it comes to subgenres and writing styles. I can find something for whatever mood I am in – silly, serious, epic, short & sweet, etc.
6. What is your review policy? Do you accept review requests from narrators?
Yep. I have a pretty open review policy that can be found on my site: http://dabofdarkness.com/About/
As you can see, I don’t mind people contacting out of the blue and I accept nearly every genre. I’m an eclectic reader, however, I haven’t found a love of contemporary romance yet, though I do occasionally give it a try. I’m not big on poetry unless it is epic and ancient. Religious fiction is OK if it is not too heavy on the religion part. I listen to any length and I do series. I also listen to radio dramas and full-cast audios. I enjoy some non-fiction as well, like history and biology stuff. I accept review requests from narrators, authors, and publishers.
7. Describe how you approach your reviews. Do you have different criteria for different genres?
In general, I will cover at least the characters and the plot. I also like to talk about the setting. For audiobooks, I have a designated section at the end of the review that talks about the narration, sound effects, and music. The more I enjoy a book, the more I gush over it and can get a little rambly. If I have any criticisms with the book or narration, I am specific and never, ever attack the author or the narrator. I don’t do a rating on my blog, but I cross post nearly every review and there I have to post a rating. I base that on shear enjoyment factor.
A book can have a serious issue (like zero female characters) but if I enjoyed the hell out of it, I will still give it a 4 or 5 star rating. After all, I am reading/listening for enjoyment first most; I’m not a paid professional reviewer.
I don’t have different criteria for different genres other than just simply accepting a book for what it is. For instance, I don’t compare urban fantasy with epic scifi in my head. The pacing is different, the world building and characters are often more in depth in the epic instead of the urban, but I expect more action and perhaps humor in my urban fantasies.
8. Do you multitask when listening to books? If yes, what else do you do while you listen, and how does listening to books affect the other activity?
I’m a rag rug weaver, so I like to listen to audiobooks while I weave. I also listen while I cook or do light cleaning. When relaxing, I like to play Sid Meier’s Civilization IV and listen to an audiobook. About three months ago, I discovered adult coloring books. These are more complex coloring books and not adult-themed coloring books, just to be clear. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I spend part of my time coloring in genitalia while listening to some erotica. My asthma kicked in after more than a decade of being dormant and the daily albuterol makes my hands pretty shaky sometimes, so I had to set aside the knitting needles and take up something else – coloring. And no, I don’t care about those lines.
9. Looking back through the reviews you’ve written, please share the link(s) of 1-3 that were favorites of yours and explain why they are special to you.
So I would like to share three reviews showing different levels of enthusiasm. First, I absolutely adored Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, a steampunky historical fiction. http://dabofdarkness.com/2015/08/06/karen-memory-by-elizabeth-bear/
Next, Freedom Club by Saul Garnell was excellent in so many ways, and yet had so few female characters, none of which were plot central. http://dabofdarkness.com/2015/11/29/freedom-club-by-saul-garnell/
Finally, here’s a link to Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley. I had more than one issue with this book, so I want to show you how I write that up when it occurs (which isn’t often). http://dabofdarkness.com/2015/04/14/inside-a-silver-box-by-walter-mosley/
10. As a narrator, I sometimes feel I have a spiritual connection to some of the characters in the books. If you were a character in a novel, who would you be, and why?
This is a tough one. Today, I want to investigate something. So let me be a future cop in some scifi Mars story, or a 12th century medical examiner in Italy, or maybe a British Detective Investigator. I love how crime happens every place and every when. Mysteries happen. Also, I spent 7 years as an accident investigator for a national lab, so I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading well-plotted mysteries.
Connect with Susan on these sites:
Thanks, Susan, for this wonderful interview! It’s been a delight to peak inside your world!
Do you have a question or comment for Susan? Please say hello on the blog!