Authors and narrators greatly appreciate the people who take the time to listen to our audiobooks and then write thoughtful reviews. In this second installment of the series, I’m excited to interview audiobook blogger Rebecca M. Douglass from The Ninja Librarian to find out about her review interests and process.
Rebecca M. Douglass is an author and blogger with eclectic tastes, from children’s books to murder mysteries and non-fiction examinations of the natural world. She writes middle-grade fiction and adult murder mysteries and promotes her own work and that of other writers on her blog, largely in the form of reviews of anything and (nearly) everything she reads. Her own work maintains a humorous touch, whether it is the tall tales of the Ninja Librarian books or the absurdities of life on Pismawallops Island in Death By Ice Cream, or the wide variety of short stories published on her blog. Ms. Douglass writes from her home near San Francisco, which she shares with her husband and two teenaged sons, which is enough to drive anyone to invent new worlds to inhabit.
10 Questions For Rebecca
1. When did you start listening to audiobooks?
I have been listening to audiobooks for a long time, and don’t recall just when I started. I’m sure it’s been at least a dozen years. I listen when exercising, or when doing housework, which I detest but will do for the sake of continuing to listen to a good story. I began listening back in the days of cassette tapes and then CDs. My itty bitty MP3 player is a huge improvement!
2. What prompted you to start writing audiobook reviews?
I’ve been writing reviews for a couple of years now, and it never occurred to me to make a distinction between books I read and books I listened to, so I just naturally reviewed audiobooks. But I soon realized that I did need to comment, at least, when I’d used the audiobook, and that a mention of the quality of the audio and narration would be helpful to listeners. So I have gradually begun making two-pronged audio reviews.
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 do almost all my writing at home, and all I will say about my desk is that I share it with my 15-year-old son…and he nags me to clean up my side of it. We have a somewhat chaotic little den (less chaotic since the teen cleaned it up recently), which contains a huge partner desk and a bunch of bookcases, full of classics, my favorite children’s books, and books on writing. I have a lot of inspirational quotes from author Chuck Wendig on my wall, because even though they tend to be profane, they are also profound. But I’m not sharing a picture of my chaos. No way.
4. How do you decide whether to read a book or listen to it? Do you ever do both for the same book?
I usually pick my audiobooks from whatever I stumble on in the library catalog, though sometimes I will select something because I love the narrator or because it’s the only copy available at the moment when I want it. I do often listen to and read the same book, though not at the same time—I might choose to listen to something I have enjoyed in the past, just to get a different take on it, or I might find and read a book I’ve listened to because I want to pick up what I might have missed when distracted while listening. I find that books are very different when read or heard.
5. Do you have a go-to genre?
Cozy mysteries form a large part of what I listen to, and I also do a lot of middle-grade books, though they can be hard to find.
6. What is your review policy? Do you accept review requests from narrators?
I do accept review requests, but I probably turn down more than I accept. I need to actually want to read the book, as I am foremost a writer of fiction, and my reading is for pleasure, when it’s not for research or to improve my craft. So I try to be sure that my reviewing and blogging don’t become either a burden or the focus of my work. I do not accept payment for reviews (I do accept review copies of books), and I do not do “review exchanges.” A lot of what I think about reviewing is covered in a blog post from October 2013: http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/2013/10/reviews-and-review-policy.html.
7. Describe how you approach your reviews. Do you have different criteria for different genres?
I try to review with both an honest appraisal of how I liked the work and a more objective assessment of strengths and weaknesses, and a final recommendation for who might like the work. I hold all works to a high standard of writing, but I do consider genre. I don’t expect profundity from a children’s book full of goofy humor and silly situations, but I do expect things to make sense in their own goofy way. I have been gradually developing my format, but I try to always include a cover image, the author (and narrator or illustrator if appropriate) info, publication info, and a summary of the story, either my own or the publisher’s summary. Then I review, and end with a recommendation. I have stopped assigning “stars” unless I am publishing a review somewhere like Amazon that requires it, because I’d rather just talk about the book, the good, bad and indifferent, and let the reader judge from that.
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?
As I mentioned above, I like to listen to books while working out or doing housework (or yard work)—anything that requires the use of my body but not much of my brain. I can’t just sit and listen to a book, so if I’m totally caught up in a book and don’t want to quit, I will invent tasks, do handwork, etc., to keep listening! I have been known to stop short while running because something I’m listening to has made me laugh too hard to keep going, so I guess you could say that listening to book can affect what I’m doing!
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.
These are more about books that I particularly like, than reviews that I love. But I include here a range of review styles, to show what I may do.
Dana Stabenow, Restless in the Grave http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/2014/08/mystery-monday-restless-in-grave-by.html
This review handles a book well into a series, and talks about my issues with the series as well as why I like it and keep reading, and what a new reader might do.
Ivan Doig, Dancing at the Rascal Fair http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/2014/12/audiobook-review-dancing-at-rascal-fair.html
This is a fairly brief review, but one of my favorite books. I was delighted to find many of Doig’s books on audio only recently, and to find that his fantastic writing is enhanced by the excellent narrators.
And a less conventional review, of Brian Jacques’ Redwall books in general, and on audio in particular: http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/2014/11/redwall-audio.html
This review in part sprang from a discussion of kids’ audio books, and an issue I’d had listening to these long ago in the car.
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?
I’d probably have to be Jo March or Anne Shirley! I’d like to believe I’m the Ninja Librarian, but the fact is that he is far wiser than I am. It is funny—when I think about that, I always end up going back to the classics from my childhood.
Connect with Rebecca on these sites:
Twitter: I Tweet as Douglass_RM, when the spirit moves me, which it mostly doesn’t.
Thanks, Rebecca, for spending some time with us in this great interview! Do you have a question or comment for Rebecca? Please leave a comment on the blog!