Virtual Book Festival: Event 21 – an interview with book blogger Kelly Lacey @LoveBooksGroup #VirtBookFest #books #bookblogger

Today it’s event number 21 at the Virtual Book Festival and I’m so happy to have book blogger and blog tour organiser Kelly Lacey as our guest today.

So welcome, Kelly, and let’s get started:

What was it that got you into book blogging and how have things developed since you started?

I started book blogging in early 2017. My mum had suffered a few mini strokes and I was at home looking after her. It was a very lonely time with lots of hospital and doctor appointments. I have always been a reader since I was little, and my Nana Alice would buy me a book every second Tuesday from the John Menzies shop in the Scottish town of Dalkeith. I was escaping from my reality by reading a lot more when mum was poorly. I would close the last page of an exciting book and just wish I had someone to talk to about it. I was incredibly lonely during that period.

I made a very simple site blog and I pushed myself to go to a book launch in Edinburgh and it changed my whole life. 2017 was a very busy year and I went to so many lovely bookish events. I love looking back and seeing how the friendships I hold so dearly today were formed. As mum got better, I could go further a field and I started going to book festivals in Linlithgow and Stirling, in central Scotland.

I upgraded to a WordPress site and I loved it. For the past two and a bit years it has become the core of my life. I grew awareness of my blog and spent hours on social media building up the Love Books Group brand. It is my wee baby and I love it. I am proud of the journey I have been on. I look back at my first reviews and shake my head. It takes time to find your own voice as you review. I have learned just to believe in your own work and don’t try and be like anyone else. Have your voice shine through and be authentic.

I organise book blog tours now for authors and publishers on a daily basis and I love the connections I have made from doing that.

I am also very lucky to review for the theatres in Edinburgh and Musselburgh. That has been a wonderful experience. I have seen some epic shows that previously I would only have dreamed of seeing.

I am grateful for everyone who visits and shares my posts. It really does matter to me and I work very hard at offering a varied content every day.

Book blogging is the very pulse to my life, it has captured my heart.

Anne: My goodness your blogging took off in a big way and has led to other exciting things.

 

How do you find/choose what to review?

I am extremely fortunate to get sent a lot of books to review. I have a schedule for the year and then I fit in the books as they plop through my letterbox. Sometimes I have a week or two where I read purely books, I want to. However, I have discovered so many books that I would not have chosen to read.

I have some guest bloggers on the blog now too, as I was struggling to keep up and I hate letting anyone down. They really help bring a diverse range of voices to the blog too.

Anne: Yes, it would be easy to become overwhelmed by demand. But you seem to be well organised and to have got the balance right.

 

What’s the best thing about doing a book blog?

100% the friendships I have made have changed my life. I have people that I talk to every day and they are my very best friends. They say it is hard to make friends as you get older. But if you find the right people then it really isn’t.

The adventures I go on both fictious and in real life are incredible. I am really very lucky, and I treasure every minute.

Anne: How wonderful l to have found something so meaningful and to have theses great benefits.

 

What is your favourite type of read and do you stick mainly to reviewing that type of book?

I don’t have one genre that I stick to. I try to alternate genres every time I read. I love the freedom that YA books have. They are sometimes more diverse and deeper than adult fiction.

I love a gritty addictive crime fiction thriller and on the flip side I am consumed by an emotional contemporary fiction read that can capture my heart and hold on to it till the last page. If I am weeping mess by the end and in need of therapy, then the books done its job very well.

What is very important to me as a reader is that character connection. I don’t need to like them but I do need something that makes me want to read on to the end.

The question you always get asked as a book blogger is “what is your favourite read this year?” I can tell your readers, Anne, that halfway through the year, at the moment it is Disturbance by Marianne Kavannagh and A Killing Sin by K.H Irvine. I thoroughly recommend adding them to your Summer TBR.

My all-time life book is The Book Thief, I re-read it most years. It is humbling and important to revisit.

Anne: Your recommendations are duly noted. And I’m with you as regards The Book Thief. I loved that book.

 

Apart from posting book reviews on your blog, what other types of post do you like to include?

I have my interview feature that I host, along with exclusive author guest posts. My favourite feature which is new to the blog this year is “#What Book?”. It has been very popular and often emotional too for the authors answering the questions about books that have made an impression on them.

Anne: Yes it’s good to have a bit of variety in amongst all the reviews, isn’t it? And the #WhatBook is a great idea.

Well, thank you so much, Kelly, for your thoughtful answers and for taking part in the festival. It’s been lovely to have you here.

 

More About Kelly:

My name is Kelly and I am the founder of Love Books Group.  I live on the outskirts of Edinburgh with my two cats Pawkey and Poppet. My blog came to fruition in January 2017, I needed an outlet to talk about all things books. I thoroughly enjoy the world it has let me become a part of. Getting to meet new people, authors, readers and fellow bloggers have been marvellous.

It is now an everyday part of my life and I would be lost without it. I have almost hit 250K views and that really fills my heart with so much love. I love social media and connecting with others. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

My favourite book is The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, it’s a very grounding book. When life gets overwhelmed with nonsense, reading a couple of chapters of it really silences the noise and you remember what is important.

I encourage readers and authors to follow the blogs they enjoy.  I think it’s very important.  Plus, it really helps if you share, like and comment.  The more people who read and enjoy my posts makes all the effort and time I put into each post worth it.

I am a big supporter of other bloggers; we are all a unique team and we only rise and grow by lifting others. I am all about positive thinking and uplifting people. I am 100% drama free; I don’t engage with any of the naff behaviour that sometimes raises its nasty head. I believe there is room for us all.

For Authors: I also organise book blog tours for authors. I take all the hard work out of promoting your books with a range of tours to choose from. My average reach on Twitter is 2.1 million.

Don’t hesitate to use the contact form on the lovebooksgroup website (link below) if you think my blog is a good fit for you.

I live and breathe books every day.

You can connect with Kelly online at the links below:

Blog: https://lovebooksgroup.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoveBooksGroup

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoveBooksGrp/

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCvtAmOAyzrhWVZgXF68UsQ

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thelovebooksgroup

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/Lovebooksgroup/

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 18 an interview with book blogger Kate Noble @TheQuietKnitter #VirtBookFest #books #bookreviews #bookblogging

Hello, everyone and thank you for dropping in at the Virtual Book Festival today. For event number 18 it’s my pleasure to welcome book blogger Kate Noble who is going to share with us how she got into blogging about books and what it means to her.

Hello, Kate, and thank you so much for agreeing to take part in the festival. So, tell us, what got you into book blogging and how long have you been doing it?

Book blogging was something I stumbled upon one day. Having just started using Twitter after my daughter was born, I discovered a few people to follow who reviewed books that I loved and soon I was logging on daily to see if they had any new books to recommend. Friends and family would often ask me about what books I’d read recently and what I would recommend, so it seemed like an obvious step to head in the direction of book blogging as I’d had a blogging account for random ramblings before. That was almost five years ago, and I’m still here …

Anne: And it’s great that you are. You have built a first-class blog and brought many books and readers together and long may that continue.

 

How do you find/choose what to review?              

With an eclectic taste in books I find it quite fun choosing what to review. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for indie authors and indie presses, there’s something so wonderfully unique about the books from these sources and I love being able to champion books and authors that might not appear on everyone’s radars. More often than not, it’s an eye catching cover or a blurb with that “something” special that grabs my attention and I’m hooked!
I’m also really lucky that my name is on a few publisher lists, so that means I occasionally get some books in the post or emails with book details with a review request, which is a huge honour.

Anne: I believe the honour works both ways. It’s an honour for authors and publishers to get a review from people like you who do it out of book love. And it’s great that you’re so supportive of indie writers and publishers.

 

What’s the best thing about doing a book blog?

This is a hard one, one of the nice things is the camaraderie of “meeting” fellow book lovers, who share your excitement about books being published or, for example, fantastic characters that have made you both laugh.
But it’s also really nice being able to open a world of books up to people and helping them find books they might not have previously considered. I’ve been lucky enough to have had feedback from someone who read a review on my blog, the person went on to say they’d bought the book and read it because of my review and they loved it.

Anne: I’m sure there are lots of readers who’ve bought books after reading your reviews and that’s wonderful!

 

What is your favourite type of read and do you stick mainly to reviewing that type of book?

I’m a lover of Cold War settings and things with a Baltic or Scandinavian setting too, so spy thrillers, police procedurals, noir and the likes. But I also adore historical fiction and will happily curl up with tales from Victorian and earlier periods …

However, I have to admit to being a mood reader, and a lot of my reading is influenced by the mood I am in when I pick up a book. Sometimes I just crave the atmospheric Victorian Edinburgh details or perhaps a tantalising tale of German espionage.

Anne: What a great mix of genres there. And I agree mood is an important factor when choosing what to read.

 

Apart from posting book reviews on your blog, what other types of post do you like to include?

I do feature guest posts that an author has penned or the occasional promotional post for books. But if you pop over to my blog on a Friday you will see my longstanding feature Celebrating Indie Publishing, which usually has a review of an indie book and/or an author feature where I torture lovely authors with a few questions so that readers can get to know a little more about the person behind the book. There have been occasions that an author has written something for this feature, perhaps giving an explanation about where their ideas come from or what drives them to write.

Anne: It’s a good to have a bit of variety and it’s good to let readers get a bit of an insight into authors. I doubt any author would describe being interviewed about their work by you as torture. And, as I said above, I love how you’re so supportive of indie publishers.

 

And finally, I know your blog has won awards – tell us about that

I was awarded third place in the Hidden Gem category of the 2017 Bloggers Bash Awards, and I won the Hidden Gem category of the 2018 Bloggers Bash Awards.

Anne: Well-deserved awards! And thank you so much, Kate, for taking part in the festival and for sharing your book blogging story here.

 

About Kate:

I’m an Aberdeen quine who has always enjoyed reading, I try to read as often as I can and it’s a love that I’ve passed on to my young daughter. I’m a mum, a knitter, an average baker and cook, and I’m slowly getting used to life in the countryside, but I’ll never stop excitedly pointing out tractors to my long-suffering husband!

I’m also a proofreader over at Noble Owl Proofreading, so I have a great excuse to have my nose stuck in a book.

 

You can connect with Kate online at the links below:

Blog link is: https://thequietknitterer.wordpress.com/
Twitter is: https://twitter.com/TheQuietKnitter

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 15 – an interview with book blogger Anne Williams @Williams13Anne #VirtBookFest #books #reading #bookreviews

Hello everyone and welcome to event number 15 in the Virtual Book Festival. Today it’s my pleasure to welcome book blogger Anne Williams to the VBF marquee. Anne is an awesome and prolific reader and reviewer of books. She shares her reviews on her book blog Being Anne and like the other wonderful guest book bloggers at this festival she is significantly responsible for my reading list.

So, welcome, Anne. It’s lovely to have you here.

I’d like to start by asking you what it was that got you into book blogging and how long have you been doing it?

I’ve been blogging about books for over six years now: I’d been sharing my reviews on-line for as long as I’ve had a computer, and I just thought it’d be good to keep all the reviews in one place. I was flabbergasted to find that people seemed to like reading it, so when I retired the following year I decided to build it up a little and add other features. By 2016, my little blog had over 220,000 views – so I decided to move it to WordPress and give it a more professional look. I did the migration myself, and learned a whole new skill set (and swore rather a lot!), but I’m delighted with the way it now looks.

The blog now has over 9,500 followers, the post views are in the hundreds, and I’m really humbled by the fact that my posts are shared so many times on Twitter that I just can’t keep up with saying “thank you”. Life changes have meant that I don’t post daily any more, but I’m still enjoying it as much as I ever did.

Anne S: Blimey, that’s an amazing following! But well –deserved – you’ve certainly earned it. Book bloggers like you do so much for writers and for readers and all for the love of it. Brilliant!

 

How do you find/choose what to review?

I read three or four books a week – I watch very little television! – and these days books have a tendency to find me. I’ve built relationships with publishers and authors, find e-copies of forthcoming books on Netgalley, and take part in blog tours – but I do still buy far more books than I’m sent to review. I choose to read books that I know I’m likely to enjoy: I’ve now developed a bit of a sixth sense that rarely lets me down.

Anne S: Yes, it would be easy to get overwhelmed, wouldn’t it? And using your reliable radar to pinpoint what you’ll most likely enjoy – and sticking to that is the best way to go.

 

What’s the best thing about doing a book blog?

Without question, being part of this wonderful bookish world. I’ve made so many friends over the years – authors, publishers and bloggers – and the whole community is immensely supportive and lovely to be part of. Books have become a large part of my social life too: I love attending the parties and launches, the book readings and signings, the festivals and book fairs, and the more informal get togethers too (particularly since I qualified for my senior railcard!). I was particularly delighted to win the Best Pal award at the Annual Bloggers’ Bash three years running – I think it meant more to me than any award for the quality of my reviews, because for me it’s what blogging is all about.

Anne S: Well deserved awards –congratulations! I agree the book community is wonderful.

 

What is your favourite type of read and do you stick mainly to reviewing that type of book?

Although I’ve rather outgrown the chick lit I used to enjoy, most of my reading is still romance or that often misunderstood genre of “women’s fiction”. And I do particularly look for books featuring older characters and experiences I can identify with, which give me particular pleasure. But I do like to read widely, and quite often equally enjoy a good thriller or something more at the literary end of the spectrum. More than anything, I enjoy reading authors yet to make their mark (and how they’re published really doesn’t matter) and help bring them to the attention of other readers.

Anne S: Yes I’m with you there on romance and life beyond chick-lit. And, like you, I enjoy other genres too.

 

Apart from posting book reviews on your blog, what other types of post do you like to include?

These days, it’s mostly reviews: telling people about the books I’ve loved is what I enjoy the most, particularly when others tell me they’ve bought the book and added it to their reading list (as I know you often have, Anne!). I sometimes include guest posts, interviews or other features, but do make it my rule that I only include books I’d have been happy to read if only I had some space on my reading list.

Anne S: Yes, indeed as regards your responsibility for so many of the books I read! I must say I like your compromise for including books you don’t have time to read. And, thank you so much, Anne, for taking part in the festival and for doing such an interesting interview.

 

About Anne Williams:

I was born in North Wales and will always be a Welsh girl at heart, but have happily made my home in the beautiful Yorkshire market town of Wetherby for the last 20 years. Having spent my working life as a civil servant, I’m now 63 and retired, able to spend my time doing all the things I enjoy most. My first passion will always been reading – and I enjoy spending much of my time doing just that, sharing my love of books on my blog Being Anne. My second passion is travel, usually long haul, and to places where other people might not have been – although that has been more difficult recently when I became primary carer for my 93 year old mum, who has dementia. I enjoy the theatre and cinema, love to attend concerts (mainly classical), and also run a real-life book group for my local U3A.

You can connect with Anne online at the places below:

Blog:  http://beinganne.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beinganne

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Williams13Anne

Virtual Book Festival 2019: Event 4 – an interview with book cover designer JD Smith #VirtBookFest #books #writing

Do You Judge a Book by its Cover?

Book covers are so important to both authors and readers. They’re often the first impression a potential reader will get of an author’s work. But have you ever wondered how a book cover comes into being? If so read on …

Hello everyone and thank you for coming to event number four in the Virtual Book Festival. Today it’s lovely to welcome book designer JD Smith to share with us what is involved in her work as a book cover designer. (full disclosure Jane has designed all the covers of my books – and I may be biased but I think they’re fab)

So hello, Jane. Can you begin by telling us how long have you been designing book covers and how many have you done so far – and how did you get into doing it in the first place?

I’ve been designing book covers as a specialist since 2012, and before that I’d worked at a graphic design agency for over twelve years. In all honesty, I’ve lost count of the quantity of covers I’ve designed over the years. Over a thousand? Much more? It’s certainly somewhere in that region; I have a folder sat on my desk with many of the covers I’ve designed awaiting upload to my website and that contains 800+.

I first became a specialist after being made redundant after the agency I worked for closed. I am a writer myself, so it was a natural progression to move into the field of book cover design, particularly as the market was booming with the release of the Kindle.

Anne: Wow! That’s a lot of books.

Describe the process of working with an author to come up with the perfect cover for their book.

First and foremost I always ask for a selection of covers in their genre that they like, which represents their target audience, plus the title, strapline, blurb information etc, any scenes from the book they feel could represent the story on  the cover, elements and descriptions and so on. From there I research possible imagery we could incorporate and then based on that imagery mock up a series of ideas which we then develop into a finished product.

Anne: I find the process amazing as an author – going from vague and hazy idea of what I think I want to your wonderful finished article is magical.

You also design the interiors of books – doing the layout and the formatting – what does that involve?

‘Hopefully’ a proofread manuscript to start with, although you’d be amazed at how many people proofread after, which is both timely and costly for everyone involved … Ebook and print layout are completely different in that ebooks are reflowable, whereas print books aren’t. Ebooks are designed with this in mind, so we tend to keep the formatting simplistic so everything works across multiple devices and the various functions that come with ebooks perform as they should, such as table of contents links.

With paperbacks we have much more flexibility and control over things like margins, font sizes, fonts, and the general flow, so we can eliminate widows and orphans and so on.

Anne: I’m nodding as if I know what all that means. And that’s why we need talented book designers like you!

What do like best about your job as a designer?

The flexibility of my working day, the appreciation authors have for the process and product as well as their enthusiasm, plus the fact every day is a creative day. It couldn’t be better.

Anne: It certainly sounds like you love your job.

As well as your design work, you’re also an author yourself. Tell us a bit about the books you’ve written so far.

I’ve written one non-fiction book on the topic of cover design and formatting, which I hope is a useful guide for authors looking for book cover designers. And I have written so far five historical fiction novels. The first, Tristan and Iseult, was a finalist for the HNS Indie Book of the Year Award a few years ago. Then there are four books in the Overlord series, which chronicles the life of Zenobia, third century queen of Roman Palmyra, Syria. There’s another two planned but I have been busy climbing mountains of late so they’re a little slow coming to publication, but one day …

Anne: oh yes, it’s important to climb those mountains and I know you’ve been doing a lot of that lately, but your reading public – including me – awaits … 🙂

Do you design your own book covers? If so is that easier or harder than designing for other people?

Yes, absolutely, it’s so much easier as well than designing for other people because I don’t have to go through so many iterations, I know what I want, so I can just produce the finished design straight away without going back and forth for feedback and making tweaks that I personally wouldn’t necessarily choose to make because they’re the authors preference and not my own.

Anne: Yes, us authors can be an opinionated bunch. As long as you don’t end up in an argument with yourself 🙂

Are you currently working on a new book or is it all about the design for now?

Book 5 in the Overlord series sits patiently waiting on my desktop and every now and then I open it up and do a little. I really enjoy designing covers, so it’s not so much of an escape for me, because I love my ‘day job’ and sometimes I feel I need to get away from the computer screen and be a little more active, but it’s always there to come back to.

Anne: Well thank you so much, Jane. It’s been great to get an insight into how book covers come about. And all the best too with your book writing and mountain climbing.

And below are just 6 examples of the different kinds of covers Jane has designed. (You can also see my book covers – also designed by Jane in the sidebar here if you’re reading this on a desktop, laptop or tablet – and if you’re on your phone you can scroll down to see them below this post).

Six of Jane’s Cover Designs

 

You can find Jane online at the links below:

Design Website  

Author Website

Facebook Design

Facebook Author

JD Smith is an award-winning book cover designer and author of historical fiction novels Tristan and Iseult (HNS Indie Book of the Year Finalist) and the Overlord series, as well as The Importance of Book Cover Design and Formatting.

She lives in the English Lake District with her husband and three children, renovating houses and climbing mountains in her spare time so she can eat cake in the rest of her spare time. She has also been known to drive steam trains, once upon a time …