I am so pleased today to share my interview with Iris from Iris on Books. Iris has given me the fantastic opportunity to accomplish two things in one post. Yesterday we were supposed to share a new blog that we had discovered since last year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and Iris’s blog popped to mind. She does so many great eclectic book posts and I have spent so much time reading her blog and getting book ideas that she hardly seems like a newcomer. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with her more.
Congratulations Iris on making the shortlists for Best New Book Blog and Best Eclectic Book Blog! You really hit the ground running this year with your blog. How did you get started and did you know what you wanted your focus to be right away?
Making the shortlist was quite a surprise to me actually. I hadn’t expected to make the longlist, let alone the shortlist and I feel that there are many blogs out there who deserve to be on those list more than I do. Nonetheless, I am incredibly happy that people seem to enjoy my blog. To be quite honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into at first at all. I don’t think I even fully realised that what I was going to do would fall into the category of book blogging as I didn’t know there was such a big book blogging community out there. I always feel I started my blog quite unprepared. Compared to a few other new book bloggers out there, I hadn’t been following any book blogs before I started. In all honesty I started my former blog Candles and a Cup of Tea a few days after I first came across the blog Austenprose. I think that when I saw that blog I first started to realise that I could actually blog about a subject I loved. And since I was right in the middle of one of my obsessive Austen and historical fiction periods at that moment, I thought I would blog about the works of Austen, movie remakes of her stories, and other related books and movies. That soon changed however when I started to find other bookblogs. The blogs of Eva (astripedarmchair.wordpress.com) and Amy (amckiereads.wordpress.com) soon made me realise that Austen is just one of my loves and that I enjoy reading in general too much to just focus on one genre. They also made me realise that there are so many genres out there that I’d love to try. And so I changed my focus, became a book blog and eventually changed my name, because Candles and a Cup of Tea became associated with my former focus too much in my mind.
Has blogging changed the way that you read and perceive books?
In a way, I wish I could have said that no it didn’t, because there really is something about just reading a book and not having to think of what to write in a review afterwards. But on the other hand, it has helped me think about books and reading a lot more and that can lead to some very interesting insights. All of this is not to say that I don’t like reviewing, I actually enjoy it a lot, but with certain books it is hard to not write up a quote every other page and then it can start to interfere with your reading.
In the end, what has really changed is that books and reading have become a much bigger part of my life. I thought about this just recently when I entered an all-English bookstore in Amsterdam (they do have English books in most bookstores over here, but only in a small corner of the store mostly). I had been there 2 years before but back then I didn’t recognize most of the “recent” titles on display. When I went to visit it 2 months ago though, I recognised almost every title! Reading blogs and thus keeping up with the bookish news has really allowed me to feel like I know my way around books so much better.
Also, I read more than ever since I started blogging. I might not read a lot compared to other bloggers, but most years before this one 75 books were a lot of books for one year, this year I am already on my 85th title.
I know I didn’t realize when I started how much time blogging would take and what an addiction it would become. How do you manage your blogging and reading schedule, and have you found that there have been things you have had to give up or do less of because of the time you spend with it?
I certainly know what you mean. Book blogging is so addicting and I don’t think I realised half of what would happen when I started. Reading has become an even bigger part of my life now and at times it is hard to time it well. Reading doesn’t interfere so much with my social life or with my other hobbies (my only other hobby is dancing and listening to music and I do continue to do both). What it does interfere with at times is my interest in my graduate school studies. The thing is, when you have to read a book for your studies and you could be reading a book for fun at the same time, it is sometimes hard to make stop reading the fun one. I have managed to combine blogging with graduate school most of the time, but I think especially because I am a new blogger and everything in the bloggingworld is so exciting when it is new, I have been a bit irresponsible at times. Also, there are weeks when I cannot blog because I am in over my head with essays and presentations, but I think that happens to the best of bloggers. Maybe planning and scheduling my posts well is something I could try and learn to do better though.
Tell me a little bit about your experience with reading over the years. Did you start out liking a particulargenre and then branch out, or were you always an eclectic reader? What were some of your favorite books growing up?
I have always been a reader, ever since I was a little girl. However, the author that really changed my reading experience was Jane Austen. When I discovered her when I was 14 I literally became addicted to her works. I didn’t want to read anything else except for watching the movie adaptations of her works maybe. That lasted 1 or 2 years and after that I finally started to expand my reading tastes a little. I do sometimes go back to that obsessive mode of reading just one author for a month or so, but never quite like that again. After that long obsessive period I realised that I used to always like different kinds of books and that I should try and read like that again. I did mostly focus on classics and books from the UK for a while though, because I was always afraid to read explicit love scenes (I was somehow under the impression that English books were less obsessed with sex than say Dutch ones). I got over my fear of that a while ago (though I still don’t like them) and so contemporary fiction and translated fiction have become more important in my reading as well.
You have said that you started blogging to find out which contemporary authors you enjoy since Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell are among your favorite classic authors. Have you made any progress with that goal? Which contemporary authors have you enjoyed and would recommend?
Haha, intriguing question and a hard one to answer! The thing is, I think it is easier for me to say which “classic” authors I like, because I have read most of their books? With contemporary authors I have at most read one, I think. And it is so hard to decide on favourite authors, I feel like they would change every 4 months or so. Anyway, this past year there have been a few books that I absolutely loved and therefore I think of these authors as favourites a little: Abraham Verghese, Sarah Waters, Nicola Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer. As for children’s authors, my all time favourites are definitely Astrid Lindgren and Roald Dahl. I couldn’t leave that out, seeing as I’m currently in Sweden and I see Pippi everywhere!
It’s always fun to be able to link your passions. As a music lover, do you find that you associate memories with songs or with books, and do they ever remind you of each other?
I don’t connect reading to music often, I think. I actually never thought about it that much. There are some books that combine these two loves though and they are extra special to me. It is one of the reasons why High Fidelity struck a chord with me, as well as why “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is high up on my wishlist. At times, a scene in a book would remind me of a certain song, but of course I cannot think of any examples at the moment. However, what I think is most comparable about these two passions is that there is such a diverse selection and that they both help me in any mood. So when I’m feeling a little down and need comfort I can always pick up Austen and listen to my own personal comfort bands: The Veils, Death Cab for Cutie, Nada Surf and Bright Eyes (I mostly get melancholical when in need of comfort, that’s why). When I am feeling a bit feminist I can read for the Women Unbound Challenge and pour my heart into singing along with Tori Amos and the like. When I am jumpy and ready for new things I can try on a new to me genre or author, maybe, dare I say it, a mystery author? and dance to an old time favourite like Guano Apes or the always brilliant Blood Red Shoes or the Subways. And then contemporary reading which sometimes seems to focus more on the everyday bleakness of life somehow works really well with Britpop bands like The Libertines and Oasis (at least in my head), etcetera.
You’re off to a great start, so what are you looking forward to in blogging? What’s your plan?
I have learned from these past months that having some sort of plan and some posts up your sleeve for when life gets too busy is always a good thing. I really need to learn to plan better in that respect. But that is a very practical answer to your question. In reality, I would like to continue learning to improve my social, writing and critical skills. Blogging has really taught me a lot in these past months and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn in the upcoming year. I have always been a shy person and these past days and especially yesterday with visiting all these different blogs who recommended blogs they love made me realise how nice the community really is. I would love to do some more interactive things, something with guest posts from bloggers or starting some projects of my own instead of only participating in other bloggers’ projects and I’m hoping that I will gain enough confidence to do so next year. I am hoping that my current stay in Sweden will also help me in that respect. So all in all, I would love to combine growth as a blogger with personal growth. I know that doesn’t sound very precise, but that is because I just realised this when I started to answer your question. But yes, it is exactly what I wish for and I hope I will be able to say that I have grown a little by this time next year.
Thanks so much Iris for chatting with me today! And if you aren’t reading Iris’s blog…you should try reading Iris’s blog!