I am a huge fan of Kristopher Zgorski's BOLO Books review blog and was lucky enough to meet him at Bouchercon in Albany last year, and again in Long Beach this year. BOLO comes from the police acronym Be on the Lookout and the tagline for his blog is Be on the Lookout for these Books.
I asked him to visit me here to tell me a bit more about himself and his blog.
Q) BOLO Books is a relatively new blog that has quickly become a “must read” for mystery readers. I know you love reading, but what made you decide to start a review blog?
It was something I thought about for a long time before I actually did it. I didn’t want to start the blog unless I was sure that I was going to be able to devote the time that it would need in order to become – and remain – popular. My undergrad degree is in English, so I have been reading and critiquing books my entire life. When I started to hear more about how there was an inequality to the types of books that get reviewed in some of the more popular reviewing locations, I realized that the books I loved were those that were getting ignored by the traditional venues.
With that in mind, I decided to start BOLO Books. My first tenet was to limit myself to only good reviews. I think of myself more as a book advocate than a book reviewer at this point. If I don’t like a book, I generally will not talk about it online. This philosophy met with some skepticism at the beginning, but I think as people have seen the quality of the reviews, they have begun to enjoy knowing that they can come to BOLO Books for some positive energy and really strong book recommendations.
Q) There must be is a lot of work involved. How much time do you spend on your blog every week? Do you contribute reviews to any other sites?
It really is a ton of work. If we put aside the actually reading and reviewing for a moment, there is still the maintenance on the website, the research on upcoming releases and requesting those books, answering e-mails, fielding review requests, and keeping up with the happenings of the industry as a whole. You can see that time is the biggest investment needed.
Since I only do positive reviews on BOLO Books, I have to read an average of 2-3 books a week to end up with 4-5 worthy reviews each month. Contrary to popular belief, I am not really that fast of a reader, I simply make sure that getting some reading done is one of my priorities every day. I take short notes while I am reading, mostly to remind me of something later and then I usually wait a day or two after finishing a book to start the review. During this time, I am thinking about how to start the review, what topics or themes I want to cover, and how to organize the review for the best reading experience. I try not to include any major spoilers in my reviews, so I use this time to also determine what is essential to the review and what the reader should discover while they experience the book themselves. Since all of that is happening in my head, when I actually sit down to write the review, I can usually complete that in an hour or two.
Once the review is written, I transfer it into WordPress and schedule the posting. It is at this point that I make sure that I add links to the author’s website and the publisher’s site. I prefer to link to the publisher and let readers choose where to purchase their books individually. Shortly before the posting goes live to the public, I will re-read the review and hopefully catch any errors I missed previously.
Q) The benefits of a well-run book blog for authors and readers are obvious - we all love book bloggers! But what are the benefits for you? Can you tell us about one or two highlights e.g. meeting a favorite author or getting a first look at a new book that no one else has seen?
I love to talk about books. Of course, this also means I love to read books. There is no doubt that receiving that coveted ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) before many other folks is a thrill, but it really is about so much more than that.
The crime fiction community is one of the best in the world. Even before I was reviewing books, I made myself part of the community by attending Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, Book Expo America, and countless author signings - but there is something about knowing that I am doing my small part to help promote the books I love. I really just want to foster the love of reading in every individual I meet. I think that people who don’t like to read just haven’t found the right book yet.
Oline Cogdill (mystery reviewer extraordinaire) was as much of a thrill as any of those A-list authors. Oline is like a celebrity to me and she exemplifies professionalism in a field that now means so very much to me. And finally, just this year, I had a pull quote from one of my reviews included in the paperback edition of the book (I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes). This was a total surprise to me and in many ways validated what I was doing in a tangible way.
Q ) You moderated a panel at Bouchercon, the world’s biggest crime convention. Can you tell us a little bit about the panel and how you go about preparing for something like that?
I moderated a panel called Cute and Sweet, but with a Twist. We were discussing how the books of my panelists were expanding on the boundaries of the cozy mystery novel. The panelists and I agreed that what they were writing really weren’t cozies at all, so the panel structure developed from there. I did some research on the hallmarks of typical cozy books and then used that definition to allow the authors to speak to how their books either did or did not fit those criteria.
I feel strongly that moderators should at least read one of the books from each of their panelists. For myself, I would have no idea how to conduct a panel if I had not read the books represented. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of communicating with your panelists to make sure everyone is of the same mindset. Then have fun!
Q) What’s next for you? Do you have other conventions planned for next year?
I was recently asked to join the team at the Shots eZine (based in the UK). We are still determining what form that relationship will take, but at the very least, some of my reviews will start to appear on that website as well.
I will be going to Malice Domestic this year because the Guest of Honor list is just too impressive to miss (Ann Cleeves, Charles Todd, Sara Paretsky, and Toni L.P. Kelner). And I will be at Bouchercon in Raleigh in the Fall. Beyond that, maybe Book Expo, Baltimore Book Festival and/or National Book Festival. We’ll have to see how the year progresses.
Q) What are you looking forward to reading/reviewing in the coming months? Do you have any hot tips for books readers should be looking out for next year?
Hush Hush. I can’t wait until people can read this book. I think in this book Laura has really created the perfect blend of her series books and her stand-alone novels. Laura will also be interviewed on BOLO Books in February. A few other books I am looking forward to are Fear The Darkness by Becky Masterman, Attica Locke’s Pleasantville, and Catriona McPherson’s Come to Harm.
I also encourage my blog followers to always remember to try out some first time novelists each year. These are the authors who are going to be the future of the industry and there are some really great books out there that will be missed if you only focus on your current favorite authors. In particular, I would recommend My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and I am looking forward to Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton.
Thanks so much for having me Helen. I hope that we get to see each other again next year at some of the various conventions.
Thank you. I hope so, too!
You can find Kris's reviews, recommendations and interviews here:
BOLO Books Blog: http://www.bolobooks.com
You might also enjoy: Reading is a wonderful adventure: Meet book blogger Dru Ann Love
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Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Scary Tales is a special event for young adults and older children at the British Library in January.
Meet some of these creators of Gothic and nightmarish stories as they talk to Julia Eccleshare, Children’s Book Editor for the Guardian.
Sat 17 Jan 2015, 14:30 - 16:00
Sally Gardner is a multi-award-winning writer whose books have sold more than 1.6 million copies in the UK and have been translated into 22 languages. Her books for young children, include I, Coriander, The Red Necklace, The Double Shadow and Maggot Moon, which drew on her experience of being dyslexic. Sally’s novel Tinder is a modern gothic story based on the fairy tale The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen.
Chris Priestley has had huge success with his Tales of Terror books and Tom Marlowe Adventures, and recently The Dead Men Stood Together and The Last of the Spirits. His novels are inspired by authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley and he has been hailed by The Times as 'a master of horror and suspense'.
Chris Riddell is the author of the Goth Girl series of books which follows the adventures of Ada Goth in her haunted house, Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Chris is also well known for his Ottoline books and illustrating the work of everyone from Neil Gaiman to Paul Stewart, and now Russell Brand. He is also an accomplished artist and a political cartoonist for the Observer, the Economist and the Independent. He has won many awards for his work, including the Nestlé Gold Award and the rare honour of two Kate Greenaway Medals.
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