For the thirtieth interview in this series, I’m talking with Shellie who, together with John, runs Layers of Thought, an eclectic blog with an affinity for the speculative.
SCy-Fy: Just how eclectic is your blog, Shellie?
LOT: We review science fiction, historical fantasy and horror. We also read outside of SFF&H and enjoy historical fiction, mysteries, some non-fiction, and graphic novels.
Our posts are generally giveaways, reviews, excerpts, interviews and guest posts. Occasionally, we will review a food or drink-related book – we are foodies, after all! Every once in a while a post will pop up regarding our travels, especially to England, where John is from and where we travel several times per year.
SCy-Fy: All right, you’ve convinced me – very eclectic! How do you organise the work on the site?
LOT: John and I love to read but are not full-time bloggers. John works 60+ hours a week as a market analyst and I maintain the blog. I create all the posts and facilitate all the correspondence to the publicists and authors that we represent, and maintain the social media accounts for the blog. I typically spend several hours or more per weekday doing this. I keep active accounts on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, and Google+. It keeps me busy.
SCy-Fy: I’m sure it does! What are your future plans?
LOT: I hope to continue maintaining and updating the blog as long as I can, since it can be such a pleasure. We both read a lot – we do not subscribe to a TV/Cable service – and it can be a lot of fun thinking and talking about books, authors, and other blog-related happenings.
And I won’t lie, sometimes I imagine myself pushing the blog into a money-making publication, but I wonder if I would enjoy it as much – which is an important aspect of why I started Layers of Thought.
SCy-Fy: Looking forward, what do you think will be the major challenges for SFF blogging?
LOT: Pushing for and including more women, people of color, and LGBT writers within the genre.
I also predict that competition with social media could become even more tricky in the next few years. Most people are looking for quick entertainment and diversions rather than reading entire blog posts. We can see that in social media sites like Twitter and Facebook where feeds are based on short personal snippets.
SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers? For reviewers?
LOT: For aspiring bloggers and reviewers I would recommend following blogs that you hold in the highest regard and emulating them. Be persistent, patient, completely edit your reviews and posts (I still find typos in our posts and reviews), and be kind and honest. Publicists and authors like that aspect and are likely to return to you in the future if you do so.
Also, publish your reviews on a variety of social networks, especially Goodreads and Amazon. Follow up and let authors and publicists know about your post.
SCy-Fy: Do you have any useful resources to suggest?
LOT: I recommend Net Galley, Edelweiss, and Shelf Awareness as online resources for books and finding publishers that would like you to do reviews for them.
For bloggers looking to learn more and to improve their blogging skills, try the Bloggiesta! It’s a blog that periodically has activities hosted by experienced bloggers giving instructions on particular aspects of blogging. You don’t have to join in their activities but can dig around in the archives to access simple ways to improve your blog.
Also, joining blog hops helps to spread the word about giveaways and gain new readers.
I also recommend a blog writing program called Windows Live Writer. I love it and have used it for years when creating posts for Layers of Thought.
SCy-Fy: What do you think are the biggest challenges in SFF blogging?
LOT: Building an audience is probably the hardest and most frustrating aspect to blogging. Be patient with yourself. Making sure that you have quality and well-edited content can be a challenge and is very important.
And always remember that you can hire someone to do the technical aspects for your blog if needed – I have never done so but have seen some great results from bloggers that have.
SCy-Fy: Things that keep you going in hard times?
LOT: A great book is always a reviver (although those come along less and less frequently the more I read.) Also, an interesting and accessible author that does a wonderful interview or guest post can create a boost, as can a thoughtful comment from a happy reader that appreciates a review. And you can’t beat plain old persistence, determination and just doing it, regardless of what’s going on in your life.
SCy-Fy: Have any posts of yours created controversy?
LOT: As a small home-grown blog I have made a point of staying away from controversy. I think that there is often a danger of stepping over a line that once done can never be undone. I’ve seen that happen on several blogs.
SCy-Fy: There must be some little story to tell, Shellie, just between us…
LOT: Well, we did do something risqué when I first started blogging. I had created a tasteful header (I make all the blog’s headers) including a woman with glasses reading a book in the bathtub. It was a great picture and occasionally readers would think that the picture was of me. So John and I came up with the idea to do a post with a picture of him reading a book in a bathtub. It was a lot of fun. We got a lot of laughs regarding the post. But that’s as controversial as it gets for the blog.
SCy-Fy: What are your choices for the best books of 2014?
LOT: Well, first of all we generally only post reviews for books that we enjoy on the blog, so if you are really interested in the ones we like, take a visit to the blog and dig around. You can find reviews organized by genre and a five-star rating system on the right sidebar of the main posts.
Within the SFF&H genre I would say that Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, and Hook by Lisa Jensen come to mind.
Outside of the genre, The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry are two of my favorites for the year.
As for John’s latest most enjoyable read, it was a graphic novel called An Iranian Metamorphosis by Mana Neyestani.
SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading?
LOT: One of the drawbacks of part-time blogging is not having the time to find all the up-and-coming books that will be coming out from a publisher, so I wait until a publicist contacts me with an offer. However, I do have knowledge of a science fiction book to be published by Tor by Catherynne M. Valente that will be coming out sometime in the middle of this year that I am particularly excited about. Since John reads most of the Sci Fi he may get to it first, though.
SCy-Fy: Any last words?
LOT: To your readers – please stop by and take a gander around Layers of Thought and say hello. We always personally answer all our comments.
And to you – thank you so much for having me here today. It was a pleasure.
SCy-Fy: Also for me. Good luck to both of you!