I have successfully booked a slot in the busy diary of Bob Milne, the blogger and book reviewer behind Beauty in Ruins, where he’s been showcasing fantasy, science fiction, horror, and adventure novels since 2011.
SCy-Fy: Let’s kick off before that phone rings again, Bob. Tell me about a typical blogging day.
BM: A typical blogging day for me, really, is split into two parts. Most of my reviews and features are written and formatted at night, after my son has gone to sleep, and then scheduled throughout the week. It’s the next morning, before I head into the office, that I cross-post my reviews to the usual places before making the rounds and commenting on the blogs that I follow. That’s not to say I don’t multi-task and do a little reading/browsing to keep me awake during conference calls (don’t tell my boss!), but I do need that downtime at night to sit down and really focus on the reviews.
SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?
BM: Well, I started WTF Fridays at the end of last year, focussing on the weird and bizarre, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with that. In addition, I’m taking part in Mark Lawrence’s Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off, so that’s going to keep me busy, especially for the next 6 months. Beyond that, I really want to start digging deep into my dusty shelves and enjoying more of the titles that I’ve accumulated over the years, without the pressures of release date hype.
SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?
BM: Appropriately enough for a genre that’s often heavy on the technology, I think the evolution of technology is our biggest challenge. As blogging platforms and social media channels come and go, we really have to pay attention to where the audience is and how they want to be engaged. It’s not just about exposure or numbers either – it’s about being able to maintain the social aspect of simply talking about books. If the readers are moving on, then you either need to follow them, or be content with talking to yourself.
SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers? For writers?
BM: I think the hardest lesson I learned as a blogger is that it’s OK to say ‘no’ to a review request. As flattering as it is to be noticed, and as exciting as it may be to have an author or publisher ask for your opinion, there are only so many hours (and pages) in the day – overextend yourself and you’ll find that the reading experience suffers.
As for writers, the best advice I can offer is to do your homework. Nothing gets an author permanently banished to my ‘spam’ folder faster than a bulk e-mail that’s fishing for reviews in a genre I’ve made it very clear I have zero interest in reading.
The same goes with friends and followers on places like Goodreads – spam me with recommendations for your YA anthology of Christian Romantic Poetry and you’ll find yourself unfriended and blocked pretty quickly.
SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?
BM: NetGalley and Edelweiss are where I find most of my digital ARCs, while Goodreads and Booklikes are where I keep tabs on what everybody else is reading. Beyond that, I find Locus, Kirkus Reviews, and i09 great places to find out what’s coming.
SCy-Fy: Traps in SFF blogging?
BM: The biggest trap I can think of is, as I mentioned earlier, allowing yourself to become overextended. Whether it’s a difficulty saying ‘no’ to a request or a hoarding-level addiction to shiny new ARCs, at some point you’re destined to burn out. Don’t let blogging become a job (unless you’re lucky enough to get paid for it . . . in which case we need to talk!), and never forget why you started reading in the first place.
SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?
BM: It sounds cheesy, I know, but I’d have to say family. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is sit in front of the laptop after a long day at the office. There are days where I can’t even think of picking up a book after 7 or 8 hours of pouring over contracts and proposals. And, yeah, there are also times where I stare at the TBR pile and just don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, my boys always want to play, go for a hike, or just tell me about their day, and my wife always has something for us to do together.
SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy?
BM: I think I’ve been fortunate to avoid any sort of controversy, probably because I’m something of an introvert and would rather ignore people than get drawn into a conflict.
As for impact, my review of Raymond E. Feist’s final Riftwar novel has been (by far) my most popular post, while my Defence of Bad Fantasy probably generated the most interesting conversations.
SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?
BM: I just finished The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, which was absolutely stunning, while The Scarlet Gospels was precisely the kind of dark, bloody, horrific epic I wanted from Clive Barker. In addition, the Author’s Definitive Edition of The Unremembered by Peter Orullian was a pleasant surprise, given how mixed the reviews of the original edition were.
SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?
BM: I could do an entire blog post about most anticipated releases (in fact, I did that late last year!), but there are a few that I’m really excited about. The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán is an epic fantasy with dinosaur-mounted knights, which is about as cool as it gets –
BM: – while The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic and Black Heart by Mark Smylie are follow-ups to 2 of my favourite books of last year, both of which appeal very much to the dark, depraved side of my imagination.
SCy-Fy: What about your own fiction writing?
BM: Well, I’m committed to finishing revisions on my two big writing projects (a novella and a novel) by the end of summer, so publishers and agents may want to start contacting me with their offers now. Just kidding . . . mostly – hey, a guy can dream!
SCy-Fy: Let’s hope that becomes a reality.
BM: Seriously, though, a big thank-you for inviting me to stop by. You’re doing something very cool with these interviews. I’ve learned something about people I’ve been following for years, and I’ve also discovered some new people to follow. Thanks again, and keep up the good work!
SCy-Fy: Thank you, Bob.
11 thoughts on “Interview with Bob Milne (Beauty in Ruins)”
Thanks again for the invite – it’s been a great series of interviews, and I’m honored to have taken part.
Thank you, Bob.
Great interview. Bob gives some great yet simple tips that I wish I’d known before I started my blog.
Yes – lots of good stuff there.
Thanks, Wendell – although I do think your blog is doing quite well without those tips. 🙂
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When I worked in an office, I used to sneak and blog a little, too, especially when stuck in boring meetings. Glad to know I’m not the only one!
I am sure you are far from the only one!
Sometimes it’s the only way to maintain a little sanity. 🙂
What a great interview.
I love your point about ‘being over extended. I think the whole thing with taking on too many review books is something that a lot of us seem to go through unfortunately. It’s just so damn tempting – ‘oohh, a book, for me’ – but then recently I realised that the review books are taking all the precedence above the books I’ve bought because I feel obliged to read them first. It just sort of made me think no, I can’t possibly read this many books – you literally can’t say yes to everything just because you’re afraid of missing something. Don’t get me wrong – there are certain books that I REALLY want. I’m just a bit more careful now about drumming up the numbers.
Thanks, Lynn. The problem of books piling up is one that seems to affect a lot of reviewers – it goes with the territory, evidently!