Welcome to the 60th interview in this series. I have successfully followed the detailed map sent to me by Phil from the Epic Fantasy-centric blog A Fantasy Reader. AFR has been around for a few years and specializes in reviews, polls, releases spotlights and discovering new maps! Put simply, it’s epically fantastic!
SCy-Fy: You’ve been blogging since 2009, Phil. How has your routine changed in that time?
AFR: It used to be so simple… right after supper, I would sit in front of my computer to surf the blogosphere and take my time to write a post, coffee in hand. Then, I got two wonderful kids and things got complicated. Instead of taking my time, I had to find time.
SCy-Fy: So what is a typical blogging day for you now?
AFR: When it’s past bedtime for the kids, I go through my feeds, look at the trends on Twitter, Facebook and some authors’ pages and finally, I look at my poll list where I try to define the Fantasy reader, the reviews I still have to write and hope to have enough time to write or find a clever idea for a post. And there’s another problem… Hearthstone – I admit, I’m an addict of the daily quests… but I can do two things at a time!
SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?
AFR: As soon as I find more time, I would like to post more interviews, but not only from Fantasy authors. I have some ideas in mind that I will share in due time, one of those involving a peculiar Fantasy tourist… I hope to be able to take my map index to another level (still not sure how to do that), as I think it’s a great resource…for myself at least. I would also like to post more AFR Top lists, return to kickass moments more often, add another kind of index for reference… if only there weren’t only 24 hours in a day!
SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?
AFR: I think it’s clearly the transformation of the platforms where our blogging is shared with whoever is interested. We have to adapt quickly. With everything moving so fast and messages getting shorter (I’m looking at you particularly Twitter), it’s getting harder to keep the audience’s attention and convey the feeling of a book in a full length review or post. Moreover, trying to cover all the different distribution platforms is taking more and more time.
SCy-Fy: Any tips for bloggers and reviewers?
AFR: There’s the obvious; read, read, read and read some more and then write posts as frequently as you can (easier said than done, I know). Avoid the fandom trap if you write reviews. Find a niche and be original. Again, it may seem obvious but if you don’t, you’ll get lost in the crowd.
SCy-Fy: And for writers?
AFR: My main piece of advice would be about those clichés… they ought to be torn asunder or at least meddled with! However, if you still want to use them, twist them more than a little. And make yourself available on social media!
SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?
AFR: The places I visit frequently are Tor.com, Suvudu, Orbit books and Gollancz pages, Westeros’ A Song of Ice and Fire forum, Goodreads, Netgalley, Twitter, Facebook and the other bloggers I enjoy the most… those being: Fantasy Book Critic, A Dribble of Ink, The Wertzone, Civilian Reader, The Speculative Scotsman and much more (my blog lists them…). Thinking about it, are any of these really secret?
SCy-Fy: I suppose not. Traps in SFF blogging?
AFR: As far as reviewing is involved, as I mentioned in my tips, avoid falling into the fandom attitude, or at least, not too often – I know it’s alright to be a fan but you have to remain objective most of the time… . Aside from this, maybe trying to cover everything; you need to find your voice!
SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?
AFR: The blogosphere and all its contributors. When you receive feedback from readers, fellow bloggers or from authors, that’s when you know that you have to keep going. Still, the hardest time I had in recent months was with my lack of time. Keeping me going in that aspect was simply the fact that there are still readers who visit my blog and the fact that I still like it. A freshly written review is a delight!
SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy?
AFR: Controversy wasn’t part of anything I remember posting on A Fantasy Reader.
As for impact, when I look at the feedback and stats of the blog, it’s clear that my index of maps is quite popular (it was also shared on io9 and by several authors and bloggers). The ‘Best of’ I have written every year since I started blogging in 2009 are at the top of my stats. For reasons I can’t really explain aside from the popularity of the books, my reviews of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie and A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson were much more popular than any other reviews I have posted. And finally, my poll about Fantasy Clichés probably had some impact judging by the number of comments, the reception on Reddit and all the sharing.
SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?
AFR: I recently finished Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, her first novel that I’ve read and Brian Staveley’s The Providence of Fire, the second Unhewn Throne novel. Both were pretty amazing. Hurley’s worldbuilding is outstanding and she doesn’t rest at that – The Mirror Empire is mesmerizing (but not perfect). The Providence of Fire is the best Epic Fantasy released this year I have read so far, a great follow-up.
SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?
AFR: Alex Marshall’s debut, A Crown for Cold Silver could very well be the debut of year. Daniel Abraham’s The Spider War, the finale of the Dagger and Coin series – and speaking of conclusions, The Unholy Consult, The Aspect Emperor book 3 by R. Scott Bakker (the slog of the slog will finally be over). And finally, The Thorn of Emberlain, Gentleman Bastards Sequence book 4 by Scott Lynch. Scott is back in full force!
SCy-Fy: Well, I think we’re done, Phil. Now I’ll try and follow this map back the way I came.
AFR: Thanks for including me in your interview series and thanks to everyone who visits my blog!