Monday, 23 February 2009

Guest Blogger: KAT – Book Thingo





My guest today is Kat from the site Book Thingo, and the blog that i have been following the longest. I and many of her loyal readers have been with her through a few years of blogging  - from - Ménage a Kat to Book Thingo. When Kat accepted my invite i was so pleased, i had to pinch myself, so you can image my frantic rush to get the questions out - I know I probably have not asked her all the things I want to - but I had fun coming up with the questions that I did think of and it was a pleasure reading her response.

I have seen Kat through rainy days, sunny days, ultra sounds, first tooth to the terrible two’s – even day care and the horror and funnies of being a parent. She’s an avid internet blogger and when she’s on a roll – hold on to your horses  - she lets loose with fact and figures and all in her own words.

These past few weeks she has been going crazy with her excitement about the  Australian Romance Readers Convention, to the extent that i have my Twitter feed updating every 15 mins to get her updates – she is hilarious – and i can’t imagine all the cheeky things she will and probably do get up to at the convention.

Without much ado guys – Welcome Kat from Book Thingo.





1- Firstly you have promoted your site as "Mostly Romance" can you let us know what's your specialty romance area and how/why you got into it.


I don't have a specialty per se, but my favourite romance subgenres are historical romance and paranormal romance, so Book Thingo features those types of books more often. I've been blogging about books for a while now, but it was only last year that I decided to go ahead and create a dedicated blog about books. Although I run and edit Book Thingo (feed), I have a blogging partner, Wandergurl, and I'm hoping to have other readers reviewing on a regular basis.


-2- I originally know of your work through the blog Menage' a Kat - can you say why you changed from a blog to a domain   name.


Ménage à Kat is my personal blog, and it hasn't disappeared. In the last couple of years, I'd thought about having a separate blog for books, and last year I finally decided do it. I got a domain name because I had some goals for Book Thingo that I couldn't achieve if I used a platform hosted by a third-party.


 -3- Was it worth it and some of the positives and negatives if any.


Book Thingo has only been running—in terms of publishing original posts as opposed to reviews I migrated from my personal blog—since December, so it's too early to really measure whether the effort has been worth it.
The great thing about having my own domain name is that I have control of pretty much everything about the blog—layout, plugins, content, advertising. That's also the negative because it's a great time suck. It took almost 6 months to get Book Thingo into a state where I felt I could start telling people it exists. I chose to get a domain and to use a domain host in Australia so pages would load faster for Aussie readers, and those have come with their own set of issues.


-4- Anything you actually missed about having a blog.


Yes, the convenience and ease of use. Not having to manually do version upgrades.
I do still occasionally post on Ménage à Kat. The reason I post less often now isn't because of Book Thingo. I'm actually tossing up whether or not to get a domain for my personal blog.



–5- Tell us about the name "Book Thingo" – what's the story behind it.

Originally, I was thinking of naming the blog Stacks On! When you call "Stacks on!" a group of people kind of jump on top of someone and all pile up on top of each other. And I though it was a good play on words--stacks of books, and readers yelling Stacks On! before piling on their comments on a book. But that name was already registered in NSW, and you can't get a domain name without registering a business name or trademark.
Wandergurl and I brainstormed names, and we finally came up with Book Thingo. We like it because it reflects how we talk about stuff. I use "thingo" all the time in everyday conversation.



-6- How much of your personality is reflected in you site. It's quite streamline and there is an element of structure and organization to it - is this an element of you or am i being a paranoid old witch.


Oooh, good question. I'd say Book Thingo's design reflects some of my goals for the site. In terms of personality, I'd say the header/logo and the humungous orange RSS icon probably reflect my personal tastes.

When I was looking for themes, I wanted a magazine-style layout and of all the free themes I found, Arthemia had most of the features I wanted. I'd love to customise the design further, in terms of colours and fonts and frivolous prettification, but after 6 months of stuffing around, I realised that the most beautiful design wasn't going to be of any use unless I actually started posting some content. So I stopped tweaking the humungous orange RSS icon and started blogging about books, which is, after all, what the site is about.

And I'm a clutter disaster in real life, so no, the structure probably doesn't represent me at all!


-7- While the web is world wide, do you find you have a dedicated Australian crowd that follow your blog or is it a mix bag and some noticeable differences.


I'd love to attract more Australian traffic, but at the moment, I'd say we get about half our traffic from A/NZ. We get plenty of hits from North America and the UK, plus a smattering from other locations. I'm currently focused on

growing our audience—from anywhere, really—but yes, I'd love to have more Aussie readers participating in the site.



-8-While blogging gives away a piece of our identity - do you feel you have changed - become more adventurous - more aware since blogging.


Because Book Thingo isn't a personal blog, I don't feel as though it's changed me much on a personal level. But certainly, it's made me more aware of my blogging style and how I express criticisms about a book—I'm probably a little more circumspect than I would be on a personal blog. That's a deliberate choice because I feel that at Book Thingo I'm obliged to be more aware of my own reading biases. With Book Thingo, I have a much more elaborate editing process, whereas in my personal blog I write off the cuff.

That said, Book Thingo has helped me expand my knowledge about the book industry in Australia—and that's just been from  2 months of blogging. For example, I wrote a couple of articles on the parallel importation of books (part 1, part 2), which is a very important and contentious issue in Australia at the moment. I learned heaps during my research and it has changed my personal opinion on the subject.


-9-What would be your ultimate blogging/site experience - you may have  experience it already, or it could be a wish.


I'm not sure I can think of an "ultimate" experience because I'm interested achieving not a crescendo but a long, steady run. I'd love to do author interviews, and particularly Australian/New Zealand romance(ish) authors who haven't received much coverage in other romance sites. I'd like to write feature articles about authors. I'd also like to do more multimedia posts, but that's a long way in the offing since I can barely find time to post weekly.



We've just liveblogged the Australian Romance Readers Convention, and I'm in the middle of writing a round-up of the whole event. That was very exciting, often amusing, but also exhausting. I'm not sure I'd ever do it again--I suppose it depends on the feedback we get. But it's a full-on task to tweet regularly over two days.

Obviously, if for some reason Book Thingo reached the top of some important blog ranking list or started some kind of craze, that would be awesome, but I'm just not sure how we could link bacon cat to romance.

-10- One or two of the most memorable events on your blog/site.


It would definitely have to be liveblogging ARRC09. I'd love to know what it felt like reading the liveblogs, so if anyone followed us on Twitter or on the blog, please let me know what you thought.

Also memorable was getting our first ever non-SPAM comment.


-11-  What are some of the more noticeable positives and negative of the romance genre over the past few years for you.


I don't think I could possibly list all the positives, so I'll just go with those that have been important to me personally. Over the past few years, I've discovered edgier romances that push the boundaries of the genre—not so much in terms of the Happy Ever After, but what kinds of characters and actions can be acceptable in a romance.

For example, a few years ago I never would have thought I'd ever enjoy books in which one of the main characters sleeps with someone else, but Lover Eternal by JR ward is one of my favourite novels. I'd also have said that I could never enjoy a book where the hero knowingly rapes the heroine.

Now, I enjoy Kathleen Woodiwiss and goodness knows she's written a  few bodice-rippers, but you couldn't compare those to Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell, in which the rape is blatant and devastating. Or Anne Stuart, who I personally think writes darker scenes in which consent isn't always clear. In my review of Claiming the Courtesan, I link to a real story by an escort in which the ambiguity of consent is both thrilling and empowering. I'm not saying I agree with it, but there's something very honest and compelling about those relationships, and I think that yes, maybe an author can sell me a relationship that's had that kind of dynamic.

Other positives include books with strong female characters, really good cross-genre books (particularly in paranormal romance: CLWilson *swoon*), and the increase in literary criticism for the romance genre—driven mostly by blogs, I believe.

On the negative side, what is with the never-ending paranormal series? I love a good series myself, but I think it takes a deft hand to write a series that spans more than 3 books. It's sad when a good series starts going off the rails—sadder still when I can't seem to stop myself from buying the next book!


-12- Now to get to the books. Tell me all - the ones that started you off onto the genre, some favourite through the years and looking forward to books.

My first adult romance was a chaste little Mills & Boon I found in my grandmother's garage. There's a kiss at the end and my 10(ish)-year old self fluttered wildly at the thought. I loved Sweet Dreams (YA romance) books.

The first book with a sex scene that I read was A Secret Intimacy by Charlotte Lamb when I was around 12. It had kissing cousins (I think), which makes me feel icky now, but at the time I couldn't afford to be picky. Mum read it first and told me it wasn't appropriate—somewhat apologetically, if I recall correctly. Well, I read it when she wasn't looking, and it was just thrilling.

Once Mum realised I was reading adult romances anyway, she told me about her favourites, and to this day, we share a common love for The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss.

I've had heaps of favourites along the years. My favourite author would have to be Laura Kinsale. Her best writing is an

absolute treat. Some of my favourite books include:

Enchanting Pleasures by Eloisa James
Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
The Longest Night by Kathleen O'Reilly

Since Book Thingo is an Aussie blog, I want to mention Aussie books in particular. My favourite Aussie romance author is Melanie La'Brooy although she's really chick-lit with romance on the side. I'll be reviewing her books in the next few months. One author I'm expecting great things from is Bronwyn Parry. I'm not a fan of outback romances—mostly because the ones I've read have been atrocious—but Parry's debut novel As Darkness Falls is just lovely.

Other autobuy authors: Patricia McKillip (technically fantasy, but I think her writing is romantic), CL Wilson, Nalini Singh, Ann Aguirre, Meljean Brook. I thought I was over JR Ward, but after reading excerpts for her new release, she's back on the list!

My most anticipated book of the year would have to be Queen of Souls and Song by CL Wilson.


-13- With technology now walking hand in hand with our beloved print book - do you own an e-reader

     A. If no - why not         

I don't own an ebook reader because holy crap, have you seen how much those things cost??? I actually spend very little on books compared with many other bloggers around, so an ebook reader isn't a priority. That said, I've been to Dymocks to check out the Iliad and I got to hold it, and the thought of absconding with it did cross my mind, but I didn't think I could outrun security.

   B. What do you think of the ereader /ebook craze

I think ebooks are great if I can just afford an ebook reader. Seriously, I think publishing and book distribution are still in transition. I'm not convinced that ebooks as they are now will be the final outcome, but they'll certainly be around for a while. I think people (consumers) are crazy for investing so much on a technology and an industry in transition, but at the same time I'm grateful because all those early adopters are basically helping to fund innovation and driving the cost of ebooks and ebook readers down.


   C. What ereader are actually available in Australia - as some brand are not sold outside of mainland USA.

The only ebook retailer I know of is Dymocks, one of Australia's largest booksellers. They sell the IRex Iliad at insane prices and the Cybook. I believe you can get the BeBook in Australia, but I haven't heard of a bricks and mortar distributor where you can actually go in and touch it and test it out.



  D. Last book read that you though - it can't get any better than this.

The last (figurative) bookgasm I had was for Love Struck and The Babymoon, both by Melanie La'Brooy. The first one isn't genre romance but I found it very romantic, and the second one is more about pregnancy than romance, and I thought it was hilarious. I kept the books on my bedside table so I can reread bits whenever I felt the urge. For genre romance, the last wow book I read was probably As Darkness Falls by Bronwyn Parry.


-14- Any tips for new and future blogger.


Depends on what you're blogging for, but in general, I'd say be honest but try to be accurate in how you

express yourself. It's a terrible thing to have someone come and rip you a new one because they misunderstood what you were trying to say. My second tip is not to take anything personally even when it sounds personal.


  -15- Sneak peek at any future plans for the site or any upcoming events for you, and let us know where else we can  find  you on the web.


We're planning to hold a few contest on the blog, so that's pretty exciting. I'm taking home a lot of goodies from ARRC09 and I plan to give them away on the blog, so check back at Book Thingo for those contests. I won an interview on a popular romance reader site, so I hope that's going to introduce a few more readers to Book Thingo. I'm also trying to talk a few people into writing guest reviews, so expect some new voices in the future. Plus, more reviews of Aussie romance books and authors.

Book Thingo is also on Twitter and Facebook.










4 Speak To Me:

Keta Diablo on 25 February 2009 at 00:36 said...

Hi Erotic Horizon,

Can you e-mail me. Have a question about some other blog sites.

Erotic Horizon on 25 February 2009 at 01:00 said...

It was a pleasure having Kat with me for this interview - I hope all the visitor has a great time with Kat.

I have followed Kay's live blogging from ARRC and it was fun, fast pace and a pleasure for me - first live blogging experience.

Thanks Kat.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, EH. It was my first real-time liveblog, too! I'm not sure I could do it again, though. At least, not on my little Nokia phone. It felt very frantic and I was paranoid that everyone around me thought I was being antisocial. But I hope you enjoyed reading it. That makes it all worthwhile.

Erotic Horizon on 1 March 2009 at 07:55 said...

Hey Kat

I followed it religiously, every minute for two day - load of laugh i tell you. I did think - this must be so stressing for you to do, and also a drain on your concentration level.

But it was better than an action pack movie - There was one comment about an author being asked how she comes up with her love scenes - I just love how you convey the husbands response - That was one of the highlight of the live blogging - along with another 10 -15 snappy comment you made.

Love it.

Congrats you did a fun job.