Monday, 13 July 2009

Sassy Brit – Alternative-Read.Com

 

This week I am very pleased to have Sassy from Alternative-Read.com. She found my blog a few months ago and lets just say I have never looked back once I found hers.

She runs a review site and blog, and for me it’s always an eye opening experience to visit as I am not only amazed at the diversity of the genres that happens on her blog, but also the fact that Sassy and her gang makes some reading material that I would never look at feel so easy and I have picked up a few since….

The other lovely thing about Sassy is that she is on my side of the world – So keeping my fingers cross all of us lonely book bloggers on this side of the pond will met up and one of two things will happen. We’ll either be plotting to take over the world as we know it with books or will be having a good old blast of a time. I am pushing for the first, but may have to settle for the latter.

Join me in welcoming Sassy Brit to Erotic Horizon

 

 

1- Firstly you have promoted your blog as "Alternative Read"  - and i know it is the blog arm of your website. What's behind the name and is there a story there.
The main reason for the site being connected to "alternative reads" is that I found that my reading habits consisted of the alternative variety. Roughly speaking these titles are often books where the genre is a little hazy, bizarre or slipstream. For example,Steampunk, an alternative history in which characters in Victorian England have access to 20th century technology,or genres I often am told I "should have grown out of by now" - horror, pure dark fantasy and tales that focus on the nightmarish underbelly of magic, venturing into the violence of horror novels.

Then there is Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic,Cyberpunk - stories featuring tough outsiders in a high-tech near-future where computers have produced major changes in society. Get the picture? At the beginning I even classed erotica as alternative, for in my industry circles ebooks were unheard of and (heavens above) even frowned upon. I think Britain still has difficulty in selling these, or at least getting readers interested in anything that is not in print format.

Over the years, of course, due to the high demand for reviews we get each month, we have expanded to cover most genres, be they self published, indie (smaller publishers) or the major publishing giants with lots of cash, although my personal preferences tend to remain the same - whoever they are published with.  However, I firmly believe in the promotion and support of Indie literature, and also music and films, too. There are a lot of marvellous artists out there that don't have the luxury of a big budget, but it doesn't mean they aren't any good at what they do or don't have talent.

-2- Can you let us know what's "your" speciality reading area and how/why you got into it.

I have partly answered this above, but I'll let you into a little secret. I started my site originally to promote my own work - freelancing- and - not many people know this - but I write short stories and flash fiction pieces (approximately 500 words or less) for fun. I have always been an avid reader and analysed everything that comes my way for its style and content.  I am forever curious to know how a story is crafted, and feel I learn from both the good and the bad books I read. It's kind of my 'on-the-job' training course.

Way back in 2005 my .com site was just me, myself and I, it was partly reviews and partly the promotion of myself for freelancing purposes,  under the "Alternative-Read.com" business name. There appeared to be a myriad of sites catering to romance, but hardly any for horror and my weird and wonderful tastes. In addition reviewer bloggers from Britain were practically unheard of, so I took it upon myself to put a stop to that, once and for all.  As you can see, my part time hobby of reviewing, kind of took over, but I am happy to say I have absolutely no regrets about this. It isn't always a ride in the park, but it is certainly rewarding and and I have been on quite a few good park rides.
How I got into reading such bizarre genres is something I blame on my upbringing.

For years I was a book reading tomboy. I had two older brothers, and a football manager for a father. All my money went on books and blue and white (Spurs) football 'stuff'. I even won a football in a raffle and everyone thought I was thinking of my brothers when I picked it out. I wasn't of course. This ball was mine! Ha ha ha! Anyway, I digress, I blame my reading tastes on my brothers, to be precise. I often sneaked into their shared room when they were out and snooped through their shelves. Thank goodness I never looked under the bed! Anyway, I found some hideous horror books with disgusting front covers that scared me just to look at them, so I began to borrow a few without telling them and realised there was some weird, perverse delight to be had from reading books that frightened the living daylights out of me. I was hooked.

Even though I am sure looking back I couldn't understand it all at the time. As an example, one such book was Rabid (also known as Rage in America) and a film starring the best screamer in the world, Marilyn Chambers, produced and written by David Cronenberg, 1977. The girl on the cover is dead, frozen blue and stuffed into a freezer. The tagline is "Pray it doesn't happen to you." I did. Many times. It's comical now, but Rabid is a classic of its genre during that time where horror was really producing some ground breaking work, both in books and on the big screen. James Herbert was another one who I read under the covers not daring to breath each time I heard a noise that I still swear came from under my bed.

-3- Do you review only books on your blog - If not how did you get into that.
I am also a member of Amazon "Vine Voice", so I get to review books and other products (including foreign films, my third most favourite hobby of all time) sent by them, which is great fun. I've reviewed toys, games and household appliances. I've noticed that the last review newsletter even offered a full sized, stand up Dyson vacuum cleaner. I was a little annoyed they had run out of stock when I tried to get that, because mine is on its last legs. It seems expensive products such as these are snapped up like hotcakes. Or in this case vacuum cleaners.
The posting of these sort of reviews often prompt further requests from all sorts of suppliers, kind of like a meme, and once someone gets wind of it, news I am reviewing other items spreads like wildfire... If I am not careful I'm going to end up with a house looking like the Trotter family home in Only Fools and Horses. I must add, my stuff is all legitimate and didn't fall off the back of a lorry.

-4- What sort  of blog time per day and week are you putting into your blog, seeing as how you run a dedicated review site.
Oh, I love this sort of question. This is where I say how organised and efficient I am. Actually I am not sure if organised is the right word, anal may be a little more appropriate. I get up quite early in the morning to reply to blog comments, with the idea of publishing new blog posts like (in old Blue Peter style) I have prepared earlier. I also do the promos early on, too. Things like tweeting the latest Blogger posts on Twitter, saying good morning to members of my Yahoo group. Then there is MySpace, Facebook, Digg, Technorati, instant messaging...all this networking can take over if I am not careful and before I know it the whole day has gone by in a technological blur. This is where my routine comes in. Schedules I suck at, but routines are different and I can cope with them.
Mornings:
PR (emails, blog posts and social networking sites).
Breakfast.
Reviews (writing them, formatting blog posts with reviews from the rest of the gang, recording incoming books, their due dates, which reviewers have them etc) until lunchtime when I walk my dogs for around an hour.
Afternoons:
My 'freelancing time' and then around 3.00pm it's time for me to get the house straight before my son gets home from school. We chat and do homework whilst I make and cook dinner, after which it's back to my office to finish off anything I haven't completed.
At the end of my working day I will shut down the comp, write out a list of things that need to completed the next day,  highlight all those items I have completed with a yelllow highlighter (I told you I was anal), and then go and read or watch a foreign film!
Notice I said "with the idea" right at the beginning - not everyday is truthfully as good as this.

  

-5-How difficult was it to start up a review site - with staff and all.
It is difficult. When the demand for reviews overtook my hours for reading, I knew I had to do something about it, but the last thing I wanted to do was give it all up. I had already found my niche for alternative books, so I took it upon myself to advertise for reviewers. Over the years we have had people come and go, but I am very fortunate to say I have a great group of staff and they are all friends, not just people I work with.

I won't make it sound all roses, it is hard to find honest and reliable people at times, and as harsh as it sounds, past experience has taught me to be extremely wary of those who I take on. But taking on staff means extra work in other areas; training, online meetings and increased reviews/productivity and in turn that means more computer time - formatting, posting, and website updates, yada, yada. All these factors can take you away from reading, the main reason you started reviewing and this needs to be taken into consideration. I love it, and don't give up on anything very easily.

- 6- What' the difference between the blog and the site.
OK I am going to sidetrack a little here, bear with me. I have to say that when I was made redundant I realised I could no longer afford to pay a yearly subscription to keep the main site going and at one point I was copying everything over from there and posting it on my blog for reference, with the view to saving money and deleting the .com site. But just thinking of doing this broke my heart. Sniff. Cue the violins.  I didn't want to do that, so I did some research and found that the .com site would be missed. So, not  being one to give up I thought of introducing the facility to promote cheap paid adverts in an effort to cover my expenses.

The offer has always been there, but I never really promoted it. I've also never really felt comfortable asking for money in any way, shape or form!LOL Now it's a matter of having to. Well, that, or get a "proper job" as my darling husband says when he looks at what I earn for my hobbyist freelancing efforts. :) Luckily the blog is free, but the more hits you have on the main site, the more they charge you. Scandalous! Then there's postage for giveaways, paid networking sites I subscribe to in order to promote "my authors". I know you may be thinking well I've only got myself to blame, I started it all. Yes, that would be right, but I also love what I do and if I were to get a "proper job" it would have to be in PR and related to books, otherwise I might just die of boredom. Besides, I like staying at home to work on my freelancing and I have actually written back of the book blurbs to this effect. Now, that's heaven, because you have to read the book in order to write those, which would be my ideal job.

So, coming back to your original question, the main site front page is to show off the monthly features in a similar way to how an online magazine does and it also holds the archives. However, lately a lot of the stuff has been transferred to the blog for safe keeping, but I do like the space a website allows and different features are much easier to find there, too.

- 7- What widget/promotional site or other must have would you say made a difference to your blog

None whatsoever! LOL Just hard work, toil and sweat.


 -8-  How much input did you have in actually formatting your blog and how smooth a progress was it or were there hair tearing moment.
Oh yes, I'm surprised I have any hair left.
I've spent hours putting the blog together - over the years it has had many disguises and much fancier looks than it has now. But, backup! All it takes is the press of a wrong button or a power cut at precisely the wrong moment and, whoosh, all your hard work can disappear before you can say "Flippin' 'eck !" Or words to that effect. I have recently added a picture for the header, and I have had a few I have made in the past, but as for the rest of the blog, I really do not know where to go with it, so I am telling everyone I'm one of those arty types and I'm going through my minimalist period.

 

Sassy


-9- .Where do you see your blog in a year from now.
I would be happy to be ticking along nicely as we are now. A few more reviewers is always nice. A couple of hundred would be even better. I'm ambitious in many ways, but not overly so. I suppose I do  have a sense of keeping my feet firmly on the ground, as they say. I have improvements I want to make in all areas of running and promoting a site, procedures and paperwork etc., but no big thoughts of fame and fortune. I would just like to make enough to say, hey, husband, this is a proper job.
I have a dream; I would love to have a properly designed review site, but although everything I have done on Alternative-Read, I have done on my own and it probably shows (in respect to the html coding and design) I don't know how to do one of those fancy review sites where you can type in a new review and using PHP (I think) it magically pops up on another page as "Recently added review", showing a book cover as a ready made link -- to go. So, until I work it out, as again I can't afford such lavishness, you're stuck with my amateur efforts, I'm afraid. This could take some time.

-10-How interactive are you with your followers' supporter - do you try to consistently visit blogs or has it reach a stage where the post upload outweigh the time you spend on comments.
Very, but since my comments are made early in the mornings, I am often either still half asleep or get sidetracked by what other  bloggers have on their site!

-11- What are some of the no no's for you in relation to reading and reviewing.
I like poetry, but I am not so good with free form. In my experience you either have to be educated in the rhythm, metre, lineation, form, which I am not; or good at writing it, which I am not. So I tend to play it safe and stick to storoe ms (poems that tell a story), or easy to read rhyming epigrams etc., otherwise I spend too much time trying to work out how one can make sense of nonsense. Along with free form poetry, I abhor Westerns and memoirs about people no one has ever heard of, and probably never will. I'm not too keen on Military books and Heroic Fantasy; war stories and its heroes - the fantasy equivalent of military science fiction. And I pick Arthurian Fantasy very carefully! 

 -12- Your blog have a very minimalistic look to it - is this a format that works for you and why.
It's my minimalist period.

-13-  What are some of the more noticeable positives and negative of the book industry over the past few years for you.
The way books seem to concentrate on the internalisation of the main character's thoughts. In my day, when I was a young wee sprightly thing, there was an unknown rule for writers, a kind of equilibrium in everything you do. To me this meant not having pages among pages of exposition, and internal thoughts without breaking it up with dialogue and conflict. Call me old fashioned, but I think what they do today is wrong, although, with a book written this way, it doesn't stop it from being a page turner, I just personally find it a bit niggling. And that's not good.

 

-14- With technology now walking hand in hand with our beloved print book - do you own an e-reader


          A.If yes which one.

             Yes! I won it a few years ago. It's a Sony eReader PRS 500 in silver

          B.Have you named it yet.
Laughs and wonders if you read minds. His name is Winston after the protagonist Winston in George Orwell's 1984. One of my favourite books of all time. All I need to do is pick it up and read about the doom and gloom of a failing 'new' world, and suddenly I feel a whole lot better. Of course, I have all the latest ebooks on it, too, and in that sense I feel quite privileged  to have a never ending supply of books in exchange for doing what I enjoy doing second best, writing about books. (Reading them comes first). Winston is always there for me when I need him.

           C.Advantage or disadvantages to having one.
My Winston is never lent out, he's mine all mine. You can pack more books than it is possible to read when you go on holiday but it has to be constantly charged up, and that's a slow maddening process. My biggest gripe is that I can't buy or read Kindle books on it, and that makes me sad. With regard to the actual ebooks themselves - you can't feel or smell an ebook and over the years I have taken a lot of pride in my autographed print books and specially designed arc copies, which I will never part with.

Don't get me wrong, power to ebook readers and authors of which I fully back up, but I'm also a secret book smeller and I find great comfort with curling up with the real thing. Especially if it's a page turner and smells nice. I have things that anger me with regards to print books too; they can get lent out and returned in pieces, they don't last forever and they can take up a lot of space. Most infuriating of all is that they can get lost in the post!


          D.Last book you read on your reader and the one you have next up.

Currently I am reading an anthology written by the best m/m authors out there. It's called "I Do" and all the proceeds go to Lamba Legal in the states that is fighting the Prop 8 thing regarding gay and lesbian marriages. The authors are not making any profit from this for themselves and that's a wonderful thing for the authors to do, and so easy for a reader to assist them in their plea for help. The next one I have is "A Band of Roses" by Pat McDermott.


           E. What do you think of the ereader /ebook craze -
I think it's a good thing and I fully support those authors in certain circles who are now facing issues about whether they are real writers or not, just  because they do not publish in print. That's an awful shame and I hope those who have the last say can understand that there is NO difference to the royalties received by an author whether it is in print or ebook form, both types of authors are selling books and treating it as their business. I ask you, what is the difference? They just chose to write books in different formats, this should not make one group better than the other.


          F. Since the inception of ebook - any noticeable difference in the print book industry.
Keeping up with the industry news I notice that some American publishers are supplying the ebook and audio book alongside a print book. The last book I reviewed from Thomas Nelson is also called a Nelson free. With these books you get two additional formats and this is a fantastic way of introducing e and audio books to those who might never even attempt to try them. UK publishers should take a leaf out of their book. :)


           G. Last book read that you though - it can't get any better than this (Print).
The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter, it's an ARC, which smells good and has a lovely glossy cover that is pleasurable to touch and my biggest gripe about it is that it's not also autographed LOL


-15- Any tips for new and future blogger .
Where as I encourage bloggers to go for it, I would also recommend that they take things gradually and be sensible about how many books they can actually read within a reasonable time scale. There are a lot of authors out there in need of reviews, and just like I discovered, it can get pretty overwhelming if you are doing it all on your own and just grabbing everything that comes your way. It is still something I have to keep in the forefront of my mind, as it is very tempting to say yes to everything. Bookaholics , like myself, need their fix, and once you start, like any addict, it's hard to stop! Along with the fun of never ending freebies comes responsibility, and the fact that several people are relying on you.


-16- 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.
I have nabbed an interview with the author Chris Carter, of the infamous (on my blog anyway) The Crucifix Killer (Simon & Schuster UK). My August Author in the Spotlight is booked and raring to go and spaces are filling up. I can be found on nearly all of the social networking sites and if there is something I've missed out, please do tell me.

 

To find out more about Sassy and her gang – see her introduction HERE….


Thank you for having me here. I have really enjoyed answering your questions and I hope I haven't rambled on too much. Once I start, I find it hard to stop.

12 Speak To Me:

Sassy Brit on 13 July 2009 at 10:47 said...

Thanks again for taking the time to interview me -- it looks great and I love the added pictures!

Hugs,

Sassy
:)

Michael on 13 July 2009 at 13:06 said...

Wonderful interview, Sassy, I especially loved hearing how you started your site and how you became interested in "alternative" literature by sneaking into your brothers' room. Really top notch questions and answers. Congrats to interviewer and interviewee.

Sassy Brit on 13 July 2009 at 15:15 said...

Thanks Michael!

Much appreciated.

Sassy
:)

Leontine on 13 July 2009 at 15:37 said...

Hi Sassy Brit,
You definitely expand my horizon and enjoyed to read how you came about your website/blog and reviewing habits. I can relate to the fact
Quote Sassy Brit interview: Schedules I suck at, but routines are different and I can cope with them.

It made me smile in recognition cause days do go by in a blink when networking, writing up reviews & e-mails. It helps creating a routine in things to manage it.

Thanks for this interview Sassy Brit & E.H.!

Blodeuedd on 13 July 2009 at 15:55 said...

Great interview :)
I liked what you namned your e-reader

Yvette Kelly on 13 July 2009 at 17:07 said...

Very nice interview.Love the questions/adore the answers!
Am already a google reader.

Randall Lang on 13 July 2009 at 18:16 said...

Hi Sassy,

Excellent interview! Few people, including me, understand the amount of raw work that goes into maintaining your website, blog, and group. I admire you for your sustained efforts.

Yours,

Randall Lang

Plate said...

"As an example, one such book was Rabid (also known as Rage in America) and a film starring the best screamer in the world, Marilyn Chambers, produced and written by David Cronenberg, 1977."

Color me surprised, since when was 'Rabid' based on a book? To my knowledge it was an original screenplay written by Cronenberg. The screenplay itself is available as a book I think. Or did I misinterpret Sassy's answer here?

Ruth said...

Much enjoyed the interview... as for rambling,well I think most of us are guilty of that when we're nervous. And you're right about the routines part of it: so much easier to handle. I'm an avid fan of Alternative -Read as well as you so again..... GREAT INTERVIEW!!!!!

Sassy Brit on 14 July 2009 at 15:04 said...

Hi, THANKS for all your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Leontine, yes, there is a difference isn't there? I like routines, but schedules are my greatest enemies! LOL

Hi, Blodeuedd! Yep, Winston may be slow at times but he packs a lot in :)

Hello, Yvette! Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

And the same goes to you Randall, thank you for taking the time to comment! :)

Yes, Plate, you may have a point - I meant I read "Rabid" the book, and not the screenplay although if my memory serves me right apparently, Cronenberg did write the book, too. Or took the credit. But I could be wrong. It was quite a while ago. :) I have the DVD, now. That's hugely comical.

Thanks Ruth, I love your enthusiasm, and thanks for your kind words!

Thank you, EH, for this opportunity! It's been great fun.

Sassy
:)

Plate said...

Well, I had to check sources since it's kind of a sore spot for me when artists don't get proper credit for their works. "Rabid" was indeed based on the original screenplay of David Cronenberg and nothing else. The screenplay is available as a book together with three other original screenplays written by Mr. Cronenberg:

Collected Screenplays 1: Stereo, Crimes of the Future, Shivers, Rabid

Also (and that is probably what you've read, Sassy), there's a novelization of the screenplay by Richard Lewis from 1977. Seems to be out of print now, but is available as a used book.

...MY NAME IS ELENI AND I AM A BOOKAHOLIC... on 14 July 2009 at 22:33 said...

i love Sassy! she's awesome mwaaaa