Welcome to the first in my occasional series of Blogger Spotlights – this time it’s Fangs for The Fantasy, whose thoughtful and often very funny reviews and articles are always worth a read, and they also deserve serious kudos for tackling serious issues in the urban fantasy sphere (though with a good measure of snark to sweeten the pill…)
Tell us a little bit about your blog – what does it cover, what are its themes or focus?
Fangs for the Fantasy is all about Urban Fantasy. To some degree we’ve touched on other elements of speculative fiction, but Urban Fantasy is our main passion – in any forms, we’ve covered books mainly but we also have a huge number of TV show recaps, films, comics and computer games. If it’s our genre we’ll grab it.
We also review and recap from a social justice perspective – we look particularly at the treatment of marginalised people – women, POC, LGBTQ people, disabled people and more. Too often this genre isn’t taken very seriously but its size and popularity means it’s vastly influential on our culture and these issues need to be considered. Besides, as marginalised readers and lovers of the genre we are very conscious of some of the problems we have to swallow to enjoy our precious…
Why did you start book blogging?
We were both blogging elsewhere before we started Fangs, Renee in particular was writing www.womanistmusings.com and more and more Urban fantasy conversations, discussions and reviews crept into the space. We spent a long time discussing books and emailing back and forth as well. We started a podcast first, and eventually brought the increasing posts, podcasts and discussions to a space that focused entirely on them – and it just exploded from there.
How much time does the blog take in an average week?
I’m actually afraid to add up the hours. Honestly, my tablet never leaves my hands, I’m either writing notes or reading the next book. The shows we watch alone are probably easily 10 hours or more a week. Then there’s doing other things and thinking about it, preparing Friday Discussions, talking every night about things, comparing links, noting conversation pieces, preparing scheduling, looking for new shows and books… It’s scary.
How many books do you read, on average, a month?
A month? Well Fangs has a regular schedule – 5 books a week are reviewed. One of them we both read, and the remaining are split between us. So about 12 books each a month. Frankly we live in constant terror of running out of reviews – our precious precious stock (we usually have reviews scheduled weeks in advance) has caused us to obsessively stare and count the days before we run out of content.
How long does it take to write each review?
This is a how long is a piece of string question, sadly. Some books – especially books we REALLY loved or REALLY hated we can burn off in 5 or 10 minutes (though the quotes can take time). But a “meh” book is really hard to extract a full review of and can take a lot longer to find SOMETHING to say. They are HARD to write. Then there’s the complicated ones with lots of difficult issues or social justice issues that need a lot of writing about, linking to previous discussions and external links: a complex, deep, nuanced review on some of the knottier books can take hours to write
What are the best things about book blogging?
One of my pleasures is looking at the list of reviews and just having a little gleeful “all of that. We did that. That’s us”. It pleases my organisation brain to see them all lined up. We also really love the friendships and relationships we’ve developed with other bloggers and authors that we never dreamed of having as just readers – it’s a plug in to a whole different community.
What are the frustrations?
Oh the Fanpoodles, the people who charge in like Hunnic hordes because we’ve said something less than wonderful about their precious. We especially dislike the implication that this genre isn’t “important enough” to be subjected to critique at all, let alone social justice critique – which comes with all the standard buzzwords “looking to be offended” “reading it wrong” and “did you even read it?!” We love this genre and respect it – so treat it as being worthy of analysis
On a lighter note – deadlines. There is a special kind of horror that comes from happily browsing netgalley, edelweis or several publishers and then realising that you’ve just agreed to read 8,568,998 books by next Saturday.
Of course there’s also the pain of seeing your favourite authors ending series you love like family – while other authors are gleefully hacking out book 18 and you feel duty bound to keep following though every word is like a needle to the eye.
If you had one wish about blogging, what would it be?
We would wish for more respect for what blogging is. There is so much time and effort that goes into a blog and a lot of dismissal of that – not understanding how much time and work we put in, or our very extensive reading of the genre. Equally I think that same dismissal causes too many authors to mistake us for easy advertising or PR which has lead to so much drama.
What key piece of advice do you have for writers?
Read. A lot. See what’s out there, see what’s been done and don’t feel like you have to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before. Too many stories can feel very written-by-numbers. Also, realise there’s a whole market out there of readers desperate for major marginalised characters; we want to see ourselves, we’re not a risk to be included – we can be an asset and an automatic fanbase.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start their own blog?
Again, read – we think reviews benefit greatly from you having a greater genre context. We’d also says it helps to be involved in the blogger community – reach out to other reviewers.
Also, don’t feel the need to say yes, don’t be distracted from your focus by whoever. If you want to read only sci-fi and someone offers you a fantasy book – say no. If a book looks like boring drek – say no. If someone wants to fill your blog with blatant promotional nonsense with little content – say No. It’s very tempting to be excited because you’re “noticed” but beware of filling your blog with irrelevant content
And, lastly, at some point, unless you are a Sunshine Suzy, you WILL get an author/fan/editor/publisher/agent swooping in and accusing you of murdering kittens. Don’t be afraid, don’t be intimidated, don’t panic, don’t rage. Keep calm. Keep professional. Be very respectful – and be sure when the whole trainwreck hits the internet (and it will), you’ll want to be looking like the sensible one.
What kind of books do you accept for review, if any?
Urban Fantasy! Any kind of Urban Fantasy – but nothing outside of it (our to read list is huge enough). We don’t read erotica and we’re not big fans of Paranormal Romance.
Do you accept review copies from indie authors?
Yes – certainly. This is something we’re passionate about.
However, be honest about what your book is when submitting a review – and keep it professional – we have so many submissions which are either looking for a beta reader (not our job) or include a lot of extraneous information (sob stories are common – you can’t guilt us into a high rating).
If your blog has a focus (romance, YA, paranormal, etc) – do you read other books for pleasure?
Very rarely – the sheer pressure to keep up our reviews doesn’t leave much time. Besides, we love this genre.
What are you reading right now?
Renee is currently tackling the Outlander series. She is not having fun. Not at all.
Are there any trends in books you’re sick of – or ones you’re dying to see more of?
This could go on for pages. We’ve actually written so many Friday Discussions and outright drinking games about some of the most mind numbingly common tropes and patterns. We could write a book!
Do you always finish a book or are you a ruthless DNFer
DNF! We’re happy to DNF. Life is too short and we have far too many books to read, to spend hours forcing ourselves to read books we hate. We don’t DNF often, but it’s a perfectly valid choice when a book becomes painful – and a perfectly reasonable review. I mean, if a review is an honest opinion of a book, then “so terrible I couldn’t finish it” is relevant.
Tracey: Glad to see I am not the only one who feels ruthlessly DNFing is a valid thing to do…! Thanks so much, guys — I appreciate you taking the time to pop by. This has been a really valuable insight into blogging – and blimey, I had no idea it was that hard much work! [Admission: I thought about doing a book blog and gave up after a week, it was way too much effort…]