Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Interviews

First up below are my answers to ten questions about books, blogging, and reading sent to me by British book blogger Jodie Baker of Bookgazing. Next are my ten questions and her answers!

Jodie: How long have you been blogging? Jeanne: About a year and a half now. I started one winter while I was sitting around recovering from a knee replacement.

Jodie: Can you explain how you came up with the name for your blog ‘Necromancy Never Pays’? Jeanne: It’s an odd name, isn’t it? The name actually inspired me to start the blog; I keep a brief version of the story up on my sidebar, right underneath the title.

Jodie: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced while blogging and what’s the best way it’s affected your life? Jeanne: The biggest challenge for me is finding the time to write at least 2-3 times each week, and to get around to visiting other book blogs at least once a month. I have a husband with a very full-time job, two part-time jobs of my own (one requiring a two-hour commute twice a week), two busy teenagers, and a house full of animals. But the best way blogging has affected my life is that I’ve become at least a peripheral part of some interesting conversations; part-time jobs can be very isolating, so the book blog world has become a part of my intellectual community. Also I got better classes this year because last fall I sent my department head a link to my post about what it’s like to leave a class of first-year students with no real prospects of ever seeing them again, and he took special pains to work out a year-long schedule for me with some upper-level courses!

Jodie: How technological are you and what’s your favourite piece of technology/techy tool (apart from blogs but including domestic appliances)? Jeanne: I have very little technical expertise, and don’t even like kitchen gadgets much. I like ipods; does that count?

Jodie: Do you have a favourite community building event or group in the book blogging world? Jeanne: No because I’ve been too cautious about committing my time and energy so far. I like reading responses to the Weekly Geeks question the best of anything. Do you have a suggestion—because that might help! I feel a bit like the character of Will Barrett in Walker Percy’s novel The Last Gentleman, who was paralyzed by too much possibility.

Jodie: You seem like a pretty big poetry fan – what do you like best about poetry? Jeanne: I like that moment when you read a line or two and think “I’ve felt that, but couldn’t articulate it until now…”

Jodie: Who is your all time favourite author, the one you’d queue all night to talk to for five minutes? Jeanne: Hmm, this question assumes a live author. I guess it would have to be Jasper Fforde, who wrote The Eyre Affair. I thought about Barbara Kingsolver, but she comes across as very earnest. I once met Ruth Ozeki and felt that she summarily dismissed me as an interesting person because of the way I make jokes when nervous. I can’t see Fforde doing that—or if he wasn’t as fascinating in person as he is in print, we could always have a game of croquet.

Jodie: You read around quite a bit, just wondering if you have a favourite genre or if you don’t why you enjoy reading a little bit of everything. Jeanne: My favorite genre is satire, especially 18th-century ironic personal panegyric (blame by praise of an individual). But I aspire to be a Renaissance woman. The only genre I really don’t care for is horror. I don’t like to be scared, especially not by made-up stories.

Jodie: Can you speak a little bit about why you’re so passionate about public libraries in Ohio? Jeanne: Because I’m an American, and free public libraries are one of the foundations of our system of democracy. As John Adams said, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” This is carved above the door of my local library.

Jodie: Finally what book/s do you wish more people were reading right now? If you were in charge of the world for an hour what piece of literature would you make it law to read because you think it would do the world good? Jeanne: I’m willing to wish that more people would read Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale or her new novel The Year of the Flood (which is being published September 22) because I think more of us should think about the dangers she exaggerates for effect. (Also I worry that some of the dangers we thought were exaggerated in The Handmaid’s Tale have come perilously close to true.) But I’d never be willing to make a law about reading. You can’t force someone to learn; most people just resist more stubbornly if you try.

Here are my questions for Jodie:

Jeanne: What gave you the incentive to start your blog? Has it given you a reputation for gazing at other peoples’ bookshelves when you’re invited to their houses? Jodie: I’d been reading book blogs for about five years and I always wanted to start one, because not many of the people in my life read as much or as many different types of books as I do. I wanted to be able to form a closer connection with the book bloggers I enjoyed reading and also to take part in community activities like challenges and the 24 hour read-a-thon. I am absolutely the most nosey person when it comes to houses. If someone lets me stay in their house I will check out everything that’s on display (I don’t go through their drawers, promise) especially the bookcases. I’m fascinated by what people read and I add books they own to my personal list.

Jeanne: Which book has affected you or changed your life the most?Jodie: Changed my life, wow big ask. There are plenty of novels that have affected me and made me want to get involved with causes by donating money, but I don’t think that’s really a significant change to my life. ‘Jane Eyre’ is probably the novel that had the biggest impact on my life, by giving me a role model and lots of sensible advice about how to conduct my emotional life. When I took a course on ‘Dracula’ in university I got my first introduction to the different schools of literary theory and that was pretty influential in helping me to develop my thought processes. Finally an author made quite a change to the way I think about life, Stuart Clarke, joint author of an exhaustive series of books on witchcraft throughout history, was my BA dissertation supervisor and he really helped me to think deeply about history and how it applies to current society.

Jeanne: What is your least favourite book or genre, and why? Jodie: I can’t think of one right now, but it’s probably a piece of chick-lit. I have a violent love/hate relationship with that genre. For example I’d defend ‘The Little Lady Agency’ or ‘The Juliet Club’ against the snobbiest of book snobs but I find myself wanting to bash some chick-lit novels against the wall again and again until they change their characters and plot. Violent tendencies, I has them.

Jeanne: You read poetry when you were unemployed for a while, and say it gave you optimism. Do you think this would work for anyone else, or is it a very personal reaction? Jodie: I think this was a personal reaction. I’m the last person to say ‘Hey job seekers, if only you’d let art into your life your situation would seem so much better’. When I was unemployed I was in the privileged position of being able to live at home with my parents and have them buy food for me, which is just not the case for lots of people who have to sign on. Poetry is not going to feed your kids or pay your electricity bill and cold, hungry people tend to find it hard to be optimistic. What poetry can do and what it did for me, was to remind me that I didn’t have to listen to the negative people: the ones who told me it was shameful for people to claim benefits and the ones who liked to explain ‘how the world worked’ to me, or remind me that I was claiming benefit because I had taken a degree I was interested in instead of a practical degree. No matter how depressing the job search got, no matter how many people felt they had the right to foist the opinions they’d picked up from the newspapers on me, when I was already down, there were bigger people out there, creating this astoundingly beautiful art. Even darker, morbid poems contain beauty, a kind of gothic spectacle. This gave me hope that the world didn’t have to follow the grey, set pattern so many people in authority think is the lot ordinary, working people must accept.

Jeanne: Are you a writer? If so, what kinds of project(s) are you working on? If not, what kind of book would you wish to have written? Jodie: Not yet but I hope to change that. I’m always scribbling lines down and I have lots of ideas but I can’t seem to get myself to sustain a piece of non-academic writing. I guess I’m really afraid I have no talent. Oh and I need to learn more about grammar, I suck at grammar. This past year I’ve had a lot more freedom (this is the first year I haven’t had to do some sort of ‘school work’ since I was five) and I have a couple of ideas I’ve started to develop in my head. I always thought I’d love to write comic fantasy, because I’m a pretty sarcastic kind of girl in real life and I think it’s a genre that really stems from a typical British sense of humour. Now about half of my project ideas seem to be for young adult novels. Hopefully soon I’ll know if I can finish a novel, maybe I’ll try Nanowrimo again.

Jeanne: Why do you like reading challenges? How do you choose the ones you participate in? Jodie: I’m a girl who makes lists for fun and reading challenges let you make big lists of possibilities, possibilities that involve books! They also let you read other people’s lists, which is just as interesting as looking at people’s bookshelves to nosey, old me. They’re also a big community effort – bloggers all reading similar kinds of things. It allows you to make comparisons with books you’ve read before and talk about all kinds of books, creating this big web of bookish links. I think that’s a really good way of encouraging discussion. I imagine a group read of a big, daunting classic would be just as interesting. I pick challenges created by bloggers I already know and like, but I also check out ‘A Novel Challenge’ every other month to see what other bloggers have come up with. If I see something that sounds like an area I’m interested in, but never read books from, I’ll sign up, or if I see something where you get to read lots of the kind of books I like I’ll join up. I’m easy and I’m okay with that.

Jeanne: What author would you most like to ask a question of, and what would that question be? Jodie: Arundhati Roy – why have you decided you’re not going to write another novel ? Why?

Jeanne: You collect bookmarks—what do you like about them? Jodie: They’re pretty! To be fair people give them to me, more than I collect them.

Jeanne: Who would you vote for as the worst villain in fiction, and what would be your criteria? Jodie: Like the evilest villain or the villain that was the worst at being villainous? The most incompetent villain I’ve seen so far has to be Dom Daniel from Angie Sage’s first Septimus Heap book ‘Magyk, he’s out foxed by small children and a ghost that makes his hat bigger! The most evil villain I can think of is probably the serial killer in Kathy Reichs ‘Triptych’. The novel relies a lot on the big reveal so I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say the levels of deception and self-deception he manages to maintain are truly frightening and his killer signature is disturbing. My criteria for judging the most evil villain category would be: Must be from non-realistic fiction (I can think of prison guards and dictators from fiction that are suitably evil but the word villain implies a certain kind of evil that you don’t encounter in everyday life (and yes I know there are serial killers in the world, but for most of us they are removed from our reality)). Able to hide his true evil nature from the world and insinuate himself into the company of good people. A crazy level of violent behaviour. Insane self-justification for his behaviour (because true evil always believes it is right to act the way it does). Must be alive and actively villainous in the book (some characters from ‘the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ might have edged my choice out otherwise).

Jeanne: If you could only read books by one author for six months of your life, which author would you pick? Jodie: Tough! It would have to be someone with a huge body of work and an author that I knew I could trust to craft a good story. I think I would pick Terry Pratchett, whose books have a whole shelf in my house. I could re-read his books forever and there are still six or seven I haven’t read yet.

I hope you'll take a virtual hop "across the pond" to check out Jodie's blog (Bookgazing) now that you've gotten to know her a little bit by seeing how she answered my questions!


Nymeth said...

lol, the violent tendencies comment cracked me up :P

And I didn't know Arundhati Roy had decided not to write another novel!! Nooooo *cries*

Jodie said...

When, oh when will the Year of the Flood finally be here in the UK in paperback form?

Also Nymeth - yes I remember reading a long time ago she has some reason that involves the non-fiction she writes, and her extreme involvement with the characters when she was writing the novel. No more fiction unless she changes her mind.

Luanne said...

Great interviews. Viva la public libraries!!! ( hmm, guess where I work eh?)

Amanda said...

I love the setup for this interview, Jeanne, especially as you put your own interview up as well. (Jasper Fforde would be great to talk to!)

Okay, off to check out Bookgazing now!

Iliana said...

Hi - Just came over from Jodie's blog! Great interviews.

And, gotta love the love/hate relationship with chicklit right? :)

TexasRed said...

Hee -- you had me with Jasper Fforde, but Margaret Atwood was just too scary for me. I left "The Handmaiden's Tale in a hostel somewhere in Europe b/c I didn't want it in my suitcase any more.

Very nice to meet Jeanne!

PAJ said...

Your habit of making jokes when you are nervous is endearing. But pity the poor author who chooses to play you in croquet. The term "cutthroat" leaps to mind.
Thanks for the interviews, which were great fun to read and have provided me with more ideas of books I need to read (as if that list needed to grow any longer).

Jeanne said...

TexasRed, The Handmaid's Tale IS scary! I said I don't like scary stories, but if that one has a point, it's "try not to let the world get to this point--anywhere--and if it does, don't believe what the women in burqas say about how "happy" they are."

Jeanne said...

PAJ, You never know--maybe Fforde learned croquet at his own mother's knee...and maybe his mother was pretty cutthroat about her croquet, too!

Florinda said...

I'm seconding Amanda in appreciating your posting both the interviews - but I went to Jodie's blog already and commented there too.

Jasper Fforde would be awesome to talk to, I'm sure. Are you a member of his fan page on Facebook? My husband is, but I'm not...yet. I'm just not on Facebook often enough to get around to it :-).

Jeanne said...

Florinda, now that I know there's a Fforde Ffan group (they actually call themselves Ffanatics), I've joined it. Thanks! And I put in a friend request to you, too. For anyone who's interested, my FB name is the same as my real one, Jeanne Griggs, so come on over and befriend me!

Anna said...

Wonderful interview! It was nice getting to know you a bit more, Jeane. And thanks for introducing me to Jodie. I especially loved both of your answers about poetry. Off to check out her blog!

Diary of an Eccentric