Page Turners: Finding out more about the Reviewing Community
The tables have turned – this time the author’s asking the questions.
Blogs and websites have been hosting author interviews for decades, giving readers a chance to get to know their favorite writers on a more personal level. But today we’re going to flip the mold, having an author interview a book reviewer. So buckle up, grab your favorite caffeinated beverage, and prepare to dive into what makes a book reviewer tick!
Behrg: Today’s interview is with none other than Max Stark, a phenomenal champion of the horror genre and fellow book reviewer. First off, tell us a little about your platform. Where do you post reviews and how long have you been reviewing?
Max: I usually post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I’ve been reviewing books for about 3 years now. And I interact a lot on Twitter on the horror community. To my surprise I’ve gained quite a few followers in the past year.
Behrg: Outside of reading, what are some of your favorite things to do? What’s something no one in the horror/book blogging community would suspect about you?
Max: I’m pretty open about myself. I like taking photographs and playing guitar. I have a YouTube channel where I uploaded covers a while ago and an Instagram account where I show the photographs I take. Oh and that I’m Mexican. I literally had to put that on my Twitter account, odd enough a lot of authors stopped asking me for sending me their novels.
Behrg: Wait a minute, once you posted you’re from Mexico authors stopped asking for reviews? That’s crazy?!? Shame on all of us. I have even more respect for the reviews you’re putting out now!
I speak Spanish and love how a word in Spanish can sometimes have different meanings than the English equivalent. Even if it’s only slightly different, it can add some complexity to your understanding. But let me ask for those who may be living in different parts of the world and English is a second language, what advice would you give to getting started?
Max: To be fair I don’t think this came from racism. I believe it would have more to do with shipping rates which are very high. They ask if they could send something, I said yes but specify I live in Mexico, and that if they could send it to me I would be very glad to read their work. And many offered to send me an ebook but I didn’t have any way to read them. I just recently got a Kindle to try this ebook reading. I don’t like it very much but I’m giving it a chance.
Behrg: Well, that’s certainly a little more understandable. Shipping costs even within the U.S. can be a challenge for some authors. Any favorite sub-genres under the horror umbrella? Any you don’t particularly care for? Same questions but for common tropes in the genre?
Max: I guess the sub-genres I enjoy the most are ghosts, coming of age and some horror-comedy. And I guess I don’t have any favorite trope.
Behrg: Excellent choices! And horror-comedy—when done right—is absolutely magical. Physical books or digital?
I love physical books. I just got a Kindle device and I’m still not used to it. But I always will choose a nice Hard Cover against anything.
Behrg: For me I’ve now fully switched over to where I prefer reading on a Kindle. At first it was awkward, now it’s just convenient. Writing well-thought reviews takes time. What are some of the things that keep you going
Max: I like a well-written story that keeps me wondering what is going to happen. But if the ending is given away soon in the story I could let it pass if it at least keep me entertained.
I hate when I find some discrepancies on the stories, or if the author is giving me the basis of some world he created for his story that he sticks to it. E.g. If you tell me vampires can’t fly but suddenly your vampire does flies, that’s a huge let down for me.
Behrg: Totally agree. As an author you’re in essence making a contract with the reader that once the rules are established, (even if it’s done over time throughout the novel or story), you can’t go back on that agreement. Doing so is as close to cheating as you can come in a novel and leaves the reader feeling jaded.
If you had only one author you could read for the rest of your life, who would you choose and why? What if you had only three?
Max: Stephen King then Joe Hill
The third place could be a difficult task for me, cause, in order to give an opinion I’d have to read more of their works. But so far as little I’ve read from them I like the works by:
I have loved what I’ve read by Jeff Strand
Michael Patrick Hicks
Behrg: What a great list! Every one of these is incredible authors, each in their own right.
What’s some advice you could give to those just starting to build a platform to review books? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered and how have you navigated them?
Max: Writing a review has been my main and most difficult challenge. It’s not the same knowing that you liked something you read or seen, than expressing why you liked it or even harder if you love it. My advice will be the same authors give to aspiring writers… Write, write, and then keep writing.
Behrg: Nailed it. The only way to improve our craft is to keep going. Keep writing. Read what others are doing, and then write some more.
Favorite read of 2020 so far? Favorite read of 2019? Of all time?
Max: Favorite read of 2020 so far the Locke & Key series.
2019 it has to be a triple tie between The Shining, Pet Sematary and It.
My favorite read of all time has to be another tie between It and NOS4A2
Behrg: Great list! I haven’t yet read the Locke & Key series but have been watching the Netflix show with my kids and from what I’ve heard (as is often the case) the books—or in this case graphic novels—far exceed the adaptation.
Max: Oh I watched the show and I didn’t like it a bit. They’re not the same characters from the original source. They lost something in the translation. The gore and violence in the comic give the story so much more depth. Please, do yourself a favor and read the comics.
Behrg: I’ll let you know what I think of them! Do you write fiction yourself and, if so, have you published anything? If not, how has reviewing books allowed you to grow as a writer?
Max: Writing reviews and reading have give me the curiosity of trying to write some fiction myself. But honestly I haven’t given myself the time to really try it.
Behrg: Well, you’re off to a good start in the reading department as well as with the writing of reviews. Let those ideas bake and then when they’re starting to become fully formed, allow yourself to jot them down. Just like your first few reviews, give yourself permission to make mistakes, to grow in your writing, and then keep at it!
There’s no right answer here, but how do you personally handle reviews for books you don’t care for? Do you finish every book you read or do you move on if a book isn’t grabbing you?
Max: Up until now there’s only one book I definitively had to DNF. But most of the times I try to finish them. I really don’t care about negative reviews over books I’ve loved. I’m open to discussing or exchanging point of views, but in the end it all comes down to the liking of each individual. Art is subjective.
Max: Great response! When I do encounter a book that doesn’t work for me I actually like hearing opposing feedback. I like seeing how others viewed things differently or what may have hit the right chords for someone else while they fell flat for me. If we all only liked the same exact things life would be pretty boring.
Behrg: Such a great way to look at things. What advice would you give authors looking to have their books reviewed? What are some of the best ways authors have asked you to review their book? Some of the worst? Anything you’d like to let authors know regarding the etiquette of requesting a review?
Max: The only advice I could give for what I’ve seen, I’ve never been asked for a review up until recently by 2 authors, is that you always ask politely. Always check past reviews of the person you’re about to ask to see if it fits the genre you’re writing and be open to the fact that you might get a bad negative review. Again art is very subjective.
Behrg: While this advice should go without saying, it bears repeating! Reviewers don’t “owe” an author anything, and it’s so important for authors seeking reviews to understand that and just be respectful. Even to those who drop a one-star review on their work. Like you say, art is subjective, and what doesn’t work for some will work for others.
As part of the horror author community, let me say a huge thank you from all of us for all that you do to support indie, hybrid, and traditionally published authors. Honest reviews not only help others discover our work, but can sometimes be the encouragement an author needs to keep doing what we do. Any last words you’d like to share with authors, fellow reviewers or casual readers?
Max: Just… Keep up the good work.
Behrg: Thanks again Max for joining us for this interview! For readers looking to check out Max’s recommendations, follow him through the links below. Be kind to each other!
You can follow Max on Twitter @Max_Stark8
Please check out Max’s Goodreads page HERE
A former child actor turned wanna-be rockstar, The Behrg is the author of the Internationally best-selling novel Housebroken and the thrilling Creation Series. His short work can be found in anthologies from Bloodshot Books, Comet Press, Omnium Gatherum, and Cemetery Dance. A mental health advocate, Behrg often explores the themes of mental illness within his work, albeit within a horror backdrop.
Behrg lives in Southern California with his wife and four kids where he still plays in a band, plays in fictional worlds of his own creating, and plays—quite poorly, he might add—at being an adult.
When coloring, he does not stay within the lines.
Stalk him at www.thebehrg.com
Check out The Behrg’s GoodReads page HERE
The Behrg’s Amazon author page can be found HERE
Follow The Behrg on Twitter @TheBehrg
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The Behrg Free Fiction: HERE