Give a big hello to Suzannah from Vintage Novels!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
When I’m not travelling the world to help out friends in need, I live in a big house in rural Australia with
my awesome parents and siblings, trying to beat my previous number-of-books-read-in-a-year record. I
blog the results at Vintage Novels and am a self-published author of fiction and non-fiction, including Pendragon’s Heir, an epic new take on Arthurian legend, and The Rakshasa’s Bride, a novella retelling Beauty and the Beast in Bollywood India (huge fun).
How did you end up here in the world of book blogging?
I realised two things. One, I was giving all the same book recommendations to all my friends—and I reckoned it’d just be easier to start a blog and point them in that direction! Two, I’ve always loved vintage fiction which it seemed no one else was into—while my friends were reading Harry Potter and Robin McKinley, I was reading RL Stevenson and John Buchan. No one seemed to be reading or discussing potboilers of the past—but those were the books I wanted to talk about and geek out over with my friends. So, I started a blog!
What types of books do you enjoy reading?
I think I definitely have a “type”, but it’s a bit hard to explain. I read from just about every genre—non-fiction, fiction, fantasy, science fiction, lit fic, romance (though it has to be pretty clean), classics, biography, horror, poetry, and so on. My six favourite authors include authors of epic fantasy, allegory, spy fiction, detective stories, and humour. I also love few things better than a really well-written history book. Basically I will read anything that’s fun; and my definition of fun syncs oddly with my identity as a committed Christian: I enjoy well-written, highly artistic material (which rules out most of what the big Christian publishing houses put out these days) which nourishes, and does not drain or offend, my soul (which rules out a lot of contemporary secular work as well).
Which means that a lot of what I read is between fifty and a thousand years old!
What do you bring to the world of book blogging? What’s unique about your perspective of books?
I geek out about old books. If I could find a forum online dedicated to Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, where we could all sit around writing fanfiction, shipping Redcrosse and Una, and having passionate arguments about the relative merits of Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, that would be a dream come true. Most people who read classics these days end up writing boring academic papers on the wallpaper symbolism in Pride and Prejudice or something, but I come to the classics to enjoy them.
On the other hand, I love big ideas—philosophy, theology, and all the –isms out—so part of enjoying old books also means dissecting their cultural significance, their place on the big chessboard of history, the ideas that birthed them.
Do you have any helpful hints about blogging?
Oh, good question! Here are some things I’ve learned:
- Start yesterday. A good blog can take a while to build up a platform, especially if you’re a
marketing klutz like me, so the sooner you start, the better.
- Have a niche to focus on. Having a specific vision for what my blog is for (reviews of vintage lit) means I never have to rack my mind for a post topic.
- Be sensible about your design. Make it look nice, personalised, but not garish. Get opinions from friends with good taste.
- Write about what you love and are passionate about, even if it means putting your opinions out there. People connect with passion, and as long as you’re polite and gracious, they won’t mind even if you don’t always agree.
What type of things always grab your attention in books?
I love melodrama. The cheesier the high-concept situation, the better. 😀
I love stunning prose. From clear and elegant and crisp like John Buchan’s, to flaming and vivid and grandiloquent like GK Chesterton’s, if the writing doesn’t sing I won’t want to read it.
Most of all I love poetry and romanticism—that indefinable element that takes your breath away; unapologetic beauty and nobility. But that’s not something that is always apparent within a few pages of opening the book.
When you go to the library (or bookstore), do you bring a list of books to get or do you browse to find your next book?
Oh, if I had a list, it’d be far too long. I have a fairly good memory for authors and titles I’m on the lookout for, though. I’m also kind of impulsive when it come to picking my next read.
What book trends do you hope to see more of?
Trends. Oh, yeah, those things 😛
Here’s one. Five to ten years ago, all the writing advice was about streamlining your prose into
something that would make Hemingway weep for envy. Everyone was rushing around yelling “Omit needless words!” and consequently all the contemporary books I read tended to have kind of sterile grey prose. These days, though, I see a lot more authors delighting in the curious ring and clatter of words, flinging metaphors around, discovering that hey! Purple is a really nice colour after all.
I’d like to see that come back in. I’d like to see Sir Walter Scott get trendy again.
What books do you constantly recommend to other people?
Anything by: JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, PG Wodehouse.
The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.
Greenmantle by John Buchan.
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart.
Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag.
Evening in the Palace of Reason by James Gaines.
A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich.
And so many more—but those are some recent highlights!
Any exciting blog things happening in the future?
I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus for a couple of months while travelling overseas, so I’m just looking to slip back into regular book reviews. I’ve got Scott’s Bride of Lammermoor and Dumas’s Three Musketeers coming up soon, which will be fun. Sometime soon I’m really looking forward to releasing another historical fantasy novella in my current series of fairy tale retellings – I’ve got two in the pipeline, one of them set in medieval Byzantium (with a clockpunk twist!) and another set in Tudor-era England and Faerie, riffing off all the English folklore ever.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks to Alison for hosting me! Come on down to Vintage Novels and geek out with me about stuff before it becomes cool again!
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