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BBAW 2010 Interview With Holly Grierson of Book Harbinger

Today’s my Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010 interview with fellow book blogger Holly Grierson who blogs at Book Harbinger and has been doing so since about May 2010.  She’s an avid reader of fantasy and young adult novels, a mother, a wife, and an assistant librarian.

You can find her on Good Reads and Twitter as well.

1.  You read quite a lot of fantasy and young adult books.  What interests you about these types of books and do you feel differently when reading these books as opposed to when you read literary fiction?

Part of reading for me has always been about transportation to another time and place. Too often contemporary novels seem so familiar, so like my normal day-to-day life that they’re uninteresting. That’s not saying I haven’t read a lot of great contemporary novels, adult and young adult alike, but I tend to alternate them with a couple of fantasy novels. There’s nothing like going to a world with endless possibilities yet one that still feels like home.

With young adult, the potential for genre-bending and original premises also seems limitless. Young adult readers are more flexible than adults in their expectations and authors can get away with anything. At the same time some of the pickiest, most reluctant readers are young adults so some of the most page-turning, entertaining books are found in the young adult section. For these reasons I don’t think YA will ever fail to entertain and excite me. In addition it’s often the teenage protagonists, with angst-y insecurities and challenges and all to whom I relate the most. I can’t seem to get enough of coming-of-age stories and the many “firsts” that young adult characters experience.

I don’t read much literary fiction at the moment but I do feel like I have different expectations when I read it as opposed to fantasy. For example I expect more of the writing in literary fiction more from the setting and characters in fantasy. In some ways anything goes with literary fiction and I definitely would like to get back into that genre.

What three fantasy novels would you recommend to someone who claims to “hate” fantasy novels and why? And what three novels or authors exemplify the best of the genre?

Is there any way I can talk to this fantasy “hater” personally and find out what they don’t like about the genre? That would definitely help. I don’t think I can recommend three novels if I know nothing else about the reader’s individual tastes. There are so many subgenres and different types of fantasy that I honestly believe there is something out there for everyone. It’s usually just a matter of finding the right genre or author. Some fantasy is lighter on the world-building and heavier on dialogue and character development and relationships. Some fantasy is much more realistic and requires less suspension of disbelief from the reader. By contrast epic or high fantasy may not be for everyone – even me – but I think scifi/fantasy, romantic fantasy, or historical fantasy can be many readers’ cup-of-tea occasionally if they find the right authors.

I still feel like too much of a fantasy novice to be doing this but the best authors IMO would be Juliet Marillier for historical/romantic fantasy, Sharon Shinn for scifi/angel fantasy, and Ilona Andrews for urban fantasy.

As an assistant librarian, do you work in a particular capacity or section? Did your library duties inspire you to blog about books or did blogging about books inspire you to work at a library?

Since my position is flexible I’ve worked all over the library, including collection development, reference, and circulation. I’ve even spent several months working with the City’s arts development. My favorite areas have been media, fiction, and general reference.

As far as my library employment affecting my blogging, it was more in an indirect way. After a couple of years of working at the library, some of my co-workers started signing up with Goodreads. After I joined in, I went from rating to writing short mini-reviews and finally to writing full-length ones. From there I began meeting other bloggers on Goodreads and started Book Harbinger.

On your blog, you mention a love of learning. Has this trait spilled over into your reading habits and how? And where do you think this love of learning originated (i.e. parents, friends, etc.)?

I think my love of learning may differ from the traditional sense, but it is true that I love learning both on an independent basis and in a more formal environment. I treasured my university years and would go back to school for an MLS or PhD in a heartbeat. A part of me wanted to stay in school forever and never become part of the real, less fun, and more uncertain working world. Since I’ve been out of school I try to keep up (very badly sometimes) with the latest in art history and keep my brain alive by reading non-fiction sometimes. Mostly I end up reading self-help books whenever I’m facing a problem, whether it be domestic, childcare-related, relationship-related, or concerning childbirth or religion. I enjoy research and find that being knowledgeable on all of the experiences I’m currently facing in my daily life is a given. It’s just who I am.

My love of learning definitely originated from both my parents and my in-laws. My mother-in-law is a professor of English at BYU (my undergraduate alma mater) who has varying interests in a number of subjects like physics, neuroscience, psychology, and religion as well as literature and the arts.

What are some of your obsessions outside of reading and blogging?

Watching TV shows with DH (Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, Parenthood, Chuck, and Community are some of our favorites). I live for traveling and tourist activities, which I did quite a bit of when I lived in London. I love exercising, particularly running, and yoga, which I try to teach and practice when I have a chance. I also enjoy discovering new bands and going to concerts. My main albeit mandatory obsession outside of reading is taking care of my 2-year-old son. I am also expecting a girl in January.

Congrats on your pregnancy!

You have two art history degrees. Have these degrees influenced your reading or blogging? Who are some of your favorite artists and do you think their works could be adapted into fantasy novels?

I’d like to think my very ‘style over substance’ interest in discussing book cover art on my blog is due to my art history background. Picking favorite artists is difficult but some of the ones I liked enough to research extensively during graduate school are Alfredo Jaar, a contemporary installation artist; Hannah Höch, a German Dadaist; Gabrielle Münter, a German Expressionist; and Rachel Whiteread, a contemporary British sculptor.

I haven’t ever given thought to the idea of adapting a painting into a fantasy novel, but it’s an interesting concept. Hannah Höch did some Surrealist paintings in the 1920s like Vereinigungen (Associations) which would be both imaginative and abstract enough to form the basis of a scifi or dystopian novel. There are some lovely works of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and paintings by J.W. Waterhouse that would be perfect for more traditional fantasy novels.

Check out this slide show of images to get an idea of what Holly is discussing:

Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) is a celebration of all book bloggers and continues to grow strong. As a new book blogger, how did you hear about the event and what prompted you to join in?

I heard about BBAW last year when some of the bloggers I’d been following like Angieville were up for awards. I enjoyed voting and reading the memes and blogging topics. It was a given once I’d started my own blog that I’d participate. It’s such a great opportunity to meet new bloggers, improve your own blogging, and promote your blog.

How many blogs do you read and how many are in your RSS reader? Are they primarily blogs that focus on the same genres as your blog?

Right now there are about 30 blogs in my reader. Lol I’m probably one of the rare bloggers that could use more blogs in their reader. I hope this BBAW week will change that! Most of the blogs I follow either focus on fantasy, young adult, or urban fantasy but I do read some that have more of a focus on romance or literary fiction. The writing, opinions, and voice of the blogger often matter more to me than whether they are necessarily reading the same books as I.

Do you see yourself as part of the book blogging community and how so? Did you have to do anything in particular to become a part of the community or did you just blog and hoped readers would find your blog?

Good question! Sure, I see myself as part of the book blogging community. Perhaps a very small portion of it but I couldn’t live without my little corner. I don’t think much is required to become a part of the community. Maybe keeping your blog updated and well-written. Visiting and commenting on other blogger’s posts also is a large part as well as participating in memes and reading challenges. I think any blogger can feel a sense of belonging if they want to. Of course I still hope readers will find my blog, and I participate daily in social websites like Twitter and blogger sites like Book Blogs mostly because it’s fun but also because it gives me a chance to meet new bloggers and get my blog out there.

Write a six word memoir for yourself.

Earnest, factual, loyal, accepting, observer, friend-for-life

Holly, thanks for answering my detailed questions and joining in the BBAW celebration.  I hope everyone will take the time to check out my interview on Book Harbinger.