Our special guest for today is no other than blog owner and reviewer Lisa Horan from The Novel Approach. Along with her awesome review team, she has gone a long way in establishing herself as a highly respected reviewer on a variety of genres. If you’re looking for a website that reviews books in a detailed and professional manner (plus offers giveaways), I highly recommend you check hers!
Tell us about you and your gay romance blog. Where can we read it?
Thanks so much, Jamie, for inviting me to visit with you and your readers.
My name is Lisa Horan and I own The Novel Approach. I started the blog back in December of 2011 after having reviewed for and co-owned two other blogs. At the time I created the site, I honestly wasn’t looking to run a review blog again but did still want a place to talk about the books I’d read and loved, even if I was talking only to myself. The funny thing about the M/M reading community, though, is that—at least when I started reviewing five years ago—it was small enough that I’d made contacts and established myself within the community, so when publishers began asking if they could submit books for review to me at TNA, it quickly became clear I was in a position to bring on staff and turn the site into something much farther reaching than me talking to the ether.
We now have a staff of twelve full-time reviewers who run the gamut in reading tastes, from contemporary genre romance to historical romance to high fantasy, literary fiction, and everything in between.
What got you started as a m/m blogger or reviewer?
I can give 100% of the credit for the way I read and review to a friend of mine, who is one of the most brilliant people I know. She and I met through an online book club, where we’d group read and then discuss the books in an online forum. There was never a moment when her questions didn’t challenge, or her observations didn’t illuminate those books in such a way—whether it was through metaphor, symbolism, or archetypal imagery—that made me look at everything through new eyes. She taught me about the alchemy of fiction and the hero’s journey, via the late Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, which led me to explore fairy tales and Jungian archetypes a bit more closely. When I eventually gravitated away from the group, there was still that need to talk about books, which was a natural progression toward reviewing.
I discovered M/M very much by accident. At the time, I was reading M/F exclusively but discovered that in so many of those books there were secondary gay relationships that I was far more interested in than I was in what was happening with the main characters. Come on, who didn’t want Butch and V to take their relationship that one step further, right? One day I was perusing Amazon when I saw I had a recommendation for Jane Seville’s Zero at the Bone. I bought it, read it, and never looked back from that moment on.
Why are you passionate about reading and reviewing m/m books?
I believe with everything I am that my friends deserve to love and be loved equally, and although the books we’re reading and reviewing are largely fiction, I think it’s integral to those of us who aren’t members of the LGBTQ community, but who consider ourselves allies, to be able to stand up against ignorance and prejudice through education and understanding.
What better way is there to do that than to read?
The reviewing part is a natural byproduct of my love for sharing what I learn while I’m reading, especially when it’s a book that’s exceptionally well written and a story that’s touched me.
Many of my readers love reading m/m blogs, but what makes yours unique compared to others?
Wow, this is a tricky question! I’m such a huge fan of so many of my peers—Jay from Joyfully Jay, Brandilyn Carpenter from Prism Book Alliance, Dani Elle Maas from Love Bytes, just to name a few—so rather than unique, I might say The Novel Approach is very much in the same class with the best of the best of my contemporaries.
What makes us stellar is my review team. They’re intelligent and eloquent, so if there’s any one thing that makes us unique, I’d say it’s our diversity and our ability to articulate our reviews in a way that deconstructs plot and characters, then present our opinions in a fair and honest way.
Define success as a m/m blogger and reviewer.
I think success for any review site is a direct result of, and entirely attributed to, our readers. The moment a review causes a reader to say, “Thank you,” or “I read this book and agree (or disagree) with you,” is when you know you’ve made an impression. It’s reader participation on the blog, without question. That’s how you know you’ve made it.
What are some of the best m/m books you’ve read this year?
Oh my gosh, I could go on and on with this question. On January 1 every year, I begin my “Best Of” list, which then gets pared down as I get set to present our “The Year In Reviews” post in December.
Some of the most memorable books I’ve read so far this year are:
Jess Faraday’s historical Turnbull House, the sequel to her brilliant The Affair of the Porcelain Dog
Riley Hart’s contemporary ménage romance Broken Pieces
Hayden Thorne’s YA historical fantasy Renfred’s Masquerade
Jordan Castillo Price’s sci-fi/fantasy Forget Me Not, the second book in her Mnevermind series
Nicole Castle’s dark comedy Chance Assassin: A Story of Love, Luck, and Murder
R. Cooper’s steampunk fantasy Wicklow’s Odyssey
K.Z. Snow’s contemporary romance Resurrection Man
Everything released so far this year by Jordan L. Hawk and KJ Charles
See? I told you I could go on forever, and this is only a fraction of the books I’ve loved.
What would you like to see more in m/m literature you don’t see now?
As a fan of sci-fi, Alt U, steampunk, fantasy, historical, horror, psychological thrillers, murder mystery/crime dramas, etc., I’d dearly love to see more books that focus on meaty and imaginative plots along with the romance. It’s not that those books don’t exist, but I do believe there’s still a disparity within the genre that leaves some room for expansion into those sub-genres.
If someone would like to write an M/M Jack the Ripper novel or a The Silence of the Lambs style thriller, I’d definitely read it.
What advice can you give to aspiring m/m reviewers and bloggers?
The number one bit of advice I’d offer is to be prepared for the reality of it. Depending upon how you position your site, it can quite easily be a 40 hour/week job. The Novel Approach hosts, on average, 50 to 60 authors per month, as well as posting roughly 60 reviews. There’s a lot of administrative work that goes on behind the scenes, on top of reading and writing reviews—cross posting reviews, engaging in social media, etc.—so it’s a lot of work but is also a labor of love and entirely rewarding.
The only other advice I think I’d offer is to surround yourself with a team of reviewers who share your philosophy on reviewing, whatever that may be. Knowing your reviewers’ styles and, conversely, them knowing yours goes a long way to avoiding surprises and conflicts later on.
Finally, I’d just say to have fun with it.