I’m honored to interview award winning gay romance author and blogger Gerry Burnie. His blog features the Canadian historical fiction genre from a gay perspective. If you’re looking for valuable insights and reviews on the best historical m/m books out there, I highly recommend you check his blog and his books!
Tell us about you and your book review blog, Gerry B’s Book Reviews.
Gerry B’s is a labour of love that seems to have caught on with a number of people. It presently includes 285 books that have attracted over 73,000 viewers to date.
Check it at: http://gerrycan.wordpress.com/
What got you started?
Interestingly, it had nothing to do with being a book reviewer. I was a novice writer, and so I began reading books in order to learn from others. There were times when this amounted to two or three books a week, so rather than just pile them on the bookshelf I decided to write a brief review to help promote the authors.
Why are you passionate about reading and reviewing m/m books?
For the pleasure and edification, I think. Of course I don’t just read M/M books. My favourite reads are anything Canadian, which in M/M terms is greatly under-represented. In addition there are educational books, such as The Naked Quaker: True Crimes and Controversies from the Courts of Colonial New England, by Diane Rapaport; non-fiction, like Sal Mineo: A Biography, by Michael Gregg Michaud; and politics, such as my latest post, Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada, by Brent Rathgeber.
Albeit, I think I can say without contradiction that I have covered every classification under the GBLT heading.
Many of my readers love reading m/m blogs but what makes yours unique compared to others?
I cannot compare my blog to others. They have their styles and I have mine. But I do offer an eclectic assortment, and I try to be balanced in my opinions as well. My motto is: Book reviews are like autopsies. They seldom come in time to save the patient, so there is nothing to be gained by beating on a dead horse. Likewise, unless it is absolutely warranted, I never trash another author.
For example, I have seen numerous reviews in which the reviewer has said, “I didn’t finish this book, but …” and then went on to give it a failing number or stars. I’m not sure how one can rank a book without reading it, but it is something I will not do.
I also review books that are considered ‘controversial.’ Rudi van Danzig’s For a Lost Soldier, and Angus Stewarts’ Sandel, for examples. Both books deal with pedophilia, but both books are near or at the top of the most-viewed list.
For every genre there is an audience, and I try to serve them all.
Define success as an m/m blogger and reviewer.
There is none … Or, at least there shouldn’t be. “Success” suggests that one is out to bolster their own ego; which is fine, but it is also fraught with disappointment. If the numbers are up one tends to be happy, but if they are down one tends to be blue.
Better to do it for your own pleasure … Your own satisfaction and achievement. I avoid these companies that offer to ‘boost’ your site or page as though numbers were what it is all about.
My approach is to start a blog or Facebook page, and promote it by posting on a regular basis. It will take time, but eventually people will begin to take notice. After that, it will build on its own. It has for me, i.e. Gerry B’s Book Review – 73,433 viewers; Stop the Bull – 16,034; In Praise of Canadian History – 7,712.
The key word is ‘stick-to-it-ness.’ Build it and they will come. 🙂
What are some of the best m/m books you’ve read this year?
I avoid superlatives like ‘best,’ but there are some books that have definitely stood out. I like books that are unique in some way. Jayne Jacobs, the renowned urbanologist, coined a phrase to describe the suburban subdivision, i.e. “the great blight of sameness,” and I fear this blight has found its way into modern literature as well. Nevertheless, here are some that have brightened my day:
Cut Hand, by Mark Wildyr would certainly be one of my favourites. It has a two spirit theme, but the authenticity of time, place and Native society is quite remarkable.
Rudi van Danzig’s For a Lost Soldier– The very tender love story between an adolescent Dutch boy and a Canadian soldier would be another.
Gay American History: Lesbian and gay men in U.S.A., by Jonathan Katz would, I think, be my top favourite. It is a daunting 800+ pages, but I believe it is the definitive book on the topic. The research is amazing, and yet it is quite readable.
What would you like to see more in m/m literature you don’t see now?
More variety of themes,for certain. I sometimes get annoyed by the ‘sameness’ of one novel and another, and another, and another. There are a myriad of circumstances, situations and events that can be exploited, and yet many of the novels I read have a ‘cookie-cutter’ theme.
Novels that educate would be another suggestion, e.g. history lessons in novel form. It should not be forgotten that the first writers were philosophers and educators.
Another theme that underdone is seniors in love. It does happen – so I am told – and the stories that have been written along this line have been well received: Into Deep Watersby Kaje Harper is an example.
Another theme that is sadly under-represented is gay adventures stories, i.e. voyageur tales, explorers, pioneers, etc. Dash and Dingo, by Catt Ford and Sean Kennedy is a good example.
Bolder writers are in demand, as well: Those who are willing to tackle the politically-correct-vigilantes and the Jeff-Bezos-imposed-taboos of the day. That is why I take such delight in reviewing and publishing them.
What advice can you give to aspiring m/m reviewers and bloggers?
There are really no rules that I can offer a novice blogger that I haven’t broken myself. However, I do have a few suggestions.
- Write about what you know (‘yourself’ included) and carefully research what you don’t. Readers will forgive a prosaic post every once in a while, but if you make a mistake in one of your stated facts, you’ll hear about it.
- Don’t worry about how a topic will be accepted. If it’s interesting to you, there will be others who find it interesting as well. Even if it is about the Variegated Tasmanian Titmouse, it will find an audience.
- Consistency, patience, and doggedness are the keys: Publish consistently, don’t expect immediacy, and keep doing it.
- Promote it often, but for the purpose of arousing peoples’ interest; not to build numbers. That will come with time. It has with me, and it will with you.
- Finally, DO worry about grammar and spelling. Nothing will turn people off faster than to find a bed of misspelled words, and awkward sentences.
- Hope this helps, and happy blogging!