I’m so thrilled to announce to everyone that I’m interviewing today the My Fiction Nook Team. Yes, all five of them! They are all passionate in reviewing different M/M romance novels. Their blog is packed with so much value as they feature book blasts, cover reveals, and so much more! If you’re looking for a place maintained by passionate individuals who have a lot to offer, I highly recommend you check them out!
Tell us about you and your gay romance blog. Where can we read it?
Sandra: Our blog is called My Fiction Nook, and you can find us at http://myfictionnook.com. There are 5 of us blogging mostly M/M romance reviews, with the occasional M/F story also finding a spot. We also offer blogtour posts, spotlights, cover reveals and book blasts, and are working with Pride Promotions and Enchantress of Books Blog Tour rather consistently. Each month, we pick our Author Of The Month, who is featured over the course of four weeks, with posts about his/her books, some personal information, an author interview, and a giveaway of a book for each post.
What got you started as a m/m blogger or reviewer?
Sandra: I started writing up reviews on Goodreads in 2011 after becoming a member on the site, though at the time I was reading mostly M/F romance books, in various sub-genres. Up until then, I’d never even considered writing a review of a book, though I’d been reading ferociously all my life. I joined Netgalley and began requesting books for review, shortly after I had created my blog to have an additional outlet to post my reviews. I made online friends, and then kept seeing M/M books pop up in my feed. My curiosity piqued, I obtained one M/M book via Netgalley. The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been doing this for over three years now, have added 4 reviewers to my team, and we’re having a blast. We enjoy wonderful working relationships with a variety of publishers, mostly in the M/M world, and it’s been a ton of fun.
Dani: I have been an avid reader since I could talk. I am an English professor and, wanting to find a community of like-minded fellow readers and writers, joined Goodreads at the beginning of 2012. At that point, I was reading some M/F erotica, but almost always found the portrayal of the heroine unsatisfying. I stumbled upon my first M/M book with the help of a Goodreads friend in the summer of 2013 and haven’t looked back.
I joined My Fiction Nook in the spring of this year and have really enjoyed blogging. I love sharing my thoughts about my favorite books, as well as those that didn’t quite work for me. I love to write creatively , but have no desire to write fiction; reviewing/blogging allows me to think critically and write about the books I read, explore new authors, and discuss books with other members of the M/M community. It’s a win-win!
Heather: I’ve always been into reading, even as a young kid, and I’ve kept it up through the years, reading a few books a month. When I discovered ebooks and Goodreads, my reading took off and I started reading about a book a day. I got into M/M though the Lord John Grey character from the Outlander series and decided to check Goodreads to see if there were any other “gay” books out there. It turns out, there are a lot :). I’ve been reading M/M for over two years now and I’ve been LOVING it!
In terms of reviewing, when I first started reading it was actually very difficult for me to write reviews. I hadn’t done any sort of creative writing in years, and it took a little while to get back into the swing of things. Now, I’m as addicted to reviewing as I am to reading! I love reviewing for My Fiction Nook because I don’t have to edit myself or my opinions at all.
Rosa: Like the other ladies, I’ve been an passionate reader all my life. If I’m not in the middle of a book, or have plans for the next few books to read, I feel weird and incomplete as a person. 😉 A couple of years ago I was growing a wee bit bored with MF romance/erotica and was desperate for something new. I noticed that a few authors I read had written some short MM novels on the side and I decided to give it a try. I immediately fell in love with the genre, especially after reading Muscling Through by JL Merrow. I wasn’t sure what I should read next so I joined Goodreads for the recommendations. Pretty soon I was talking to other MM readers and exchanging opinions and must-reads. Writing my own reviews naturally followed. When Sandra asked me to join My Fiction Nook in July it was not only a huge compliment, but a dream come true.
Anna: I have read books, devoured books, all my life. The step to reviewing came with all the fantastic possibilities of internet blogging, and I really wanted to tell my friends which books were good, and which ones they could avoid. I feel that reviewing is for the readers, not for the authors, so I review only for my fellow readers. M/M caught my fancy many years ago, because I was so sick and tired of the M/F tropes and internalized misogyny. M/M gives you a break from all that. Glorious reprieve from the perfect and/or pushover silly women. I was simply tired of never reading about any kickass women with heart. They were all either silly cows or maniac bitches. A sad lot, all of them.
Why are you passionate about reading and reviewing m/m books?
Sandra: The more M/M books I read, and the more I interacted with the LGBTQ community within the overall blogger/reader/book community, the more I became interested in the fight for equality, and adding my own voice. I’ve always thought we’re all just people, and everyone should have equal rights, but reading and reviewing books that showcased the reality of these men and women, who are still persecuted in some areas, are still treated as second-class citizens, first made me angry and then an activist.
Another reason for my passion is based on the many relationships and friendships I’ve formed with the authors and other readers/reviewers. We all love many of the same things, and it’s been a wonderful bonding experience. I’ve always loved books, and everyone in this community has been welcoming and friendly, and I feel like I’ve found a wonderful group of people who all support each other.
Dani: I’ve been a supporter of LGBTQ community since I was a teen and have been involved with gay-rights organizations since my graduate days at UC Berkeley in the late-90s. I’ve found the M/M community to be very tolerant, accepting, and open-minded. There are so many fantastic authors who write M/M.
Plus, men are hot, and two men together are even hotter! There’s a lot to be said for unbridled masculine sexuality. It’s a fantasy come life.
Heather: I think I could relate to M/M books more than M/F books for some reason. I’ve always felt a connection to the LGBTQ community for as long as I can remember, and I was obsessed with Queer As Folk in the early 2000s and, later, The L Word. There is something about the message that love is universal that I really relate to. I also, frankly, am passionate about men! I love reading about men in every shape, color, and size, and two men falling in love is just my idea of a perfect read.
Rosa: I identify with the heroes MM books more than MF. One reason I grew weary with MF books was that the female characters are always so perfect. Even if they aren’t supposed to be, it’s generally because they don’tt realize they their own perfection until a man comes along to show them how awesome they are. I’m far from perfect, the women I know are far from perfect and such representations of women just bores the hell out of me. You will find 2 gorgeous, perfect men falling in love in MM novels, but there are also novels where one character is in a wheelchair and the other suffers from depression. One who has PTSD and the other is, here’s a shocker, bald. I love that.
Most importantly though, I watch way too many news programs in the evening. It often leaves me depressed about the state of the world and convinced that people are unaccepting and close-minded. All I have to do to get out of that mindset is talk to my fellow MM lovers or read an MM novel. The growing popularity of the MM genre reminds me of the growing acceptance for the LGBTQ community here in the States and the world in general. I love that as well. Also I just love anything with some man on man action.
Anna: Because I feel they are a way to show the world that homosexuality is fine, normal, nothing to get upset about. I want to spread the word about good books showing good relationships, between men, men and women, between children and their parents, and between friends. I like to put the spotlight on books that can shine the way out of the darkness for lonely gay youngsters. Or on books that challenge everything in which you believe, and still makes you love it. M/M romance books have a tendency to being all over the place, and I love it. The main characters can be army men, cake baking men, dog walkers, astronauts, stay at home dads, everything, and they are still men, they are still masculine. We need to show this violent world OTHER WAYS of being masculine. Here they are. Oh, and incidentally, they are also gay. I love a story where the being gay isn’t the main thing, where the STORY itself is the main thing.
Many of my readers love reading m/m blogs but what makes yours unique compared to others?
Sandra: I’m not sure that we are unique among other M/M Romance review blogs. What we offer are honest, straight-forward reviews of the books we read. The publishers know that our opinions are our own, and if a book doesn’t work for us, we will say so, but that doesn’t mean the book in question can’t work for someone else. Our promise to the authors and publishers from whom we get most of our advanced reading copies is that our reviews will be honest. Always.
I think our Author Of The Month feature is also something that draws our audience, as it lets our readers see a more personal side of their favorite authors, and not just as a writer but as a human being.
Dani: Sandra has done an amazing job with My Fiction Nook. This is her baby, and she is passionate about reading and blogging. I love working with Sandra, Anna, Heather, and Rosa. We are always fair. We don’t doll out 5 star ratings like candy, and we are always objective in our ratings and reviews. There are no knee-jerk reactions on My Fiction Nook. If we didn’t like a book, we tell you WHY, and the why goes beyond “it didn’t work for me.”
Heather: I like that we are sort of just “out there” with our personalities. We throw ourselves into the reviews, and there is nothing generic about them. We try to explain our points of view and we are never cruel, but we have strong opinions and we assert them, for good or for bad! And we try to have fun with whatever we do.
Rosa: Um, yeah, what they said. 🙂 I love that we all have different opinions and different ways of expressing those opinions. We all have different styles and that really comes through in our writing. Also, there’s no pressure to inflate our ratings just to please our audience or authors. As long as we’re expressing our opinions honestly, but with kindness, we’re free say what we want.
Anna: I think we are unique! We are all strong, out-spoken women with clear ideas of what we like and dislike, and we are verbal enough to manage to convey our thoughts in constructive and objective ways. We disagree and agree and make sure everyone can have her own opinion about a book without ever feeling pressure from the others to conform. We are also unique in that we are not all American, we come from different countries and different social backgrounds. I would have a hard time finding a bigger spread of life experience in another setting with only 5 women. We all rock in our own way.
Define success as a m/m blogger and reviewer.
Sandra: Success to me is an author telling me over lunch that my reviews made his day. That he appreciates my taking the time to read the book, to care about the characters and think about the words within. That my reviews aren’t just meaningless praise (drivel), but that they reflect an understanding of the characters.
Success is also when a reader tells me that our reviews helped them choose a particular book to read, when the reviews opened them to giving an author they’ve never read before a chance. It’s when a reader tells you they recognize the honesty in a review, that we don’t just gush on and one, but that we also point out the shortcomings, albeit in a way that doesn’t offend or hurt.
Dani: When an author trusts our blog to do a cover reveal or blog tour, that’s success. When a publisher or author trusts us with an ARC, because they know we will review it objectively and critically, that’s success. I If I can find a hidden gem or introduce a great new voice in M/M fiction to others, that’s success. I’ve had readers tell me that my review convinced them to read a book they would otherwise have skipped, and I consider that to be the biggest success of all.
Heather: Yeah, I agree with Dani. When an author comes up to me and says, “I really agreed with what you wrote, even though you were critical,” I feel like that is such a complement. Also, when I know that readers trust me to be honest and fair, which is the biggest complement of all.
Rosa: I love when a reader tells me that they weren’t sure about a book but because of my review they’ll give it a try. Even if they’re going to try a book because of my negative or ho hum review. They may see something in book simply because what I don’t like, they do. If I can get anyone to read more or read something different or try a new-to-them author, I consider my successful.
Anna: Success is when a reader writes to me saying that my review made her buy the book and that she loved it. Or when she writes to me saying “OMG I hated it too, I thought I was the only one!” — both reactions are valid and perfect and beautiful.
The thing with reviews is that readers start following you, not because you review “well” but because when you like something, they have learned that they have the same taste in book stories as you do. That’s when the magic happens. And that’s why I really do not like it when an author I don’t already know steps in and comments in my review space. Reviews are for readers. If an author loves/hates my review, a PM will do fine. I love many authors, and talk to many daily on Facebook and on Twitter. I just need to keep a good, solid line between my reviewing and my friending.
What would you like to see more in m/m literature you don’t see now?
Sandra: There are some M/M authors who really delve beneath the outer layers and lay bare that what makes us human, no matter our sexual orientation. It’s all the same, really, the same love, the same hunger to make a connection with another human being, the same needs and desires to be loved for who we are, not for what we can do for someone else. The need to be true to ourselves, to be equal, to feel like we belong. We come in all shapes and sizes. Give me more of that.
Dani: I appreciate authors who push boundaries. I loved Heidi Cullinan’s Nowhere Ranch, for example, because she explored kink that many authors are afraid to tackle without ever sinking the story into porn-without-plot territory. Likewise, Eli Easton’s The Mating of Michael and N.R. Walker’sBlind Faith series feature MCs who are disabled.
Heather: I’d like to see more disabled MCs. I have a weakness for an MC with a disability and there aren’t too many books with that out there. I also would like to see more bisexual men represented… oh, and a transman! I haven’t read a trans book yet and I’m dying to read a well researched, HOT, one.
Rosa: Fat men, bald men, men with disabilities, short men, femme men, average-looking men, MEN OVER 40. Or 50. Just some regular dudes. Men that have issues such as depression, PTSD, social anxiety, OCD, etc., etc., who fall in love but that doesn’t solve all their problems. Love inspires us to be better but it’s not a magical cure-all and I’d love to see more books that recognize that.
Anna: I would love to see more of transgendered human beings. We have so much to learn still, about human nature and about people. Stories are the best way of explaining things that are difficult to grasp. So, more stories about male to female, or female to male, characters.
Also, I would love to see more age spread in the cast. I am getting a little sick and tired of the pretty 27 year-olds.
What advice can you give to aspiring m/m reviewers and bloggers?
Sandra: Be honest, but not mean. Be true to your feelings, but not mean-spirited. Snark has a place, but not if it hurts. And really, just have fun. Don’t look at numbers of visitors, don’t set your value by how many people read your posts. Your value is in your voice, your opinion. Don’t get discouraged. Let your own light shine.
Dani: It’s the same advice I give my students when they are writing an essay: Don’t tell me just what you think; tell me why. Be honest, but go beyond the subjective reaction. A book can be worthwhile even if it didn’t appeal to you. It’s crucial to review from an objective place, which I think is particularly difficult to do in the romance genre. And, most important of all, read and review because you love it. It’s not a popularity contest, and not everyone is going to agree with you. Be passionate; be nice; and have fun.
Heather: I think the best advice that I can give is to be true to yourself. Own your opinion and don’t be afraid of going against the tide. If you say things in a respectful, confident way, you will be successful. I also would say to put personality into your review. If you are dry, if you are straightforward, if you are funny… put it out there! I think having a distinct voice draws me to certain reviewers and bloggers.
Rosa: My advice for someone who has never written a review, or doesn’t have writing experience, but would like to try is to start small. Just write one sentence. Then as your confidence grows go for a paragraph, or even three. Pretend you’re talking to a friend. Don’t worry about writing an formal essay or grammar–if you can talk about it, you can write about it (I think I got that from a book on writing). Once you’ve got something down, then you can clean up your grammar or rearrange sentences or paragraphs. As for reviewers and bloggers, like the other ladies said, stay true to your own opinion. Say what you liked or disliked and why. Oh and unless you’re a really fast writer, write your reviews in gmail or Word. I lost 2 reviews before learning that lesson. Seriously painful.
ANNA: Always speak your highest truth. And always be kind, because even if you don’t like the book, it may contain something that is crucial to somebody else. See, being honest doesn’t mean you get to be nasty.
So, be honest, and explain why you liked/didn’t like it.
Underline when a story talks about a subject that is close to your heart (differently abled people, dog rescue people, ambulance drivers, name it), whatever YOU love, use it in your review of the book. Tell the world that you love that they are talking about shark tourism. How many books do you know that do that? Right. ONE. Magic.
Make sure you write and save your reviews locally on your computer, because the internet is a big black hole that eats little people’s reviews for breakfast.
Never mind if nobody reads your review. Don’t count the Likes. Just write what is in your heart. One day, suddenly, something makes sense, and they all come running to read your precious words. (Yes, I’m still waiting).
In short: Just write what you loved, what you liked less, and why.
What are some of the best m/m books you’ve read this year?
Sandra: TJ Klune’s The Art Of Breathing – I don’t have words for that book.
Recovery by Con Riley – the sequel to Salvage, it was everything I expected and more.
Loving Hector by John Inman – funny. Laugh out loud funny, to the point where I earned confused looks while I was reading and giggling like a loon.
Spring Affair by B.G. Thomas – this is the first book in a series about a group of 4 men, who over the course of 4 books (Summer Lover, two more in the works) all find exactly what they never knew they needed.
Dani: This is always such a difficult question. So many interesting, poignant, funny, well-written, and downright cool books have been released thus far in 2014.
My top picks for the year are:
Red Dirt Heart series by NR Walker
Claimings series by Lyn Gala
A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews
The Mating of Michael (Sex in Seattle 3) by Eli Easton
Motel. Pool. by Kim Fielding
Shiny! by Amy Lane
Special Delivery series by Heidi Cullinan
Public Display of Everything by Cara Dee
Double-Up by Vanessa North
Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon
Mates series by Cardeno C
How to Train Your Dom in Five Easy Steps by Josephine Myles
Heather: I’ll try to keep my list to a minimum, but it is so hard! I’ll limit myself further by only listing books released in 2014.
“How To Train Your Dom In Five Easy Steps” by Josephine Myles
“Dirty Deeds” by Rhys Ford (I’m obsessed with the audiobook!)
“A Case of Possession” by K.J. Charles
“Double Up” by Vanessa North
“The Mating of Michael” by Eli Easton
“The Last Thing He Needs” by J.H. Knight
Rosa: Okay, seriously difficult question. Not all these books were five star reads for me, but they made me look at the world or the MM genre a little differently.
Sweet Water by Lisa Henry
Boystown 6: From the Ashes by Marshall Thornton
Les Recdevists by Nicole Castle
Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities by Lyn Gala
The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton
The Pillar by Kim Fielding
Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C.
Anna: Oh, it’s way too early for Best of 2014! But let’s see, I think these are all runners up:
“Recovery” by Con Riley (sequel to “Salvage”)
“Nothing Serious” by Jay Northcote
“Red Dirt Heart” 1, 2, and 3, by NR Walker
“Hero” by Perry Moore
“Ethan, who lover Carter” by Ryan Loveless
“Grandby Knitting Series” by Amy Lane – every single one a 4 or 5 star read.
“Fairy” by Cody Kennedy (online free story. amazing)
“Just Like You” by Zoe Lynne
“Freeing Stella” by Zoe Lynne
“The Three Miracles of Santos Socorro” by Sarah Black
“The Prince and the Program” by Aldous Mercer