Today I’m delighted to welcome Anne Williams, winner of the RNA’s Media Star of the Year Award for 2019.
Hello and welcome, Anne. Many congratulations on being awarded Media Star of the Year in the RNA’s Industry Awards 2019. Could you start by telling us how an interest in books grew into your ‘retirement’ occupation as a blogger?
Friends had started blogs and I thought I’d give it a try, just to keep all my reviews in one place. I was amazed to find that people seemed to like reading it. When I took early retirement from the Civil Service the following year, I had more time to build it up.
I’ve been blogging about books for seven years now and shared my reviews on-line—just spreading the love—for as long as I’ve had a computer.
By 2016, my little blog had almost a quarter of a million views. I decided to step things up a little further, moving it to WordPress and give it a more professional look. I did the migration and design myself, and learned a whole new skill set (and a few new swear words!), but I’m now delighted with the way it looks.
The blog now has over 10,000 followers, all post views are in the hundreds, and I’m eternally grateful for the fact that my posts are shared so many times on Twitter that I just can’t keep up with saying “thank you”. Life changes—other demands on my time—have meant that I just can’t post daily any more, but I’m still enjoying it as much as I ever did.
I see you are no stranger to awards, having won the Best Pal Blog Award three years running and you are now in the situation of, as you put it, not having enough hours in the day! What’s a typical day like for you, if there is one? Do you have any room for other hobbies, apart from reading and travel?
There’s not really a typical day, but I usually do most of the work on my blog in the mornings and am often still in my pyjamas at lunchtime!. I deal with my emails and messages, spread the word on social media about my latest post, share reviews from blogger friends and interesting posts from authors and publishers, and then prepare a few posts (usually reviews these days). It’s always nice to do some advance preparation too—get posts ready except for the review—just to get ahead of myself a little.
When not spending afternoons with my elderly mum at her nearby care home, I relax in my reclining chair, maybe a bit of Classic FM in the background, reading. I’m a fast reader and can usually get through a book in a few hours. Not being a big TV-watcher, I’ll often read in the evenings too—and even in bed into the early hours, not wanting to leave a story until the end.
My life does rather revolve around books, but they’re the perfect escape for me. I can’t travel much at the moment, not wanting to be too far away from mum, but I’ve had some lovely short breaks to attend book events. And I enjoy running my local U3A book group. I do put the books down now and then, to enjoy the theatre, cinema, and going to concerts—or just spending time with friends, preferably with food involved.
Your website banner mentions ‘travel and other things that make life interesting’ as well as books. There’s also a lovely photo of orchids—is horticulture in there too, I wonder? How do you decide what to cover in your blog?
When I started Being Anne, I wanted it to be “more than just a book blog”—but the books rather took over, and I rarely write about anything else! When I named the blog, I wanted it to be personal—just me, writing about books I’ve enjoyed and why—and I try to write my posts with that in mind. The orchids are a nod to the travel though. The original photo was taken at the National Orchid Garden in Singapore, when I had a short break there a few years ago on my way back from Borneo. I do wish I could claim horticulture as an interest—I love visiting gardens—but I kill anything green I bring indoors, and I have a very nice young man who keeps my own garden tidy!
You enjoy a wide range of fiction—to what extent does romance feature in the books you review?
I like to mix things up a little with the occasional literary fiction, something historical or the odd thriller, but I think most of my reading these days comes under the “romance” banner, or maybe the slightly broader one of “women’s fiction”, because I can live without a happy ending. With long experience, I can usually spot a book I’m likely to enjoy. I like a touch of darkness amid the sunshine, a well-drawn setting, and I particularly like the characters to be past their first flush so that I can identify with them more easily.
A writing friend recently organised a ‘blog tour’ for her new book. For those of us who’ve not experienced this, could you explain how it works and the benefits it brings?
As you’ll see from my blog, I take part in a lot of blog tours—it helps me organise my reading. One of the most difficult things about being a new and unknown author (and more established authors can have the same problem) is making potential readers aware of your book. A blog tour can really help that happen. Whether arranged by a publisher or one of the excellent blog tour organisers, a book (and not necessarily just a new release) will be featured across a number of blogs over a set number of days: the content might be a review, a guest post from the author, an extract, or an interview, and information about the author and their book.
While increased sales can never be guaranteed, a blog tour will always bring increased exposure. Bloggers share their posts widely, and network really effectively to spread the word. Most bloggers will also copy their reviews to Amazon and Goodreads, and I don’t know any blogger who wouldn’t be delighted to have quotes from their reviews used in other publicity. The only (small) cost involved might be paying an organiser for their support. Anyone who’s tried to organise their own blog tour will know that’s worth every penny. The bloggers who take part do it for love—and isn’t that wonderful?
Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda for the RNA, as for many other organisations. I wonder how the selection of books and authors you review reflects these principles?
I’ve thought long and hard about this question, and must admit that diversity and inclusion isn’t really something I particularly think about when choosing the books I read. But stereotypes can certainly stop me reading—and I’m happy reading about love and relationships wherever they might be found.
Perhaps I could finish by asking you a little about yourself. What do you like to read? Have you ever tried your hand at writing? What’s your proudest achievement? Or anything else you’d like to tell us.
I’ve never really tried writing, other than the occasional article. I meant to when I retired, but life didn’t go quite as planned—if I wanted to write badly enough, I suspect I’d have overcome the obstacles. For now, at least, I’m happy to enjoy the books that others write. I’m very proud that my reviews have helped an untold number of authors draw their books to people’s attention, and I particularly love it when someone tells me—and it happens often!—that they’ve bought a book because of one of my reviews, and I love it even more if they tell me they’ve enjoyed it too. And I’m particularly proud of that RNA Media Star award, and the trophy’s in pride of place in my lounge—I must be doing something right, eh?
Many thanks for talking with us today, Anne. Here are some links to Anne’s blog etc
Anne was talking with Susan Leona Fisher (http://www.SLFisherAuthor.co.uk)