Blogging / On Writing

Guest Writer – Dina Ross: Creative Bloggess of ‘Books Now!’

The creative power behind the blog Books Now!, Blogger (or Bloggess as I like to call her)  Dina Ross took some time after her trip to South America to answer a few questions. Dina and I became acquainted when she sent me a message wondering if I’d be interested in checking out her blog – well, heck yeeaah! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, folks, the world wide web can truly be a wonderful connector of wonderful people who write about wonderful things!

We stayed connected over the last few months, and Dina was happy to let me ask her some questions about her fantastic blog – which I’m honoured to share with you in hopes that you too become a fan.

What’s super cool about this connection is that it is an international connection – Dina hails from down under! That’s right readers, Miss Ross is from Australia! And she loves books – reading them and writing about them – specifically US/Canadian, British and Australasian fiction. We can look forward to her book review of ‘I Am That Woman’ in the future as well! (Thanks, Dina!)

Shall we…

1) Share your motivations and creative process for starting your blog, Books Now! News and reviews from around the corner to across the world. What were the challenges you faced in starting a blog when so many blogs already exist?

I’m not a particularly “social media” focused person, so my greatest challenge in starting Books Now! was embracing a new medium. My other challenge was disciplining myself to post at least one (if not twice) weekly, because life and work have a tendency to get in the way!

2) Your blog’s ‘humble beginnings’ were in April 2013, and since then, you’ve garnered a readership of over 400. How does this make you feel? How do you think you were able to get these readers to connect and stay connected?

This is one of the mysteries of social media – why do some posts get Freshly Pressed and others, of equal merit, don’t? Certainly, there’s some luck involved. But I’d have to say that I had certain goals in mind when I began Books Now! and I stuck to them.

(a) I knew the audience I wished to reach: intelligent readers who wanted intelligent critique on contemporary fiction. I also wanted to reach readers with a whimsical sense of humour that matches my own.

(b) I hope the blog is “open” rather than “closed”: in other words, I invite response and interaction from readers.

(c) I’m a voracious blog reader. I often guest post on other blogs and that attracts new readers to mine.

(d) I’m not shy of inviting blog writers I admire to follow me, as I follow them.

(e) I’m consistent and post regularly.

(f) As a journalist, writing is my job, so I hope I write well enough to build a following. But I also post inspiring or amusing posts from others that I think readers will enjoy.

Obviously, I’m thrilled at the blog’s growth and my challenge is to make Books Now! even better this year.

3) What is more important to you – a large number of readers or few readers who comment and read for the love of what you do?

Lena Dunham said an interesting thing in an interview recently: even if your audience is small, if they’re connected with you, they’re like family and you’ve found your place. However, a critical mass of readers is necessary to create dialogue and you can’t do that with a small  (eg: less than 50) readership.

4) As 2013 has just come to an end, can you share your top interviews (from your site) over the year?

I really enjoyed interviewing Italian author Diego Marani (he wrote “New Finnish Grammar”) because of his erudition and passion for language. And on my linked podcast, Pageturners, I loved speaking to Ruth Ozeki (“A Tale for the Time Being”) for her humanity, wisdom and her concern for the planet and its fragile ecosystem.

5) Who are the authors you dream of interviewing on your site? (Dead or alive!) And why?

Oh dear – where to start? Putting Tolstoy on the spot for misogyny; quizzing James Joyce on the hidden meanings of “Finnigan’s Wake”. Getting the goss on the true inspiration for the “Guermantes” and “Swann” from Proust. Having just reviewed Ann Patchett’s “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”, I would love to speak to her. Just reading her, I have a feeling we would become firm friends, we have many similar attitudes to life. I would also like to interview reviewer and critic Michael Silverblatt from KCR’s Bookworm program in LA. He is an extraordinary polymath and an intuitive, eclectic reader. Michael, I’ll be in LA in April, so if you’re free…

6) What are some blogs that inspire and motivate your blog?

Pass on this. There are too many and if I mention some, I’ll be leaving others out.

7) Is blogging your ‘day’ job? What are you doing when you’re not blogging (share as much as you’d like here…!)?

After 20 years in journalism, I now run my own freelance PR consultancy, so that is definitely my day job and keeps me very busy. I’m also a playwright, with 6 plays produced, some of which have toured to UK and USA. My latest play, Muffins at the Death Café, had a professional play reading last December and I’m hopeful for a production this year. However, I look on my blog as another professional outlet for my writing. It doesn’t bring me any money but a lot of creative satisfaction.

8) What are some must-read books on your list for those who may be looking for a great book to read…

One of my favourite books of all time is John Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat”. There is so much all-embracing humanity in his depiction of a little Mexican village and its inhabitants. I read it for great writing and great depiction of character. Two superb Australian books of 2013 were Michelle de Kretser’s “Questions of Travel” which won the Miles Franklin Award and Richard Flanagan’s “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” which I believe is a real contender for this year’s award. Both offer extraordinarily rich overviews of history and geography, and make the reader question their belief systems and attitudes to the past. They’re also brilliantly told tales.

9) Are you a writer as well? If so, what do you write? Does being a blogger equal being a writer in your opinion?

Blogging is more closely aligned to journalism and for me the easier task. I don’t find creative writing easy at all, which is why I am the ultimate procrastinator.

10) About how long do you spend on each blog you write? I ask this for those who may be thinking of starting a blog, and who are wondering what kind of time commitment they might be looking at.

I probably spend about 4 hours a week on my blog. My posts take about 2 hours each. I plan each post and write carefully, trying to say a lot in about 600 words, which I feel is a good length for a blog post.

11) What was the best/most exciting comment you’ve received? How do you feel about ‘comments’ in general? Is it a ‘real’ interaction with a reader?

I’m always excited when readers say my post has inspired them to read a book I’ve reviewed. Some of the best comments I received came from a blogpost I wrote about writers’ attitudes to writing, when a number of readers responded by discussing their own views on writing. It was so interesting to see what they had to say.

12) If blogging was your only way to communicate with the world – would you change your blog? How or why or why not? *This is a fun hypothetical…

I would probably start another blog, one devoted to reviewing theatre, as that is my second passion.

*Thanks Dina!*

I do hope that this guest post has opened your literary mind a bit more by offering you some new authors and book titles that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise found. Do subscribe to Dina’s blog – it’s a sure way to keep you connected!

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