Interview with Andrea Johnson (the Little Red Reviewer)

Please tell my readers a bit about yourself, Andrea!

I love reading, visiting bookstores, I love the physicality of books. About ten years ago, my husband and I gave up trying to own enough bookcases for our books, and we are now at peace with the fact that our bookcases are overstuffed, there are stacks of books next to the bookcases, books shoved under the bed, and books covering every surface in the living room.  I mostly read science fiction of the weird fiction, space opera, first contact, and character driven variety, with some humor, fantasy, snark, and sarcasm mixed in for good measure.

When not reading, I’m probably experimenting in the kitchen, watching a cooking TV show, or reading up on something random.

I’ve run the science fiction book review blog Little Red Reviewer since 2010,  my focus is speculative fiction, but I read everything from brand new books to older books to titles from big publishing houses to small press to self published, and the occasional graphic novel or manga. I love drowning in beautiful prose, getting sucked into an amazing story, and reading something so compelling that I’ve got to come back to myself afterwards.

What inspired you to become a book reviewer?

Well, I’ve always loved to read, and I’ve always loved talking to people about the books I’m reading.  When I was a kid,  my mom would always ask me about the book I was reading – what is the book about? What do I think might happen later in the story? Haven’t I read this book 50 times already? I’m sure she was just trying to keep me excited about reading, and it worked far better than she could have expected.

When I’m reading a book, I can tell you all about it.  But a week later? Forget about it. After I’m done reading something, I will forget the character’s names, the plot, the twist at the end, you name it. On the other hand, if I write notes down while I’m reading, if I write down the character’s names, if I really think about what I’ve read, I’m much more likely to remember it.

The book reviews started as a way to help me remember the details of books I’d read.  And it worked!   The act of writing the review helped cement the details into my brain, and years later if there was something I’d forgotten, I could just re-read the review to remember the big plot points. Before 2010, I had been writing book reviews on forums and a few e-zines, but I yearned for a place where I could let loose, be myself, and have the opportunity to develop my style. A bit of free time plus free blogging software, and Little Red Reviewer was born!

My reviewing style has evolved over the years, but that’s how and why the blog was born.

What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you as a result of your book reviewing?

Oh gosh, there is a list!  So many things have happened that I never expected, that I never thought could happen.  I got to be a panelist at Science Fiction Fan Conventions.  I got involved with SF Signal, which allowed me to connect with author-superheroes all over the world.  I got involved with Apex Magazine, which has just been the most amazing thing ever. I’ve interviewed authors who are my writing heroes, I’ve done a few local live TV segments, a few  radio segments on our local public radio station  …  I’ve learned how to network.  I feel like I have this amazing secret life that no one at my day job knows about.

What recent books have you been the most excited about in the past year?

The Monster Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson – I have been waiting for this book for 3 years! I don’t usually pre-order books, I don’t usually start reading a book the day it was released.  For this one, yep! I picked it up at the bookstore the day it released, and started reading it that night!  It’s a big fat hardback, and it took me at least a week to get through it.  My brain is still going through everything that happened!

Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells – My favorite Murderbot book. I had a very personal reaction to this book. Your mileage may vary.  And who doesn’t love a skinny little novella you can read in an afternoon?

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee – I was reluctant to read this. It’s the end of a trilogy, and I have always been really terrible about reading the last book in a series, because I don’t want the story to be over. But I did finally read this book, and it was devastating.  Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy is the smartest written space opera series of this decade. The reveals are brutal, the characterization is amazing, the world building is done perfectly. So yes, I’d been very excited for this book, just nervous to read it.

Please tell us more about your Kickstarter. 

The Kickstarter goes live in January, and in the meantime you can learn more at my blog.

I am kickstarting The Best of Little Red Reviewer, which is a print book of my best book reviews.  Essentially a book of essays, The Best of Little Red Reviewer is a journey across the last eight years showcasing my best work.  More subgenres of science fiction and fantasy to count, new books, old books, reviews I wrote last year, reviews I wrote in 2011.   If you want to know who I am as a reviewer, these are the reviews you should read.

Are all these reviews easily accessible on my blog?  They are there, but I don’t know that I’d describe them as easily accessible. If you’ve scrolled through my review index lately you can see that I’ve failed to make my best work easy to find.  The Best of Little Red Reviewer is a work-around; it’s all my best work, all in one place, no internet required. If you’re looking for a good book to read, or if you’re interested in my reviewing style, it will showcase that. If you’re a new reviewer, looking for some tips on how to write compelling reviews with a personal touch, my book will offer that too!

What have you learned so far from your Kickstarter?

Ask me again when the Kickstarter is finished!  So far though,  I’ve learned I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  There is tons of Kickstarter advice and tips online, and I have a bunch of friends who are familiar with how Kickstarter works.  They let me e-mail them a million questions, they reviewed my budget, gave me tips on backer rewards.  Kickstarter is an adventure, and there’s no need for me to go it alone.

What unexpected challenges have you faced?

So far, the biggest challenge is planning and time management.  This is a front-loaded project, with much of the work all done ahead of time.  Reading through all my reviews to find the ones that should be in the book, promoting the project before the Kickstarter drops,  scheduling guest posts and interviews, writing what feels like a hundred guest posts.  My friend was not kidding when he said that running a Kickstarter is a full-time job.  I already have a full-time job. Do I really need another one?

I am gambling that the Kickstarter will go fairly smoothly, and all my pre-planning will pay off.

If the project funds, the even harder work will start in February – getting all the material to my copy-editor in best-possible condition,  finalizing the TOC, and having hundreds of books ship to my apartment to be re-packaged and shipped out again.

So I think the unexpected challenge is just not getting overwhelmed and taking all of these steps one at a time. I am not the first person to do this.

What advice would you give to others who are thinking of crowdfunding projects?

Talk to your friends who have already done it.  I got the best advice from a friend of mine who has had successful Kickstarters, and he’s also had Kickstarters that didn’t fund.   What he learned from his failures was more valuable than what he learned from his Kickstarters that easily funded.   I am not used to people being so open about their experiences with crowdfunding,  so the fact that everyone I’ve talked to has been so willing to share their knowledge has been the most amazing thing.

Also? Spreadsheets.  If you are going to do crowdfunding,  be at peace with the fact that spreadsheets are going to become your life.

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