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In the Spotlight [8]: Blogger Interview – Mark @Mark Carstairs Considers

MarkI’m just amazed with the universe of different things that Mark reviews! Please meet one of the most prolific bloggers around…

Mark, thanks you for agreeing to the interview!

D: What made you start blogging?

M: That’s not quite as easy a question as you might think.

I started out reviewing at Amazon years ago.  Then I migrated to another review site.  When the future of that site was looking questionable (about a year before it did shut down), I decided to start my blog to house my old reviews so I wouldn’t lose them and to hopefully reach more people with them.  So my blog is an outgrowth of a reviewing hobby that I started over a decade ago.

You might even say it goes back further than that.  I have always loved sharing with people what I’ve been reading or watching.  My family got detailed plot synopsis out of books when I was a kid.  Reviewing is an outlet that lets me share that with people who are actually interested without boring my real life friends and family.

D: What do you think is unique about you as a blogger and your blog in the blogging community?

There are a couple of things that are a bit unique about me.  First, I’m a guy.  Yes, I know there are other male bloggers out there, but the majority of the book/review blogs I am aware of are run by women.  Most of the male bloggers seem to be in other areas.

Additionally, I review just about anything that catches my interest.  Yes, I review books, but I also review movies, music, TV shows, and Christmas ornaments.  I’ve been known to slip in some video game reviews, food reviews, and even Disneyland and Disney World attraction reviews (although most of those are a couple of years old at this point).  I blame that lack of focus on the two websites I reviewed at before I started my blog.  They encouraged reviews of everything, and that made it easy to review whatever catches your interest at the moment

D: How do you think being an accountant influenced your blogging style?

M: Over the years, I’ve had people tell me my reviews are more succinct than theirs because I’m an accountant.  I’ve also had people tell me that I analyze better because of it.  Honestly?  I would have said they were two different sides of me and neither affects the other.  So maybe others have noticed it more than I have.

D: About what do you enjoying blogging more? Books, TV or music?… ornaments???

M: Yes.  🙂

Seriously, I find I go through phases.  When I start to get bored with one thing, something else catches my interest, which keeps me interested in reviewing period.  Each thing uses a different part of my brain, so it is constantly stretching me.  When I went to start my blog, I thought about just going the traditional book blog route, but I knew I would never last doing that because I would miss reviewing the other stuff too much.  And yet, I still love reviewing books, so I think it’s working out for me.

D: Ornaments is one unique review category! Tell us more about it please!

M: LOL.  It’s something I stumbled into.  A fellow reviewer on the now defunct site I was on before starting my blog pointed out we could review ornaments there.  I was entering a reviewing funk, and the challenge appealed to me.  At the time, I only had a handful of Hallmark ornaments – the majority of my ornaments were from family vacations.  I reviewed the Hallmark ornaments I had, and I was hooked.  Unfortunately, it lead to my collecting Hallmark ornaments, and after only a few years, I’m running out of space.  “But I can review it” has been a favorite justification for buying things for years, and it hit me again with ornaments.

However, I’ve found that it’s provided a unique hook to my blog.  I actually had an author I’d reviewed come to me with an ornament question.  And someone who started reading my blog for my ornament reviews is now a fan of some of the authors I enjoy.

D: What bloggers/blog inspired you when you were a new blogger?

M: I hate questions like this because I’m always afraid I’ll think of someone later I should have included.  I will say that reading Lesa’s reviews at Lesa’s Book Critics (http://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com/) inspired me since she has such similar taste in books.  Of course, usually, they inspire me to add to my TBR mountain range, but I also want to create reviews that are an enjoyable as hers.

I also have to give a shout out to Becca and the group she founded – Book Bloggers Doe It Better (Now on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/BBDIB/)  They are always full of interesting conversations ideas, questions, and tips that have made me a better blogger.

D: I learned that one of your review policies is “1. I will give you an honest review.  If I don’t like it, I will say so.  And I will not take the review down” Any experiences you can share with us when writing a bad review?

M: Most of my personal experiences are from back in my Amazon only reviewing days, and they are things I don’t want to dwell on.  When I created that policy, there were a couple of recent blow ups about negative reviews, so I decided to stick that in my own policy.

 Instead, I like to focus on the majority of authors are very professional.  I can count on one hand the authors I had bad experiences with.  The rest are wonderful and are an absolute joy to get to know via my reviews and our interactions because of them.  If you are ever wondering how to start a conversation with an author, I’ve found “I loved your book” to be a great ice breaker.  Positive (and honest) reviews are the internet equivalent.

D: What Advice would you give to new bloggers like me?

Remember that this is a hobby.  You should be doing it because you enjoy it.  If it starts to feel too much like work, you’ll burn out.  Part of that, as tempting and flattering as free books are, don’t overbook yourself.  (And I’m talking to myself right now, too.  It’s just so tempting when you are offered a book to review.  But then there’s this towering pile of books you’ve bought….)

If you are enjoying blogging, that will come through in your reviews and posts, and that will attract readers to come back to your blog again and again.

Don’t do something just because everyone else does it.  Do it because you want to do it.

You’ll find advice and counter advice and counter counter advice.  At some point, you need to do what works for you,

D: What are your favorite blogs around and why?

A couple of group author blogs are daily stops for me.  I find the ladies behind Jungle Red Writers (http://www.jungleredwriters.com/) and Wicked Cozy Authors (http://wickedcozyauthors.com/) to be fun, and I always enjoy seeing what they have to talk about that day.

I already mentioned Lesa.  Another favorite for the same reason is Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book (http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/).  She also puts together some wonderful book tours.

But really, just about any blog on my blogroll is one I’d recommend.  They are there because I enjoy reading them.  (Does that cover me from leaving any out?).

D: Your author blogs list in your side bar is a very unique feature. I have not seen it in other book blogs? Why did you create it? How does an author make that list?

M: I use my blog lists as bookmarks.  They are blogs I am interested in following.  I know there are all kinds of fancy ways to do that, but this is what works best for me.  It’s why I have different categories, so I can find the blogs I want quickly and easily.

The blogs on the author blog list category are for authors I like.  It’s a way to keep up with whatever they feel like sharing.  It’s a mix of individual and group blogs.  But the criteria to make the list is really as simple as be an author I enjoy with a blog.

D: Who should I be interviewing next and what should I ask that blogger?

M: I would definitely recommend another blogging friend, Katherine at I Wish I Lived in the Library.  (http://iwishilivedinalibrary.blogspot.com/)  I’m not a good interviewer (which is why you won’t find them on my blog), so I’ll leave the questions to you.

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Daniela

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for such a fun interview!
    Mark recently posted…Movie Review: Jurassic WorldMy Profile

  2. Great interveiw, it’s the very first time I hear of a blogger who reviews Christmas ornaments ! And oh yes, go interview Katherine, that’s a very good idea 😀
    Red Iza recently posted…Hottie of the weekMy Profile

  3. Great interview! And thanks for the mention Mark!
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…Friday Linkups: TributeMy Profile

  4. I agree w/ Mark that a review w/ Katherine would be great because she maintains 2 book blogs and is a middle school (I think) librarian. I really enjoy these interviews, Daniela because I either meet a new blogger or get recommendations when you ask them about inspirational blogs. I love Mark’s mystery reviews, although my pile is now growing because of him!
    Elizabeth recently posted…Friday Blurbs: The Truth According to UsMy Profile

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