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Welcome to this new series! We’re shaking things up at Meeting the Authors. Once or twice per month, MTA is turning the tables to feature Book Bloggers. A huge and hearty welcome to the first book blogger to take the Turning the Tables Plunge!
Today we travel to Wylam, which is in the Tyne Valley in Northumberland, near to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to chat with Tina Hartas about how travel, Donna Leon, Inspector Montalbano, Boekenweek, being a trained psychosocial therapist, and David Attenborough come together as part of Tina’s past and current life.
Why did you choose to be a book blogger or how did you come to be a book blogger? How long have you been bookblogging?
I have been blogging for about 8 years on the back of setting up our website www.tripfiction.com – I have always loved to travel and I have always searched for books that are strong on location, set where I am going. It is wonderful to get those little insights that authors can offer when they know somewhere really well, it’s like looking over their shoulder and seeing a location through their eyes.
So we blog on books with a strong sense of place, we chat to authors and we combine that all with travel, both actual and armchair! Just think of what Donna Leon has done for Venice or Andrea Camilleri for Sicily (and did you know that the equivalent of two (yes TWO) aircraft land per day in Sicily with people following in the footsteps of his delightful main character Inspector Montalbano!
Are you accepting requests at the moment? How do you prefer to be contacted?
We are always happy to be contacted! If we can’t commit to a review, then the author can (in any case) add their book to our database and get exposure in that way, as long as the book is strong on locale.
What information do you want to receive with the request?
A bit about the book is always good! But it’s nice to have an informal chat with the author.
What types of book blog posts do you offer? Reviews, interviews, book spotlight, guest posts, etc.
We offer reviews, interviews, the opportunity to offer a #TalkingLocationWith… feature (authors, whose work is strong on setting, can talk about their setting and offer some top tips. Just get in touch). And if you authors already have a good quality video where they talk about setting, then, if it is suitable, we can possibly add it to our YouTube channel.
We also have a monthly Newsletter and a bi-monthly book club (#TFBookClub). In March/April we are reading The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo.
What is your preferred book format to read? If digital, what digital file do you prefer?
We tend to prefer paper format but certainly will read PDFs and digital on Kindle.
Do you only participate in official blog tours or do you accept requests from authors?
We have stepped back from participating in blog tours because the deadlines were becoming quite stressful. And we also found that often creating our own schedule worked better for us. But I know that they work very well for many…
What is your preferred genre? Do you read nonfiction, memoirs, or any style of poetry?
Love fiction, both contemporary and historical (with histfic a reader can really get a sense of the footsteps past. For example taking Alberto Angela’s wonderful novel A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome was just brilliant for getting a sense of what life was like in Rome, in proper Roman times!) Memoir, romance… most genres, really! Nonfiction, too, I just read Lisa Taddeo’s “Three Women” which is the story (yes, it focusses on the sexual side of their relationships) of, well, three women in modern America. It was insightful and thought provoking (Marian Keyes says she is busy giving a copy to every single one of her female friends!) and it read like fiction. If you ever read it, let me warn you, you will never look at a Cadbury’s creme egg in the same way (I will just leave that there! 😉 )…
Do you write a review if you did not like the book? Do you use a star rating system for reviews you write?
We do use a star rating and yes, we do write a – hopefully – constructive review if a book has a low star rating. I feel if you don’t write reviews that reflect the reading experience, both good and less good, then you are not offering a balanced overview.
Once contacted, when can the author expect to hear from you?
Within a couple of days. We have four reviewers contributing to our blog so sometimes we need to have a conflab about who does what!
What is your favorite aspect of bookblogging?
Meeting lovely people via Social Media!
What does your ideal reading space look like?
I can read anywhere, virtually (maybe not a sauna) and can immerse myself for a few minutes or an hour. It depends. Ideally I would love my reading space to have clean lines, white and uncluttered with a super comfy chair (or, thinking about it, a chaise longue would do the trick!).
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading books for Boekenweek. That takes place 7-15 March 2020 and is a celebration of Dutch literature in translation. The Boekenweek phenomenon goes back several decades in the Netherlands and each year, to mark the week, a novella is published. It is then given out free to people who purchase a book and if you produce that novella when you travel there by train, then you have free passage, ANYWHERE on the Dutch railway network! How amazing is that!
List something interesting about yourself.
I have always read but I am a trained art conservator and a trained psychosexual therapist (and no, the two do not go hand-in-hand!)
What do you do when not reading or writing book blog posts?
I would like to say I mainly travel but that all depends on other commitments and of course money!
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author, book blogger, or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It would have to be David Attenborough. He has done so much to raise awareness for environmental issues and brought the joy of the natural world into people’s homes. He seems such a reasoned person, judicious and kind, which seems a little rare in this world at the moment. I think, though, that my questions would dry up if I actually met him. I would just be in awe.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through reading and book blogging?
That I can write (well, to some extent, anyway!). When I did History A Level my teacher told me that I was an appalling and undisciplined writer! Thank you Miss Quinn!
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through reading?
I love being transported to other worlds and places. What more can I say?
At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?
I would say, follow your intuition. As a counsellor it became so evident that people don’t listen to their inner voices and often get taken along a less desirable path. When I have listened to mine and given it a lot of thought, then it usually holds me in good stead. When I haven’t, I have sometimes got myself into a tangle.
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
Parasite. I was curious to see the Oscar Winner for Best Film. Really enjoyed it, thought it was more bloody than anticipated and felt that it was a slightly curious choice for Best Film. Loved the house in which it was filmed!
Thank you for being a part of the book blogger interviews, Tina. I absolutely adore what you’ve created in having focused on a niche. Wishing you loads of great reading … and travel!! –Camilla