Through the Looking Glass – Alex Laybourne interviews Author & Book Reviewer Beth Muscat

I am once again delighted to be able to welcome a guest onto my blog. Aside from being a writer, she is also a dedicated reviewer.  I relished the chance to base an interview around this side of the industry, and soon had a plethora of questions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce… Beth Muscat

 jamie and mom

Thanks for agreeing to answer my questions Beth.

Thank you, Alex, for giving me this opportunity to let others know about me.

To start with, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I’m a mom of an almost ten year old daughter, wife, live in Canada and I’m a fulltime nurse in a psychiatric hospital. I’ve been nursing for almost twenty-five years, but I only started writing back in 2009 after reading a book by L J Smith called Dark Visions. After reading that book, I got the idea for my first novel, Remember The Eyes.

I must preface this by saying that I went to a psychic about twenty-two years ago and she asked me if I knew I could write. I thought she was talking about my penmanship. Little did I know that she was correct, that I could write.

The majority of my guests recently have been writers, but you are actually a reviewer. How did that come about?

After publishing my first works, I wanted reviews. I thought, well, maybe to get reviews, I should give some reviews as well. I would do one once in a while and they were usually for friends. But over the past six or seven months, due to some personal issues, I suffered big time from a major bout of writer’s block. So, since I wasn’t writing, I got heavy into the reviewing, sometimes reviewing several works all in one week. I also work midnights, so it’s a bit easier for me to read there.

I guess you have always been a reader, right?

Actually, not really. Reading wasn’t something that I spent a lot of time doing until I was given the Twilight series to read. I fell in love with that series, and also that genre. That was 2009. As I said before, that was also when I started writing.

Can you remember the first book that you read that made you want to shout ‘I love books’ at the top of your lungs?

Actually, the first books that I absolutely couldn’t put down (besides the Twilight series) was The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. When I finished one book, I couldn’t wait to read the next one…of course, once it was finished, I had to get the next one and the next one.

I guess you have a pretty lofty TBR pile at the moment, right? How many books would you say you have to read?

Well, other than a few friends books that I still need to read and review, I don’t HAVE to read any of the books on my Kindle. They’re books I got from Amazon, but I wasn’t asked to read and review. I also don’t charge for my reviews (because often the reviews I give are for books I got from the free list). However, if a friends book comes up or someone asks me to review their book, then their books go to the front of the pile.

How many books have your read (a rough figure will do fine)?

In the past year, roughly…I’m going to take a guess and say approximately seventy-five to eighty.

Do you read multiple books at one time?

Yes. I have a Kindle app on my phone and I also have a Kindle. My Kindle isn’t one of the lighted varieties, so I can’t read at night with it. I can with my phone…so, it’s what I use when I want to read in bed. Usually I have at least two (sometimes three) on the go at any given time.

How long does it take you to read and then review a book?

Since I usually have a couple of books on the go, and I work midnights, I can usually get through a book within a few days. Reviewing doesn’t take long. I grab a quick section from the book to add to my review, the cover and then write my review at my blogsite.

Some people I know read one book and listen to another on tape? I am not an audio book fan myself. What about you?

Never tried it myself. I don’t think I have the attention span to listen to an audio book. I think my mind would end up wandering away and I’d miss a lot of it.

E-book or Paper/hardback

E-book definitely! Yes, it’s nice to be able to put a great book on your shelf, but with an ebook, you don’t have to drive to the store to get it, it’s cheaper, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space…and you can always take them with you wherever you go.

Do you have a favorite genre that you like to read?

I was reading a lot of paranormal romance fiction, but I’ve since discovered that I actually do like romances. I also enjoy romantic comedies, some dark fiction, and even some horrors. I’ll read just about anything as long as the writing is good.

Is there anything that is an instant ‘book closer’ for you? Something that if you read it, you just say, no, this book is not being reviewed – either content or quality wise?

I am by no means the grammar police. I make/have made my fair share of spelling/grammatical errors with my own novels. But if there is no attempt made to edit at all, then it gets very distracting. I read a “would have been” great novel about a zombie who didn’t quite lose his humanity…but it was riddled with spelling mistakes. And, I’m not just talking about a few…I mean, there were spelling mistakes on every single page…and it was a long novel. The novel itself was good, but with all the mistakes, it definitely took away from the book. I reviewed the book, but only because it did have a good premise…it just wasn’t executed that well. It was like they took their finished novel and uploaded it without going through it and using spell check.

There seem to be two types of reviewers; those that give honest reviews be the book good or bad, or those that always look for the positive. What would you say best describes your style?

I’ve read books that weren’t really my style, but I’ve given them a good review because the story was good. But regardless of whether the book is my style or not, I try to give as honest a review as I can. If I didn’t really like the author’s writing style, I try to accentuate the positive about the novel. Just because I didn’t like the author’s writing style doesn’t mean it’s a bad book.

Do you feel any difference between reading and review a book for someone you know, compared to a strange?

Yes, I guess I do. However, I’ve been asked by people I don’t know to review their books, and while I may not know them, if their novel is good, then I give it a good review. If I had a major issue with the book, then I would be more inclined to state the positives, but I might also give them a lower rating. Thankfully that hasn’t happened to me yet. Everyone who has asked me to review their books has produced quality work that I felt privileged to get to read and review.

It is hard to phrase this without making it sound power hungry, so I’m going to ham it up… How does it feel having the power to crush a writers world by ripping their book to shreds with an honest review?

Oh boy. Well, as someone who has her fair share of one star reviews, I know exactly what it’s like. However, unlike some of the one star reviews that I have gotten, some complaining about lack of editing when their review is riddled with errors, or saying they couldn’t finish a book because of a few minor spelling errors, I try to give reasons why I didn’t like it, like maybe the characters were one dimensional and lacked substance or lack of sexual tension between the characters, and that sort of thing. My reviews are always more than just a few lines…mine are real reviews stating my opinion.

If you were given two pieces of fiction, printed out, no covers, not information, other than one being an indie piece, and one a traditionally published piece. Do you think you could tell the difference, based on your experiences as a reviewer to date?

Honestly, probably not. I’ve read some really fantastic books over the past year…and most of them have been Indie’s…well, at least I think they have been. Unless I’m told specifically they are traditionally published, or I’m not familiar with the author, I sometimes can’t tell the difference.

Do you feel that the ease with which people can self-publish their work has led to sloppy, rushed writing. Writing which could, given the attention that is due, be something good?

Sometimes, but other than a few books that I’ve read, most of them have been put together well, edited well and didn’t feel at all rushed or sloppy. Many have complained that they can tell the difference between an Indie and traditionally published work, but even a traditionally published, edited novel can have errors.

We live in an instant world. Everything happens quicker and quicker, do you think that sometimes we need to slow down, and spend more time getting things right the first time?

Now there’s an idea! That’s a very good thought, but I think some people want to earn money right away, and with the ease of self-publishing, and the fact that people don’t have to write to agents only to be met with rejections, they know that they can put out their works right away and start earning. Of course, if people don’t like it, they’ll let you know. So, sometimes rushing to get that payment from Amazon by putting out something that hasn’t been beta read or edited isn’t a good thing. It can definitely go against you sometimes.

I wonder, would self-published authors be so quick to publish their work if they could not upload new versions of the same piece. What if it was just there. Would we see an increase in the overall quality or writing?

That’s a good question. I know I’ve uploaded several versions, so I’m glad there is the option to re-upload our works. I also think it wouldn’t be in the best interest of our readers if we couldn’t re-do our novels, to give them the best possible product that we can.  I’ve downloaded my own books and realized there were errors, even though I had an editor and beta readers go through it first. Nobody’s perfect.

You have made reference to your own work. Can you tell us a little about your writing?

I do. I’ve written five books under my own name, and one under a pseudonym, Devon Cooper. I wrote something a little different, a romantic comedy, so I decided to go with a pseudonym. Plus, I liked the name!

I wrote a trilogy (Remember The Eyes, Nothing Without You and Infinite), a contemporary romance (Wildflower) and a fantasy (The Bracelet–I’m going to use my Mulligan card and “re-do” this one, so it’s been temporarily taken down off of Amazon), and with my pseudonym, I wrote Bad Day, which is a romantic comedy. It’s also my favorite out of the group that I‘ve written.

Do you think that being a good reviewer is help or a hindrance when it comes to writing?

Definitely it’s been a help. Having read so many books, I think my writing has improved.

Are there any (ok say top three to keep the list manageable) books out there that you could just read again and again?

I loved Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, Dating A Cougar by Donna MacDonald and Wishbone by Brooklyn Hudson.

You don’t charge for your reviews, would you every be interested to enter the literary world as a profession; publisher, agent, publicist?

Probably not. I’m more apt to let everyone through instead of weeding out the really great ones.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I could have carried on asking them for hours; once I start I just get carried away. J

Thank you for such thought provoking questions, ones that made me have to think instead of just giving out the same old answers to the same old questions!

RememberTheEyes-199x300     Nothing-Without-You-Kindle    Infinite-Cover  Bad Day

If you are interested in learning more about Beth, or reading some of her reviews… hell, maybe you even want a review of your own work, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter or on her Blog.

You can also buy her books on Amazon, or through her Author Page

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