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Interview with Darya, a Book Reviewer

Estonia Tallin

Introduction

Darya Silman is a book reviewer and beta reader, whom I met on Twitter. Silman is not exactly her real surname, because her real surname is hard to pronounce. She was initially wary of this interview, much like other people I have interviewed here on my blog. But I managed to convince her. Maybe something about me scares people? This requires more thinking.

In the meantime, here is the interview:

Me: First, I would like to welcome you to the Muse of Eagle. I always
like to start with an easy question, so tell us a little about
yourself?

Darya: That’s the hardest question for me. I always want to add something extraordinary to my biography, otherwise, people will think I lead a boring life. I have been living all my life in Tallinn, Estonia. I’m Russian, but I know Estonian and English as well. I graduated from Tallinn University 5 or 6 years ago with a degree that in the West is equal to a bachelor of arts. I specialized in Slavic cultures and languages, but I didn’t pursue a career as a linguist.

Me: Were you always interested in reading? Or did you develop that later?

Darya: I always liked reading. I still remember the first book I read. I was 7 at the time. It was a fairy tale about animals who hid from the rain under the mushroom hat. Since then, I never stopped. Before I was 11, I read all children’s books in the school library.

Me: When did you begin to write, and are there any projects you can
tell us about?

Darya: I was 10, and it was a fairy tale about a beauty, who waited for a prince to save her. I wrote first in my native Russian, mainly short stories and sketches. In my teenage ages, I started writing poems and later joined a poetic community on one site, where poets like me posted their work for critique and attention. There was no Facebook or Twitter at the time. I wrote a whole fantasy novel at 17 and threw it away at 18, still regret the move. At 22, I quit writing because I couldn’t stand the criticism from fellow poets, who considered my poems and stories too complicated. At 34, I resumed writing, now in English. It was a spontaneous, totally unmotivated decision. I still remember that night: I binge-read all Cassandra Claire’s books about Shadowhunters and was about to go to sleep when I had a sudden urge to write a poem in English. I wrote it, using a dictionary, and then I wrote another one and another. Then I switched to short stories again. Now I’m just writing, sharing some works on social media, and dreaming of becoming a published author.

Me: So, you review books. When did you start to review books? When I
began to read, I never thought I would end up reviewing books one day.

Darya: I knew nothing about book reviewing until I got the Kindle app. I started to spend too much money on books, and I asked my friend, a publisher, if there is a way to get free books: I saw many people reviewing books they didn’t own. She proposed I join her publishing house’s reviewing team and search for the sites that give away free books. I found such sites and started to review books, greatly improving my English language skills. Most of my books come from such sites.

Me: I often avoid reading other reviews of the book I’m currently
reviewing, until the review is published. Because those reviews often
influence your thoughts. Do you avoid other book reviews before you
have written your own? Or do you read them before forming your final
thoughts?

Darya: I normally read reviews before asking for an advance review copy on a review site or buying a book. My focus is negative reviews since they usually contain more constructive criticism than positive ones. I like non-fiction of different genres such as history, psychology, and sociology, and often I have no previous knowledge of the subjects. Negative reviews often point out factual mistakes. Though I can’t check the accuracy of the review, I feel compelled to mention that a book may contain errors. If other reviewers mention some problem with a book, I want to know if they are right or wrong. If the overall rating of a book is low, and there is a grounded reason for it, like poor editing or the author’s bias, I won’t pick it up. I value my time and don’t want to waste it on something that can possibly disappoint me.

Me: What is the most important thing for a book reviewer?

Darya: For me, as a lover of non-fiction, it’s objectivity (the obvious trait for a book reviewer) and the ability to express what he or she liked and disliked about a book. I don’t need a paraphrase of a book’s content even if it is a well-known historical event. I want to know if the book is worth reading: what’s the author’s viewpoint, what new information the book adds to the common knowledge, and what is the author’s approach to the material. Saying ‘I like the book, it’s well-written’ is not enough.

Me: As I have started to review since the last year, I can’t seem to
quiet that inner critic and enjoy myself. Did the same thing happen to
you as well?

Darya: My own rule is a 300-400 word book review with a structured plan for every paragraph, and I sometimes don’t feel like writing anything. I can mark the book as read and then come back to it when I have the inspiration for writing a review. Thank God, I don’t have an inner critic for book reviewing. The inner critic attacks me when I am writing my short stories.

Me: You mention in your Twitter bio that you also do beta-reading. A
beta-reader is kind of like an editor. So from an editor’s point of
view, why would you reject a certain work?

Darya: First and foremost, beta-reading is not editing. I often see authors asking beta readers to underline or correct mistakes in manuscripts, of course, free of charge. Beta readers check the overall flow of the story, its believability, and the characters’ development; basically, they tell you if they liked or disliked the story. Searching for mistakes is a job that requires time and skills and should be paid. If I were in an editor’s shoes, I would only reject the pieces containing obvious hatred and misogyny. There are different types of editors, and employing all of them stage by stage can turn any raw, incomprehensible draft into a masterpiece.

Me: I’ve seen in the recent time that authors are increasingly moving
towards self-publishing, or to the platforms like RoyalRode, which let
you publish your work online. What is your opinion on that? I’ve also
seen many published authors look down upon these authors as well.

Darya: I think self-publishing is a great opportunity for authors to show their books to the world. Old, traditional publishing doesn’t have the capability to serve the increasing flow of authors. It’s another problem that modern authors struggle to find a reader, that’s why sites that give away free books in exchange for a review exist. Self-publishing authors spend their personal time and money on promotion. In the end, it seems that the financial burden and the time frame are the same for traditionally published authors and self-published authors to reach the target audience.

Me: thanks Darya Silman. I had fun chatting with you. I do hope you
had just as much fun as me.

You can find her Twitter here

You can also follow me on Twitter here.

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Published by Tanish Shrivastava

I'm a guy who likes programming, chess, and writing.

6 thoughts on “Interview with Darya, a Book Reviewer

  1. An interesting set of people you’re getting to interview. The part about not paraphrasing books is important, even in fiction, because it’s so boring to scroll through book reviews only to read one summary after another. I want to read what a reviewer thought. Not what the book is about, because I probably know that from the blurb already. Anyway, thanks for yet another interesting interview!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Stuart! This problem is a reason why I actually avoid reading reviews on Goodreads. Tones of reviewers fill their word count there by just summarizing the book over, even though the site provides the blurb. Granted, I also do provide a summary, but here, I am writing a review on my own site, so the summary is necessary.

      But at least I don’t summarize that in my review section. That one is to express my thoughts as I read on a book.

      Like

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