An Interview with Esme

How are you? How has life been?

Life has been a little strange as of late, but things are also going really well on a lot of fronts.

Strange how?

It’s been hard adjusting to a different career. There have been a lot of hard days and amazing days, and I never really know which one it’s going to be when I wake up each morning. Each day is something a little out of the ordinary when compared to my life up to this point.

Has your new career interfered with your reading at all?

Work has definitely affected my reading, I’m a very schedule oriented person and I work best when I have a daily rhythm. Since I have no dedicated “reading times” I’ve found I’ve slowed down by a lot, and my reviews are coming along much slower than they were a year or so ago when I knew exactly when I would have free time and plan around it.

Are you enjoying your new work? Are there any books you’ve read that touch on similar things to what you do?

I work partly in HR which is nice quiet work, but I also do caregiving and sometimes that can get really, really rough. Hero Forged by Josh Erikson touches on that specific topic. It’s urban fantasy and the MC’s dad has a traumatic brain injury and can’t care for himself anymore. It’s not a huge part of the story but I connected with it hard and fast. It’s actually an upbeat book and it’s part of SPFBO and I encourage everyone to check it out, especially if you like audiobooks.

On the note of Discworld, you’re pretty famous for being a superfan of the series. Could you talk about how you discovered Discworld and what it means to you? What made Esme adopt the mantle of Granny Weatherwax?

My cousin actually introduced me to Douglas Adams and Pratchett at the same time and I instantly fell in love. Harry Potter had funny moments for me, but I had never experienced true comic SFF up until that point. When I first became a fan it was just for the laughs, I was pretty young and many of the deeper moments didn’t land the way they do now. What’s fantastic about this series is that you can grow with it. My favorite subseries used to be Rincewind, the absurdity of the Wizards was just the bees knees for me at that point in my life. I was in it for the puns. As I got older my love for the series took a different turn, got a little deeper, and my favorite subseries switched to The Watch. Watching some of my friends and family deal with alcoholism and then overcome it and move on with their lives to become successful resonated with me in Vimes. The deeper messages to Discworld also started sticking with me longer, and now my favorite sub-series is either Death or the Witches. Both of those storylines deal with death, dying, and the fragility of justice. I chose Esmerelda Weatherwax as a user name because I like her bones. She’s a curmudgeon, and sometimes downright cold – but in the end she makes the choices others cant, and the Discworld is a better place with her in it.
There’s a scene where Granny is meeting with Death, and she has to choose whether the mother or the baby lives, a cow had kicked the mother and both were on the verge of dying. The midwife and Esme had gotten into a one sided argument over whether or not the husband was going to be involved in the choice. (Granny and Death have an interesting relationship, and she’s known to bargain or challenge death to try and save lives.)

When Mrs Patternoster tremulously knocked on the door and pushed it open, Granny was in the cow’s stall. The midwife saw her stand up holding a piece of thorn. “Been in the beast’s leg all day,” she said. “No wonder it was fretful. Try and make sure he doesn’t kill the cow, you understand? They’ll need it.” Mrs Patternoster glanced down at the rolled-up blanket in the straw. Granny had tactfully placed it out of sight of Mrs Ivy, who was sleeping now. “I’ll tell him,” said Granny, brushing off her dress. “As for her, well, she’s strong and young and you know what to do. You keep an eye on her, and me or Nanny Ogg will drop in when we can. If she’s up to it, they may need a wet nurse up at the castle, and that may be good for everyone.” It was doubtful that anyone in Slice would defy Granny Weatherwax, but Granny saw the faintest grey shadow of disapproval in the midwife’s expression. “You still reckon I should’ve asked Mr Ivy?” she said. “That’s what I would have done …” the midwife mumbled. “You don’t like him? You think he’s a bad man?” said Granny, adjusting her hatpins. “No!” “Then what’s he ever done to me, that I should hurt him so?”

And this is what you get for asking me about Discworld.

Besides Comic SFF, what are a couple of your other preferred SFF subgenres?

I’ve gravitated towards urban fantasy as of late. They’re typically shorter and with my memory loss from the accident I find that reading about a world I’m already familiar with helps me remember the story better. I also recently came to love Litrpg, but I’ll pick up a 700 pg epic fantasy doorstopper as well. It just takes me much longer to read than it had before the accident.

Your blog, The Weatherwax Report, heavily features reviews of self-published SFF works. Was this an intentional choice? Also, how did you first become aware of and interested in self-published fantasy?

Senlin Ascends broke all my preconceived notions of what self publishing is all about. I had this vague impression of books that needed editing/guidance and was a way for publishing talent scouts to find potential authors. Boy was I wrong, haha. It wasn’t exactly intentional, I guess I got a reputation for accepting any book sent my way, the word got out, and I got drowned in review requests lol. I’ve taken over 250 over the last two years. I am going to be slowing down in 2019 just because I can’t keep up with that anymore. I’ll continue to take indie review requests, but maybe not 100 a year. Fun little factoid: Josiah Bancroft is why Weatherwax Report exists. I was spitballing the idea on reddit that I may start a blog since I was doing a ton of reviewing. Josiah stopped in and said he would read it if I made it and I was sort awe struck. The guy writes the best words wants to read my words? May as well give it a shot, what’s the worst that could happen? And now I’m in SPFBO. 🙂

Wow! 250 in 2 years sounds like a lot of requests! Do you find that there’s any difference between traditional and self-published works nowadays? If so, what do you think those differences are in general?

There are some differences. It is true that many indie books are not revised by professional editing services and rely on friends/family to help with editing, so I do see more spelling errors in indie vs trad. However, there are many indie books that are just as polished as their trad counterparts. Other than that, I find that without gatekeepers, indie works are far more diverse and unique – there are so many interesting ideas that get shut down by trad companies because ultimately, they’re in it for the money and pick things that tend to be more ‘safe’.

As far as I know, there aren’t many/any LitRPG books in trad publishing right now, maybe that will change in the future, but if you’re looking for brand new genres or things that are outside of the norm you’d find at barnes and noble, indies are a great place to start.

Back on the topic of you being a judge for SPFBO (along with a few other bloggers joining your team), how did this come about? What has the experience been like so far?

I had a semi-masochistic idea to read 100 spfbo books last year and it got way more traction than I had imagined or intended. What started off as a silly self imposed challenge turned into something a bunch of people were following and things really took off from there. I was having a lot of fun with my 100 and I thought to myself “hey, lets try to be in it for real next year” and had spoken with Wol and Coffee about being a part of it if I were to submit my blog for a judges spot. What was super awesome is that I didn’t even have to submit my blog, Mark was like “hey you wanna do this?” and I was like “ERMERGERD YES PLEASE”. We were still missing a judge that really liked romance and paranormal books so I invited Superstardrifter to complete the team.

This year has been a lot of fun, but it’s also much more stressful doing reviews for SPFBO in some kind of official capacity rather than just as a bystander. I really don’t like giving negative reviews, and cutting books was largely unpleasant. We really tried to push all of our books as hard as possible before cutting them, all four of us believe in supporting indie authors and we always try and give books a fair chance and their day in the spotlight whenever possible. I really can not wait to see what books are chosen as finalists, I’ve read a fair number of books from other bloggers groupings and holy shit is the competition fierce this year.

From the looks of it, y’all work very well together. You mentioned that Superstardrifter is the person who really likes paranormal and romance books. So does each person on the team have a “specialty” in terms of judging?

I know that I have my own biases, so I tried to pick judges that balanced both my tastes and my review style. I chose Bookwol because she likes Victorian and Fantasy of Manners – both of which I despise and she also makes amazing drinks for those of you who partake. I chose Coffee because he tends to pay attention to the prose much more than I do. He’s a more critical reviewer and also has more compact reviews rather than my and superstardrifter’s novel length reviews. We have worked exceptionally well as a team and I’m pleased as punch with how everything turned out, here’s to hoping we’re back next year with the same team!

In indie works, do things such as persistent spelling errors affect your overall score of the book? When reviewing a book in general, what are the main things you look for?

Yes, I take them into account in my “Writing” portion of the overall score. Depending on how obvious they are I will take off anywhere from 0.1 pt to 0.5 pts per error. Eg: a misplaced period or backwards quotation marks are 0.1, something like “taht” would get 0.25. And when there are serious issues like repeated paragraphs get 0.5 per error.

I split my reviews into Plot, Characters, World Building, Writing, Pacing, Originality, and Personal Enjoyment. I really don’t focus on any one of those areas more than others. The point of my reviews isn’t so much how I felt about them – that goes into personal enjoyment – but rather to give people an idea of what the strengths and weaknesses are for each book so they can make an assessment on whether or not they want to read it. I try my best to market the book for the right audience rather than just say how much I personally liked it.

In terms of Personal Enjoyment, is there a certain aspect you like the most; or is it more of a gut feeling of liking something?

It’s basically just a gut feeling, how much did I enjoy reading/listening to the story. Humor that lands with me gets a lot of points, I am always looking for a book that makes me smile. My pet peeves also fall into this category, things that aren’t necessarily mistakes or things done poorly, just stuff that doesn’t usually click with me, like love triangles.

Finally, I have one more question for you and the others. What food and drink combo would you associate your favorite book with?

Esme: Bananana soup surprise and scumble.

Wol: Man, I have a bunch of favorite books. I guess I’d go with the bananana dakry from Witches Abroad, along with any sort of foreign food that was considered vaguely exotic in the 80s that my Scouse grandma found amazing, like garlic bread.

Just for the record, they did not plan this.

Coffee: Probably a fresh cup of coffee from my Aeropress paired with The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

Superstardrifter: Probably steak and beer for either Kings of the Wyld or Bloody Rose. My answer applies to both.


 

About Esme

Esme

SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off) Judge at The Weatherwax Report!!! Lover of books, video games and comics. cat cuddler, dog hugger, and snake charmer. Follower of the prophet Pratchett.

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