By J.J. Hensley
Book Reviewer Katrina Niidas Holm on David Lee Roth, Funny Farm, and Book Reviewer Fight Club (if it exists)
Katrina Niidas Holm has made a name for herself in constructing insightful book reviews for a variety of publications. So, what makes a professional book critic tick? In this interview, Holm tells us about her likes, dislikes, and why she will probably destroy you if you continuously spam her about your book that includes a nameless, faceless villain who turns out to be Sammy Hagar.
That last sentence will make sense in a minute!
Q: Let’s jump right into the important stuff…
Your husband is an author. Do you critique his work before it goes to publication? If so, when is the divorce going to be finalized?
A: I obviously don’t review his books, but I am his first reader. I’ll admit, the first time I picked up one of his manuscripts, I was so nervous I actually read most of it while he was asleep so he wouldn’t see my reaction. (That flash-sideways scene from Funny Farm kept playing in my mind…) As it turns out, though, I had nothing to fear; not only can he write, but he takes notes exceptionally well. We do have the occasional knock-down, drag-out fight over hyphenation or comma placement, but what couple doesn’t? (What? Oh.)
You have written reviews for a variety of publications. Do you change the content or tone of your reviews based on the intended audience, or do your reviews pretty much read the same regardless of the platform?
I do cater style to publication, but that’s because each publication has its own specific guidelines. For example; a short review that’s intended to be anonymous is always going to read differently than a long-form piece for a magazine that only prints positive reviews.
What is the best way for an author to convince you to review his/her work?
Most of the books I review are assigned to me by an editor, so pitching me is kind of pointless. Generally speaking, though, write a good book and don’t be a dick.
What is the worst way for an author to go about trying to convince you to review his/her work?
Spamming me. You are never going to convince me to read your book by tweeting at me, or posting about it on my Facebook wall.
When it comes to a story, do you have a pet peeve that makes you want to set a book on fire rather than get to the conclusion?
A good writer can make just about anything work, but I’m predisposed against books that feature chapters told from the point of view of a nameless, faceless, genderless villain.
Your Twitter bio states that you are meaner than you look. Is there an underground Book Reviewer Fight Club? If so, are you a puncher or a grappler?
The first rule of Book Reviewer Fight Club is: You do not talk about Book Reviewer Fight Club. (That said, I’m solidly Team Grapple.)
E-books or traditional copies?
Online shopping or bookstores?
David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?
David Lee Roth. (Is that a trick question?)
Cozies or general crime fiction?
Depends on my mood! Right now, general crime fiction.
What is more important: story or characters?
For me, it’s all about the characters.
Finally: As a reader and reviewer of countless books over the years, what is the one key piece of advice you can give newer authors?
If it doesn’t inform character or forward plot, leave it off the page.
Katrina Niidas Holm is a voracious and opinionated reader. She’s also the wife of fabulously talented writer Chris Holm and an unabashed fan of Portland, Maine. She writes reviews for Crimespree Magazine, Mystery Scene, Publishers Weekly, and this here site; she blogs sporadically at Criminal Element; and she’s an editor at the River Heights Book Review. You can find her on Twitter as @niidasholm.
J.J. HENSLEY is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University. Hensley’s works include the novels Measure Twice and Resolve; the latter was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was a finalist for Best First Novel at the 2014 Thriller Awards.
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