Today I am swapping interviews with Memory of the blog Stella Matutina.
1. Your name, as well as the name of your blog, are so different! (in the double entendre sense!). Please tell us the story behind each of them!
I changed my name when I was eighteen, following a decade-long search for something that fit me better than the name my parents chose. It wasn’t until I read Neil Gaiman’s fantastic SANDMAN series for the first time that I thought, “Hey, I could go with an abstract concept. What best sums up who I am?” Memory did, so Memory I became.
Stella Matutina is a Latin phrase that means “morning star.” Various groups have adopted it over the centuries; it can refer to the planet (or goddess) Venus, a particular Jesuit school, a magical initiatory order, or Satan. I had the initiatory order in mind when I chose it as my blog’s name, since it’s somewhat fantastical and I read a lot of fantasy, but I was terrified everyone would assume I was a Satanist.
Turns out, almost no one knows what it means. They assume it’s my name, which bothers me far more than it should. I want to change it, but I can’t settle on anything I like as much as Stella Matutina.
2. Where are you located in “real life” and how long have you been there?
I live in Winnipeg, the city closest to the geographic centre of North America. I was born here and have spent most of my life ’round these parts, except for the year I lived in New Zealand.
3. It appears that your favorite genre is fantasy – how did that love affair start and what else do you like to read?
I read the usual children’s fantasies when I was a kid–stuff like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising Sequence, and L.M. Boston’s Green Knowe books–but I didn’t become a diehard fantasy fan until I hit junior high. My grade seven Language Arts teacher and the school librarian introduced me to a number of great authors. Before I knew it, I was hooked.
Fantasy may be my first love, but it’s far from the only genre I enjoy. I’ll read just about anything. I particularly like historical fiction and mysteries, and I’ve begun to test the waters over in science fiction and romance (and science fiction romance, come to that). I enjoy general fiction, too, but I go through cycles with it. I’ll read a ton of it all at once, then shun it for ages. Ditto nonfiction.
4. Thinking about the distinction among the genres of “fantasy” versus “urban fantasy” versus “paranormal” versus “sci fi” ….. I get pretty confused about it and I think many publishers and bookstores do as well. What are your thoughts on this?
Ooh, that’s a big question. Personally, I class anything remotely mystical or otherworldly as “fantasy.” That includes secondary world fantasy (ie, fantasy set in another world, as opposed to somewhere the reader could actually travel to), with or without magic; historical fiction with a magical bend; romances about shapeshifters and vampires and suchlike; contemporary novels with nonrealistic elements; futuristic novels with magic or strange creatures; magical realism; etc. etc. Basically, I see fantasy as a gigantic genre with lots of different subgenres.
I’ve most often seen “paranormal” used to describe contemporary, urban fantasy of the vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter/tough-girl-with-magic variety, often with some attempt to distance it from every other form of fantasy. One of my friends is a voracious paranormal reader, but she turns up her nose at anything set in a secondary world because she believes it’s totally different and not worth her time. She recently became a GAME OF THRONES addict, though, and has even begun to read the books. I hope she’ll eventually realize that there’s nothing wrong with liking both urban fantasy and secondary world stuff.
Science fiction, to me, is anything that features technology more advanced than what we currently possess and/or deals with technology’s effect on society. I have no problem classing certain historical (or alternate historical) and contemporary works as science fiction, though some SFF readers vehemently disagree with me on this.
5. Do you post reviews of every book you read? If not, what criteria contributes to your decision?
I used to review everything I read, but I now suffer from some concentration issues that make it difficult to do so. I just don’t have the mental energy to discuss everything anymore. These days, I review only those books I’m desperate to talk about. I don’t necessarily love them all, but they all provoked a strong reaction from me.
6. When you review series, how do you deal with the spoiler problem?
I don’t usually write lengthy summaries, so that helps right there! It’s pretty easy to avoid spoilers when you don’t go into much detail about the plot. In the review itself, I focus on big-picture issues like characterization, readability, and how plausible I found the story. If I can’t get my point across without referencing something from a previous book, I make sure I give lots of spoiler warnings. Ditto if I discuss something readers may not wish to know before they begin.
7. E-books or paper?
Either. I love paper books because they’re transferrable, but I’ve begun buying e-books for titles I know I’ll reread over and over. I also download anything that’s in the public domain, rather than buying a paper copy. This helps free up some shelf space. I make occasional forays into the wide world of digital-first, too, with Carina Press being a favourite publisher in that arena.
8. Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine and why?
Mildmay, one of the narrators of Sarah Monette’s phenomenal Doctrine of Labyrinths series, is currently my favouritest of favourite literary characters. I love his voice, his snark, his preoccupation with stories, his sorely tried devotion to the people he cares about, the way he fights against his terrible childhood… the whole package, really. I’m forever telling people to read MELUSINE just because I want them to meet Mildmay.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s a redhead, too. I am Team Redhead.
9. What is your favorite fantasy scenario?
I love secondary world novels, especially ones with non-medieval settings. Plotwise, I’m a sucker for anything with lots of daring rescues, discussions about How Stuff (particularly Magic) Works, or familial issues.
I’m less keen on stories where the characters travel for months and months to find a stupendous and magical thingy so they can avert a prophecy of DOOM, though there are exceptions.
10. And finally, please share with us the names of some blogs that have had the most impact on your reading choices!
This has the potential to get really, really long. As briefly as I can:
I always pay close attention to what Kristin from Fantasy Cafe enjoys, since we have such similar taste. Jenny from Jenny’s Books pointed me towards Kage Baker and Diana Wynne Jones, among other things. (Sidebar: Diana Wynne Jones is chock full of daring rescues, familial issues, and jaw about How Stuff Works, usually in a non-medievalesque setting.) Ana of things mean a lot has added zillions and zillions of books to my wishlist over the last four years. And Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library has introduced me to some wonderful middle grade and young adult novels.
Thanks Memory! (Are you all who are reading this as impressed as I am?!! I know you, like I, will want to follow Memory if you already don’t!) Please be sure to stop by her blog to learn more about her, and to see my answers to her questions!