Sunday, October 6, 2013

Interview with Steve Farrell

My guest today is author Steve Farrell. In the interest of full disclosure, I connected with Steve via Goodreads when he reviewed one of my novels. This, of course, is not the reason why I reached out to him. As I have said from the beginning, my goal for this series is to offer many different takes on what it means to be a reviewer. Most reviewers I talk with review books regardless of genre, except for a few who are somewhat specific (for example, see my interview with Jim). Steve, while not being a prolific reviewer, concentrates on Literary Fiction, which is largely underrepresented on most review blogs/sites. Steve's reviews appear on Goodreads, and Dactyl Review, among others.

Steve Farrell is a writer, a father of two, an identical twin, and a commuter.
You can find him on Goodreads:  Steve_Farrell
and his work is available at Smashwords

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?

I mostly review literary fiction, although I delve into nonfiction from time to time. Those are my interests.

On average, how many books do you review each month?

As a slow reader, I don't usually have time to review more than a book a month. It depends on whether I've read anything that's provoked a strong reaction.

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?
I'd review something if someone sent it to me, but ordinarily I review things I've found on my own.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?

The vast majority of self-published titles I've looked into haven't interested me in the least. However, the ones I've found worthwhile are some of the best books I've ever read. As a self-published author myself, I wouldn't trash an indie author with a bad review; it's like writing a review of a busker.

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

I hate "ratings," and I can't stand having to give a certain letter grade or number of stars to a book. It's way too simplistic. But like I said, if I have a negative experience with a book I'm much less likely to review it. I figure I've missed something or I just have unrealistic expectations about the work.

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

I'll admit that Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow was a staggering revelation for me, and one that made me realize the potential of literary fiction.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

I don't remember what the catalyst was, but I just felt like I could approach fiction with an experienced perspective. I really don't like reviews that are all about the reviewer's tastes. I think you have to approach the work on its own terms.

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

It's hard for me to find something original and interesting. Like you say, there are a lot of books out there that are just Hollywood movies waiting to be made, or genre things that are only interesting to people who already enjoy the tropes of the given genre: romance, fantasy, etc. I'm looking for books that are less standard than that.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?

A few friends of mine all read Donna Tartt's The Secret History at the same time and were all fascinated with the many levels of the narrative, the characters, and what the author was trying to say. I've been a big fan of Finnegans Wake my whole life, and have spent a lot of time digging through it, trying to find out more about the characters and the meaning of how their story was told. Miriam Henderson, Dorothy Richardson's alter ego in her Pilgrimage cycle, is a fascinating character because of how her awareness develops throughout the books.

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?
In the Internet's old days, I posted a gushing review of Pynchon's Mason & Dixon in some list-serve board or other, I forget where. I really felt like I took my time and communicated what was so brilliant about the book. But the review is gone.

I'd like to thank Steve for answering my questions.

If you find this series as interesting as I do, please spread the word, and visit my guests on their respective sites.

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