The Blogger Chronicles, Part 4: Novelist Jo-Ann Mapson Speaks Out on Blogging

This is Part 4 of a series of “featurettes” about blogging & online reviews.  Today, meet novelist Jo-Ann Mapson.

Jo-Ann Mapson

Jo-Ann Mapson

Jo-Ann Mapson, the author of 11 novels and a book of short stories, won the American Library Association’s RUSA Award for best women’s fiction in 2011 for her superb novel Solomon’s Oak (which I wrote about here at my old blog).  Her thoughtful, brave heroines, whose problems range from relationships to money to caring for rescue dogs to recovering from grief, help us look at life from a different point of view.  Her most recent book, Finding Casey (which I wrote about here), is the sequel to Solomon’s Oak.

In an e-mail interview, Jo-Ann says that blogs are important to readers and writers in different ways.  “Hardly anyone in mass media reviews books anymore.  Twenty years ago, NYTBR, Los Angeles Times, did lots of reviews, and those no doubt did sell books.”

When I mentioned that even bad reviews alert me to books I want to read, she said,

“Carolyn See massacred my first novel in the LATimes.  People clipped and sent me the review, not to be mean, but because they were so excited my first book had been reviewed.  That was big relief for me!  I know another writer whose first novel was torn to shreds and never wrote another novel because of the damage.

“Now we have Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobles’ reviews, and as many have agreed, giving the opportunity for people who are not reviewers the chance to say whatever they want about books.  Often I look at the 1 star reviews, click on what else they’ve reviewed, finding something unrelated such as vacuum cleaner bags. But every day one site or another sends me reading suggestions, and I often do buy the book.  There is no more bookstore to wander after the billions of chains drove out the independent bookstores, then fell flat on their own faces.  What’s left to browse?

“I consider myself an addicted reader.  One of my favorite blogs to read daily is Caroline Leavitt’s Leavittville.  First, I consider her probably the best blogger out there, and we have similar reading tastes.  She reviews/interviews daily.  And write a book a year!  Such a generous heart is rare, and she is happy to feature books she reads, which is the best reason to read a book, in my opinion. ”

Thank you, Jo-Ann, for this thoughtful interview!

2 thoughts on “The Blogger Chronicles, Part 4: Novelist Jo-Ann Mapson Speaks Out on Blogging

  1. That’s a really interesting piece Kat, and you’re right, what she says is very thoughtful. As there is no real media coverage of books and the browsability has gone – 30 years ago I worked in a small city with a dozen bookshops, mostly independent – we have to get information about what we can read for a variety of sources. Oddly enough, I do find the Amazon reviews are often useful, and the more critical ones don’t always put you off a book but give a bit more of an insight into what a book is really like. Thanks for all these features – they’ve been most illuminating.

  2. Yes, Jo-Ann’s comments really make me think. I myself found her books not through reviews but through browsing at bookstores in the early ’90s. I own almost all of her books. These days we only have Barnes and Noble, so it is much harder to find out about new writers, and I don’t know if I would have found her books or not.

    I can’t imagine anyone trashing Jo-Ann’s novels! Her novels are very well-written and graceful, her characters are realistic, and they have the kind of problems, well, that we all sometimes have. I really felt Glory’s grief in Solomon’s Oak.

    The mad, mad world of book reviews! I’ve also read Carolyn See’s books, and she and Jo-Ann are so different. May I say it was probably a bad match? (Though I realize editors don’t have time to make “good” matches: they’re probably just thinking, Both write fiction. Good!)

    It is very interesting that Jo-Ann, D. J. Taylor, and Sherry Jones all have had odd experiences with Amazon reviews. I had thought that Amazon reviews were selling all the books these days, but I guess it works both ways.

    I read the Amazon reviews if I’m trying to find information about out-of-print books. Occasionally somebody will review a book by Pamela Frankau I’m thinking about buying. I skim reader reviews when I want more information. Some of the reviews are great and very analytical, others just give one star and say, “It stinks!” But I always read between the lines: one person’s judgment will not necessariy be mine.

    And I have to confess that at the turn of this century I wrote several Amazon reviews–maybe 10 or 20–and then asked Amazon to delete them. (That was a big hassle, but they agreed to do it.) I was appalled that an extremely negative review I’d written about a famous writer was at the top of the reader reviews for weeks and weeks, perhaps because I knew how to write a review? All literary critics liked the book, and though I disagreed, I thought it was a bad book, it was a BAD-GOOD book, if you know what I mean, and it had never occurred to me that my trashing the book would lead the way among the reader reviews.

    And so, thank goodness, that review is no longer there!

    The bloggers I interviewed are all very thoughtful. But I don’t know about that many blogs, really.

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