An Interview With Brandilyn Carpenter of Prism Book Alliance Review Site
Rather than only interview other authors, I thought I’d try to mix things up and interview other people in the ‘business.’ Today’s guest is Brandilyn Carpenter, book reviewer and owner of Prism Book Alliance. I’m very privileged to be able to call her my friend – I mean she walked to hell and back to get my glasses during GRL ’14, that has to make us tight. Anyway, she agreed to answer a few questions about something all authors are interested in, even if we say we don’t—reviews.
Oh yeah, Brandilyn is giving away a $10 ARe Omnibucks to one lucky commenter who answers a question at the end of the interview.
Welcome Brandilyn. Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions today.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work with Prism Book Alliance.
I am a mother of 3 and an avid reader. I have had many hobbies over the years, but reading has always been one of the top. I started Prism Book Alliance on a whim, to be honest. I already had a blog where I posted reviews when I remembered to. I decided one day I wanted to expand and asked a few fellow M/M lovers… over the course of a few months Prism Book Alliance was born.
Since its inception Prism has grown to post up to 40 reviews, 15 guest posts, 7 Outside the Margins posts, Tea Time, and 2-3 reviewer-penned columns a week.
PBA has several features each week aside from book reviews, what are they?
The most popular is probably our Outside the Margins column, of which you are intimately familiar. We have 29ish authors in the M/M and F/F fiction world who each posts once a month. I leave the content of these posts up to the authors themselves. We have a few that do exclusive blog-based serials. We have book related topics. We have personal topics. It is a way for our readers to connect on another level with some of their favorite authors and a way for some of our favorite authors to find new readers. Look for Outside the Margins daily at 8:30am CST.
We also have Tea Time with Alexis Hall. During Tea Time author Alexis J Hall sits down for a virtual round table about whatever topics strike his fancy. This is a semi-monthly column. Look for Tea Time with Alexis J Hall and friend on the first and third Thursdays at 11am CST.
Every Friday at 11am CST you can join us for a fun look into the psyches of your favorite Prism Reviewers. Each week we answer a burning question during Five Thing Friday. Questions from what are your favorite flowers to who are your favorite characters, and everything in between. You never know what the topic will be until we post!
Each Saturday we host the Retro Reads Spotlight where we spotlight the backlist of one LGBTQ+ author with an interview and giveaway. Each Saturday we also host reviews for titles that are 6 month old or older. It is a chance to rediscover favorites of the past. This week we will be spotlighting The Butterfly Hunter by Julie Bozza.
The first Sunday of each month sees our Prism Recommended Reads announcement. This is just a small way for the Prism team to recognize the best of the best for the previous month. There is approximately one Prism Recommended Read for every 10 books we review in a month.
Our final “special” column is the Sunday Spotlight. This column holds a special place in my heart. It is our chance to talk about topics that matter to us in the LGBTQ world. They can be directly related to the genre or the world at large. We hosted Queer Romance Month using our Sunday Spotlights last October. We have tackled the closet from the inside and out. We have talked about our favorite covers and a least favorite tropes. Sundays are reserved for the Sunday Spotlight. It is the only day of the week we don’t post reviews. This past week we tackled Fiction versus Reality.
Also we have an ongoing comment contest. Every legitimate and thoughtful comment made on the blog each month is entered into a contest for a $25 Amazon or AllRomance eBooks gift card. Awarded on the first of the following month.
PBA doesn’t only review MM Romance, does it?
Nope. We consider for review any title with main characters on LGBTQ+ spectrum. This include genre fiction, M/M Romance, F/F Romance, Trans*, and Bi. It doesn’t have to be romance to be reviewed. We have 15ish reviewers with a wide range of interests.
If you have a book you would like us to consider, contact us 🙂
What got you started read/reviewing MM Romance and LGBT Fiction?
Who the hell knows. No seriously, I have had my blog for a while, but it was a product review blog. Then I started reviewing books. Then the books I was reading turned into M/M Romance a few years ago, but I wasn’t reviewing as much on my blog. However, I had fallen in love with the genre.
It was actually Goodreads that got me started on M/M Romance. I was in the Kindle Smut readers group over there and someone suggested I read Cut & Run. I avoided it for a while, but then my sister told me I needed to read it and she gave me a few other series I “needed” to read in the genre (A Matter of Time by Mary Calmes, Sanctuary by RJ Scott, and Warders by Mary Calmes). By the time I had finished those 4 series, I was absolutely hooked. I quickly discovered more and more in the genre.
As for what gave me the idea to create Prism? That is a little harder to pinpoint. Basically, I see the genre as too important to stay quiet.
In short, I love this genre and I think it is an incredibly important one with the ability to open people’s eyes and make them change the way they see the world. I fully believe what Dreamspinner Press author Andrew Grey said at RainbowCon 2014, the literature leads the way. It isn’t a coincidence that the rise in the acceptance of GLBTQ fiction has paralleled the acceptance of GLBTQ in society and the fight for equality. By the time my kids are of an age to worry about these things, I want it not to matter who someone loves.
Have you received any negative reactions from friends about running a ‘gay’ fiction site?
I don’t know that I would call them friends, but acquaintances… oh yeah. My daughter and I were pushed out of her scout troop (for which I was co-leader) for my views and my blog. I had my position on the board for that organization threatened because of my blog. I did find support on the board as long as I didn’t link my blog to the council in any way. I finally stepped down because I wasn’t willing to compromise my beliefs.
I live in a the Suburbs of Houston, but grew up in a small Texas Town. I have no issues talking about what I do. I wear a rainbow bracelet every day. I freely wear my “Gay Romance” shirts from DSP, as well has my NOH8 shirt and another one I recently purchased from Shane Bitney Crone. I also have a Prism Book Alliance skin on my ever-present cell phone.
I have received “the look” on more than one occasion and the whispers behind my back. I have had many people from my past “unfriend” me on Facebook because “while I support people’s right to be with whomever, I don’t want it in my face.” or because I promote “porn.” I have also been thanked for being an ally by friends and strangers. That isn’t why I do it, however.
What’s the hardest part about running a review site?
The Time involved. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that comes with running the site. I spend well over 2/3 my “weekend” and at least 4 hours a day (give or take) everyday on blog stuff. Usually more…. and that doesn’t count the time I spend reading and reviewing. I am a stay at home mom to three small kids. They want all my time as well. It is a balancing act.
Give authors one piece of advice when dealing with their reviewers?
Be nice, sincere, and professional.
If we like your book we like your book. If we hate your book, we hate your book. I am going to be honest and professional about it. I expect the same in return. You don’t have to love what I say about your book. You don’t even have to read what I say. But how you handle a less than glowing review tells me a lot about you as a person.
We are your ally. If we like your book, we can drive sales your way (trust me, I have had people go onto Amazon on their phones at conferences and buy books on my say so). If we love your book, but don’t have respect for you, we won’t be as inclined to talk up your book.
What types of books won’t PBA review?
We don’t review het or mainstream fiction. As long as there are LGBTQ+ main characters, we will consider it for review.
We review Young Adult, New Adult, Contemporary, Historical, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Horror, BDSM, Slave Fic, M/M Romance, LesFic, etc, etc, etc… We review fluff and hardcore. We have reviewers for almost anything in the genre.
We review eBooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks.
What’s your favorite part of running the site?
I have an absolutely fabulous team that I would not give up for anything. I have made friends on both sides of the pen. I have met people with interests so varied and eclectic, that I can’t even name them. I have met people I would not know otherwise.
What’s your least favorite?
Okay, I will expand that a bit. I have met some wonderful people through my work on the blog, on both sides of the pen. Many of whom I hope to have in my life for years to come. I would never have had the guts to go to a single Con, much less 3 this past year, without some of the people I met in this genre.
However, as loving and supportive as I find the genre to be on the whole, there are times that I just can’t take all the people. Sometimes I feel like I am herding cats. Sometimes I feel like I am the peacemaker among children. Sometimes there is drama. Sometimes it just is.
I am an introvert by nature… probably why I retreat into the world of books. I am a loner by nature as well. Sometimes, I just have to shut off the Internet and let the blog take care of itself for a few days.
Anything new and exciting on the horizon for you or the site that you can share?
As site we are kinda coasting on status quo at the moment. I have ideas churning, but I don’t know which are going to come to light and which won’t. While I was typing out this interview, Beverley told me “no” on one of my ideas. (probably for the best…) Beverley is my voice of reason; she keeps me sane. 🙂
I do know that I want to add a few more reviewers on, and probably another column or two. But what those will be, I don’t know.
We are one of the named sponsors at UKMeet this year. That is exciting. I have no idea what it will mean for Prism Book Alliance or what special thing we will be doing there, but I will come up with something. It will be my first trip outside North America, so I am excited and nervous in equal measure.
A handful of us are planning to attend GRL again this year, so that will be fun, as well.
Besides reading and running PBA, what else do you enjoy?
As I said earlier I am a stay at home mom. I have 3 kids, ages 7, 5, and 3, and they are my number one priority and the lights of my life. Only the 7 year old is in school at this time, so I have the 5 and 3 year olds all day every day. When I am not reading or blogging, I am with them. Heck, 1/2 the time I am reading or blogging with one or more of them attached to my side on laying in my lap.
My other hobby is photography, though I haven’t had nearly the time to indulge lately as I would like.
Last question is all yours – feel free to talk about anything at all.
*crickets* Now I understand that deer in the headlights look I sometimes get from authors…
How about I just end with how to get in touch with us. If you are interested in having your title reviewed or appearing as a guest on Prism Book Alliance, please contact us: http://www.prismbookalliance.com/contact-us/
Can I do an giveaway? $10 ARe Omnibucks to a commenter who answers the following question: What are some of your go to comfort reads?
One winner will be selected at random from all comments left by midnight EST, March 2, 2015.