Saturday, January 12, 2013
Jane Henderson, Post Dispatch Book Reviewer, at the MWG Conference
MWG: Hi Jane, we are so excited to have you come and talk to us at the conference. Let's start with this: What do you think makes a great book?
Jane: This is so hard to answer, isn't it? If we're talking about fiction, we'd need a strong plot, amazing characters, and fascinating prose, plus some interesting themes. Even then, not every novel that is well-written connects with every reader. I suspect that one's own life experience and even age and mood play a role in how a reader responds to a book. When it comes to nonfiction, I prefer books that have original, thorough research and a writer who can make anything interesting. Of course, both nonfiction and fiction should be well-edited and look professional (the fact that I even point that out shows that it's not always a given these days).
MWG: Unfortunately, that is true. SO the opposite then--what makes a book no good?
Jane: No good? Well, a lot of books have good points, but just aren't great. For me, if a nonfiction book has even a hint of being plagiarized or made up, it's no good.
MWG: What do you plan to share at the MWG conference keynote address?
Jane: I'm not entirely sure, but I assume writers will want to know about reviewing and how to get reviewed. I will talk about how there is a difference between reviewing a book and "supporting" an author, and that reviewers should be fair -- but that isn't the same thing as being objective.
MWG: That sounds interesting, and I think something all writers will need and/or want to hear--no matter where they are at in their careers! In general, what do authors need to know about getting their books reviewed?
Jane: It's really difficult to get traditional newspaper reviews now. Most have less space and smaller freelance budgets. On the other hand, the reviews on the web have opened up a whole, new world. I will definitely talk more about this at the conference.
MWG: Sounds great! So, what are your favorite types or genre of books?
Jane: I suppose my favorite is realistic literary fiction. But anything well-written can be interesting!
MWG: What inspired you to promote books and authors in your career?
Jane: When I was a kid, I loved to read. I wanted to major in English literature in college, but I also thought I'd better study journalism so I could get a job. So I got degrees in both. I was working toward my master's in English when I got the chance to work as a copy editor at the old Globe-Democrat. About eight years later, I happened to be at the Post-Dispatch and was asked to fill in for the book editor while he was working on a project. Like so much in life, it was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. I ended up keeping the job, which was perfect for me.
MWG: It sounds like you were in the right place at the right time--AND you did a good job at it, too. Thank you, Jane, we look forward to hearing more at the conference!
Interview by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg