(Interviewed by Lauren Ilbury) LI: Welcome to this interview! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to everyone? For example, your name, where you’re from, what your favourite genre of book is, how long you’ve been a book reviewer, and perhaps a fun fact about yourself? AW: Hi everyone! My name is Amarachi. You can call me Amy for short. I’m a 20-year-old Nigerian and a crazy book lover (why else would I be here?😏.) I fell in love with reading at such an early age. My parents would reward my good grades in school with a book or two, and that really encouraged my already growing habit. My favourite book genre would definitely be thrillers. The first thriller novel I read changed my life, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked back since then. I do read a bit of everything, but I’d say my least favourite genre would be fantasy. (I just can’t get into them no matter how hard I try.) I started reviewing books for fun back in 2018 on a bookstagram account I created, but only started doing it professionally in 2020. LI: There must be a lot of work behind the reviews you do. Reading, taking notes, editing, etc, what exactly is your process for writing a review? AW: Ah yes! It can be a lot of work. There can also be some pressure while reading because you’re aware that you’re not just doing it for fun. Most times, I try to enjoy the book as much as possible while reading (this is why it’s important to pick and review books in genres you really like!) It generally makes the process easier. I don’t try to think about the review until I’m done reading. While reading, I take notes of anything I think would be useful while writing. This would include characters, scenarios, plot development and progression, and so on. Because reviews have to be balanced, you would also be looking out for loopholes, errors, etc. While reading, I can already start to create a draft for the review, which I tweak as I go on. After reading, I then fully focus on writing my review. I usually give 1-2 days for that. Whenever I feel stuck, I just take time away and return later. This helps to give a fresh perspective. I go over my reviews numerous times while referencing the book to make sure everything is in order. Editing starts with me while I write and progresses to an online proofreader. After that, I still go over it several times before finally publishing. (little classic tip: Always read whatever you write out loud. It’s the fastest way to spot anything off! Never fails.) To me, the most difficult thing would be offering negative criticism. This is because I understand the amount of work and time that goes into creating a book from start to finish. Over time, I’ve learned to give constructive negative criticism, and I’ve learned that being honest in your reviews does both the author and intended audience a greater good! LI: What should readers expect from a professional book reviewer? AW: A professional review entails an in-depth analysis of the book. You should know exactly what you’re getting into after reading such a review. The reviewer doesn’t only tell you what genre or type of book you’re about to read; they also review the book's plot, characterization, and flow. You should know if there is proper character development of the characters or if the scenes are seamless and flow well. Does everything add up in the end? Does the book keep you hooked ? Are the characters relatable? What feelings does the author's writing elicit? In general, a professional review is objective, constructive, and informative. LI: How did you start book reviewing, and what kept you going? AW: Like I stated earlier, I started out reviewing books on a bookstagram account. I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on the books I read. After a couple of months writing reviews on Instagram, I stopped because I couldn’t keep up with it. I then got a job as a contract reviewer, which I’ve been doing since 2020. I work for two review companies on contract and also do freelance. I remember my bio then on Instagram used to read, “I love books and love talking about them even more.” Honestly, this is what keeps me going. I genuinely enjoy the process of reading and sharing my thoughts with others. I also love the input my reviews contribute to the book community. LI: What is the most difficult part of becoming a book reviewer? Similarly, what is the best thing about becoming a book reviewer? AW: The most difficult part for me is continuity. It could get mundane, and it’s also something you might do for free for the longest or for a small fee, and that could get discouraging. The best thing for me is the impact I can make with my reviews. I help readers make choices about their next read, and I also help authors with constructive criticism and overall publicity for their books. The free books are also an amazing plus! LI: Are there any ‘red flags’ you look for when reviewing a book? AW: Lots! Some books can get wordy with so much description that it gets distracting. I have noticed that this happens with amateur writing when the author wants the pages to fill up with wordy descriptions. Another red flag is confusing timelines. It’s important to keep readers aware of the “now” in your story, and taking your plot back and forth can keep them confused and thrown off balance. Other red flags include: too many characters (that readers can’t keep up with), unnecessary details, poor characterization, and the list goes on! LI: What comes first for you, the plot or the characters? And why? AW: The two really go hand in hand, but the characters give a book life, so I would say characters. Characterization is one of the most important parts of a story. Remember that readers are literally looking into the lives of the characters you build. That’s what a story is all about. Readers should be able to form attachments to these characters either because they can relate to them or because they’re so poignant and striking. Either way, the characters should speak to the readers. This is the number one thing I look out for in books. LI: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start professional book reviewing? AW: I would advise them to proceed if they really enjoy it. There’s also so much to learn, and I would advise that they never stop learning to improve their skill. I would also advise that they read and write more! There’s nothing you can do well without constant, intentional practice. There are so many places where you could offer a review for free. You could start there while improving yourself and building a portfolio. LI: If you could spend the day with a popular author, who would you choose and why? AW: Definitely Colleen Hoover! She seems like such a fun person. I would definitely laugh a lot! LI: In your opinion, what is a novel absolutely everyone should read at least once in their life? In other words, what is your favourite novel? AW: Anything by Sidney Sheldon is a classic. I’d personally recommend “Tell me your dreams”. I read one of his books for the first time when I was 12. Till today, I consider writers the real geniuses. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho is also one of those books everyone should read at least once.
Thank you so much to Amarachi Nwankwo for agreeing to this interview and for providing such informative answers. I know I've learnt a lot about the world of professional book reviewing, and I hope you did too! You can find more of Amarachi's work on her social media: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/guilty.as.read/ Reedsy: https://reedsy.com/discovery/user/amarachinwankwo