Ryan Lieske: Greetings! And thank you for taking part in La legado vivo! Why don’t we have you introduce yourself to the readers.
M L Sparrow: Hi! I’m M L Sparrow. I’m currently the author of four novels, two shorter novellas and a slew of short stories published in various anthologies. I enjoy writing lots of different genres, although I’m a romantic at heart, therefore most of my books have varying amounts of romance! Recently, my novella A Tangled Web became a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, which is exciting.
Besides writing, I love to read (obviously!) and travel. I’ve been to some amazing places and I’ll soon be moving to Japan; everywhere I go inspires new stories, meaning I have an endless supply of ideas!
RL: What is the first book you remember reading, or having read to you?
MLS: The first book I remember having read to me was actually Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. My parents were always reading to me as a child, which birthed my love of reading, so there were many before this, however, this is the first memory I have. Anyway, I remember my mum reading it to me whilst on holiday when I was about seven and it scared the living daylights out of me! Needless to say we waited until I was a bit older to read the rest of the series.
RL: Oh, man. You just made me feel really old. Haha! I was in my mid-twenties when those books came out. I loved them very much, though, and am forever grateful that they inspired a whole new generation of readers!
MLS: Just to make you feel even older, I was still toddling when the first book came out in 1997!
RL: Argh. Excuse me a moment while I go into a corner for awhile and cry. Now where did I put my cane?
So, what is the book that sealed your fate as a lifelong reader?
MLS: This is a hard one…I’ve always been a reader; like I said my parents got me into it from a young age, so pinpoint anyone book is almost impossible.
RL: I actually love that answer, because I don’t think I would be able to answer my own question either. Not with any certainty, at least. I am impressed, frankly, whenever anybody can answer it.
MLS: It took me a while to come up with something! I was racking my brains and scanning my bookshelves, trying to see if there was anything that sprang to mind, but no, because it was a collection of many, many books that sealed my fate as a lifelong reader.
RL: A lot of people tell me that, even if they were a voracious reader as a child, it was their middle-school and high-school years that had the most impact on the reader they are today. Would you say this is true for you?
MLS: I’d actually say it was the opposite for me. I have always wanted to be an author, but it wasn’t until Secondary School that I really started writing, therefore, reading got sidelined for a while as a I threw myself into writing—though I will admit I never finished anything during those years! However, though I wasn’t reading as much, I did still make time occasionally and my teenage years were when I discovered authors like Keri Arthur, Kresley Cole and Nalini Singh, who’s still one of my favourite authors to this day. They introduced me to adult supernatural romance and opened the door to more adult reading material.
RL: What was it about their work that made them stand out to you?
MLS: At the time what made their work stand out was because it was so different. In my mind, up until then I had been reading ‘kids’ books and I remember the first time I read a sex scene in Keri Arthur’s Full Moon Rising and I was shocked! I think I was about twelve or thirteen, which some will probably think it too young, but I was always quite mature for my age and I think reading adult material also made me mature faster than others my age. So curiosity was the main pull to begin with, but through the years authors like Kresley Cole and Nalini Singh have kept me hooked because I just love their writing. They write amazing characters with great relationships and interesting plot lines and I hope they never stop! As for Keri Arthur, I stopped reading the Riley Jenson Guardian Series, of which Full Moon Rising was the first, though I can’t remember why, however, I remember how much I loved the books and I think I’ll have to go back and read them again!
RL: Speaking of this time period, were you one of those kids who went rogue from the curriculum and read whatever you wanted, sometimes even ignoring what was assigned to read altogether?
MLS: I hope none of my teachers are reading this, but I’ll admit to not always reading the assigned reading—at least not in Secondary School, the reading lists in College were much more to my liking and I challenged myself to read as many as possible. Thankfully I was very good at making stuff up on the spot knowing only a little information!
RL: Did your reading life ever supersede or cause conflict with your social life growing up?
MLS: Social life? What social life? As you said reading is very solitary, as is writing, so it probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that I actually like spending time alone! Thankfully, I have very forgiving friends who understand, but nonetheless drag me out of my cave when they think I need to see sunlight.
Predictably, in school I spent a lot of time in the library, however, that was less to do with the selection of books and more to do with the fact that it it was the only place you could go to get out of the rain!
RL: What new books, literary styles, or genres were you exposed to in college?
MLS: College introduced me to the classics, which I hadn’t read much of until then. I’ll admit, my reading of them is still limited. Wuthering Heights, which I’d previously read but not enjoyed, became one of my favourites, though I will argue vehemently with anyone who says it’s a romance!
RL: I must admit, to this day, that remains one of what I call “the great un-reads.” I had to read it for an Advanced English class my senior year of high school, and I downright loathed it! I gave it like ten pages, and then tossed it aside. Took a failing grade on it out of spite. (To be fair, I did the same with The Scarlet Letter.) However, years later, I saw the Laurence Olivier film version of it, and liked it. (I have no idea if it’s a faithful adaptation or not, so forgive me if citing that film is blasphemy to fans of the book.) Since then, many people have told me I should give it another go. I feel my earlier abhorrence of it was most likely youthful arrogance or some sort of idiotic sense of elitism. So tell me, if I do give the book another go (and I am planning on it), how would you suggest I approach it? What is it about it that you love you so much? In other words, school me on why I’ve probably been wrong all these years. 🙂
MLS: I actually haven’t watched any film or TV adaptations of Wuthering Heights, so I can’t say anything in regards to that, but I think the book is one you either love or you hate. Personally, the reason I love it is because all the characters are so very unlikable. They’re hateful and jealous and selfish and I love that in a classic! It makes a change from the works of Austen! I think if you go into it with your eyes open, not expecting it to be an epic romance, like some people advertise, you might enjoy it. Let me know what you think if you do end up giving it another try. 🙂
RL: Indeed I will. I’m sure I’ll post some sort of mea culpa on Facebook, which is usually what I do when I feel I owe a book or a film an apology. I appreciate your insight on it.
MLS: I also took an A Level in Classical Civilization, which meant I read Homer’s Iliad and The Aeneid, both of which I fell in love with and actually have on this years summer reading list to re-read. When I first started reading them, I was convinced they would be to hard, but, like I said, I ended up loving them. They not only awoke an interest in ancient civilizations and gods, but they also gave me more confidence and convinced me to widen my horizons when it came to reading. After all, if you can read and enjoy The Iliad you can read anything!
RL: What is it about ancient civilizations, gods, etc. that fascinates you so much? And were there any books beyond the ones mentioned that furthered that fascination?
MLS: I’m not sure why ancient civilizations and gods fascinates me so much to be honest. I’ve always loved fairy tales and myths and I guess, although I know they weren’t really real, I like the idea of a time when gods and miracles and impossible heroes were everyday occurrences.
Besides The Iliad and The Aeneid, by Virgil, I also enjoy more “modern” novels about Rome, Greece and other old civilizations. I enjoyed The Maid by Kimberly Cutter, which is about Joan of Arc, The Last Concubine, by Lesley Downer, which is about feudal Japan, and Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran. I’m not sure how much truth was in them though…
Also, I recently watched the movie Alexander and although I hated it got me interested in Alexander the Great, who I know very little about, so I found the Alexandros Trilogy by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, who actually wrote one of my favourite books, Spartan. I’m only halfway through the first book, but I’m loving it so far!
RL: What were your first bookstore experiences like?
MLS: I actually can’t remember the first time I went to a bookstore, I guess it was so routine for me from a young age that no memory really stuck. Luckily for me there’s a Waterstones where I live and I don’t think I’ve ever been into town without popping in for a look. I also like going to Brighton and moseying around second-hand bookstores, though I do have a guilty secret… I’m a bit of book snob and I like pretty, pristine covers, meaning I tend to buy my books new.
RL: Your secret is safe with me. I have a list of authors of whom I always buy a brand new hardcover, and then later a paperback version to read. I like my hardcovers kept pristine.
MLS: I actually don’t like hardcovers, I only buy them if I’m desperate to read a book and the paperback won’t be out for a while! I prefer paperbacks because they’re higher to carry around and I can fit more on my shelf! Also, although I’m a little possessive and like to get new books, I love the way they look once I’ve read them, a crease or two in the spine and dog-ears on pages where there is an underlined quote I like. Yes, I underline bits of my books!
RL: I’m the same way! No one creases my books but me! And I love the way they look on my shelf, almost like they have scars from the journey we shared together. And I underline my books too, or at the very least, place Post-its where there might be a particular quote or passage I want to remember.
Did you find, as you grew older, that the books of your youth began to mean less to you? Or do you still enjoy all the types of books you’ve been exposed to throughout your life?
MLS: Well, since I’m only twenty-two I’m not sure I can answer that! I still enjoy YA books in general and sometimes kids books, like Roald Dahl.
However, I do cringe to think that I used to enjoy the Twilight series—I recently tried to re-read it but just couldn’t stand the characters; I thought Bella was such a doormat and really couldn’t understand why I liked it so much when I first read it!
RL: Maybe we can do follow-up interview in another 15 years or so and see if you have anymore that make you cringe. On a side note, my best friend dared me to watch all the Twilight movies, because he loves them, and so of course my girlfriend went out and bought them all for me to watch because she loves them too (for “guilty pleasure” reasons). So be on the lookout for that Facebook post when I finally sit down for that movie marathon….sigh…
MLS: Ha! Yes, ask me again in a few years and I’m sure I’ll have a longer list for you!I’ve also watched the Twilight films and just to warn you I think the first one is awful, but they do get marginally better as the series progresses.
RL: “Marginally.” Oh, dear…
So how has your reading life survived adulthood?
MLS: I actually think now that I’m older and I have more of a routine, I read more. I always have a book with me so I can read whenever I have a spare moment. My lunch break is also a good time to relax with a book and I always read for an hour or so before bed; I find it helps me sleep.
RL: Currently, what types of books are you mostly drawn to?
MLS: Honestly, I read a wide range of books, from YA to classics, however, I really enjoy anything with romance in it, so that tends to be my genre of choice. Actually, the only genres I don’t really read are horror and thrillers, though I’m not averse to them.
RL: Horror is my thing, but I don’t judge anybody who’s not into it. I am curious to know, though, what about those particular genres doesn’t appeal to you? Is it a subject matter thing, or just general disinterest? Were there any particular books in those genres you read that turned you off from delving any further?
MLS: This is a hard one… It’s not necessarily that I dislike horror, I have loads of Stephen King on my shelf which I want to read, but there always seems to be something that appeals more. I enjoy scary movies—preferring creepy instead of just gore—so I’m not sure why horror books have always been so lacklustre for me. I have read some Susan Hill books, but stopped after a while; she has such a reputation as a horror writer but I just found her stories boring and not at all scary.
Recently, I’ve also started reading non-fiction and I’ll admit that I can get a bit obsessive when something interests me; at the moment I’m drawn to books about whales and dolphins.
RL: I’m the same way, especially if it’s something I’m researching for one of my own books or screenplays. A couple of years ago I went down a very dark hole researching suicide. As I said, horror’s my thing, and I sometimes find myself in very uncomfortable territory. So I definitely understand getting obsessive.
MLS: Once you start reading about something that interests you it’s always hard not to get obsessed because you want to learn everything. I have a whole self committed to books about dolphins and Killer Whales; they are all about practically the same thing but I’ve devoured all of them because even the smallest bit of new information is valuable.
RL: How do you share your love of books with others?
MLS: Friends and family can pretty much rely upon getting a book from me for birthdays and Christmas and I’ve already started buying books for my baby godson, although he’s only four months old!
I love to share the books that I’m reading with people, which is part of the reason I started a book blog, and I often push books on my poor mum and beg her to read them even if they don’t interest her, just so that I can talk about them!
I was part of a book club briefly in College and am also part of one on Goodreads, however, I really dislike being told what to read!
RL: I’m one of those people who reads several books at a time. I’ve been called a “reading polygamist.” Are you? Our are you pretty monogamous when it comes to reading?
MLS: Oh, I’m definitely a one book kind of woman! I find it easier to get absorbed into the story if I read one at a time and think I’d probably confuse myself if I tried to read multiple books at once. 🙂
Sometimes, if I can’t get into a book I’ll drift off and read something else, but for the most part if I’m not enjoying the books I’m reading I’ll stop reading it.
RL: Now, I’m not a big fan of the term “guilty pleasure.” However, for want of a better term, what are your literary guilty pleasures?
MLS: I enjoy a good erotic novel once and a while, though I have to say good erotica is hard to find. Actually, I’ll specify—I like erotica which still has strong, well-developed characters and an actual plot-line as opposed to simple sex, sex, sex.
Both these authors do something in their books which I’ve found lots of erotic authors forego in lieu of raunchy sex, they create believable relationships…and they also have raunchy sex!
RL: Now that’s how it should be! Makes the raunchy sex even sexier, I would think. I’ve seen part of one of the 50 Shades movies, but thought it was dreadfully dull and laughable. However, because I actually cared for the characters in it, I thought the movie Secretary was incredibly sexy. I mention these two because they have similar plots. So yeah, it’s all about characters and believable relationships. To be honest, I haven’t read much erotica (I think the closest I’ve been is reading Clive Barker, because he writes some pretty explicit sex scenes), although I’ve toyed around with the idea of writing it under a pseudonym, just to see if I could do it, because I actually like to write about sex in my own work. My GF keeps pushing me to do this, as well. Don’t laugh, but if I do do it, I’ll be using the name Persephone Minks. Okay, fine, you can laugh.
MLS: Ha! Sorry, couldn’t help but laugh! What a great name! I’ve actually just finished writing a short erotica and am trying to find a suitable home for it, but when I do publish I think I’ll do it under my name, since I write lots of different genres anyway.
RL: This one could apply to all art, really, but in terms of writing, what are your thoughts on “genre?” What I mean is, do you feel it’s necessary to label? Ultimately, do you think genre labeling even matters? Does it matter to you?
MLS: That’s a hard questions, because I suppose yes, genres are important in some ways. For instance when searching for reading materials; we all have our preferences and genre labeling points us in the right direction.
However, I hate it when people label authors as specifically writing one genre, for example saying that they are a Romance Writer, or Horror Writer. For me, I hate to be pigeon-holed since I have so many ideas and none are the same genres. Just like I enjoy reading a wide spectrum of things, I also like writing different material, from horror, to romance, YA to erotica.
Perhaps I’m veering a little of topic here, but in the same vein, I don’t actually agree with age specifications either. A guest post I wrote about why, can be found HERE.
RL: Are you a physical copy person, or do you prefer other ways of “reading” books, such as e-books or audio? Do you think physical books will always be available?
MLS: I hope physical books are always available; for me there is nothing like wondering around a library or bookstore and perusing what’s on offer, even if I don’t actually want to buy something. It’s soothing.
As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of physical books and my bedroom is beginning to resemble a library—I’ve now run out of shelf space and have piles on the floor until a bookcase can be built! Nothing can beat physical books; the way they look on the shelf, the feel and smell of them, it all adds to their charm.
That said, I do have a Kindle which has several hundred books on it and I think it’s great because it’s so small and I can download whatever I want at the click of a button. It was a life-saver when I went travelling. Also, if there’s a book release I’m partially excited about, I usually pre-order them on Kindle so that I can get it the instant it comes out—I’m impatient like that!
As for audiobooks, I remember listening to them as I went to sleep when I was younger—my favourites were Eragon by Christopher Paolini and [Michelle Magorian’s] Goodnight Mr. Tom—however, nowadays I just can’t seem to concentrate on audiobooks.
I suppose I feel like if I’m listening to something I can also do other things and end up getting distracted, whereas with a book I can settle down on the sofa and give it my full attention.
RL: Do you take a book with you wherever you go?
MLS: Always! I have a book in my handbag all the time and if I think there’s even the slightest chance I might finish that one before I get home I’ll bring along my Kindle!
RL: Yes! I do the exact same thing. Well, not with a Kindle, because I don’t have one, but if I think there’s a chance I’ll finish the book I brought, I have another nestled right next to it. You’re like the sister I never had! 🙂
What books―and they don’t have to necessarily have to be all-time favorites―do you feel have influenced you and shaped you the most: as a human being, as an artist, etc.?
MLS: As I mentioned earlier, I’ve recently been really interested in non-fiction about dolphins and whales. I’ve always loved animals—except creepy crawlies, which I don’t want living in my house but still refuse to kill—and these books have really helped me develop my thoughts and beliefs about captivity, human activity, sustainability, animal rights and global-warming. I guess you could say they’ve given me something to believe in and fight for in the grand scheme of things.
These books, along with several documentaries, also inspired my short novella, Red Days.
As for growing as an artist, I’m a firm believer that everything you read teaches you something, therefore, it’s impossible for me to pinpoint specific books. They might only teach you a new word, or a form of punctuation you weren’t familiar with before, or they may spark an idea or introduce a new view-point. My dad once said to me, “Read everything and anything,” and I honestly think that’s the best advice for any reader—don’t be afraid to explore different genres; you might discover something amazing in the least likely place!
RL: Have you ever read a book that made you cry?
MLS: Oh, there are several books that have made me cry like a baby! The most recent being A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I managed to contain myself for the most part, until I got to the last chapter and then the floodgates opened.
Honestly, anything that has someone dying from a long illness, or an animal dying, is pretty much guaranteed to make me tear up!
RL: Have you ever read a book that truly, deep down in your soul or psyche, disturbed you?
MLS: As for books that disturb me…I don’t read a lot of horror and what I have read hasn’t affected me that much. However, other books have disturbed me in other ways. I find any books written about the holocaust deeply harrowing, especially The Book Thief and, surprisingly, a YA book by Suzy Zail which is badly titled, The Wrong Boy. I find them so disturbing because they are about true events, the same with A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, because it’s primarily about the treatment of women in Kabul, though thankfully it does have a happy ending for some of the characters.
And then there’s non-fiction books like The World Without Bees, Voices in the Ocean, and Death at Seaworld, which tell true stories which are disturbing because they tend to paint a dismal picture for the future of entire species which us humans are doing little to stop.
RL: Lastly, just for fun, what is the one book―be it a widely lauded classic, or bestselling popular phenom―do you find absolutely unreadable? Or, if you’re not comfortable answering that, then describe to us―without using a title or author’s name―one of the most unpleasant reading experiences you’ve ever had.
MLS: The Great Gatsby. I know it’s a classic, but I read it in college and absolutely hated it. The plot, the characters, the writing, I honestly didn’t enjoy anything about it, even the movie adaptation with Leonardo Di Caprio! My copy is still on my shelf, battered and dog-eared and riddled with notes, simply because I’m one of those people who just can’t bear to throw books away―basically I’m a hoarder!―but I know I’ll never read it again.
RL: Thank you for discussing your reading life with me. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
MLS: I did, thanks! Books are my favourite things to discuss… when I’m not reading of course. 🙂
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