So in light of Exiled going free on Friday, and some other things that came up, I had to postpone this a few days, but today it is postponed no more! May the awesomeness that is Parajunkee be unveiled.
I had the pleasure of being introduced to Parajunkee through Twitter earlier this year (If you haven’t noticed, I meet all the greats on Twitter, so you should be there), but I’d been captivated by her work for quite some time. Parajunkee is not only the great talent behind this websites design, but a ton of other ones as well, not to mention she’s done some phenomenal book covers. But it’s not only her talent as a designer that had me interested in spotlighting her for the month, it’s what she gives back to the book blogging community.
Parajunkee Designs is amazing, but Parajunkee’s View is something else entirely. A whole website dedicated to not just book reviews, but author blog tours, promotion, and giveaways. And let’s not forget the blogging advice that people flock to her for, or the special topics she runs each week that encourage and help other bloggers develop their sites. And lastly, my favorite part is when she hosts discussion posts. Parajunkee has built such an audience that these posts draw people in from all over the blogosphere to become involved. She isn’t afraid to take on touchy topics, and she always tries to work from both sides of the argument. Parajunkee is a gem in the blogging world, always helping others and truly offering something back to the community she is a part of. I’ve invited her here today to be assaulted with ridiculous questions, and to spotlight what I believe is an incredible contribution to the book and blogging community.
1. Let’s talk Parajunkee design first. When did you figure out this was something you loved, and what made you decide to turn it into a business?
This is a long answer. How does one define a life path? I actually have a degree in Graphic Design, it was a last minute switch, when I realized a degree in English Lit really only had one possible viable outcome – teaching. With the English / Graphic Design mix I was quickly sucked into corporate Marketing, or what I would describe as the seventh circle of Hell. Imagine Devil Wears Prada, but instead of just one boss/client, you have about five. The funny thing was I really loved putting together marketing plans for clients, designing their campaigns and conceptualizing new products. But, in a Marketing Department, or at least the departments that I worked within, it was never the clients, it was always the other co-workers that made things very stressful. It was just a very cut-throat industry. You are only as good as your latest greatest idea. Not to mention, the moment a company does layoffs they look first at the Marketing Dept since it can easily be outsourced. Yet, one of those latest greatest ideas of mine was social media for our clients. We didn’t have a social media department so I started researching and taking a few classes. Blogging seemed to be the best way to implement a “Learning Immersion” and I started blogging books since it was a passion of mine. I learned the ins and outs of setting up blogs, promotion and interacting on social media with good results and then implemented it for my clients. I did not expect my personal blog to take off, or the question that kept on being asked. “Who designed your blog?” When I responded with “I did,” I was immediately being asked to do it for them. I think the first couple I did for hardly any money at all. I just slapped some clip-art together and gave them a custom blog. When inquiries began flooding in I set up a price list and made a little extra on the side. I became so busy I had to implement a waiting list. One of my cut-throat co-workers saw a public post that went up on LInked-In about my design work and told my director. She fired me, because as she put it “I was a product of my own success” and now she knew why all my latest ideas weren’t as good as they used to be, since I was funneling all my creative energy into my blogging. It was a very hard blow and I was very gun-shy as far as getting a new job. So I thought, with the work I was doing on the side it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, who needs to have a real job? I now could funnel all my creative energy into what I enjoyed the most. It is a work in progress and hopefully it will only get better. I love what I do, my clients are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with (much better than orthodontist or oil and gas companies!). My design style works very well with the genres I design for, never have I had it returned with a “too dark” or “too edgy” critique.
2. You run weekly Book Blogging 101 posts on your website, Parajunkee’s View. Was there a specific reason you started to do these, or when you began your blogging adventure, did you always know you wanted to learn everything you could and help make it easier for others?
I am one of those people that if I don’t know how to do it, I research. I’m not one that asks for instruction. I take a class, I Google it all over the place. My blogging career started with searches, research and a lot of “testing.” There are very few experts in social media or Google Algorithms and most of it is just speculation. At some point and for some very ODD reason, people began asking ME questions, via email or through twitter. A lot of it started because of different coding “tricks” I used on my site. Most bloggers do not have a basic understanding of HTML and wanted help. I had no problem with this and came to realize that most start-up blogs flounder quickly if they don’t figure things out. I had a close knit group of blogging buddies who had all started around the same time and I came up with an idea to start a mentoring group. We called it the Big Blog, Little Blog program. People that made it into the program were invited to a special forum where a lot of questions were asked and answered. The information was fabulous and after the program was over I thought hoarding the information was dumb, so I posted it on my blog and just called it Book Blogging 101. I’ve never received that much traffic to any of my reviews. More questions were asked. It became a regular feature. Another very long answer 🙂
3. With the greatness that is Parajunkee’s View, a lot in the book blogging community look up to you. You’ve invested so much time developing your websites, not just to look amazing, but to host amazing content. You spend a lot of time giving advice, or suggestions to both seasoned, and first-time bloggers. If you had to give everyone one piece of advice for them to start out with, what would that be?
I get asked this a lot and my answer will always be the same. Make a plan before you start. Much like an author writes an outline a blogger has to look before he or she leaps. Research your name, research your URL, write about 30 posts before you even begin. A blog is not something you just JUMP into if you want it to be successful, it has to be thought out and planned. And thanks for that greatness bit…I try 😉
4. What made you decide to start a website about books, and when did Parajunkee’s View transition into a one stop shop for blogger advice, book blog tours, and author promotion?
I touched on this in the first answer a bit, I knew I needed to start a blog and when I researched, it seemed the best blogs are focused on something you are passionate about. I had vacillated on whether to do a design blog or something outside of my “work” for a good long time. I have always been a very passionate reader and had taken to reviewing books on Amazon. Nothing much, a paragraph here and there. Until of course, I found a book I didn’t care for at all and I thought I had to explain my dislike a lot more than my usual one paragraph “this book rocks.” The review got a lot of both negative and positive feedback, but the negative didn’t sit very well with me. The comments were very insulting to me personally. Again, stars aligned and I realized I should take my book reviews to the baby blog that I needed to form, this way I wouldn’t fear writing a negative review and getting that “unhelpful” button or nasty comments that I couldn’t moderate. As the blog grew, I realized that book blogs could be so much more, which led to author promotions, tours, advice those sort of things. All are experiments. Some work, some fail miserably. As long as they don’t stagnate I’m good to go.
5. With both your websites taking up huge amounts of your time, is everything you read strictly for the Parajunkee’s View, or do you find time to read things just for you as well? And also, do you have a single genre you prefer over the others? And do you have a single book that you like to re-read regularly that is a favorite?
I haven’t read anything “off topic” in two years. Everything I read is for Parajunkee’s View or Parajunkee Design (I’ll read a client’s book or excerpts of that book if I design the cover sometimes – but I never review it). I go through phases as far as preferences. I’ve always been a darker genre kind of girl, even in the television shows I watch and the movies I prefer. High action, mostly fiction (unless it is true crime or something paranormal like UFOs or vampires hunts) anything to do with the fantastical or unreal. I’m a sucker for Urban Fantasy, I grew up on Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy, I think the UF genre is the best of all of those. My re-reads are actually many. I just reread the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning to prep for the release of ICED. That is probably the fourth time I’ve read the series. I always go back to what I consider my classics, BRAVE NEW WORLD, the RAMA series, I’ve read Robert A. Heinlein’s books over and over again countless times. Books like STARSHIP TROOPERS, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, and THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS defined my adolescence and it is fabulous to read them in adulthood and reassess your take on certain political and social beliefs. These books are a far cry from the Young Adult Paranormal Romance that seems to be my usual fare as of late, but while their topics might be lighter, great writing is great writing no matter if you write about star-crossed vampire lovers or a political coup on the moon.
6. You did an extremely entertaining chapter by chapter review of 50 Shades of Grey, and this book has come to receive a lot of attention, both positive and negative. Although you weren’t a huge fan of the book, or how it came to be, it – much like its original – did something to the world: it got people reading that would otherwise never pick up a book. And because of that, they’re returning to the bookstore for more books from other authors. Although not everyone approves of how the story came to be, do you think it deserve some positive recognition for that?
That is one of those questions that makes me sigh. Why that book? And how do they really get away with that? The whole TWILIGHT fan fiction makes me cringe, because as an “idea” person, I hold ideas sacred. But, I guess to give James credit, at least it is admitted that FSOG was TWILIGHT fan fiction, whereas there have been countless other books that it was obvious they were just rewrites of the book and sold within the same genre. Do I think it got people reading? Yes. Much like TWILIGHT and HUNGER GAMES ignited the Young Adult genre, I think FSOG will put new fire within the erotica genre, which frankly, was a genre most “non-readers” had any idea it existed. Anything to get new readers is a plus in my book. James deserves total kudos as far as opening up avenues that were before closed off. I think on top of her sales, she also sparked a sexual awakening for a lot of people, how many other authors can claim this? I respect what she’s done even though my personal tastes think her book is more in the comedic genre then the sexy one LOL
7. Hypothetical #1: If you woke up tomorrow and found out you could never blog, or do design again, but a dream opportunity presented itself to you, what would that opportunity be?
I had the fanciful thought of opening a Kiddie Fun Awesomeness business at one point. For the young ones. Slides, jumpers that sort of thing. Maybe one day, probably when my kid has her own kids. LOL.
8. As a book reviewer, is there any one thing an author can do in their review request to make themselves stand out? Assuming that they’ve followed your submission policy correctly, what’s the little “extra” the can do? Humor in the request? Attach of picture of a man’s rippling abs? Or do you prefer to let the book cover and synopsis speak for itself?
Rippling abs? Score. That would probably work. Mainly it is all in the book. When I read the synopsis do I WANT to read it? If I don’t want to read it, I’m not going to force myself to do it. I don’t think that would turn-out with a good review anyway. So, yes, let the book cover and synopsis speak for itself. Short and sweet always works for me. Can you review my book — this is it. I’ll bribe you with chocolates…ok forget the chocolates.
As a designer, what’s your favorite thing to work on? Avatars, Websites, Book Covers, etc. and what makes that your favorite?
Book Covers and Avatars — but only avatars if I’m excited about them. When I get this crazy list of what to do with the avatar I kind of get freaked out and start doubting that I can do it, as far as my illustration skills. When I get a more “laid back” direction — it flows really well for me. I get better results with laid back direction as opposed to strict guidelines.
10. As an avid book reader, is there a story, scenario, or topic, you haven’t seen yet that you loved to read about?
I’m always a fan of ancient cultures and authors implementing them into their paranormal themes. I think a lot of the current books focus on the same ones over and over again, Ancient Greece, Roman, British myths. Those more Western cultures. I would love to see more diverse cultures and creatures expounded on. It might be tough going to break out the current mold, but I think if done well could open up a whole new trend.
11. Hypothetical #2: You wake up and hear screaming. It’s morning, and as you peek out your bedroom window, you see your neighbor being mauled by a small child zombie. As your neighbor stops moving, the child zombie’s head creaks to the side, and colorless eyes lock with yours. She screams and runs at the house, scaling up the side towards the window. In a paragraph or less, describe what happens next.
FML. This scares me. As a mother there is nothing more horrific then a child zombie. I would body slam my husband because I would be making a mad dash to his side of the bed and the contents that are kept under the bed. The .357 would be in his hand the .38 in mine. I would probably have to take it out, since the .357 is like firing a cannon and would attract too much attention. Then it would be to my daughter’s room, where I would probably have to strap her to my husband’s back or something for easy transport, you can’t reason with a five year old. Find the baseball bat, which might still be in the laundry room…rather use something with less noise. Hopefully there is just one more out there, the mauled neighbor, then those would be easily dispatched. Check our other two neighbors houses, dispatch as needed, recruit as needed…now it’s time to set up a defensible perimeter. Bring it on.
What’s your preference?
Love Triangles Yay or Nay: Yay
Dream Vacation or Dream Car: Vacation
Cats or Dogs: Pony!
Spiders or Snakes: Gah! Do I have to?
Chocolate or Caramel: Both?
Concert You’ve Been To: Toadies
So obviously, Parajunkee is made of awesomeness. Check out both her websites: Parajunkee’s View, and Parajunkee Design! She has a ton to offer the book community and you don’t want to miss out on any of it. Thanks to Parajunkee for letting me interrogate her with a whole bunch of my wordage!