I came across Lise Lotte when looking for bloggers to read and review my latest book, Cocktails and Lies. I became so fascinated by Lise's story, that we struck up a kind of correspondence which resulted in me inviting her to write a guest post on her reading experiences for my blog. As a former English teacher, I'm always fascinated to hear about readers' perspectives, and because Lise's autistic spectrum disorder, I thought her story might be of interest to authors and readers everywhere. Over to Lise.
My name is Lise Almenningen and I am the
owner of the blog humanitysdarkerside.com. Along with that I run a few other
blogs on various topics. I also happen to be ASD/Asperger's/Autistic.
I did not know I had Asperger's until about
the same time I started my first blog, 2012. Until then, I just figured I had
some unusual quirks that I tried very hard to suppress. When I realized all of
that strangeness was normal for me, I stopped fighting it so hard. Surprise.
Surprise. Life got simpler.
I believe the greatest commonality in
Aspies, is how different we perceive what we see/observe/feel to non-ASDs (or
neurotypicals/normals as you like to call yourselves). That is both our best
friend and our worst enemy depending on what we are doing and who we are with.
As a reviewer (once I let myself out of my preconceived idea of a reviewer), I
believe being Asperger has shed new light on texts.
I am addicted to reading and will try to
read anything. That does not mean I will finish, because not all writing is
worth finishing. Whether a text is worth finishing has nothing to do with the
author's level of education, expertise or category. I have read academic texts
whose authors cannot have been beta-ed and "trashy" authors whose writing is so
poignant, I am incapable of putting the text down. Sometimes a text is so
technical, I am incapable of ever understanding it. I would not know if the
author is good or not in such cases. But I will give them a try.
When I review a text, I will first read it
through. I need that to set some kind of anchor in my mind. Then I will do
research. If the author has a website, I check out what they say about
themselves. Things like where they are from, have lived, interests etc.
influence my interpretation of the text. If the author is from the US, I review
with a different eye than if the author is from South-Korea.
When stories are about topics I know
little about, I will check out terms. Lynette's Cocktails and
titles I needed to know the definition of so I could know if they fit into
their roles. The same thing with her main character. I know little about
insurance, so I looked up that title as well. If the information might be of
interest to people reading my review, I will link to it.
Then I check out the net to see if any
other person has reviewed the story. If their review appeals to me, I will link
to it. When I can find them, I try to include up to five other reviewers and
prefer it if there are both good and bad reviews. Sometimes that isn't
possible, because I am doing an ARC. I try to include any art I can find on a
story. If there are translations, I dig up as much as I can about them and link
to that information as well. One Norwegian author, Jo Nesbø, has a huge
following abroad. If you check out my review on him, you will see what I mean
Once the preliminary work has been done, I
pick up the story again and try to figure out how I want to approach it. From
then on, it is all character-driven and my main question to myself is: Can I
believe in this person? Has the author answered their own questions? This is
also vital to character-driven stories. If you claim to write a mystery, there
should be a mystery to solve. Another thing I look for in my characters is some
complexity. This goes for children's stories as well as adult stories. I
reviewed an illustrated children's short-story called One Less Meg that
exemplifies what I mean.
Romances can be troublesome for me, and
this probably directly
related to my ASD. I think that has to do with the type
of interaction that authors give their characters in addition to the formulaic
form I find the category struggles with. One of these is "the three-some". This
has become a particular problem in YA stories that must think they target young
girls (preferably US girls). It certainly is not a new concept. Zane Grey wrote
about them in his Romance-Westerns. But instead of being a tool the
three-some often feels like a fail-safe. Aspergers is a wonderful reviewers
tool in that it categorizes details and shares those categories with me when
cued. Maybe it is more difficult to get away with easy solutions when your
reviewer is an aspie. Maybe. But if you write excellent romance, without or
without excellent sex-scenes, I'm all yours.
Violence is another area that authors seem
to use as a fail-safe. Well-written violence that fits with the story is
preferred. I just reviewed a story called The Broken God with a little boy in
it called Zoshi who broke my heart. The violence towards him wasn't of the
gratuitous type, nor was it explicit/gory. Instead, we followed his feelings
while traversing a dark place. Then, the moment came, and it was quick. But the
intensity of being in this eight-year old mind blew me away. Again, One Less
Meg was also a violent story, but appropriately so.
Authors seem to struggle most with tightening
their stories up and using their resources (betas, editors, etc.) for what they
are worth. I understand the desire to keep things. It is something I struggle
with as a reviewer. But both reviews and stories need to be slashed and slashed
again, or re-written, or ... (you know the theory). Unless you are a "one of a
kind" author, writing hurts. This article certainly did.
As a reviewer, I love authors. You are
brave people who take a chance on a fickle public. I want you to succeed and
want you to do your very best to deliver a product you can be proud of. That is
the frame of mind I try to be in when I review your stories. And don't be too
hard on yourself when something falls through. Failures do teach you where to
go next. At least they have done that for me.