Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Guest Interview at The Writing Playground

The Playground is excited to have one of our biggest fans in the Sandbox this month. Marilyn Shoemaker is well-known for her review blogs. We’ve ended up on a few email loops together and one of us ends up being the “other” Marilyn. She’s a huge champion of the romance genre so please make her welcome.

Playground Monitor: How did you go about becoming a reviewer and blogger?

Marilyn Shoemaker: Hi Marilyn, thanks for inviting me to the Sandbox.

While working at a major cruise line I was introduced to the romance genre by a couple of co-workers. During our lunch hour we would discuss what we were reading, share books and we eventually started a small library in the Princess Cruises lunch room.

I loved the books so much that I emailed a few of the authors and attended some local book signings. It was through that contact with some of those authors that I was asked to consider posting my reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble or posting comments on romance forums. Now seven years later, I review for Pink Heart Society Reviews and have started my own review blog as well as a blog sharing industry news on Romance Author Buzz. As my reviewing progressed, I also joined my local RWA Seattle Chapter where I’ve met so many talented authors.

PM: How do you decide what books to review?

MS: At first I chose Harlequin Presents, Silhouette Desire and Special Edition because they were quick reads and I had a career and children still at home. Then as the years went on, authors started contacting me and/or sending books and the rest is history. In fact two of your authors here at The Writing Playground….Lynn Raye Harris and Kimberly Lang gave me the great honor of reviewing their debut books.

PM: Do you ever compare your reviews to other reviews of the same book?

MS: I compose and post my reviews first so I’m not influenced by others. My writing style is very simple and my reviews sincerely come from my heart. Then, if I get a chance, I do look at other bloggers reviews especially those reviews of my favorite authors.

PM: Why romance? Do you have a favorite sub-genre within romance?

MS: The sheikh genre. A friend introduced me to Susan Mallery’s Desert Rogue series. I enjoyed them so much and started posting reviews to a website dedicated to the genre. The site had interesting articles, a forum where people posted reviews, listed authors and titles for the genre. Then the site went down due to spam. I had invested a lot of internet time posting reviews on that particular site, so that’s how my blog Romancing the Desert -- Sheikh Books was born.

I’ve also found I enjoy women’s fiction which at one time was known as “chick lit”. Two Harlequin authors I had already been reading, Roxanne St. Claire and Jane Porter introduced me to their books. Once I read St. Claire’s Hit Reply and Porter’s The Frog Prince I was hooked.

PM: Covers and titles. Do they ever influence whether you even buy a book much less read it?

MS: What influences my personal purchases are the book description, the author, the subject, reviews and I usually go on line to see if there is a “behind the book” story. I find that sometimes the covers or titles to not reflect the story.

If you’re an author reading this blog, I sincerely pay attention to the dedications; I think they reveal so much about the author and the book.

PM: Who are your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books? What is/are the book(s) you read again and again?

MS: That’s a hard question. I’m such a Harlequin Presents fan first and foremost and I’ve read 90% of the authors who write for the line.

Susan Mallery who writes for HQN. I adore her family themed stories i.e. The Lone Star Sisters, Marcelli Sisters and The Buchanan’s. Believe it or not, her sheikh books which were part of her The Desert Rogues are some of my favorites due to her sense of humor, the passion between her characters and there is always a lesson to be learned. Her heroines are always strong and intelligent women and give as good as they get.

And then Marilyn, I enjoy reading our mutual friend Roxanne St. Claire who writes romance/suspense and her brilliant Bullet Catcher series. What makes this series amazing for me are the hot heroes and her secondary characters. In each of her books she always has that one special scene that takes your breath away. You’re also a fan so you know what I mean.

PM: Tell us about what you do when you’re not reading romance, blogging and reviewing books. Job? Hobbies?

MS: For 22 years I worked in the travel industry so I enjoy traveling or cruising. When I’m not reading or working at my part time job, I enjoy spending my time with my family and friends, dining out, going to movies, of course shopping or attending a Broadway show being performed here in Seattle.

During the summer months, I spend a lot of time at my family summer home on the water at Hood Canal, swimming, gardening and of course, I’m always reading.

PM: Now just for fun. :) Coffee, tea or hot chocolate?

MS: All of the above. Hot chocolate for special moments.

PM: Chocolate or vanilla?

MS: Chocolate of course!

PM: Crispy or original recipe? Or would you prefer steak?

MS: Steak, medium rare. And seafood as I’m so lucky to live in a city known for its fine dining and seafood restaurants.

PM: Dream vacation spot?

MS: I’ve seen a lot of the world via cruise ships. I think Australia, due to my reading by some of the Presents authors like Annie West, Trish Morey, Robyn Grady and many more. These authors have intrigued me with their descriptions of the Australian country side, beaches and Australian major cities.

I would also like to see more of Italy and visit the UK.

PM: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

MS: The romance community and the friendships I’ve made through blogs like this one I would have never believed possible. I’ve witnessed others in this romance community, who have never met, reach out to help others in time of need which I find truly remarkable.
About Marilyn Shoemaker:

Marilyn has lived in Seattle, Washington and worked in the travel industry for over 22 years. At present, she’s working part time at a nationwide clothing store, Chico’s.

She has two incredible children. Her son Chris recently graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle and desires to work in fine dining. Her daughter Keri lives and works in Washington DC and is the director of her DC PR firm. They have been the joy of Marilyn’s life. She was married to a Seattle firefighter who after retirement went to work in sales at Holland America Cruise Line. Married for over 30 years, they enjoyed their children, travel and spending time at their summer home on Hood Canal. Ron passed away three years ago. He was Marilyn’s best friend and like the romances she adores, it was love at first sight.

Reading romance is her passion and sharing it with others gives her great pleasure. There’s nothing better than receiving an author’s email saying thanks for “getting my book” or a reader’s comment ”because of your review, I’m going to buy the book.” She is looking forward in 2010 to stepping out of the box and reading new authors and genres.

Her Review Sites:

Marilyn’s Romance Reviews:
Romance: Author Buzz:

Sheikh Books:

Pink Heart Society:

EHarlequin: Posting reviews as “Reading in Seattle”

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