Featured Book Blogger is a monthly interview series highlighting amazing members of the book blogging community.
Welcome, Gemma! First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. What are some of your interests outside of books and blogging?
Hi, Kate! Oh dear, talk about myself? I’m a native of the Philippines, but a Londoner for more than half a decade now. Before blogging/bookstagramming and reading took most of my free time, I used to frequent cocktail bars and listen to the bartenders’ stories of their lives. I know, I know, they’re meant to listen to yours, but someone has to listen to theirs too, right? Recently, I’ve dabbled in mixing scents–meant to be for candles for personal use, but I haven’t gotten that far, I get distracted way too easily! I love playing RPGs, but they have to have a cheat code, because you know I’m only there for the story. This led me to discover otome games, which took over my life while I was slumping late last year. Other stuff I sporadically get into include anime, kdrama/kpop, and of course, travelling!
Give us some insight into your psyche. What are you Myers-Briggs and Enneagram types?
When I was younger, I’d get ISTP. Recently, I get a variety of ISTP, INTP, and ISTJ. I am definitely a thinking introvert, but I think I’m only mildly intuitive and I’m a good mix of judging and perceiving. Like, I like things decided and love making lists, but I work in bursts of energy, and I am a major procrastinator! As for enneagram, I get either a 6 or 8. I still haven’t figured out which one fits more.
How did you discover the book blogging world and what made you decide to start a blog of your own?
Oh god, I’m going to show my age–I’ve been blogging/journalling since the heyday of Livejournal. I’ve had various domains but they were all personal websites. I got back to blogging when it was suddenly vogue to have a ‘themed’ blog–you’re not just blogging about your daily life and random thoughts anymore, you blog about your main interest. By this time, I’ve grown out of that stage where you proudly show your heart/emo-ness online, and I much preferred posting about books and travelling, which is how The Travelling Bibliophile came about.
I hate it when people ask me what my favorite book is–such an impossible question! So give us your top three…or ten.
So, I love fantasy. One of my most favourite books, Pride and Prejudice, doesn’t count as fantasy, but if you do think about it: how often do people during that time marry outside of their social lines? It’s a nice romantic fantasy, and it’s a bonus that Jane Austen wrote it really well. Jane Eyre is another on the top list, and how far from realistic is it?
Oh god, you want at least top three. Fine, let’s stay on the fantasy theme and include the predictable The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien’s world-building was so detailed that it felt like reading history, albeit of a fictional world.
Time for some either/or…
Mac or PC? PC. I’ve tried fiddling with a Mac, and I just couldn’t cope.
Print or ebook? Oh man. I’d go for print foremost, but I like being able to insert notes and highlight on an ebook without actually damaging the book!
Poetry or graphic novel? Um. First instinct is graphic novel, but that’s because I was exposed to manga more when I was young, and a teacher back in high school has created a Pavlovian reaction in me with regards to poetry. I’m still trying to overcome it.
Short story or grand epic? Grand epic. My first fantasy book was LoTR, so that’s kind of what I compare most things to!
Historical Fiction or dystopian? Historical fiction. Dystopian is always about how we’ve fucked up our world, and I’m an escapist, so not here for that! At least not on a frequent basis.
If you could share a meal with any famous person, living or dead, who would you pick and why?
I’ve never thought about it because I’ve heard of authors who write great books but are terrible people! I can’t do one-on-ones, but I’d love to be part of the group a la Gertrude Stein hosting her elite salons during the Belle Epoque, and having people like the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, and all her friends in attendance.
If you could have any superpower, what would you pick and why?
Something involving time manipulation. Slowing, extending, anything to have more time, to read all the books I want to read, to not age and continue to go back to uni over and over again to learn different things–psychology, sociology, finance, politics and diplomacy, languages, history…you get the idea.
What are some of the best books you read that were published in 2016?
The Muse is Jessie Burton’s sophomore offering. It was right up my alley because it involved immigration, fitting in, mystery, art, romance, betrayal, London, and southern Spain–all things/places that I rate as my interests. If you even have an inkling of a creative spirit, I think you’ll be able to relate to some of the questions Burton poses in this book.
This Must Be The Place is another book that involves different places around world. It’s perfect for me, because I love travelling. We see Ireland, New York, London, California, Bolivia, a little bit India and China. Maggie O’Farrell was so good at dissecting the intricacies of personal relationships, and the element of love was never overly sweet or bitter. It was about a couple’s relationship, first and foremost, but I love how it was on such a grand scale.
Jane Steele is a “retelling” of Jane Eyre, which turned out to have most of Jane Eyre’s story elements, but with the twist that this Jane is a murderess. This was the year I discovered retellings, and with Jane Eyre being one of my favourites, I was so glad this didn’t turn out to be a disaster. I even got my sister to read it, and she finds classics and Jane Eyre daunting!
What are some of the books you are most looking forward to this year?
I’ve only looked at the spring/summer catalogues of the publishing houses, and so far, I’ve got a good number on my list. I list them on my blog, but here’s a shorter version:
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller – The blurb was intriguing enough (sounds like a mystery and a love story?) and then everyone seems to love it, so I’m definitely curious!
Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett – Versions of Us was an interesting book to overcome: the love story of these two young people having three different trajectories, kind of like a bildungsroman of their romance as they grow up from being university students, when they first met, but a la Sliding Doors.
If you could pick three books you think EVERYONE should read, what would they be and why?
Oh no! Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre would’ve been on this list if I hadn’t mentioned it already, but so as not to repeat myself–
Orlando by Virginia Woolf: everyone recommends Mrs. Dalloway to start with if you haven’t tried Woolf before, but I found Orlando to be the most accessible of her novels. And I’m including it here because everyone should try a Virginia Woolf book at least once!
1984 by George Orwell: this book was published in 1949. How bloody timely is it?! That’s exactly why it’s a timeless classic.
The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla: this is a collection of essays by first and second-generation immigrants in the United Kingdom, and what their experience of being an immigrant in the country is like. With the current sociopolitical climate involving immigration due to globalisation, it’s something everyone should definitely read, even those who have not left their home countries.
Lightning round! Name your favorite…
Song: Aw, no, this is hard! “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure, “With or Without You” by U2, “Penny and Me” by Hanson off the top of my head!
Movie: 10 Things I Hate About You. I wanted to be like Kat, and have a Patrick! Heath Ledger sent my heart a-flutter.
TV show: Alias seasons 1 and 2. The others didn’t exist. Come to think of it, I think I lost a lot of reading time because I was so invested in watching TV shows around this time…Felicity, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl. Lately, The Americans and Black Sails. Oh, but you meant just one! Sorry 😉
Comfort food: Salty crisps. Bacon. Brownies. Cheesecake!
Fictional crush: Fitzwilliam Darcy is the first and only one that comes to mind, and somewhat halfheartedly too. I don’t do fictional boyfriends, for some reason.