Introducing Team Queen's Book Asylum for SPFBO 10

SPFBO 10 – Introducing Team Queen’s Book Asylum!

We know you love us, and we hate to disappoint, so Team Queen’s Book Asylum returns for SPFBO 10, which will be our 5th year! Please rejoice.

Right, now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to business. For SPFBO 10, we have a slightly changed line-up in the team – we have a wayward daughter returning, and we also have two first-timers! Our process will remain the same, and this year again we’ll have only one SPFBO 10 hub page. This is where you can check out how we divided our books and keep track of our progress throughout the season.

Our Process

As we did in the previous years when we participated, we will try to put out content regularly once we get the (fur)ball rolling. We will also attempt to write at least minireviews for books we’ve cut and full reviews for our semi-finalists and eventual finalist.

This year Team Queen’s Book Asylum will have 6 judges and we divided our books equally.

So what our process will look like?

  • Every judge got to pick 3 books from our batch they really wanted to get allocated to them and 2 they thought wouldn’t fit their tastes. Every judge got 2 of the books they wanted – after some long and bloody fights over who gets what -, and the remaining titles were divided randomly, taking into account which they really didn’t want to get.
  • Each judge is free to handle their lot as they see fit, but they are required to read at least 20-25% before they decide to move on.
  • Each judge has to sample/read their allocated books by early/middle of August and choose their semi-finalist(s). Judges can pick up to 2 semi-finalists or none at all, but we’d like to keep the number somewhere between 3 and 5, if possible, but no more than 6.
  • Each judge will get two posts on Queen’s Book Asylum to write minireviews of the books in their batch and announce their semi-finalist(s). In the first, we will cut 2 titles with minireviews, and in the second, we’ll review the remaining titles and announce our semi-finalist decision. Books that get cut won’t be scored, only the semi-finalists.
  • Between August and October, we all will read the semi-finalists (ideally up to 50% at least), rate them, and eventually, our finalist will be the book that got the highest average score from us.
  • We’ll do joint review posts of our semi-finalists before announcing our finalist sometime in October. Our scores for each semi-finalist will be revealed when we announce our finalist.
  • The judges are welcome to read and review any book not allocated to them, and chip in with their opinion but the final decision regarding its place in the competition (i.e. cut or advanced to semi-finalist) remains with the judge it was allocated to.
  • In the Finals our judges will be able to opt out of reading any of the finalists, but we’ll aim to have at least 3 reviews/scores for each.
  • Both in the Semi-Final and Final stages we’ll have a DNF rule in place: if a judge reads a book (either semi-finalist or finalist if they didn’t opt out beforehand), they have to read at least 25% of it. If they decide to DNF between 25% – 50% they’ll have to give a score but can opt out of writing a review, and if they DNF after 50% (or not) then also have to score AND write a review.
  • Our scoring system is on a 1-10 scale, we can give .5 scores. How a judge actually decides to score their books is completely up to them, as we all look at books differently.

As usual, you’ll be able to follow our progress on the SPFBO 10 page or on social media if you follow the #TeamAsylum, #SPFBO, #SPFBOreviews hashtags. Or you can follow the slightly creepy noises our pet demon makes when excited about new people, but let me warn you that it might not result in the desired outcome. It likes to make detours along our corridors and get people lost in the process. But hey, we love that you are so adventurous, keep up the spirit!

About the Team

Now, we are a friendly bunch – contrary to the rumors 😛 – and don’t mind interacting with people on Twitter or in the SPFBO Facebook group, and we are more than happy to help you if you have any questions. But please don’t step over the boundaries. We believe in civilized conversation and problem-solving. The aim of this competition is to forge friendships and connections not to cause drama. We aren’t what you’d call harsh reviewers – I think 😬 -, but we’ll be a touch more critical since this is, after all, a competition. I believe the process explained above, will help to make sure that every book gets the same amount of attention from us. What I can promise you, is that we are going to be true to ourselves, we are going to be honest about our opinions, and we will never be hurtful intentionally. We are not here to tear you down and it’s not our style anyway.

This year I decided to give you a bit more sense about us as people and reviewers, so I put together a little questionnaire. Some of the questions I picked from this FB thread which I started to fish for some fun and out-of-the-box questions, but then it went in a completely different way as we got a lot of serious questions (which is totally fine). Anyway, you’ve got some great questions, and if you don’t find what you seek here, I suggest looking there. Julia from Fantasy Faction also chipped in with some answers of her own!

That said, let me introduce to you Team Queen’s Book Asylum, and let’s get the (fur)ball rolling!

Andy

Andy

I’m Andy (also known as eBookwyrm, I’m at eBookwyrm’s Blogcave. I’ve been a reviewer for around 10 years and reading forever. I started my love of fantasy fiction with either The Magic Faraway Tree or The Magic Wishing Chair (it was 50+ years ago so not sure which). I mainly spread my reading between Fantasy/Sci Fi and Crime Fiction but it’s fair to say I will read almost anything if it catches my eye. If you see me without a book or Kindle with me beware – that is an imposter. Also, much like my Queen I have a bit of an obsession with pandas.

Follow Andy on social media:

What are your preferred pronouns? 

I answer to anything.

How long have you been reviewing? 

Probably about 10 years.

What made you want to be part of SPFBO? If this is your first year, what are your expectations, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been a judge before, would your approach be different this year, why?

 I was asked by Timy if I wanted to take part and decided to give it a go. I need to find more indi authors and this is a good opportunity for that.

Where do you do your reading/reviewing? Any particular food/drinks/music you like to have?

Ha! I honestly read anywhere and everywhere. My reviewing is usually at home or work though (I’m a support worker and get a lot of reading time on nights). Biscuits, cheese sandwiches, coffee, a nice single malt.

What book outside of your usual go-to genres were you surprised to enjoy?

The Promise by Lauren Hunter – it was a regency romance ghost story if I remember correctly. I picked it up after enjoying The Coffee Shop (a bit Sliding Doors ish) by the same author.

What do you look for when picking a book?

 A promising blurb or good cover art.

You are being held against your will in an extremely sinister and hellish institution (not the Asylum, gods forbid) the MC of the last book you read attempts to rescue you. Who is it and how does it go? 

 DS Logan McRae I think he’d get the job done.

Finish the sentence! 

The best thing about the Asylum is… the inmates 😉

My biggest pet peeve is… “with a twist you won’t see coming” instant no from me 9 times out of 10.

My favorite trope is… big quest that explores the world.

If I could pick any book to live in, that would be… The Copper Promise by Jen Williams.

I wish there were more fiction books about/with/featuring… 🥰Wydrin😍 (my book wife from The Copper Cat series).

Pick one!

Plot-driven or character-driven – Character

Grimdark or cosy – Grimdark

High stakes or low stakes – High but a mixture is best

Journey or destination – Journey (author takes time to build a world I want to see it all)

Panda or dragon – Pandas riding Dragons (you can’t make me choose)

Sword or sorcery – Sword

Gods or monsters – Gods

Heroic death or immortality – Heroic Death (they live with you when they are done right)

Royalty or rebels – Rebels

Urban setting or rural setting – Rural

Your personal message/advice to the participating authors this year:

Go with the flow and may the best book win. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t win – you’ve got this far so you certainly have something to offer the readers of the world.

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Arina

Arina

A rogue online and a real-life technomancer, Arina’s an avid advocate of the uncommon, with a passion for championing indie and offbeat SFF.

Software developer at dawn and reader by nightfall, she loves to talk books alongside her awesome co-bloggers, opening her mind to new worlds, perspectives and experiences.

When not keeping an eye on the resident pet demon, Arina prizes her time with loved ones and strategizes endlessly on MTGA.

Follow Arina on social media:

What are your preferred pronouns? 

she/her

How long have you been reviewing? 

I’ve been doing this publicly and online fooor 4-5 years? Hard to pinpoint but around that time. Wow!

What made you want to be part of SPFBO? If this is your first year, what are your expectations, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been a judge before, would your approach be different this year, why?

I joined for the people and the passion.

This is my second year in the games. I was with the team for SPFBO 8 but had to take a year off for the sake of my sanity. 

A lot went on in my life and doing both SPFBO and SPSFC took a huge toll on me. To avoid major burn out (the minor one was manageable), I took a sabbatical. 

I try to go about life without expectations while confident in my best. This year, I’m planning to start reading a bit earlier and taking it easier on myself, while celebrating some good stories with like-minded people.

Where do you do your reading/reviewing? Any particular food/drinks/music you like to have?

I do most of my reading in bed or on the sofa, at night. Unless it’s the weekend or I’m on vacation, then I’m one of those “read anywhere” chaotics.

I am far too single-focus to do anything else while reading (plus, I think the wrong music choice can ruin a scene! And it’d be a challenge choosing the right music for every page… I would never get any reading done).

What book outside of your usual go-to genres were you surprised to enjoy?

I tend to avoid contemporary fiction and real-world settings because the mundane has a way of boring me.

What I love most about SFF is that exploration of reality through analogies and metaphors. That dissection of the real through a fantastical lens. Every new book feels like starting a puzzle and I love a good enigma.

But I recently picked up Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library and it showed me just how much stepping out of your comfort zone can surprise you. Granted, much of the book takes place in this fantastical “afterlife library” but the author managed something rare: keeping even the contemporary setting interesting!

What do you look for when picking a book?

I want a finalist that delivers what indie does best: the unconventional. 

That is not to say a winner is always groundbreaking. Originality is distinctive (it can set a good book apart from a great book) but it doesn’t stand on its own.

It’s not always a book’s elements that make it novel, but the way it’s written. The voice you can hear in the rustling of its pages.

Most of all, I love a book that goes out of its way to be itself, that takes a simple idea and reworks it. 

I suppose what I’m really looking for is character, idiosyncrasy and fearlessness. I want a story where I can read you.

You are being held against your will in an extremely sinister and hellish institution (not the Asylum, gods forbid) the MC of the last book you read attempts to rescue you. Who is it and how does it go? 

Let’s see, I’ve just finished Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, so between Tsukiko, Celia, Isobel, Poppet and Widge and, ugh, Marco or whatever (no, I did not like him), I think I’d be pretty well-off!

Finish the sentence! 

The best thing about the Asylum is… its people. And not the ghostly types either but the living ones. The demon-hunting is just a bonus.

My biggest pet peeve is… Characters recurrently retelling events instead of taking the reader along for the ride.

My favorite trope is… long lost alien civilization.

If I could pick any book to live in, that would be… The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence. I quite like the idea of a vast library.

I wish there were more fiction books about/with/featuring… BIPOC cultures set in space.

Pick one!

Plot-driven or character-driven: A good book needs a mix of both but plot-driven. You can get away with terrible characters within a good plot but not the other way around

Grimdark or cosy: I don’t really do cosy unless sorrowful and twisty can be cosy

High stakes or low stakes: High stakes, I want to suffer and gasp

Journey or destination: Journey. I’m a sucker for open endings so the destination isn’t the endgame

Panda or dragon: Dragon because it makes me grin imagining Timy reading this

Sword or sorcery: Sorcery, I am a full-fledged magic advocate

Gods or monsters: monsters but the metaphorical ones

Heroic death or immortality: anyone who says immortality would be a curse doesn’t have a tbr

Royalty or rebels: Rebels. I root for the toppling of empires

Urban setting vs rural setting: I’m not one for urban settings unless it’s sci-fi

Your personal message/advice to the participating authors this year:

Honestly? Don’t take it too seriously.

Expectations are fuckers to manage and in a competition like this there are a lot, I know. But I see authors regarding SPFBO as their one big break and a flame like that can burn bright, a dangerous conflagration to manage.

There is a lot of luck involved, as it is with every big contest of this nature. 

I’ve seen excellent books cut early and some of my favorites of all time were books I found through SPFBO but did not make it far.

The competition is undeniably a big marketing chance but above all, it’s a fantastic opportunity to build relationships, both with your peers and with reviewers. 

I have lately noticed a bigger divide between reader and author, a certain mass condemnation for the direct interaction between both parties’ works. I couldn’t disagree more with that stance and SPFBO is one of those perfect playgrounds for the intersection of artist and art lover.

It’s really not all about winning, so don’t stress yourself too much over it. And have fun!

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Jen

Jen

I live in the northern part of BC, where it’s winter for more of the year than I’d like. The plus side of not liking to be out in the cold, means I get to cuddle up under a blanket next to a fireplace and read.

I’d say ninety-percent of my reading at this point, is probably self-pub or new authors. I love finding great new authors and books. I read across most genres but the bulk of my reading is fantasy/sci-fi and a smattering of romance.

My husband and I have a few horses, free run some chickens, and of course there are bunnies… a lot of bunnies. The horses are his and the bunnies are mine, but he’s a good man and tries to love them too-even when they eat all his newly transplanted saplings. 

When I’m not reading, or doing farm and animal chores – I love listening to music, painting, tv and movies, and walking.

Follow Jen on social media:

What are your preferred pronouns? 

she/her

How long have you been reviewing? 

10 years

What made you want to be part of SPFBO? If this is your first year, what are your expectations, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been a judge before, would your approach be different this year, why?

I loved the community around the contest and had been following it for a couple of years.  Honestly, it was just luck really. I had just joined Queen’s Book Asylum the summer before, when Mark needed another blog and Timy was playing around with the idea of applying. I was quite thrilled at the chance to be a part of it. Wow. That first year was an eye-opener… lol. Much respect to those that manage to read all 30 on their own.

Where do you do your reading/reviewing? Any particular food/drinks/music you like to have?

I read outside on the deck/basement/kitchen counter – just wherever I can squeeze some time in. 

Drinks are generally coffee, water, or diet pepsi. I rarely drink alcohol, it doesn’t like me.
Reviewing is always on my laptop in my everything hobby-related room. It’s pretty much a room-sized junk drawer.  

What book outside of your usual go-to genres were you surprised to enjoy?

The cozy fantasy. I tend to like action and faster moving stories.

What do you look for when picking a book?

For myself?  Fun, escape from the real world kind of stories. Or do you mean judging-wise? Hmm in that case, clear writing that does a good job of planting info in the body, great characters, no repetition or scenes that don’t add anything to the story or characters.

You are being held against your will in an extremely sinister and hellish institution (not the Asylum, gods forbid) the MC of the last book you read attempts to rescue you. Who is it and how does it go? 

I guess I am in luck, since I just read Osky Come Home on the weekend (a prequel to Phil WilliamsHowever Many Must Die) and Osky is very good at what she does (as long as those fools above her will let her do it).

Finish the sentence! 

The best thing about the Asylum is… our beloved Queen Timy? Is that right?

My biggest pet peeve is… overlapping POV scenes, ugh…

My favorite trope is… all of them? I have different faves for different genres. Romance – enemy to lover, Fantasy – get a team of misfits working together, even better if they don’t like each other at first and basically enemy to lovers idea, I guess.

If I could pick any book to live in, that would be… None, good grief. They’re all too awful and bleak and I’d die right away because I am a bunny in a world of owls.

I wish there were more fiction books about/with/featuring… Hmm… I always love good friendships and treasure hunting or mysteries! Or the hurty/tortured MC who finds love and gets payback for past crimes to him and his family. Ok, I’m not gonna lie, that last bit is the plot to Healer, a favourite kdrama that I wish someone would write the fantasy version of. Haha

Pick one!

Plot-driven or character-driven – Character but I’d prefer a nice balance.

Grimdark or cosy – Is  Grimlight a thing? I need a good happy end that feels like their suffering was worth all that bad stuff.

High stakes or low stakes

Journey or destination – I’ll go with Journey- though I’ll still complain if the end is unsatisfying. 😀

Panda or dragon – Pandas of course.

Sword or sorcery – ooh that’s a tough one! I love both but I love fights more, so let’s go with sword.

Gods or monsters – Neither?

Heroic death or immortality –  I want the heroic end but happy, no heroes dying in the making of this ending. No messing with my rose-coloured glasses, please.

Royalty or rebels – Both? I’m not very good at this, choosing stuff apparently. Fun fact (or sad?) my girlfriend and I have gone to lunch every week at the same restaurant for four years, just so we don’t have to choose where to go.  She only has an hour after all, and we really only care about the visiting time.

Urban setting or rural setting – Rural.

Your personal message/advice to the participating authors this year:

Well let’s see… I guess my message is to take the best from this competition that it has to offer, which is a great community and opportunities to meet others that can help you along the way. Above all, have fun and enjoy it.

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Liis

Liis

Amateur book blogger, amateur everything, passionate reader! Always busy. Believer in no gods, hater of systems and lover of metal. After living in Ireland for 12 years, Liis has moved back to her roots in Estonia with her Irish husband in tow. They now enjoy the 4 full seasons of varying weather in Estonia.

Follow Liis on social media:

How long have you been reviewing? 

I started reviewing on Goodreads and on my blog Cover to Cover in 2014.

What made you want to be part of SPFBO? If this is your first year, what are your expectations, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been a judge before, would your approach be different this year, why?

I followed SPFBO from the sidelines for a couple of years, seeing the books that were included in the competition and reading a few of them. I never even considered that I could one day have the chance to be a judge, because I didn’t think of myself as a ‘big enough’ reviewer, but here I am. Being part of Queen’s Book Asylum is the highest form of compliment for me.

SPFBOX is my second time judging and I will likely do the same I did last year – absolutely go into it with the intent to read my lot in full. I’m just weird like that, I like to have a full picture of what I am judging. Otherwise, I have this weird nagging feeling in the back of my head – what if [insert title] got really good on the next page? That said, if a story makes me roll my eyes 3-5 times per page and induces feelings of wanting to break stuff, then said story may be subject to a DNF.

Where do you do your reading/reviewing? Any particular food/drinks/music you like to have?

In that sense, I am a classical reader. I read at home, on the couch, and I eat and drink whatever is at hand at the time. I can usually be found with a cup of coffee, the kind where you drop the grains in the cup and let them seep&sink… like French press but without the press. I love the last sip with a bit of substance to it! Music is always metal, rock and lately dark country, as well. But it often happens that I have to turn off the music while I read as I am known to get distracted into singing along.

What book outside of your usual go-to genres were you surprised to enjoy?

I actually try to read a book regardless of genre – I have an incredible fear of missing out on something truly good. I think I tend to struggle most with science fiction – I feel it’s wasted on me because I can’t comprehend some of the elements that make science fiction worthy of its name. That said, I did enjoy The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers a lot. 

What do you look for when picking a book?

I look for tons of emotion and characters that are a step beyond cookie-cutter. If something unique and fun is mentioned in the blurb about the character(s) and there is a mention of emotionally challenging emotional/internal struggles – count me in, I am a sucker for the broody underdog, or anti-hero.

You are being held against your will in an extremely sinister and hellish institution (not the Asylum, gods forbid) the MC of the last book you read attempts to rescue you. Who is it and how does it go? 

Right… My last book was A Hot Dose of Hell by Steve Stark which is a splatterpunk horror, and I think we all know there can be only one survivor. And knowing my luck in life, that survivor is not me. But to my rescue, both Fred and Pinkie arrive – they’re always together, they count as one. A unit. And questionable in their characters they may be, but they’ll certainly try to rescue me, at the very least.

Finish the sentence! 

The best thing about the Asylum is… its people! We certainly do not have tyranny. Sshhh! *looks around nervously. 

My biggest pet peeve is… when the most obvious thing happens. There’s no fun in that.

My favorite trope is… revenge!

If I could pick any book to live in, that would be… terrible! Because it’s likely I would die on page 2. 

I wish there were more fiction books about/with/featuring… philosophy and psychology. I’d dig that. Something in the vein of Dreams of the Dying by Nicolas Lietzau.

Pick one!

Plot-driven or character-driven: character, forever and ever!

Grimdark or cosy: grimdark!

High stakes or low stakes: I mean, it depends, right?

Journey or destination: one does not exist without the other.

Panda or dragon: Hey, if Donkey got the Dragon in Shrek, I don’t see why Panda and Dragon can’t mix.

Sword or sorcery: Our blessed Queen certainly meant ‘sword AND sorcery’ so, yes is the answer.

Gods or monsters: monsters.

Heroic death or immortality: immortality.

Royalty or rebels: Rebels! Fuck the system!

Urban setting vs rural setting: Rural… because trees, and plants, and animals and fresh air and peace and silence. Rural all the way!

Your personal message/advice to the participating authors this year:

Your work is out there – it represents you and you represent it. Relax, enjoy and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t think of SPFBO as a ‘make or break’ type of scenario, think of it as a fast track to more potential readers, and finally: There is no bad publicity“There’s only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

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Timy

Timy

Timy, also known as Queen Terrible Timy hails from a magical land called Hungary, born and raised in its capital city, Budapest. Books have been her refuge and best friends ever since she can remember along with music and her favorite stuffed panda(s). She might or might not be obsessed with said animals. Timy is the owner and editor of Queen’s Book Asylum. In her free time (hah!) she likes to create things, collect panda stuff, go to concerts, travel, and take the literary world one book at a time.

Follow Timy on social media:

What are your preferred pronouns?

She/her

How long have you been reviewing? 

Since I only wrote a handful of reviews in the years before starting the blog in 2018, I’ll go with 6 years.

What made you want to be part of SPFBO? If this is your first year, what are your expectations, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been a judge before, would your approach be different this year, why?

Why wouldn’t I want to be part of SPFBO? But to answer the question, pretty much the same reason why I eventually started a blog. Actually, one of my motivations to start a blog was to one day become a judge. That happened a lot faster than I thought, lol. I heard about SPFBO through a couple of indie author friends made before the blog. Both of them were in SPFBO 3, and one of them even went to the finals! It was exciting to root for them, and I realized how many more gems could be out there in the indie community, and I wanted to be part of that. To help discover the gems, to champion the friends and all the other hardworking people. I wanted to help to give them a platform. 

I was super lucky to be invited to be a guest judge in SPFBO 4 when my blog wasn’t even half a year old and when I barely knew anyone in the community, and the next season Mark for reasons only known to him, allowed me to enter the arena leading my own team. Been here ever since, except for SPFBO 7 when I needed a year off due to burnout. So all in all this will be my 6th season as a judge. And I don’t think my approach will be any different – I’ll be looking for the gems, that make me want to shout about them to anyone who can hear me.

Where do you do your reading/reviewing? Any particular food/drinks/music you like to have?

These days I do most of my reading on my couch. I used to read a lot more while commuting to school/work but since I live close to my workplace, I can’t do that. I do listen to audiobooks on the way home, though. As with Arina, when on holiday I can read anywhere and anytime. I’m one of those people who can read in a car (for a while, until motion sickness gets the better of me), and since I’m not the one driving… 

I always have snacks at hand, both salty and sweet so I’m always munching on something. These days I prefer having a quiet place, but I used to listen to music. When the mood strikes, I still put up something for background noise. Turns out, instrumental music is good for that – who would have thought I’d become someone listening to movie soundtracks, but here we are. When I’m out and about I do listen to music though. Rock and roll, baby!

What book outside of your usual go-to genres were you surprised to enjoy?

The thing with me is that it’s hard to surprise me. That said, it does happen sometimes. I think negative surprises are more common for me. A couple of positive examples:

Triggernometry by Stark Holborn – western AND mathematics? Normally I would run the opposite way, but I judged for a different award, and wow was I surprised. 

Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sage – romance AND nautical fantasy… I didn’t have high hopes, but it was picked as a semi-finalist by one of my teammates, so I had to read it. I was pleasantly surprised! Nautical fantasy is very much not my thing (though, try telling that to RJ Barker…)

What do you look for when picking a book?

Ok, disclaimer: I picked this question off the FB thread I did, and at the time the question wasn’t clear. This was meant to ask what we look for when we pick a finalist, so I’m going to answer with that in mind.

I’m someone who depends a lot on instincts. I think so far almost all of the time I picked a semi-finalist I had that gut feeling within the first few pages that this is going to be good. I’m going to love this. This could be about anything – the setting, the style of the writing, the character(s). I need to connect with something. I want to fall in love. I’m not looking for anything particular, I just usually let my instincts and feelings guide me. It’s not always clear what makes one click with a book. And once I find a book I can get behind, I can only hope the team will love it as much. Our finalist is the one that appeals to the most of us, and then the rest is out of our hands. Since we are a team of mixed interests and tastes, it’s always interesting to see what we are going to end up with by the end of Phase 1.

You are being held against your will in an extremely sinister and hellish institution (not the Asylum, gods forbid) the MC of the last book you read attempts to rescue you. Who is it and how does it go? 

The last book I finished reading was Dissolution by C.J. Sansom. Which means, it’ll be Matthew Shardlake himself attempting to rescue me, so my chances are pretty good. I’m not sure how he is going to deal with the Asylum’s magical wards and safety measures, but hey, it’s not me who is on the outside, trying to get in.

Finish the sentence! 

The best thing about the Asylum is… everything, really. This is my brainchild, something I poured a lot of time, effort, and occasionally money into. It’s not always easy, but I keep doing it for my staff and for all the books that still waiting for me to be discovered.

My biggest pet peeve is… repetition. Please, please, PLEASE don’t keep using a character’s name in almost every goddamn line in a discussion. I’m also not a fan of the overuse of “said” as a dialogue tag. There are others out there, you know. It’s especially annoying for audiobooks.

My favorite trope is… a twisted trope. I’m not big on tropes, but I love it when someone goes, picks a trope and puts it upside down. Who needs a knight in shining armor to save the princess from the dragon, when the princes can fall in love with the beast instead?

If I could pick any book to live in, that would be… either The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes (I need to hug those poor abandoned imaginary friends) or A Rival Most Vial by R.K. Ashwick, because that’s how much I loved this book. It sounds like a fun place to live with a cool found family and friends AND magic! I totally would borrow some of Eli’s accessories, too.

I wish there were more fiction books about/with/featuring… pandas. The world needs more fantasy pandas. Please give it to me!

Pick one!

Plot-driven or character-driven – I would say a mix is the best, but if I don’t connect with any character, then it’s hard for me to care about the book, good as it may be.

Grimdark or cosy – If you (that is to say, I) asked this a couple of years ago, I would have picked grimdark maybe. These days I prefer cosy.

High stakes or low stakes – I’m tired of all the looming doom and battles and what now. Give me low stakes and cosy fantasy, please.

Journey or destination – I’m not a fan of books where the journey takes center stage (and I mean literal journey, not personal growth), so I’ll go with destination.

Panda or dragon – Look, I made up this questionnaire (mostly), you didn’t think I wouldn’t involve pandas and then not pick them, right?

Sword or sorcery –  I don’t care much for fights and battles, so I’ll go with the much more fun sorcery.

Gods or monsters – I’m picking gods, because I’m a mythology nerd, and I would sooner read about religions and gods being up to mischief than beasts and other monsters. Though, they can be fun too.

Heroic death or immortality – I don’t think immortality would suit me, and if I have to die, then at least I should go out with a bang.

Royalty or rebels – Tough question. Normally I would go with rebels, but I’m the Queen, so I’m obliged to pick royalty here.

Urban setting or rural setting – urban setting all the way. What truly got me into fantasy were urban fantasy novels, and they remain a big love for me. Rural life can be fun, just not for me. Give me shops, and concert venues, and everything I might need within an easy distance. I’m lazy AF.

Your personal message/advice to the participating authors this year:

Luck is always part of SPFBO, and so you might not get the best deal when it comes to being sorted into a team/judge’s pile. We are going to try to be as fair and unbiased as possible, but sometimes we just get books we don’t gel with. It doesn’t mean you don’t have an audience out there, it was just not the right match. That said, while SPFBO is a great opportunity to get word out about your book, I would urge you to take it as an opportunity to network with your fellow authors and us, the readers. What I love the most about SPFBO is the friends I’m making along the way. Being cut, or not becoming a finalist is not the end of the world. 

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Tru

Trudie Skies

Trudie Skies is a non-binary author based in North East England, though they have been living inside fantasy worlds ever since they discovered books and refuse to return to reality. Within Trudie’s daydreams you’ll find SPFBO and BBNYA finalist The Thirteenth Hour, a gaslamp fantasy described as obnoxiously British and best read with a cup of tea. When not conjuring new worlds, Trudie spends their free time exploring the realms of indie books and video games, staring at clouds, and chasing after their fluffy companions.

Follow Tru on social media:

What are your preferred pronouns?

They/Them

How long have you been reviewing? 

I’ve been writing books longer than I’ve been reviewing them, but one cannot become an author without reading many books! And from that love of reading books comes the natural desire to cry and shout over them. I started a side blog reviewing indie books a few years back and hope to keep it up.

What made you want to be part of SPFBO? If this is your first year, what are your expectations, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been a judge before, would your approach be different this year, why?

This is my first year as a guest judge! I’ve been following SPFBO for years as a reader and fan, mostly watching and cheering from the side lines. I’ve since had the pleasure of being in the SPFBO and suffering alongside my fellow authors, so I have an idea of how nerve-wracking the competition can be. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be part of the tenth SPFBO, and while I’m excited to see SPFBO from the other side, my main reason for entering is to cheer on indie authors!

Where do you do your reading/reviewing? Any particular food/drinks/music you like to have?

I read on my phone most of the time, so I’m able to whip out a story no matter where I am. I’m always prepared with a book! If my cat isn’t using my keyboard as a bed, then I’ll do my reviewing at my desk. I don’t have any particular snacking habits when reading, but perhaps now is a good time to start some. Cheese?

Tru cat
What book outside of your usual go-to genres were you surprised to enjoy?

An Altar on the Village Green by Nathan Hall. This book is inspired by the Dark Souls games, and I read it before I’d ever played my first Dark Souls game! While I love reading dark fantasy, I’ve never gotten on well with gory grimdark or horror, and this book carves its way between the two. There were scenes that genuinely freaked me out, forcing me to put the book down. But I persisted and enjoyed it enough that now I’m comfortable seeking out more horror fantasy.

What do you look for when picking a book?

I prefer books that are a bit weird or different from traditional medieval or epic fantasy, but sometimes that can mean medieval settings with unique approaches or twists on tropes. I especially look for queer-friendly books.

You are being held against your will in an extremely sinister and hellish institution (not the Asylum, gods forbid) the MC of the last book you read attempts to rescue you. Who is it and how does it go? 

Oh no, it’s Sciona from Blood Over Bright Haven! She’ll come up with a plan to rescue me, but it’s going to be a terrible one. Luckily, the secondary MC, Thomil, will be there to fix her mess.

Finish the sentence! 

The best thing about the Asylum is… the really cool swag! What, I got cool swag from BristolCon.

My biggest pet peeve is… people who try to talk to you when you’re reading. Can’t you see my brain is occupied?

My favorite trope is… attack and dethrone god! Okay, that’s mostly a JRPG trope.

If I could pick any book to live in, that would be… Legends & Lattes so I could get a coffee without being murdered.

I wish there were more fiction books about/with/featuring… British cities that aren’t London.

Pick one!

Plot-driven or character-driven

Grimdark or cosy – I know I said I don’t get on with grimdark above, but I’m picking grimdark because I prefer dark murderous things to fluffy things

High stakes or low stakes – high stakes, let’s kill some gods and destroy the universe!

Journey or destination

Panda or dragon – panda, out of respect

Sword or sorcery

Gods or monsters – monsters killing gods

Heroic death or immortality

Royalty or rebels – rebels!!

Urban setting or rural setting

Your personal message/advice to the participating authors this year:

SPFBO is all about the friends you make along the way. Don’t worry about getting cut or winning the comp – use this as a great opportunity to network with fellow authors and get your book out there!

Now that you got to know us a bit more, go and check out all of our books and how we divided them between us on our SPFBO 10 page!

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