Saturday, July 5, 2014

Words with Writers: Interview with Shen Hart - Reader, Writer, Editor Extraordinaire

I'm so excited today to have an new guest on Words with Writers. Because this writer isn't just a writer. She's also a reader and an editor, so we'll be able to get a fresh perspective on a few important questions. Today we welcome Shen Hart, to the blog! Welcome Shen!

Interview with Shen Hart

I see you run a fantastic book review (The Review Hart) blog with quite a LOT of followers. How long have you been doing it? Why do you do it? I read on your site that you do it for the readers, not the authors. Love that idea.
The Review Hart was started in January this year. I can’t believe how much support it’s received and how well it’s done! I spent about three years establishing myself in the indie author circles, primarily on Google+, so I think that has a lot to do with it. Why do I do it? I think I have to be blunt here. I got fed up of seeing shallow, ego-stroking reviews which did nothing but summarise the plot. I firmly hold the position that reviews are there for the reader, not the author. That sits in opposition to a popular view that reviews are promotional material for authors. Indies also have a hard time getting book reviews due to the stigma which is still attached to them. So, in short, I saw an opportunity to help both indie authors and readers, so I jumped on it

Nice. Well it seems like it's definitely being appreciated by readers and authors alike! Now that we know you’re an avid book reviewer, I’ve also read that you’re a developmental editor. Do you also write? Based on some of your book reviews I feel like you’d be an excellent writer. If you are, tell us about your writing. What do you like to write?
Thank you! I do also write and have done for many years. I’m hoping to publish my first book in November this year. I tend to write dark urban fantasy, and I have a fascination with shifters, fae, and sociopaths. I love looking behind the masks and getting into the headspace of those complicated, conflicted characters.

Oh! Well I can't wait to read something of yours! How long have you been writing? Have you always known you wanted to be an author / editor / someone who works with books?
I’ve been writing for about twelve years, but I didn’t know that I wanted to work with books until the self-publishing revolution began. I was surrounded by a lot of writers and wrote short fiction and poetry at that point. It was about five years ago when I was really bitten by the bug. That was when my focus really shifted to the written word. Up until that point I was focused on business, horses, and dogs. I did copy and content writing before I dived into fiction writing, and editing followed quite closely behind.

Are you currently working on a new project?
I always have projects going on! I’m writing Wyrd Calling, which is the first book in my urban fantasy series. I also have a couple of blogs and businesses, too. I love being busy.

What book do you wish you could have written?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s exquisitely written on all levels. The cadence, flow, and beat of the writing it beautiful. The images leap of the page and practically sing. If you read the prose out loud you can hear the craftsmanship, and those images are all absolutely stunning.

What tips or advice do you have to offer other writers / authors who want to connect with a blogger / someone who wants to start their own book review blog?
To those who want to connect with a blogger I think the most important thing is to be polite and respectful. I put at least twenty hours into every review and I don’t appreciate authors who try to make demands or ignore my simple submission guidelines.

To those who want to start their own book review blog, keep in mind that it’s a lot more work than it probably looks on the surface. I’d also say that focusing on one or two genres which you really love is the best way to go. At the moment I read pretty much every genre, but I will be narrowing that down in the new year.

Fantastic advice, Shen. Thank you for sharing! Now, do you have any read / writing / editing habits or practices? Tea and music? Silence?
Music which fits my mood or a TV show or movie in the background help me. The white noise helps me to focus on what’s in front of me rather than listening for other noises and getting distracted. I like a good cup of coffee to start off with and then something smooth and lightly alcoholic once I really get to the heart of things.

"Smooth and lightly alcoholic." Ha! I love that. Speaking of deliciously bad things, who is your favorite book villain?
That’s really hard! The first one which came to mind was the villain from Matthew Graybosch’s book Without Bloodshed. He’s not a clearly evil villain, he’s all sorts of shades of grey. I don’t tend to have hard and fast favourites though, outside of The Night Circus, which doesn’t really have a villain.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
I asked my best friend this question and he came back with Paint it Black – The Rolling Stones.

Nice. I love that song! Who is your favorite author? Favorite genre?
I don’t have a favourite author at the moment. I have a hit list of indies which I highly recommend but no flat out favourite. Genre has to be dark urban fantasy, I love the potential of it.

Do you have any finished novels? Tell us about them. Can we buy them? Where?
I have four finished novels, one work in progress, and about six more in various states! None of them are for sale, but Wyrd Calling should be available for sale in November, if all goes to plan. Wyrd Calling is the first in the Urban Fantasy series Wyrd Bound. Thalia is a stubborn shifter who is rather determined to escape her fate, which is difficult given she’s Wyrd Bound. That means she quite literally belongs to the Wyrd Sisters, the Norse Fates. She finds herself dragged back into that role and sent off to put a stop to the serial killer who’s targeting sirens. Thalia thinks nothing of intimidating and seducing the various gods to get what she wants. Unfortunately for her, the Wyrd Sisters aren’t quite so easy to wrap around her paw.

Wow! That sounds amazing! I cannot wait to read it. You're quite the talented lady, Shen. Is there anything you can't do? So, let's delve into your role of developmental editor. Tell us a little about that. Where can people find your services?
As a developmental editor, I work with writers to help them bring out the potential in their stories and really do their characters and ideas justice. I look at the broader strokes of story-telling, which means that I consider the pacing, flow, character development, continuity and the overall story arc. All of the bigger picture bits. I also pick out any big potential plot holes and niggly things which just don’t make sense, my history with horses and dogs means I’m pretty hot on those particular details.

There can be a fear within writers that an editor is going to impose their will on their baby but that’s something they really don’t need to worry about with me. I’m a writer myself, I completely understand the blood, sweat, tears and coffee which goes into writing novels. I don’t believe in imposing the supposed rules of writing on my clients, instead I work with them to make sure that they do their story justice. I help them to bring out their character’s voices and bring across their purpose to really fulfil the potential there. I do that by posing questions and making the writer think about what they’ve written, versus what they want to convey and the images in their head.

As to finding my services, I have The Editing Hart ( which isn’t currently as active as I’d like on the blog front, but people can contact me there about editing. I also have a contact page on both my personalblog and Wyrd Bound blog which would work too.

Everyone has pet peeves about certain things in writing. Whether it be insta-love or a love triangle, etc. Do you have any scenarios you hate reading?
It really bothers me when you have the small human (usually a woman) who runs the werewolf or shifter pack. It’s completely nonsensical and it irritates me no end! I wrote a blog post about it actually.

Who has the most gorgeous cover you’ve ever seen?
Splintered by A.G. Howard. I can’t remember how I stumbled across it but I love it, I also love the premise of the book which probably helps.

Lightning round: Which do you prefer?

Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla. That being said, I’d go halfway and have white chocolate if I could.

Sunrise or Sunset?
Sunset. Dusk is probably my favourite time of the day.

Coffee or tea?
Argh! I’m English so I have to say tea but coffee helps me function! I really enjoy a nice white tea or sencha sakuraba – it’s really light, relaxing and beautiful.

Cake or cupcakes?
Cupcakes are adorable and fun to make, but definitely cake. As my best friend (and editor) says “cupcakes lack strength of conviction.”

Snow White or the Little Mermaid?
Little Mermaid, I was obsessed with that movie as a little girl! She strives to achieve her dreams, she overcomes major hurdle and leaves behind everything she knew so she could try.

Hermione Granger or Harry Potter?
Absolutely Hermione. Harry irritated me a lot of the time with his attempts to go it alone and the angsty whining!

Pirates or Ninjas? Pirate-ninjas? 
Ninjas all the way. They’re fantastic with the fighting skills, hiding in shadows and all round ninjaness.

E-reading or having the physical book?
I love holding a real book and keep a few treasured books in physical form, but it has to be e-reading. I plan on travelling and e-reading is far more convenient and more comfortable for my little hands.

Thank you so much Shen for being such a willing participant on Words with Writers! Your answers are fantastic and it's so nice to have such a well-rounded creative mind on the blog!
Thank you for taking the time to interview me. The questions were fantastic fun, even if some of them were really hard! 

About Shen Hart
Shen stalks innocent stories down dark alleys where she dissects them, revealing the bare bones and silky threads. She is driven by the need to sate her reader' lust, their addiction for new books to ravage. She is, the Review Hart.

Editing Site (currently under construction)

Do you have any questions for Shen? If so, ask them in the comments below and I'll get back to you!


  1. Thanks for mentioning me, Shen Hart. Jolene, thanks for hosting Shen Hart.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Matthew! I can't wait to check out your novel!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for checking this out Tressa! We love having you!