Book Blogger Spotlight: The House of Crime and Mystery

We’re excited to bring you our May Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with some of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favourite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month, we bring you our chat with Jacques, from The House of Crime and Mystery. You can find him on Twitter @housecrimystery .

What made you want to start a book blog?

To change the world? Actually, it was to share my passion for books with others –hoping they would care—and to post interviews I was doing with crime fiction writers. I thought it’d be interesting to become a member of the blogging community, meeting new people and interacting about literature. The thing I never thought would happen, nor even dreamed about, was that my blog would receive so much visits, attention and flattering comments. I am flabbergasted (I always liked that word).

What’s your favourite reading spot?

Between the covers. Literally. And pretty much everywhere else. The couch is comfortable; the expression ‘couch potato’ applies to me but in connection to books, not to television. In the summer, I like the patio. I bought a hammock but I haven’t installed it yet, and I’m sure it’ll become my favourite spot this summer.

 Your favourite book in the last year?

Boy oh boy. Tough question.  Since the start of 2012, I’d have to go with Tom Rob Smith’s Agent 6, a great thriller that travels from Russia to NYC, to Afghanistan and back to Russia, from the 1950s to the 1980s. Close behind I’d have to mention Brad Smith’s Red Means Run, the start of a promising series, and Montreal writer Robert Pobi with his first novel Bloodman. Almost as scary as Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and as creepy as The Silence of the Lambs. I’ll soon post on my blog an interview I did with Robert recently in Montreal. Not creepy at all, very nice man, très sympathique, and interesting.
Favourite book of all time?

Wow, tougher question.

OK, can’t pick only one so I’ll go with the ones I keep re-reading (yes, I do that; when a book is really good, it deserves to be re-read). John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things, Stephen King’s Different Seasons and his Dark Tower series (although I have read that only once so far); Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island. And many more that I forget. Impossible to have only one.

Favourite author?

OK, it’s a little easier. The ones mentioned in the previous question are all favourites, along with George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Bryan Gruley, Laura Lippman, Mark Billingham and a few others. But the number one has got to be Stephen King. The man has been entertaining me for over 30 years and he’s the main reason I’m in this business. He influenced so much of my readings. His 1980 book Danse Macabre was like a bible to me from my teenage years to my early 30s. I’ve read pretty much everything he recommended in that book. We have a special bond moi et oncle Steve; when he talks to his “Constant Reader”? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s actually me he’s talking to. Ayuh.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

Stand by Me (from the story The Body, in King’s Different Seasons), Shawshank Redemption (from the same book), Mystic River, The World According to Garp, L.A. Confidential, I could name so many. I’m almost as passionate about movies than I am about books.

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

I work full-time as a sales rep for independent publishers (The Literary Press Group of Canada). I raise two kids (my wife helps a lot). Last year, I co-founded the QuebeCrime Writers Festival with my friend Guy Dubois, owner of La Maison Anglaise Bookstore, in Quebec city. We’re working on the second edition that will be held from October 25 to 27. I’m also the Canadian contributor for a great website called Crime Fiction Lover, based in the UK. I’m also an amateur photographer.

I still play ice hockey twice a week from September to March, and I bike the rest of the year. My soft spot is for stray cats; I feed and nurse them back to health when they need it. There are between 5 and 10 of them depending of the season. Some come and go, others have been coming here for a few years. And that’s not counting the two that have been living in the house for the past 15 years. I’d love to have a dog too. A big one.

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

Surprisingly, with the constant traffic I get on the blog, I don’t receive a lot of feedback on the actual blog. I receive a bit more by email. I’d love to receive more feedback –good or bad, as long as it’s honest criticism. I’m very open to suggestions about the blog in general and about books and writers in particular. I’m working on an interactive post that could be recurrent if response is good and people enjoy it. Reader reviews are welcome as guest posts. I try leaving comments on other blogs because I know it can be hard not getting any feedback. You start wondering if your post is boring, if you wrote something stupid, etc. Fortunately, the constant rise in traffic is encouraging.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

The Rap Sheet for the wealth of info. I admire J. Kingston Pierce and what he’s doing. It’s the best blog in the genre, bar none. That’s why I don’t do a regular crime fiction news on my blog; I’d never be able to keep up with The Rap Sheet and what would be the point. It’s the CNN of crime blogs, we don’t need another one like it. Pearce is a living encyclopedia and I seriously hope someone at some point will give him a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to crime fiction. I also admire what Janet Rudolph is doing; if Wonder Woman exists, it’s Janet. She runs two different blogs (that I know of): Mystery Fanfare and Dying for Chocolate, and also a fabulous website/paper, Mystery Readers Journal for Mystery Readers International. She writes and produces Murder on the Menu, etc.

I also enjoying reading other blogs like Jen’s Book Thoughts, and a few more that focus almost exclusively on book reviews and some interviews or guest posts. I read the ones where I know I’ll discover writers and works, like Eva Dolan’s loiteringwithintent, Andrew Nette’s Pulp Curry, Luca Veste’s  Guilty Conscience and a few others. The best interviewer out there, alongside J. Kingston Pierce, is probably Len Wanner. His website is The Crime of It All. Brilliant stuff.

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

I hope it has improved. I like to think it has. Looking at the blog stats I know which posts are popular and from the constant rise in traffic I also know that I must be doing something right. The giveaways are more popular when readers need only to send their name and address, as opposed to contests where they need to participate a bit more, like giving an answer or two. So unless an author or publicist wants to do a contest, I’ll just keep doing giveaways. Before starting my blog, I looked at what was being done out there and I decided to try to be different as much as possible. I have a French page “Ze Room Noire” that is very popular and I have to thank my main collaborator Grenouille Noire for this. After a while, I thought of putting that page as a separate blog, but I finally decided against it because Ze Room Noire is too much a part of The House of Crime & Mystery. I also deleted some pages that I never really updated; I did some trial and error during the first year and I’ll keep making changes whenever it’ll help the blog be more interesting.

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