RT Book Reviewer Debbie Sims

- by Dara Girard

Tell us a little something about yourself.

I am the wife of a Gospel Preacher.  My husband serves as Senior Minister to East Chestnut Church of Christ in Fort Wayne, IN.  Our family consists of five adult children, two daughter-in-laws, one daughter-in-law to be, four grandchildren, one grand kitty, and one grand puppy.  I love, love, LOVE to read!  I have been reading since birth it seems and have been reading romance novels since sixth grade. (I have always been a tad bit mature for my age.)  My professional management career with a major telecommunications company ended last year when my position was eliminated.

I’m having a great time traveling with my husband whenever he needs me to and visiting my children and their families.  We have offspring in Florida, Oklahoma and Michigan.  I actually have a completed book but I’m not sure I want to make the required changes to get it published…this one may be just for me and the friends that I have shared it with.  My favorite companion, besides my husband, is my Sony E-Reader.  I never leave home without it and it is wonderful to be able to carry my current library with me.

Not to mention how easy it makes moving! LOL!   I lost a vast collection of hats when we moved from Michigan to Indiana as some of my books were packed on top of my hats.  The movers also had no appreciation for the idea that my 300+ books were in alphabetical order by author and publish date.  I have now pared my collection down to 200 paper books and I can boast that I have an original copy of Francis Ray’s first published novel and autographed copies of works by several of my favorite authors.

When did you become a reviewer for Romantic Times Book Reviews? Why?

The earliest reviews I can find written by me are from 2001.  I became a reviewer when I saw a posting in a forum on Black Planet (?) for a multicultural reviewer. I responded, sent a sample of my writing and the rest is history. LOL! I thought it was important that multicultural novels be reviewed by a person of color because at that time I believe reviewers were reading and reviewing “Black romance novels or Hispanic romance novels” instead of romance novels where the characters or authors just happen to be people of color.

Do I believe that some may have read books with preconceived notions on the quality of the writing and the abilities of the multicultural authors to pen stories that anyone regardless of ethnicity could read and enjoy? YES! However times have changed and with the number of African-American authors finding their stories being published in mainstream series I believe that the ethnicity of characters and authors may not be as relevant to the success of the story as in times past.

As a reviewer of romance novels how are you received by your family and friends?

Initially my husband was concerned (LOL!) until I read a book to him and the entire family once during a long road trip.  That was some years ago before the love scenes were so well “fleshed” out.  He has since found that my being a reviewer of romance novels is a great conversation starter! I also speak at Women’s conferences and church events and it always generates questions as that information is included in my bio.

What’s one big misconception people have about reviewers?

The biggest misconception I think that people have about reviewers is that they are all aspiring writers who cannot get published so they bash those who do.  Reviewers are usually voracious readers who take on the task to feed their habit by exposing themselves to books that they may not normally choose for themselves.  The compensation is nominal and was implemented a few years ago.  Before that it was a volunteer position.

Ideally when do you reviewers like to get a book prior to the publication date?

Having books at least a month or two before the review deadline is ideal in that it allows the reviewer to savor the story and to reread anything that needs to be reviewed before penning the review.  Receiving four manuscripts fifteen days before deadline forces the reviewer to read very quickly and if they review any additional books…well…

What are some mistakes you see amateur reviewers make?

Amateur reviewers may write their reviews based on their own personal bias and or tastes.  I have not personally enjoyed every book that I’ve read but I’ve tried to be fair in my review.  Any suggestions for improvement or problems with the story usually have to do with the mechanics of the story or characters not being true to their established history.  My personal preferences do not come into play when writing a review.

What do you look for when reviewing a novel?

When reviewing a novel I look for well developed characters.  The reader should be able to picture the character based on their actions, dialogue, etc more so than on the physical description.  The characters’ actions should also mirror the image that the author is portraying for them.  I also look for a story that flows naturally from beginning to end.  The reader should be able to pick up the story at any time and pick up where they left off instead of rereading what they’ve read to catch up with the story.  Reality can be suspended in some instances as long as it is not totally unbelievable.

Do you think book reviews really count?

Unfortunately sometimes they do.  Some bookstores, libraries, etc. use reviews as a basis for selecting items for their inventory, especially with novels by new authors.  That is one of the reasons that I try to be fair, objective and base my review on the quality of the writing, the story and the character development.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for selecting me to participate in this forum.  I appreciate the idea that reviewers are recognized for the work that they do.

One comments

  1. Great interview! I especially appreciate your commitment to reviewing a book without incorporating your own personal likes and dislikes. That’s a tough thing to do and the sign of a true professional.