Want to get to know the BiblioSmiles contributors? Read below to find out more about Samantha!
Q: Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less:
Hmm…well currently I live in Korea teaching English, and I’m horrible at talking about myself. However, I love getting A’s for effort, so here we are…I read, a lot, mostly thanks to a habit picked up in childhood of taking out the max number of books from the library (five) and reading them all at once. Right now I’m reading…three, I think? Four, actually, three on my Kindle and one that actually exists in real life. 24 words left…I really, really, really love coffee flavored drinks, but I hate coffee itself. Weird?
Q: What books did you love as a child?
Oh, boy. Do I bother saying Harry Potter? I grew up with Harry Potter, literally. That’s more than just childhood. That was part of my life. I was surrounded by Great Illustrated Classics as a kid, but my heart was always elsewhere. I loved Tamora Pierce and devoured her books, spent pretty much every year from third grade devouring Brian Jacques’ Redwall books…I loved the Young Wizards books by Diane Duane, The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville…I feel like I sound like the biggest nerd right now. When I was a little kid, I was permanently surrounded by books. I think my parents went out of their way to make sure I always had things to read. So I could go on for a very, very long time.
Q: What kinds of books do you love now?
Another long-winded question for me. I think if I narrowed it down to the past year, things haven’t really changed. I still devour YA fantasy, adult fantasy, comic books. If I’m handed a book of essays I will enjoy it but I’m awful at finding it myself (this horse needs to be led to non-fiction water). The biggest difference now is that when I read, I notice things like prose that I didn’t when I was a kid. A good story was all I needed. Now, I love a good story as much as the next person, but if I can find a book with turns of phrase that make me physically smile and itch for a highlighter? That’s perfect for me.
My favorite book I’ve read in the past year would probably be The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It’s like a heist movie in a fantasy world – nothing is better than that.
Q: Where’s your favorite place to sit down and read?
Give me a corner anywhere and I can make myself comfortable. Some of my friends have stopped being surprised – they’ll leave me sitting outside the movie theater to go get popcorn and come back to me huddled in a corner with my Kindle already turned on. I do a lot of reading on the bus, as well…Korean bus seats are a million times more comfortable than in the US. It’s perfect reading time.
Q: Do you set any goals for yourself as a reader?
This year I’m attempting the Goodreads challenge. I figured I would have a lot of time to read, so I would do my best to attempt to read 50 books. Well, it backfired when I underestimated how many books I could actually read. I didn’t have as much time in the US to read as I do here in Korea. I’d forgotten how fast I can put books away and I’m 7 books “ahead of schedule.” Yeesh. I wonder if I can make the challenge more challenging? Is that cheating? Good cheating?
Q: Have you ever met any of your favorite authors? What was that like?
Hahaha. Okay. So I have two stories. One isn’t so much a story as it is how I generally start a conversation with strangers.
“Guess what? Neil Gaiman retweeted me once.”
Which was the pinnacle of my life and I basically stopped trying to achieve anything after it happened.
The other is…well, this is what happened:
When I was a teenager I was really into the Forgotten Realms, which is a big shared universe project consisting of what is essentially Dungeons and Dragons adventures in book form. I devoured them. I picked up the first ones in middle school and just kept reading them, but over and over I would gravitate towards a very specific author, RA Salvatore. He’s pretty well-known for his Drizzt Do’Urden books, and I was way into hero-worshipping him. This was all while I was still fishtailing between being a Super Serious Author™ and refusing to give up writing YA romance into my fantasy story but still feeling guilty about it.
So I go to the doctor one day, and the nurse asks me if I read any books. Casual conversation, I am the doughy bookish type so I say “yes, I do read occasionally.” Remember how I don’t do well at talking about myself? After the awkward silence passes she asks me what I read and I very carefully reply, “…fantasy.” I expected the conversation to end there. Most adults stop taking me seriously after I drop the F word. Instead, I hear this:
“Oh. My brother writes fantasy! Maybe you know him! Have you ever heard of RA Salvatore?”
I fell off the table. She tells me he’s coming to give a talk and book signing at the Barnes and Noble I grew up in. I get back on the table so I can fall off it again.
I go to that signing. I hang on his every word. I am determined to play it cool when I meet him. I am fifteen people away from meeting him. Look at all these dorks in front of me. I bet he’s sick of talking to a bunch of basement dwellers who argued with him about the pronunciation of his main character’s name. I’ll be a breath of fresh air. I am six people away. He’ll sign my book with a special message because I left such a lasting impact on him. A fan, a real fan! I bet he’ll want to know I want to be a writer because of him. I mean, it wasn’t really because of him but he totally helped, right? He’ll want to hear that. I am three people away. I am two people away. I am next.
And here I have to end the story, because I legitimately do not remember what happens next. I blank out. My book is signed, so I know I didn’t faint or bolt for the door. But whatever happened, the security cameras only know. I bet he was nice, though. I like to think he was nice.
Q: How do you mark your place in a book?
I’ll tell you what, it would be with one of the eighteen Lord of the Rings bookmarks I’ve bought since Fellowship came out if it wasn’t for me constantly losing them. They always disappear, but they leave the rings behind! For One Ring, there’s an awful lot of them sitting in my room right now.
…I started folding pages sometimes around college and never looked book. It just makes sense. In a way, it feels like marking some kind of territory. This is my book; this is my page.
Q: What books are you on your “must read” list?
What book isn’t? Mostly I’m very, very excited for the rest of this year. Robin Hobb is coming out with a new FitzChivalry book, Brent Weeks is putting out another Lightbringer book. Rob Thurman is putting out another Cal Leandros book and Scott Lynch has the next Gentlemen Bastards book soon – it’s quite the year for me. Books that have already come out? There are a lot. I’d like to get more into Junot Diaz, read more of the classics, and I really do want more personal essay books under my belt. I’m always open to recommendations!
Q: Here’s a famous question: if you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why? Where would you go, and what would they order for dinner?
I had been mulling over this for a while, but my answer did eventually surprise me. I would want Geoffrey Chaucer, I think. I’d like to think dinner would be full of just him sitting there judging everybody around him with, like, minimal small-talk. He strikes me as the kind of person that would keep going in a conversation until the other person finally decided to get a word in.
I wouldn’t go somewhere fancy. We don’t need fancy. We’d just go to a TGI Friday’s or something. I bet he’d be judgey about the table of drunk businessmen in the corner, and the noisy family who gets dessert AND an appetizer, or the bachelorette party one-too-many cotton candy martinis in. I get along with judgey people.
He’d totally get a cheeseburger. Maybe with bacon.
Q: What’s your favorite post you’ve written for BiblioSmiles? What’s your favorite post that someone else has written?
I’ve only written one (here)! I’m so bad at coming up with ideas for posts. But my favorite post has to be Gabriele’s post on literary tattoos. It’s what finally gave me the courage to get my own on my shoulder blade three weeks later!
Samantha Yellin’s body exists in South Korea, but her mind is always wandering elsewhere and really, it’s a wonder she gets anything done. More of her evasive procrastinating can be found at A Case of Writerlust.