BEYOND THE BOOTH with Felicia Sparks, aka The Geeky Blogger
I’ve been following Felicia’s blog for years and years. She’s a creative book blogger, avid reader and audiobook promoter. When she won the Audiobook Publishers Association’s Blogger of the Year in 2017, I was honored to escort her to the festivities. We also collaborated on a panel for the 2017 Romance Times convention.
We’re so happy to include Felicia in this month’s Beyond the Booth interview. Bloggers like her have expanded the review spectrum for audiobooks that might not get covered in print publications, are powerful reader to listener converters, and delightful initiators of conversations.
Here’s mine with Felicia:
KW: What was your first audiobook?
FS: My first audiobook came in the form of a LP. It was The Hobbit and had me hooked. I have always had a love affair with audiobooks as they add an extra layer to stories I love.
KW: Your first job and your worst job – go.
FS: I had the one and only job I ever got fired from: telemarketing for charity donations. It was AWFUL. You had to make so many calls an hour, hit $$$ amount targets, and be aggressive. I SUCKED at it and was fired in less that two weeks.
KW: Hmm. I was actually pretty good at that kind of job. But it was EXHAUSTING. Glad I found work in the audiobook industry instead! What got you interested in listening to audiobooks?
FS: Audiobooks have always been part of my life but what really made them become my go-to source of getting my stories was very long road trips in the 80s/90s. Truck stops had this fab rental system and I as drove back/forth from TX to CA multiple times alone ---it really broke up the monotony. Back then there were no radio stations that worked all the time and cassette tapes only had so many songs on them. Audiobooks were the perfect way to go!
KW: Were the books at the truck stops abridged?
FS: We tried really hard to find unabridged recordings but back then it was super hard (80s). I am super glad now that abridged is almost a thing of the past.
KW: Did you listen to the same genres on those road trips that you do now?
FS: Back when the whole family was in the car, we mostly listened to mysteries on road trips. In the 90s when I did solo road trips I listened to a lot of romance. It was still hard in the early 90s to find unabridged but when I could I went that route. Now I listen to both romance and mystery while traveling--it really just depends on my mood :)
KW: What did you want to be when you grew up?
FS: I think like anyone this changed so many times during my childhood. When I was addicted to my easy bake oven (that I destroyed more than once), I wanted to be a chef. When I was devouring historical romance novels in Jr. High, I wanted to be a romance novelist (or a romance novel leading lady). When I was in High School and competing in math, I got into my head I wanted to be an accountant. I didn’t become any of these things but I am a darn good cook! I still want to be a romance novel leading lady (though my desire to write one is gone---I will leave that to the professionals)! I have no desire to be an accountant! I don’t even like doing my own taxes.
KW: My mom’s an accountant, so I confess I’ve never done my own taxes. I’m so spoiled. If not accounting or the culinary arts, what did you study in school?
FS: After graduating High School in the Top 10% and basically killing it—I went to college for one semester (did well) and decided I was done. In the end, I chose a trade as a profession and really don’t regret it. I want college to be available for everyone, but I also want people to understand that you can be successful without it. It is not for everyone.
KW: That is an important message. Not everyone fits into the same mold and you’re a wonderful example of someone who has achieved success without going that route. In your career now, do you work from home or do you go into an office?
FS: I worked in an office up until April last year. I got tons of listening time when I worked in the office. Now that I work from home, my listening time has declined because I am on the phone a lot more. Though, I am finding ways to balance that out! It just took awhile!
KW: I’ve heard from a lot of want-to-be listeners or former listeners that they struggle to find time to listen. What’s your advice?
FS: Finding balance was hard and I had to train my brain again to accept stories in shorter bursts. I used to listen for hours while working with little interruption and now I have maybe 30 min here and there to listen. What helped to train my brain to accept it was podcasts. Specifically Read Me Romance where you get a 30 to 40 min shot of story a day. It really helped me get ok with waiting to see what happened.
FS: I also listen more while not working while knitting. I found an app that I can count stitches on so I can pay more attention to the story. I still have to do music only when knitting something count intensive but squeezing in a bit more when I have a simple knit going adds loads of time to listen.
KW: If you could invent something that would make audiobook listening a better experience, what would it be?
FS: Bluetooth headphones that don’t require a recharge every 6 to 8 hours. It is every listener’s wish. I need some really smart audio technologist to get on that cause I would buy them in a heartbeat.
KW: What do you think will never change about audiobooks?
FS: While I think performance and production has changed a lot over the years where audiobooks are concerned, the one consistent thing has been the listener’s love of the stories. I think if there are stories to be told, that us listeners will be around to hear them.
KW: So, your blog just celebrated its 10th Anniversary. How has it changed over the years?
FS: OMG my blog has changed so much in 10 years and really had to in order to keep it fresh to me. In the beginning, I was very much involved in blog tours, review copies, giveaways, and promotion. I found about year 4 that you can burn out quick if you take on too much. That was also about the time I switched to mostly audiobooks and focused my attention there. In 2017, I almost quit. I just was feeling super burdened (self inflicted) to stay on top of things and it was causing my blog to feel more like an unpaid job than fun. About halfway through 2017, I gave myself a break. I love my blog and I love supporting the community. I also realized that I needed to fit that into my life and make it more fun. I still do reviews and Sultry Listeners every year. I kept the things I love (June is audiobook month or as I use it to give love to the audiobook world that impacted me and 30 Days of Thanks) but I took off the pressure of review copies and constantly posting. This year I moved to a new host so I will be around for another 3 years at least :) I do find that most of the promotion and stuff I do now is on Instagram and Twitter. It was a great balance for me. Super quick and easy without taking too much time. So now I would call what I do hybrid blogging. I may not always have content on the blog but I always try to support the audiobook community 5 out 7 days a week!
KW: Now for one of my favorite questions. What’s your poison?
FS: Red Wine: Merlot, Malbec, or Blend
KW: Finally, please introduce us to your literary-named dogs!
FS: Top/Black dog - Minerva (From Harry Potter) is a foster fail. I fostered her for a group for 6 months but no one really connected with her. I decided that she just fit in with my 2 others and adopted her. She is a spunky character and always makes me laugh :)
Middle/White dog - Lizzie (Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice) is a rescue from my hometown shelter. She was on the EU list and a friend that volunteered up there begged me to take her. She is super stubborn and grouchy but I love her to pieces.
Bottom/Red dog - Cinder (From the Lunar Chronicles) is a rescue from another shelter. I actually sponsored her adoption to another family but they did not show up to pick her up. So she came home with me. She is my chill dog that is just my buddy!
Stay connected with Felicia: