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BOOKSTAGRAM BEHIND THE SCENES: In Conversation With Jannetje Sparks

In a few short years, Instagram has become a platform for creators across the board. Readers are no exception, and with their voracious appetite for stories and eagerness to share their excitement about them, it's no wonder they've taken to the social media photo app to entice both new readers and authors--and publishers--alike.

Today, we're introducing our new bookstagram mini blog series with Jannetje Sparks, or TheLadySparks, as the bookish community knows her. From reviews to fanfic recs, the Texas-based photographer, family woman and aspiring author draws readers in with her keen eye and attention to a e s t h e t i c.

Hi Jannetje! Thanks for letting me interview you! You are the voice and reason behind the drool-worthy bookstagram account, @TheLadySparks. How did you first fall into professionally reading and reviewing books?

Oh my gosh, you are far too kind! Thank you for asking to interview me. I’m really excited to be a part of it!

It’s so funny to hear it talked about like that because I’ve considered myself a reader since I learned how to read so it’s always been a big part of my life. I guess you could say I fell into the professional aspect of it about a year after I had my daughter, who just turned two. I was in a not so great place mentally. I was struggling, feeling really burnt out - even my job as a photographer was just leaving me feeling really stressed. I happened to discover while randomly browsing through hashtags that there was this really great community of readers on Instagram and I thought it was a fun way for me to mesh two of my absolute favorite past-times, reading and photography.

Given the IG platform, photos have brought a visual dimension to reviews and rants about books. Online reviews are like the modern day “word of mouth” for contemporary storytellers. In your opinion, how important are reviews to authors—especially for up and coming writers?

I think reviews are a crazy powerful tool, coming from a business standpoint - especially with how things work now. I know I can’t speak for everyone but I make sure to check reviews on just about everything that I buy. And I know that when I share my thoughts on a book, I have followers that go and pick up that book and share their thoughts with me! So reviews are definitely important when it comes to the book community.

Speaking of photography, you’re also a professional photographer; it’s no wonder your feed is sprinkled with some of that golden light. A birdie told me you do weddings! How is this different from or similar to book photography?

You are killing me with these compliments! I have been a wedding photographer since halfway through 2017. Wedding photography and book photography are very different, there are probably more differences than there are similarities but they both involve flatlays (at least in my case). I actually can thank my experience as a wedding photographer for the way I style my flatlays because the general rules are basically the same across the board! It’s all about balance with the style, you don’t want one side to feel heavier than the other. So shoutout to my wedding photography experience for helping me prepare for my time as a bookstagrammer.

If you could hold a session with any cast or couple from your favorite YA or New Adult book/ series, which would it be?

Okay, now with the hard-hitting questions that I feel like I could never properly answer. There are so many possibilities with this one but I think I’m going to go with the cast of A Court of Thorns and Roses. It was one of the first book series I picked up right before diving into the world of bookstagram and Feyre’s character arc within the second book of the series really resonated with me because I related to it more than I had any book I had ever read. Not that I could claim I went through the exact same path (thank goodness for that) but her struggles and her feelings were described in a way that I related to and I never thought that I could be brought to tears from a book because I felt like I was finally being heard like my own feelings and trauma were understood and the fact that she comes out of it all really inspires hope, I think. Plus, who wouldn’t want to take up the opportunity to make googly eyes at Cassian? Right?

What are you reading now? If you could photograph the characters from that novel, what kind of shoot/ vibe would it entail?

I love that you’re asking this because I’m actually reading your book! Disenchanted! I feel like I’ve been pushing it on all of my friends to the point they’re sick of hearing me talk about it.

The wedding photographer (and hopeless romantic) in me obviously would have to turn this into a couples shoot because how could I not? 100% going for the dark fairytale vibes for this one, keeping it minimalistic because keeping the focus on them is my jam.

On your IG Story Highlights, I notice a couple WIP (work-in-progress) boards that look incredible, from Fantasy to Sci-Fi; is there anything you can share on these projects at the moment?

My projects are still pretty much babies in the grand scheme of things. I have a bad habit of having a brain that likes to come up with different ideas before I've properly finished anything. Right now most of my attention is on a project I've currently got titled Per Contra (this is still totally a WIP so who knows if that'll stay that way). But I have a dystopian project, a sci-fi space project, and two fantasy projects (one having the potential to have a spin-off stand-alone or duology) so I have a lot going on! My goal is to have my first draft of Per Contra finished by the end of the year so that I can figure out the route I want to go publishing wise. 

The other day, I think it was a WIP Wednesday or something on your feed where you'd posted about an original character by the name of Kieran. He sounds intriguing! Can you tell us a little about him?

Yes! I love doing my WIP Wednesdays! So Kieran is one of the two main characters in Per Contra. He's the Prince of Astraria, which is a place that's been basically blessed by the Gods because they've been given magical abilities that are divided into two categories (light and dark) and then broken down within subcategories depending on the strength of their magic. It's not traditional where light means good and dark means bad, it's inherently dependent on the wielder. But dark magic has some prejudice around it because it has a tendency to be more unpredictable. Well, Kieran is the first in the royal line to be gifted with dark magic and so people are wary of him. Over the course of a few years, he feels very distanced from his people and his family and so he ultimately runs from his kingdom and falls in with a rebel group who claims that they are wanting to get rid of the prejudices against dark magic users. I'm basically in love with him! I'll be talking more about the other main character, Sade, next Wednesday on my Instagram and touch on different topics of my WIP every other Wednesday!

If an author or publisher is interested in sending a review request, where would they be able to contact you?

I’m currently taking requests and publishers can contact me via my e-mail:

Thank you so much for sitting down with us, Jannetje! Lastly, where can readers find you?

You can mostly find me over on my Instagram, @theladysparks. But I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads & my blog!

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