Be warned: today I’m writing about a great ape. One who does a lot for authors around the world, and accepts payment only in virtual bananas.
If you love books – reading them or writing them — you may have visited the Story Reading Ape website. It’s a treasure trove of books, authors from around the world and the craft of writing and publishing.
But the ape, aka Chris Graham, writes almost nothing about himself.
We know he loves books (“I don’t so much read books as devour them”), that author Terry Pratchett is a literary hero, and not much else.
I count Chris as a friend. I should. It’s partly because of Chris that the first Myrtle the Purple Turtle book was published, despite my lack of confidence. (It went on to win media headlines, an award, much praise from critics and bestseller status, and Chris has rejoiced with me at each achievement.)
But I don’t know what Chris looks like. He claims his only photos are on his driver’s license and passport.
Some apes — erm… people — are so darned difficult!
When pushed, Chris admits to being a retired mechanical / electrical consultant engineer, whose work took him around the world.
He and his wife now live in Hereford Cathedral City, Herefordshire, England, “in a small one bedroom 3rd floor apartment with a view of trees, rooftops and four small carparks”. He has a daughter and a younger sister.
I had more questions.
Q: What led you to start the Story Reading Ape?
A: I’ve always been an avid reader. After years of lugging books around various parts of the world, in December 2012 I bought an eBook Reader (a Nook). On it was a free app for Goodreads.
There, I not only recorded as many of the books I could remember reading, I learned the how and why of book reviews and started doing them, on Barnes & Noble and Amazon, as well as Goodreads.
However, I was shocked to see so many authors pleading with Goodreads members, to help them promote their books.
These were a different breed to the traditionally published authors I was familiar with; these were self-published authors.
To help out, I started reading and reviewing self-published books and I found that many of the stories were just as entertaining and well written as traditional versions.
However, as well as reviews, there were pleas for people to promote books on blogs, so I researched the hows and popularity of blogs, leading me to start one in March 2013.
Instead of blogging my book reviews, I decided to feature and promote authors (as well as their books), plus build up writer resources to help them hone and enhance their writing and provide book marketing ideas.
Q: How does it feel to realize the impact you’ve had?
A: I don’t think I’ve made any particular impact. There are thousands of blogs who do what I do, much better and more professionally.
(Cynthia quietly scoffs at this piece of modesty. The blog has more than 15-thousand regular followers, and many more visitors from around the world. Numerous authors have been helped by its articles.)
Q: What are some of the most surprising things that have happened since you started it?
Having people regularly follow, read, like and share blog posts garnered together by a great ape 😃
Q: What’s changed about Indie writing-publishing since you started the site?
A: It has to be the increasing popularity of self publishing, instead of going through the agonies of trying to get traditionally published.
Q: How have you personally grown/changed as a result of the site?
A: I’ve learned (and continue to learn) a LOT about what is involved in writing stories, poems, blogging and book marketing. I’m also pleased with my own efforts in book cover design (which I no longer do, due to time constraints).
I even managed to publish a book of my Mum’s poetry (I made the cover as well).
Q: What is your life like outside the site?
A: I alternate between reading, researching articles for my blog’s author resources, developing skills in graphics and animation.
My wife makes sure I get plenty of exercise by taking me for walks (the area being confined to around the cathedral city of Hereford at present, due to the COVID-19 restrictions).
Q: And what are your hopes for yourself and the Story Reading Ape?
A: A long life, health and continued enjoyment blogging.
Thanks, Chris — you reluctant hero, you!