Friday, 17 April 2015

Beneath the Surface of Blogging with Nicole from YA Interrobang

Today I am very excited to welcome Nicole from YA Interrobang for the very first Beneath the Surface feature! Nicole has been blogging for ten years both at YA Interrobang and WORD for Teens, is a bookseller and author assistant and somehow still manages to find the time to blog and talk about YA books and authors!
Thank you so much Nicole for coming over!

How did you start blogging, were there any blogs you followed that got you thinking this was something you wanted to do?

I started blogging ten years ago. I was 13 and never really talked, except when it was about books - and I read a lot of books. My mother finally had enough of venting to her about whatever I happened to be reading at the time, so she turned to me and said, "Why don't you start a blog?" It didn't stop me from talking about books - I think I talked about them even more - but it certainly got me involved in the book blogging community. When I joined, it was so long ago that I didn't even know most other blogs. I just stumbled accidentally across them and got involved in the community. The longer I stayed in the community, the more I realized that, while there were plenty of review sites, there wasn't a blog where people could go and just learn about YA books and news. That's how I went from reviewing at WORD for Teens for seven years to running YA Interrobang for the past three.

What do you hope you achieve through your blogging?

The only things I want to achieve are to create a) a safe, awesome space for people to discuss books where b) they can find awesome new books they like.

What are the most rewarding parts of it for you?

There is nothing more satisfying then getting a message about how something you said about a book inspired people to pick it up. It's why I love my job as a bookseller and why I love social media; I can force my favorite books on people and watch them fall in love with it! Like These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Which you all should read. Right now.

And the most frustrating?
There's been a lot of discussion of the darker sides of the blogosphere lately, and not just in terms of how hard it is to maintain a blog. There are many people out there who fear posting negative reviews or sharing their opinion if it's against a well-loved author. The community should be a safe place to have intense discussions, even if they are critical of certain authors and their words; nobody should have to fear sharing their opinion, especially if it's calling somebody out on something hurtful that they've said. I've been fighting really hard to voice my opinions and stand up for the things I believe in, but I know it's hard for so many other people, and that's frustrating. 

Have you had reading slumps/insecurities/times when you felt you weren't good enough and wanted to quit, and how did you pull yourself out of them?

During the last year or two of running my review blog WORD for Teens, I was having a really hard time putting up content. I went from having a blog post a day  to one a week or less, and it was because I didn't have the time for the site. I was in my junior and senior years of college, interning, running a club and trying to balance a social life and sleep with running the site. It helped to refocus my goals and figure out what I loved doing and why I loved doing it. That's where YA Interrobang came into play - while I still love talking critically about books, I wanted to focus more on authors and fun things and not the review side, because it took a lot of energy out of me that I didn't have. Shifting my focus back onto the things I was passionate about really helped, and without the pressure, I'm reading way more books!

Have you taken a break from blogging at any point and if so how did you get back into it?

It's been ten years and I've never taken a break. I'm a monster.

Any tips for dealing with the self imposed guilt that comes with a blogging and reading slump?

Understand that this is YOUR blog. You can do with it what you want. If that means posting once a week or twice a day, or if that means only reviewing a certain type of book, that's okay. It's your zone. Don't let other people pressure you that there's a 'right' way to blog. Whatever works for you is the best way to blog.
As for reading slumps - most of the time, slumps come with the pressure to read certain books. One of the decisions I made very early on when reviewing was that I was only going to request books I was really passionate about, and that I was going to read whatever I wanted to read at any given time. Forcing yourself to read a book just to meet a deadline means you're not going to like that book as well as if you gravitated towards it naturally. Read what you want to read.
And side tip - a lot of bloggers end up with huge, huge stacks of books. Cull those piles! If you go through your to-read pile and don't recognize a title or remember what's it's about, get rid of it. You didn't want to read it enough to remember. Recycle the ARCs and donate the rest to a local hospital or library or women's shelter. Sometimes just getting rid of that physical pile lessens the burden!

How do you manage to juggle life outside books and blogging?

I sold my soul to Satan for excellent time management. It hasn't let me down.
Honestly, the best thing to do is to keep a good schedule and to make sure you're building in time for yourself. I work as a bookseller, an author's assistant and run YA Interrobang, and I still make sure to build in time every day for three meals and a little exercise and enough sleep. If you're killing yourself to do everything, it's not worth it. Your health has to come first.

The key, for me, is to know your limits and know just how much time you're willing to spend on things. I sacrifice a lot of free time to work on YA Interrobang, and I do it because I'm passionate about it - and that's good! But having that schedule helps. I have days blocked off in the calendar where I made plans to visit friends or hang out with my sister, and I give myself little tasks each day that force me away from the computer and doing something else.
Pro-tip: if you're working for long periods of time at your computer, set an alarm so you have to get up and walk around every 50 minutes. No matter what you're doing, get up and move. It's so helpful for your frame of mind and for your body.

The blogging world is constantly evolving, any changes you'd like to see start to happen?

It's beginning to shift towards this now, but I'd love to see more bloggers embracing feminism and calling out problematic content and problematic problems. We saw a huge backlash when people critiqued Andrew Smith for his comments (, and that seemed silly to me - you can like problematic authors and problematic books while still critiquing them and championing for better. (I'm the world's biggest Dragonriders of Pern fan; trust me, I know all about loving problematic books.) It's okay to say "I loved this book, but it's representation of this was awful, and this is how it could have been better." It's not an attack - it's about making the world and books the best they can be.
And you can review books and love books and critique them this way - the ladies at Stacked and The Book Smugglers do it all of the time, and they do it amazingly. I'd love, love, love to see more reviews like theirs. 

Any advice for new and old bloggers alike, particularly if they are going through a down slump at the moment?
Take a break. Cull your reading piles. Figure out what makes you happy and blog about that. This is YOUR space. You can do with it what YOU want. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

Thank you again Nicole for coming and talking to us! Some awesome advice and some wonderful insights!
If you haven't yet checked out YA Interrobang, do so, it is a fabulous site with an amazing mix of news and reviews and interest posts.


  1. Really nice interview! It was great to learn about how a major book blogger operates. Very inspirational!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! It's been great hearing from so many bloggers about how they deal with the frustrations and insecurities as well as the good parts! Some really wonderful interviews coming up over the next few weeks!