Friday, 24 April 2015

Beneath the Surface of Book Blogging with Sya from The Mountains of Instead

Today we have Sya who runs the wonderful blog 'The Mountains of Instead'! She lives in the north of Scotland and started blogging just over five years ago, primarily because she had a small child and felt that her brain was turning to mush.  Also because she had moved to a new town and knew no readers and desperately wanted to talk about books! On The Mountains of Instead, she and her trusty team read and review all genres but the blog remains primarily focused on Young Adult fiction.

How did you start blogging, were there any blogs you followed that got you thinking this was something you wanted to do?
I had no idea that book blogs existed - they just weren't on my radar - until my daughter's father mentioned that I should start one.  At the time I was moaning about not having anyone to talk to about books and also not being able to afford to buy books any more (I was, and remain, a single parent) and he thought that I might be able to kill two birds with one stone.  I didn't believe him but started to do some research.  I came across The Crooked Shelf, a blog that no longer exists, that I loved and emailed Carla (the blogger) who gave me some great advice.  I then spent ages thinking about names and design ideas before finally getting started.  Within a two months I was part of a growing, passionate community and working with both publishers and authors.  It was a revelation.

What do you hope you achieve through your blogging?
I hope that my reviews encourage people to read the books, obviously, but also to think about them in an in-depth way.  I also hope that people enjoy reading the reviews I write for the sake of reading them!

What are the most rewarding parts of it for you?
While I'm not as visible in the blogging community as I once was, for the first few years fellow bloggers, authors and publicists became a life line.  I was living a fairly isolated and isolating life alone with a small child and these lovely people made me feel both valued and relative.  The confidence I gained ultimately lead to me studying for a degree in English Literature and starting a new career in the library service.  In terms of more specific rewards, highlights have been Maggie Stiefvater naming my Raven Boys review as her favourite, interviewing Patrick Ness and being shortlisted for this years' UKYABA in the content category.

And the most frustrating?
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my TBR pile and struggle to choose what to read.  I was quite ill towards the end of last year and found it difficult to read at all, and impossible to review.  Oddly, this difficult period seems to have helped as I now don't pressure myself to read review books but rather pick up the books that I feel like reading. It's been hugely refreshing and while the blog is quieter than it used to be, publicists and readers have been really supportive.

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?
The dreaded reading slump!  I used to try and force myself out of them but now I don't.  Instead, I re-read old favourites, listen to audio books or just watch TV until they pass.  In terms of confidence, I've never really worried about my ability to review but have worried about the lack of other content on the blog (particularly recently) and my declining presence in social media.  The closest I've come to giving up is during my illness last year so I put the blog on hiatus for three months.  We're now back and slowly, but surely, things are picking up again!

Have you taken a break from blogging at any point and if so how did you get back into it?
I've kind of answered this above but in terms of getting back into it, I think the key is to not pressure myself. I'm relying more on my trusty contributors, Polka Dot Steph and Cannonball Jones, and generally not stressing. It seems to be working.

Any tips for dealing with the self imposed guilt that comes with a blogging and reading slump?
Don't sweat the small stuff.  Because ultimately, no matter how much time we spend on it, blogging is the small stuff. In my experience, slumps in both blogging and reading tend to come about when things are generally difficult.  Give yourself a break, eat some ice cream, watch some Outlander! All things pass, even reading slumps.

How do you manage to juggle life outside books and blogging?
To quote Empire Records, "there are twenty-four usable hours in every day" (or something like that). I juggle a seven year old, a part time job, a freelance career and two courses of study as well as the blog, wine and a minor social life.  And I have no idea how I fit it in...  In seriousness, I prioritise.  I'd like to say that I'm super organised and plan everything but that would be extremely untrue. I'm going to go with sheer luck.

The blogging world is constantly evolving, any changes you'd like to see start to happen?
I'd like to see some proper data in terms of bloggers and the industry - this was brought up spectacularly badly by Anthony McGowan recently but while he was unquestionably rude his question was valid.  In a similar vein, I'd like to see less brouhaha.  The various scandals that sporadically erupt, valid or otherwise, make no one look good.

Any advice for new and old bloggers alike, particularly if they are going through a down slump at the moment?
Cut yourself some slack. I can think of lots and lots of things to say, but that's what it amounts to. If you stop pressuring yourself you'll eventually find that you feel less pressured.  God, no-one's going to put that on an inspiring quotes board, are they.  But you know what I mean..

Thank you so much Sya for coming and talking to us about your experiences blogging, it's so wonderful to hear from such a range of bloggers! If you haven't yet visited Sya's blog, do so, it is wonderful. You can also find her on twitter!


  1. These are such lovely posts! I love hearing more about blogger's personal thoughts and opinions.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    1. It's so great to hear from so many corners of the blogging world and to find out the insecurities and frustrations as well as the good parts. Thank you so much for stopping by and checking them out!