Blogger interview – Jane Badger of Books, Mud and Compost.

Jane Badger has been a friend of mine for around a decade. We bonded over a shared love of horses and pony books and after years of research, I was delighted when her first book, Heroines on Horseback, was published in 2013. Books, Mud and Compost. And Horses, Jane’s blog is an exhaustive resource for anyone interested in pony books – and who of us didn’t read these as a child? There’s also plenty of perambulations around the vagaries of chickens, the philosophy of dog-walking and reminiscences of Julip model horses and equestrian magazines of the 1970s – I looked forward to Pony magazine every month. I love Jane’s blog because the voice is unmistakably hers – it’s just like chatting on the phone – and I am constantly nagging her to blog more often. If you pop over and like her style then leave her a comment. Maybe she’ll get down to it and write more if we nag enough…

In the meantime, as part of my series of blogger interviews, Jane has shared with us her thoughts and experiences…

Q. What’s the name of your blog? How did you come up with that name?
My blog’s called Books, Mud and Compost. I tacked and Horses onto the end of it as that tended to be what I wrote about most.

Q. What do you write about? Do you stick firmly to a topic or is your blog more wide-ranging?
I tend to stick to horses – I used to write more about my life. Life has been quite difficult for one reason and another the past few years, and if I write anything personal now, I’m aware I’m making a deliberate effort to avoid writing about the things that most concern me, and that doesn’t feel quite honest. So, I concentrate on horses.

Q. Tell me about your typical reader.
They like horses.

Q. How do you find inspiration for blog posts?
Oh dear – looking at what I’ve blogged about recently, authors have either died, and so I write an appreciation, or people send me books, and I review them. Focus has shrunk somewhat.

Q. When did you start blogging and why?
You told me I should do it a few years back! At the time, I was a bookseller, and you told me blogging would be a good way of marketing what I did. You were right.

Q. Have you always had the same blog?
Yes. I am considering doing another blog which would focus on my editing/proof reading activities. The excitement of the comma – that sort of thing.

Q. Do you host it yourself or use a platform such as WordPress or Blogger?
I use Blogger. The new one will use WordPress because I like variety.

Q. How many readers do you have?
Not as many as I did! This is possibly directly related to the fact that I am blogging far less often than I did. I get a lot more interaction via my Facebook page, where a post can have several thousand views and a hundred or so comments. These days I tend to concentrate on Facebook because it’s quicker. People like blogs to be updated regularly, and mine hasn’t been. Not even remotely.

Q. How you organise yourself so that your blog runs smoothly?
When I was doing the pony book a day thing last year, I would sit down and devote a chunk of time to writing posts in advance. Once I’d finished that I decided I’d have a holiday from blogging for a bit – a mistake as it’s been hard to get back to it!

Q. How much time do you spend blogging?
Very little at the moment.

Q. What has been the best thing that’s happened as a result of your blogging?
I was on Radio 4 after blogging about the bliss of the hardback book, and one of my pieces on Amazon was featured by the Guardian. Apart from that, I’ve made some good friends through blogging.

Q. How have you seen blogging change over the years? Why do you think this is?
Blogging, I think, has become less of a thing in recent years. People seem to prefer the more instant, less concentration-heavy forms of communication like Facebook and Instagram.

Q. Where do you think blogging will be in another five or ten years?
Still there, I think. I do have a few blogs I like to follow, and I’m sure I’ll continue to want to read more lengthy and considered pieces.

Q. Recently, it’s become much more common for bloggers to monetise their blogs whether by using affiliate links (most common with fashion or ‘lifestyle’ bloggers) or advertising. How do you feel about that and if you use those things how does that work?
I don’t monetise my blog – my website has adverts on it. I don’t do sponsored posts and make that clear on the blog. That doesn’t stop me getting approached, however. I don’t mind reading sponsored posts, as long as the blogger has made it absolutely clear what kind of post they’re writing: that it is sponsored and you therefore assume the company sponsoring has had an input on the content.

Q. If you write sponsored posts, do you feel that you have to compromise your style or opinions in order to fit in with the needs of the brands you work with? Have you had any feedback from readers about your sponsored posts?
I don’t do sponsored posts, but if someone sends me a book to review, then I do find I have to make a conscious effort to overcome the need I feel to be nice to someone because they have given me something. I think I have achieved this quite successfully as there are some publishers whose freebie lists I am definitely off.

Q. Where do you hope your blogging will take you?
If only I did some…. there might then be an opportunity for it go somewhere. Let’s assume I, overcoming all evidence to the contrary, get my act together and write a series of non fiction pieces on rare equine breeds; why they’re rare and what can realistically be done about it. I’d quite like to write a book on that topic, thank you very much.

Q. If someone told you that they wanted to start blogging, what piece of advice would you give them?
Be disciplined. Think about what you want to achieve.

Q. What other blogs do you read? Apart from mine obviously!
Piccalilli Pie, which is a beautifully written look at the natural world around the writer, Christina Wilsdon. Susanna Forrest’s If Wishes Were Horses is the best equine blog out there by a mile. I also follow Caroline Hirons, skincare guru, and I like Ruth Crilly of A Model Recommends’ baby blog, The Uphill.  My children are very well past the baby stage now, but she writes really well about life with her baby. She’s very talented.

Thanks for that Jane. And for any readers who have childhood memories of pony books, do go and buy a copy of Jane’s book.

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