Meet the Bookstagrammer: @Romance.In.The.Wild

Hi friends! It’s been a particularly insane week, but thankfully we’ve made it to Friday and another Meet the Bookstagrammer post! This week I have the unique and distinct pleasure of passing the time with the one, the only Mazey from!

Don’t follow Mazey on Instagram? Wheeeeew boy are you missing out! Not only does she take cute photos, but her love for romance (especially virgin heroes) is downright infectious. Truly she brings a smile to my face every time she pops into my feed (seriously, she’s so dang funny), so without further ado, here’s our chat:

Why did you decide to start a bookstagram, then a really fun blog?

So, I think this is pretty funny, but my first exposure to the bookstagram world was this odd few weeks where I won like four publisher giveaways. It was right around the holidays of 2018, and I had been following publishers on my personal account and entering their giveaways, and I just had this bizarre streak of luck. One thing led to another and I discovered this glorious corner of the internet where people TALKED ABOUT BOOKS NON-STOP AND NOTHING HAD EVER SOUNDED BETTER. So, I lurked on some bookstagram accounts for a few weeks before deciding to take the plunge and join in the joy of the community. I ended up starting my blog as a place where I could go and do a deeper dive on reviews. Over time, it transformed more into a place I can share more personal things going on in my life. I use it to talk about my writing, the struggles of trying to get published, and my experiences navigating neurodiversity, etc. 

A lot of people choose their username to include their name, but you didn’t (and I love it)! What was the thought process behind your username/blog title? 

I originally intended to stay rather anonymous, and keep it totally about the books (that didn’t last long lol). It’s no secret that there’s stigma surrounding romance novels, but I’ve always wanted to fight against that however I could, so I wanted to photograph these beautiful books out in the real world (the wild, if you will), and thus Romance in the Wild was born. 

What does your ideal day look like (think of Miss Congeniality ;))?

The demands of dental school has turned time into this almost invaluable currency in my life, I never feel like I have enough of it, and what I do have is almost entirely dedicated to school work. At this point in my life, my ideal day would be a day where I had absolutely NOTHING planned, and no pressure to do anything at all. I’d prefer it to be sunny and warm, like a nice spring or fall day, but I wouldn’t even be mad with a rainy day forcing me to stay inside and do nothing but read and snuggle my kitties! My boyfriend and I also really love exploring new places around the city, so an ideal day would also be walking around with him, discovering a new spot or enjoying the energy of Philadelphia. And good food. Every good day needs good food. 

What is your first book-related memory, and/or your favorite books as a kid?

My mom constantly read to me before bed. Every night until I was some ridiculous age like twelve, she would read to me or we would read together. It was just something we always bonded over. My parents got divorced when I was four, and I primarily lived with my mom, so, on Friday’s, she and I would almost always do a date night, where we would have dinner then go out to the local Borders. We would spend hours, piling up books, and I would often sit in the aisles reading whole books before we would leave. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but we always surrounded ourselves with books. On the other side, my dad and I majorly bonded over the Harry Potter series. We read all the books together, and he would do ridiculous accents for the characters that would crack us both up. I would always carry one with me, and on weekends he had me, we’d go out for breakfast and we’d sit there and he’d read to me or I’d read to him while we waited on our food. 

So word on the street is that you’re an incredible writer, and you just got an agent for your debut book not too long ago! What is your writing process like, and do you have any advice for budding writers?

Please send me the coordinates to this street so I can move in immediately, it sounds like it would do wonders for my imposter syndrome haha! 

I’ve seen my writing process defined as “a knitter.” I get this tiny seed of an idea, and allow my imagination to grow it in whatever direction and shape that may be. This means I write out of order as inspiration for scenes strikes, and then I go back through and piece or “knit” those bigger scenes together into a cohesive story. Writing this first book, I had an idea for the opening scene, then I think I wrote the big, dramatic climax next, using it as this pinnacle that I was working towards throughout the writing process. I write with an emphasis on emotions, so one of the first questions I ask myself when forming my characters is: What’s their trauma? I know that probably sounds morbid, but I do believe that the different points of pain and hurt in our lives largely shape who we are and how we react to what life throws at us. Trauma doesn’t always have to be this huge, explosive, life event, but we all have some hurt in our past that has made us the person we are today, and I like to unearth that in my characters as early as possible to know how they will react. I also write when I can, but try not to force it. One subconscious coping mechanism for anxiety is called avoidance. It’s when you’re really stressed about something in your life, but instead of recognizing that, your brain refocuses the energy to something different. This has been a huge reason why I was able to find time to write a book during dental school. I couldn’t not utilize the creative outlet, it was a huge coping mechanism for my anxiety attacks. I try not to fight the urge or force the words. I write when I feel like it and when I can. 

My biggest piece of advice is incredibly trite, but it’s to just do. GO FOR IT. Put those first words on a blank page. That’s the hardest part. First drafts can smell fear, and they’ll intimidate the hell out of you if you let them, but there’s no better feeling in the world than getting to write “The End.” I also think it’s crucial to dedicate your brainpower to completing a piece of work. There’s a certain point in every draft, (for me it’s around 50k words, for reference, a lot of romances are around 85-90k), where I want to completely abandon an idea and chase a new creative thread I thought of. As someone with ADHD, I find this EXTRA tempting. It’s hard to have the discipline to see a creative endeavor through to the very end. It’s grueling and emotional and tough, but your characters deserve to have their ending, they deserve to have their story told. So, to fight the temptation, I offer those new ideas space, and I open a blank document and write down every idea, piece of dialogue, plot twist, character description, that pops up. But I don’t let it go much further than that. I let it rest and trust my brain and my creativity that it can pick up there once I’m ready to fully dedicate myself to that different story, only after I finish the one at hand. I also recommend developing a super thick skin. It is gutting to get even the kindest critiques on something as personal as writing, but it’s also an extremely necessary part of the process. You can’t grow as a writer if you aren’t willing to put yourself out there for judgements. You don’t always have to agree with a critique, but when you start writing, you need to be open to receiving them. 

My final piece of advice is to always have the notes app ready on your phone with little ideas. It would probably be MORTIFYING for anyone to read the bizarre snippets and ideas I record in there (it’s things like, tender blow job scene(?) or they go and get gelato but then she spills it on herself and makes funny joke about it looking like semen…. I swear the final product of my writing is much better than this), but some of my best ideas have hit me at 2am, and I always make sure to record them, no matter how disjointed they sound. The magic of a story is really unearthed in the editing process, so get that first draft done by any means necessary, knowing that what awaits after is filled with even more beauty.  

You’ve also been writing some really great articles on Frolic, especially about mental health and self-care. What drew you to write about these topics, and what do you want people to know about them? 

One of my loftiest goals in life is to do my part destigmatizing mental illness. I was diagnosed with acute panic syndrome and clinical depression when I was twelve, and was put on medication for it. I was then diagnosed with adult ADHD at 24. For a long time, I felt really ashamed of being different, of being wired in a way that made my mind race and my body hurt. I felt guilty for being extra emotional, for having these sharp feelings that made me feel separated from other people my age. I don’t know what changed it, there was no climatic moment where I just decided to not feel that way, but at some point in my life, I realized it felt a lot better to be honest and vulnerable about my struggles than to pretend my mind worked in a neurotypical fashion. The more I talked about it, the more people would confide in me that they’ve felt the same way, or struggle with similar battles. And that feeling of being seen, of knowing you aren’t alone, is so incredibly validating and empowering. Some people make enough serotonin, others have to buy some at the pharmacy, but none of that invalidates our experiences and emotions. Being vulnerable and putting my own neurodiversity out there is honestly so scary, it feels raw and like I’m baring myself to the judgement of others, but if my words and my struggle can ever make anyone else feel better about their journey, it will all be worth it. This was also a huge reason I decided to make my novel #OwnVoices for neuorodiversity, to show that, sure, it sucks and there’s pain, but that doesn’t change a person’s worthiness of love and laughter and unfettered happiness.  

 I know that you, like me, love romance! Who is your book boyfriend to defeat all book boyfriends, and what are your favorite tropes? 

This question??? How could you ask me this impossible question??? Hahaha. Well, I have a history of pretty much claiming every hero as my new precious angel baby that I would die for, but if I had to narrow it down, my ultimate boyfriends are: 

  • Ansel from Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren. Not to be incredibly extra, but Ansel could spit in my face and I’d thank him for his thoughtfulness. He’s romantic and filthy and FRENCH so I’m not sure it gets much better. 
  • Sebastian St. Vincent from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. Like, who gave him THE RIGHT to be so damn cocksure and gorgeous and also all of a sudden tender and lovely? Like this boy took a bullet for Evie and then had the power to make a sarcastic comment? I love him. 
  • Colin Lord Payne from A Week to be Wicked. This gorgeous idiot is honestly so messy and extra and I love him so much. He’s also so hilarious? Just to tack on with the never-ending list, I also bromance ship him with West Ravenel from Lisa Kleypas’ Ravenels series. These two whip-smart, cocky, know-it-alls are cut from the same cloth and I just really want a spin-off series where they sit there and roast each other. Preferably shirtless. 
  • And, to just totally miss the point of the question of narrowing this down to the ultimate book boyfriend, add Ethan Ransom and Rhys Winterborn on there for good measure. 

I’ve also developed a bit of a reputation as a Virgin Hero aficionado, a title that I plan on having engraved on my tombstone when I die. I won’t go into the gory details, but my love for the trope can be fully dissected in this piece for Frolic. I’m also a huge enemies-to-lovers fan, and I’m not sure anything gets my heart racing quite like One-bed-at-the-inn.

 I imagine my life as being accompanied by a pretty cool movie soundtrack so I gotta ask: if your life was a movie and had a soundtrack, what would your entrance song be?

 This 57 minute long compilation of Jason Derulo singing his name. 

[blogger’s note: I literally spit out my drink reading this response THANKS MAZEY]

Okay, back to bookstagram! I don’t know about you, but I’ve found some pretty great books through my fellow bookstagrammers! What are your favorite books that you’ve found through bookstagram?

My love of Christina Lauren was started from seeing their books all over bookstagram, which I’m so thankful for because they’re one of my favorite authors! The Highwayman was another book I heard rave reviews from @romancebookjunkie and @romancelibrary, and I value their historical romance ratings and opinions so highly, and they weren’t wrong on this one! It’s a deeply moving and emotional story. 

We’ve both been on bookstagram about the same amount of time, and I know in that time that I’ve gotten some pet peeves- do you have any bookstagram pet peeves and if so, what are they?

Do I ever! One of my biggies is seeing people tag authors in negative reviews. DO NOT DO THIS. Reviews are for readers, and a writer’s work is extremely personal and emotional for them, so don’t tag them with your unsolicited negative opinion. Ever. Alternatively, authors should NEVER seek out or engage on less than glowing reviews they weren’t tagged in. We need to keep these two spaces separate and safe for both creators and consumers. 

Another huge pet peeve is seeing some of my content/creative ideas stolen by other accounts. As spastic as my reviews often seem, I do put thought into what I’m saying, and having my words taken and paraded as someone else’s makes me so mad. 

Finally, stop with the petty bullshit. We love these books because they make us happy. We read because it takes us on a journey, it brings us joy. Stop complaining about who does or doesn’t get ARCs. Stop judging what other people enjoy, or using verbiage that may shame someone for liking something you didn’t. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be a fun way to connect with people, not a competition. 

[another blogger’s note: that last point is so IMPORTANT! I sometimes find myself questioning my legitimacy because I don’t get as many ARCs as others or followers- but we’re all here to just talk books! It’s not about numbers, it’s about what brings us joy in the written or spoken word.]

While obviously there’s some negatives of bookstagram, it’s also an amazing community of people. What is/are your favorite thing(s) about bookstagram?

I absolutely love the friends I’ve made through bookstagram, they are some of the best people I’ve ever known, and truer friends than I have in my “real life.” I think one of the most beautiful aspects of the community is how willingly they allow people to be themselves. Where else on the internet can I rate books with eggplants, thirst over Henry Cavill’s thighs (he could crush my bones to dust with one flex of his quad, and I would die happy), and then go on a huge feminist rant and still feel valued by the community? I also love the creativity that I see on accounts. It’s seriously inspiring to look at accounts that have such well curated and creative feeds, I absolutely love the different forms of expression. Finally, the support of the community is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, and my personality doesn’t exactly mesh well with the more serious demeanor of my peers in dental school, but finding this niche of fierce, supportive, kind, intelligent, hilarious people has been the most validating experience of my life. Bookstagram has given me a feeling of belonging, a little virtual home, and I don’t think I can ever express how much that means to me.  

What advice do you have for bookstagram/book blog newbies?

Do it for the fun of it and celebrate each little milestone! Doing this just to get free books or huge followings will cause burn-out super quickly. And be unabashedly yourself. Love a book? Go WILD talking about it. This is the place to let your joy of reading really shine through, and that’s what this is for. Tell the world why you loved something, what about it made you feel good. That kind of energy will attract more followers and increase engagement, engagement that you actually enjoy partaking in! 

I know this is probably an impossible question BUT I’m still going to ask you: (to you), what makes a great book/read?

THE FEELS. I’ll be honest, I lean less towards heavy reads and more to light-heartedness. Part of having ADHD is a heightened level of sensitivity and emotional responses, so I realized early on that being careful on the heaviness of content I read is good for my mental health, but I still need that strong feeling of falling in love, of laughter, of friendship, in my stories. I want to feel that humanness and connection. Because, at the end of the day, isn’t that why we read? To experience life through someone else’s shoes? Go on a journey outside of our own path? Anything that can inspire that feeling in me is my definition of a great read. 

And finally, what are you currently reading?!

I’m just about to finish up Mermaid Inn by Jenny Holiday and I’m listening to Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt (both excellent by the way)!

Y’all, Mazey is a true treat and luckily for you, she exists in many spaces on the interwebs. Of course you can follow her on Instagram here and on Twitter here, and check out her blog here and the Frolic articles we mentioned in our conversation here.

Until next time friends (and please keep yourselves safe)!

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