Smart Bitch Interview: Marianne Mancusi and Liz Maverick

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, SB Sarah sent “The Shomi Ladies” a bunch of interview questions, but then there was intergalactic warfare, promotional tours, alien intrigue, and a lot of travel and gestation. Somewhere between the 600+ comment thread and today, the debate on costumes and the varying ways to promote authors as representatives of their work became less heated and more calm. So, hello, here we go, it’s a Smart Bitch Interview about costumes, dress up, promotion, and the Shomi line.

Can you explain from your perspective what makes costumes and dress up a part of your promotional arsenal for publicizing Shomi? This isn’t meant to give you the opportunity to “defend yourself,” since you don’t necessarily need to, but more of an explanation for those who don’t get it.

Liz & MarianneThe outfits were worn for two reasons. The first was as an icebreaker, which worked great! People would come up to us to comment on our outfits and it gave us an opportunity to meet new people (which we love!) and also tell them more about the Shomi line of books. We thought originally this would be simply an in-person icebreaker at conference, but thanks to the controversy, we’ve made a ton of new virtual friends as well!

Secondly, we just simply enjoy dressing up. Sherrilyn Kenyon once said, “I don’t dress up as my characters, I dress my characters like me.” I think there’s a very similar dynamic with Liz and my cosplay adventures. Dressing up is something we enjoy doing. It fit very well, this year, with our manga inspired books, but anyone who knows us knows we would be apt to do that kind of thing just for fun as well.

Honestly, our outfits are just a small part of our “promotional arsenal” as you call it. We do the boring, but effective stuff too—the bookseller mailings, the dreaded bookmarks, the websites, blogs, MySpace (Sybil’s fave!), book signings, speaking engagements, advertising, street teams, etc. etc.—though of course that stuff isn’t very blogworthy.

What excites you most about the Shomi line?

The fact that these are true hybrids. You’re bringing together two great genres—romance and sci-fi/fantasy in one unique package. As a lover of both, we found it immensely rewarding to have the opportunity to weave together elements from each genre into one novel.

Also, the stories can be complex. We’re not shying away from hardcore sci-fi plotlines here! Anything goes—even stuff that’s a little…well, out there. The stories offer action, adventure, hot sex, maybe even a laser gun fight or two. You’ve got your kick-ass heroine to root for, a hot hero to make your toes curl, and of course a guaranteed HEA.

Can you tell us how Shomi came to be?

Our editor extraordinaire, Chris Keeslar, deserves all the credit. He’s a big sci-fi buff (geek?) himself and has been publishing cross-genre type books for a long time now. For example, he was the one to first publish Susan Grant and her alien romances a while back.

Anyhow, Chris decided he wanted to launch a line of books that would bring a younger audience to the romance section of the bookstore. Giving them a fast paced, action packed sci-fi/cyberpunk tale they could sink their teeth into, while at the same time introducing them to a genre of books they may not have thought of trying before now. 

When Liz and I heard about the new line (we already both wrote for Chris at Dorchester) we naturally jumped at the opportunity. After all, Shomi is a line of books we’d enjoy reading as much as writing. Luckily, Chris liked our proposals and signed us up to do the launch.

The cool thing is I think that while Shomi was idealized as a line that would draw in a younger reader, in reality it has a great appeal to a wide group of readers—young, old, even male! I’ve gotten fan letters from quite a few teenage boys since my book came out a few weeks ago.

What’s your favorite anime?

Liz & MarianneI’m huge into video gaming, so I really love .hack//sign which is an anime series based on a fictional videogame called The World. I also like Final Fantasy, which started off as a videogame and spawned some anime films. And I grew up watching Voltron!!

Liz is more into reading manga than watching anime. In fact, she’s presently working with the manga publisher Tokyo Pop on a novelization of their Princess Ai manga. 

What’s your favorite hackneyed romance novel device? Come on. ‘Fess up. Amnesia plotlines? Secret babies? Cross-dressing heroines? Cross-dressing heroines with amnesia who give birth to secret babies they completely forget about?

For me, it’s twins. Definitely twins. You know, where the one twin (goodie two-shoes/workaholic/celibate for the last ten years) dresses up as the other twin (wild/tattooed/short-skirt wearing/probably writes for Shomi) to solve the second twin’s murder/kidnapping/disappearance/trouble with vampires. Gets me every time.

Liz goes for the scarred war hero amputee with the tortured soul historical. What could be better than that?

Romance novels get dumped on a lot as being fit only for intellectually lazy women addicted to emotional porn. Anime gets dumped on for being the domain of terminally immature nerds who are way too attached to their Goku wigs. Feel free to wank on at length about the perils and rewards of combining these two sub-genres, and public perceptions vs. the realities of the actual consumers of these two genres.

Personally, I’m sick of all these stereotypes. They’re created by people too lazy to actually interact with the people they label. I get it at both ends. People are like, “OMG, you write ROMANCE?” and in the next breath utter, “OMG, you play VIDEOGAMES?” People can’t accept that I read and write romance because I’m not a (insert romance writer stereotype here) and they can’t accept that I play videogames because I’m not a 13 year old boy. Can’t win, I tell you. Good thing I don’t care what people think and will read, write and play what I want to.

Actually, I feel really sad for urban twenty-somethings who feel pressured to pretend they love whatever the “it” hip, indy, literary novel of the month happens to be, while denying themselves the pleasure they’d get from devouring the latest Harlequin, or whatever, just because they don’t want to be seen reading (shock/horror) a romance novel. Not that hip, indy, literary novels can’t be satisfying, too, but to only allow yourself to read what your friends deem “cool” really limits your reading experience in the long run and may in fact turn you off from books all together.

Just like those of you who have never logged into the World of Warcraft videogame because you assume it was designed for underachieving twentysomething year old guys who still live in their mother’s basement. (Okay, fine, you’re probably right, but that’s not the point.) All I’m saying is “Don’t knock it, ‘til you’ve tried it.”

Bottom line? The haters are always going to try to spoil things by trying to instill their own prejudices of what should and should not be read, using pre-conceived notions of age, race, class, gender, what have you. And you, as a reader, can choose to listen to them and define yourself and your tastes by these random people’s sense of propriety, or you can tune them out, read whatever the hell you want to, and take back your power.

That’s what I do, anyway. And when they look at me disdainfully and say, “You write ROMANCE?” or “You play VIDEOGAMES?” I smile and nod and say, “Yes. Yes, I do.”

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jepad says:

    Great interview.  I must confess I’m a romance reader that also has a soft spot for those RPGs.  FFXII sucked up 100 hours of my life, but damn that was fun.  And here I thought I was the only one.

  2. 2
    Nora Roberts says:

    Whatever I think of costumes (and no need to get into THAT again), I wish Liz and Marianne all success.

    Really nice interview.

  3. 3
    bettie says:

    Great interview.  And OMG! You play video games?  And Jepad, too! That’s great to hear, because I was starting to feel rather lonely in Romanceland.  I’m not so much into RPGs because I don’t have that kind of attention span, and, ok, I admit I’m a sucker for gratuitous violence of the shotgun-and-chainsaw-wielding Evil Dead variety.

    Anywho this manga/romance/mystery/history-reading, video-game playing, college-educated chick says, “Cross-over is good.  We need more of it!”

  4. 4
    Lauren says:

    I wonder if Shomi has any plans to be at Otakon next year. It’s the biggest anime/manga con on the east coast so it’s definitely a good place to do promoting or a panel or a dealer’s room booth (if you happen to be reading this shomi ladies)

    I actually saw Moongazer in the book aisle of my store and was like “Huh? A manga cover…but a novel? Eh?”
    And thought it was neat.

  5. 5
    Rinda says:

    My reward for pages finished?  Starcraft, Broodwar, Age of Empires… sensing a theme? ;)

  6. 6
    Robyn says:

    Those were the costumes?

    *mutters “Big Deal” under breath*

    My kids are big into anime/manga, and hubby and I were gamers back in the day. Great interview!

  7. 7
    Ines says:

    Ok, I confess, I am also a gamer!
    It’s all my “informatica” teacher: instead of actually learning, we played Age of Empires!
    Every week we discover some new aspect about other SBs: who loves secret baby books, geeks, gamers, LOLcats addicts, …, and all of us love romance *grins* Aren’t we great? *aaah high selfesteem€*

  8. 8

    I’m with Robyn…goodness, if people really want to be shocked they should come to the Folsom Street festival here in San Francisco.  And many of those folks are professionals, too!

  9. 9
    Kimberly Anne says:

    My sisters!  It’s such a relief to find women who read romances, watch anime, and dig manga and videogames.  Nearly all the women in my life find one or more of those things distasteful and beneath them. 

    I must confess, I am still playing Diablo II, as the Assassin, of course.  I mean, I love the Amazon, but a chick with wrist blades?  Nothing better after a hard day than slicing me up some demon ass.

  10. 10
    Teddy Pig says:

    Spinsterwitch!

    No no no, we have enough tourists at Folsom Street Fair quit inviting more dang it.

  11. 11
    Teddypig says:

    Kim Diablo2 rocks!

  12. 12
    Teddypig says:

    The Shomi line is some good reading.

    Anywhere I can sign up for alerts?

    You guys just need some eBooks dang it.

  13. 13
    Wry Hag says:

    I didn’t realize the word haters was still in use.

    In any case, I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, where I will take back my power.

  14. 14
    sybil says:

    myspace is the devil

    :) my work here is done… Very nice interview, glad you survived the cons and such.  You guys done for now?

    And for everyone else, anyone tried any of the shomi books yet?  loved em? hate em? eh em?

    just wondering

  15. 15
    sybil says:

    have you been to the shomi site (http://shomifiction.com/)teddy… Twisted has the bestest cover evah.  It better not suck. 

    I want to say there are four more books lined up not by the first three authors… Time Transit by Kay Austin, Twisted, Netherworld, The Challenge and then I *think* mari, liz and eve have books contracted with the line.

    but I could be wrong

  16. 16
    Teddy Pig says:

    I didn’t realize the word haters was still in use.

    Sure the fuck is Wry Hag.

    Lower Haters are people living in Lower Height area. As in Height Street San Francisco.

    Haters are street artsy cool.

  17. 17

    “Personally, I’m sick of all these stereotypes. They’re created by people too lazy to actually interact with the people [insert – AND BOOKS ] they label.”

    Nutshell.

    Great interview.

  18. 18

    Thanks guys! And wow – so many gamers out there. I love it. Though World of Warcraft pretty much takes up all of my gaming time nowadays, I used to love Age of Empires and Diablo2. The only thing I can’t play is first person shooters, as they make me sick to my stomach.

    Lauren, will have to look up Oaktron. The only thing conference wise Liz have left this year is the NJ RWA, where we’re giving a workshop on author branding, incidentally.

    And yes, Sybil, my anti-myspace dear, some great Shomi to come in the next year. I’ve read some of Twisted and can assure you it is definitely NOT teh suck. hehe. They’re producing excerpt booklets, like they did with the first round, so we’ll be able to read some samples soon.

    As for Liz and I doing more Shomi, can’t say anything yet, as it’s still in the negotiations phase and I hate jinxing myself. Eve is definitely inked, though, for a July release.

    Right now I’m in non-Shomi mode, as the 3rd in my Berkley YA vampire series, “Girls that Growl”, is coming out in less than a month. Werewolf cheerleaders. Woot!

    Marianne

  19. 19
    Lauren says:

    Otakon is a good way to market, it’s also a pretty fun con where EVERYONE is in costume pretty much (just beware of ManFaye, ManMisty, and ManCammy).

    It’s in Baltimore. If you want more info here’s the site.

    http://www.otakon.com

  20. 20
    Charlene says:

    The problem with some games is that they can make your free time just disappear magically.

    I’m talking to you, Civilization 4. And your sister Beyond the Sword isn’t much better.

  21. 21
    Flo says:

    Nice interview…

    I still kind of think that the whole “I dress my characters like me.” mentality is icky.  But I’m colored through my Laurel K. Hamilton blog reading (TMI Queen) and now can’t help but glance at the author and the main character and any resemblances I inwardly cringe and begin to write the story off.

    Maybe that’s not fair. But I really read for fantasy.  Having a direct link to the author like “Hey I wore that too!” or “I shopped that sale!” doesn’t make me squee in delight because it jerks me out of the moment of fantasy.

    That said, cosplay is done for NUMEROUS genres/styles/games/whatevers pitching a fit because someone looks hotter than you is uncool.

  22. 22
    Wry Hag says:

    Well, slap me, Teddy—I should’ve been able to figger that out, old hippie bitch that I am.

  23. 23
    C.M. says:

    Final Fantasy 12 (Final Fantasy XII would be the official title should you look it up) surely must be played by the whole world. Best game in the series. The voice acting, the storyline, the heroes *siiigh*.

    Surely some who like Romance would find something to drag them in with manga? If only the pretty pictures of them bishies. It’s an expensive habit, however. Favourite of the moment: PhD: Phantasy Degree!

    Oh! I bet the SBs (and other SBs) would be amused with Ouran Highschool Host Club anime? It makes fun of the romance conventions found in Japanese media. Perhaps a bit on the YA side, but I love it very much.

    Don’t get me started on videogames/anime. I could talk to you for hours.

  24. 24
    C.M. says:

    Oh, trying Shomi soon! Saw Mrs. Giggles reviews and I was like ‘BRILLIANT’. Scifi/fantasy lover as well. I’ve got Asimov, Bova, Bujold, Goodkind and Haydon on my shelves to name a few so that’s something I definitely want to try.

  25. 25

    I got into Final Fantasy around #8 and have played them all since. I just got #12 recently and haven’t gotten too far into it yet – glad to hear it’s a good one. I love the storylines and even the romance in the games. It’s almost like acting in your own movie. :)

    Oh and Mrs. Giggles rocks. I was soooo thrilled and honored when I read her review of Moongazer!! It made my year. Once she gave me a 02 rating (on another book), so I know she’s not easy to impress!! Plus the woman knows her sci-fi.

    MARIANNE

  26. 26
    Kimberly Anne says:

    Oh yes, must bow down before the FFXII shrine.  My hubby and I are playing it together—well, he’s running the controller, so it’s kind of a like a big movie for me—and it could knock VIII (I heart Squall) out of the top spot in my heart.

    But, then again, XII has Basch *ta-thump ta-thump*, and Balthier *le sigh*.

  27. 27
    Liz Maverick says:

    Man, I love those boots, heh. Like Marianne said I’m talking to Dorch about a sequel to Wired.  Meanwhile, I’m working on something for TokyoPop that’s a little different.  In any case, I’m not retiring the socks.  But maybe I’ll get some different colors for NJ and next year’s National.  ;)  Again, thanks for the support!  You guys rock.

    :)

    Liz

  28. 28
    Devon says:

    Great interview! Romance readers are a diverse bunch (as is the genre itself)

    I just read Driven and loved it!  Definitely fit the Shomi bill as you described it.  Genre Hybrid with great worldbuilding, kick ass heroine who was neither feisty nor TSTL, but had an interesting vulnerability to her.  And my favorite kind of hero—gorgeous, super strong and tough, but with a really endearing awkwardness to him.  Fast paced, romantic and different.

    I’ll be reading more from the line, definitely.

  29. 29
    Nancy Beck says:

    Great interview.  I especially liked this, “And you, as a reader, can choose to listen to them and define yourself and your tastes by these random people’s sense of propriety, or you can tune them out, read whatever the hell you want to, and take back your power.”

    EXACTLY RIGHT!  Who gives a crap what the latest [insert name of book] is among your friends.  When I was in my 20s, I wasn’t concerned about any of that stuff, but then my friends didn’t give a frig one way or the other what you read.

    I don’t look at fantasy/anime/whatever as guilty pleasures; there is no such thing.  It’s just a PLEASURE to read, no guilt attached whatsoever.

    ~jerseygirl

  30. 30

    Can I get an A-MEN???

    A-fucking-men, Marianne and Liz!  A-fucking-men.

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