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.
The 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.â€ 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 arsenalâ€ as you call it. We do the boring, but effective stuff tooâ€”the bookseller mailings, the dreaded bookmarks, the websites, blogs, MySpace (Sybil’s fave!), book signings, speaking engagements, advertising, street teams, etc. etc.â€”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 genresâ€”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 goesâ€”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 readersâ€”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?
I’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?â€ and in the next breath utter, “OMG, you play VIDEOGAMES?â€ 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 “itâ€ 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 “coolâ€ 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, â€˜til you’ve tried it.â€
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?â€ or “You play VIDEOGAMES?â€ I smile and nod and say, “Yes. Yes, I do.â€