Here is a text transcript of DBSA 93. An Interview with Kit Rocha, Moira Rogers, Bree, and Donna, Part II. You can listen to the mp3 here, or you can read on!
This podcast transcript was made by Garlic Knitter with accuracy and zest. Many thanks.
Here are the books we discuss:
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to another DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me is Bree and Donna and Kit Rocha and Moira Rogers, and that’s four people, but it’s actually just two. This is part two of our interview from RT wherein we talk about books that they’ve enjoyed and also Nicholas Cage, and then I answer some listener mail about character descriptions, characters with secrets, books set in San Francisco, I’ve got all kinds of cool email. There’s a lot of books to recommend, too. You’ll want to check out the podcast entry.
This podcast is brought to you by New American Library, publisher of Fall from India Place, the steamy new romance from New York Times bestselling author of On Dublin Street, Samantha Young. You can find this book on sale wherever books and eBooks are sold.
The music you’re listening to, totally from Sassy Outwater, and I’ll have information at the end of the podcast as to where you can find this song or others that you might enjoy, because all the music she provides is great.
And now, on with the podcast!
Sarah: So tell me about what you read and how you never agree on the same books, and you don’t like each others’ reading taste.
Donna: I don’t even think that it’s necessarily that. It’s just, I think that I, I’m pickier, maybe? I, I don’t even know, it’s not even that.
Bree: I have, I have appreciation for crack that she does not.
Bree: Let’s just, the, you know.
Sarah: This I understand. So –
Bree: Very specific –
Sarah: – Bree –
Bree: – like, Anne Bishop is my, my, my crack.
Sarah: That’s the crack –
Bree: Oh, yeah, I will –
Sarah: Anne Bishop is crack queen.
Bree: – I will read just about anything she writes. You know, I’ve been reading her, and, and everyone who follows me on Twitter knows this, because if you say Anne Bishop, I pop up. [Laughs] I appear! Oh, let me tell you!
Donna: See, my version of crack is, like, Julia Quinn. That’s, like, my crack. I’m like, that’s crack-y. And a lot of people are like, what do you mean, that’s crack-y? I’m like, it’s sort of crack-y, man, I mean, you know.
Sarah: No, I can see that. One of the things that I like about the Julia Quinn world at this point it that there are so many Bridgertons –
Sarah: – and now she’s writing the Smith-Smythes –
Donna: She’s run through the whole alphabet of Bridgertons.
Sarah: Right, exactly. We’ve got, you know, Zenobia Bridgerton and Ypsilani Bridgerton, but –
Donna: She’s going to – Yes. There’s Aardvark Bridgerton. [Laughs]
Sarah: [Laughing] Aardvark!
Bree: I have no idea what this –
Donna: I guess she could go with Aaron, instead –
Donna: – but that wouldn’t be nearly as fun as Aardvark.
Sarah: No, it has to be Aardvark Bridgerton. But when I read them, I’m like, this is the safest Regency world ever –
Donna: Yes. Yes!
Sarah: – because no, none of these, nothing, nothing’s going to happen to any of these people –
Donna: Right. Yeah!
Sarah: – ‘cause they’re past characters, and you can’t kill them off. The Internet will come after you.
Sarah: So it’s, it’s a wonderful, safe, fluffy –
Sarah: – welcoming –
Sarah: Not fluffy in the sense that it has no substance, but just very welcoming –
Donna: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Sarah: – and soft and, and –
Donna: It’s like a warm, fuzzy blanket.
Donna: That’s, you know, that’s my version of crack.
Bree: That’s your crack.
Sarah: And your crack is straight up crazysauce, high octane, what-the-hell-just-happened?
Bree: [Laughs] Apparently, yes. Horrible, dark, messed up worlds where – it’s basically I like when I, you know, when I’m reading the crack, I like the stuff where the bad, the good guys are bad, and the bad guys are so ridiculous they’re not even scary because they’re just caricatures.
Sarah: I’m going to twirl my mustache at you.
Bree: Yes! And, you know –
Sarah: Stay there, I’m going to tie you to the train tracks, don’t move!
Bree: It, it is!
Bree: It’s basically –
Sarah: You’re moving – [laughs] – I’m going to kill you! Just stay there, I have to wait for the – Despite having a perfectly good knife, I’m going to wait for the train to cut you in half
Bree: Yeah! That is, that is basically, you know – I don’t know, it’s something that, that’s so ridiculous that I just love it, because it’s, it’s completely divorced from, you know, any sort of dark, gritty realism or anything. It’s just, you know, it is pure fantasy, but not in, like, the genre sense, but just in the, the –
Donna: [Laughs] The reality sense? I don’t know.
Bree: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’m trying to say!
Sarah: You, you like the things that are so completely over the top –
Sarah: – you’re like, you know, I not only just suspended my disbelief, like, I expelled it and sent it to another country for this book.
Bree: Basically –
Donna: We beat it and left in an alley.
Bree: So I don’t know if that means I, like, like the, the equivalent of, like, Nick Cage movies.
Sarah: Put the bunny back in the box?
Someone: Put the bunny down.
Sarah: Back in the box. That was the worst southern accent I have – and I thought that James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues had a bad southern accent.
Donna: No, that was, like, nowhere near –
Sarah: Ah don’t want yer lahf. No. No. Nick Cage doing – I mean, I thought, honest to God, I thought he was trying to sound like Elvis Presley!
Donna: I used to live in Mobile, okay? I used to live in Mobile, Alabama, very close to where his character’s supposed to be from –
Donna: People do not frigging sound like that in Mobile, okay? They only talk like that –
Sarah: Put the bunny back in the box.
Sarah: I’m going to think of that, like, all day. I’m going to start laughing randomly. People will be like, oh, she’s lost it!
Donna: See, no! That fits, because John Malkovich and all of, like, the villains in that movie are so over-the-frigging-top! He’s sitting there, he’s going to shoot a stuffed bunny in the head!
Donna: Who does that? So that fits, yeah, it’s like –
Bree: And then, Nicholas Cage is, he’s kind of ridiculous, but, like –
Sarah: I love Con Air!
Bree: – if he tells me –
Donna: You have to qualify that? No!
Bree: If he tells me, I can see the future, which, like, wasn’t that, like, he did, like, three movies in a row where he can see the future? I’m like, that seems reasonable! I believe you.
Sarah: I’m, I’m actually crying. [Sniff.] Oh, my God, I’m laughing so hard.
Donna: Were these three related movies –
Donna: – where he could see the future?
Bree: They were just randomly –
Bree: – he just did. He went through a phase where he was like, I think I’m going to do movies where I can see the future.
Sarah: Well, there – you know how there’s, like, a cycle with movies where you’ll get movies where a kid and an adult switch bodies, and then there’s always a cop with a dog, and so you go through these cycles of similar movies. There’s always a couple of Nick Cage sees the future or Nick Cage is like a superhuman superhero in some way.
Sarah: Bunny not included!
Donna: I’m actually a little disturbed. What are these movies? I need to see them now! Just for reference.
Bree: I’m going to tell everyone they have to go find – have you ever seen Kid President on YouTube?
Bree: Have you seen Kid President interviewing Nick Cage?
Bree: It is a video that exists, and you need to go find it.
Sarah: This is a thing that has happened on the Internet, and I need to know about it right now!
Bree: Yes! Because apparently I’m the expert on Nick Cage now. [Laughs]
Sarah: You need to adjust your bio! You need to change your Twitter bio. Anne Bishop, Nick Cage expert. Somewhere –
Bree: Someone sees the future about Nick Cage.
Sarah: Somewhere Nick Cage just sat up and goes, I feel I must do something, but I don’t know what to do right now!
Sarah: Someone has proclaimed the oracle! I have to find the oracle who knows my life!
Donna: Don’t worry, if he doesn’t know what to do, he’ll just sit there and emote badly for a while. [Laughs] He’ll be fine!
Sarah: I’m, I’m actually crying! Pulling it together, wearing mascara! I have to interview Lisa Kleypas today, and you know, she’s, like, like a makeup superhero. She’s a former beauty queen –
Sarah: – and so girl can do things with makeup that I didn’t know you could do with makeup, so I’m like, you know, I wore mascara, which is, like, my big step –
Sarah: – and now I’m like, fuck, I’m going to cry it all off! It’s all over my hands.
Donna: Oh noes!
Bree: You can blame us.
Sarah: I’ll blame them.
Sarah: This is fucking Nick Cage, man.
Sarah: I’m telling you, that bastard! Okay, so this is my favorite and most difficult question. What books have you read recently that you really, really liked, and, and what did you like about them?
Donna: I think the last book I read, Tessa’s, Tessa, Tessa Dare’s –
Bree: Yeah, it did, Romancing the Duke?
Donna: Yeah. I like Julia Quinn, and I like Tessa Dare. No, Courtney Milan. I love her stuff.
Donna: I haven’t had time to read her, her, her latest one yet, though. Argh!
Bree: We do agree on Tessie, Tessa and Courtney.
Bree: It’s actually very strange. Tessa Dare is, like, the person who we most agree on all the time.
Bree: So she’s sort of some magical Bree/Donna whisperer.
Donna: Honest, I love her!
Sarah: [Laughs] But you know, she and, she and Courtney both are very strong worldbuilders –
Bree: Right. Yes.
Sarah: – in a historical sense, especially because Romancing the Duke was all about fandom.
Sarah: That was a fandom – and it was just the –
Donna: I loved it.
Sarah: It was the, it was the, it was the love letter to people who are part of a fandom –
Sarah: – in some way, and the best part was where they have the whole group of people who are so into the heroine’s books, and the hero’s like, isn’t it weird to dress up in costume? And dude’s like, in my real life I’m a barrister and I wear a wig. How is that any different?
Donna: This is not weirder, sir.
Sarah: Yeah, this is actually quite normal, even though I do have a pot on my head. It’s, that’s all worldbuilding –
Sarah: – so it kind of makes sense –
Sarah: – that that’s something that you love, and it’s also internal conflict.
Donna: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely, I –
Sarah: So you really like Tessa Dare’s Romancing the Duke, which is a wonderful book. It was so good.
Donna: Yes. I love all her stuff. Because, you know, the worldbuilding thing, yeah, the worldbuilding thing. It was –
Sarah: People discount contemporary and historical world –
Donna: Spinster Cove.
Sarah: Oh, God –
Donna: Spinster Cove is a world she built –
Donna: – you know. She built that world.
Sarah: I like that world, too.
Donna: Love it.
Bree: And she built it so that she could deal with the histor- I mean, I’m not, I’m just, like, saying. I don’t know if this is why she did it –
Bree: – but she built it to get away –
Sarah: Somewhere Tessa Dare is like, God damn it, that’s not right!
Donna: That’s not what I meant!
Bree: She built it in a way that she could, you know, explore historical stuff, but also a lot of the, you know, the, the –
Sarah: Internal issues.
Bree: – relationships between women and, you know, women’s struggles in that time.
Bree: You know.
Sarah: I wish, ‘cause in the last book in that series, Any Duke, Any Duchess Will Do?
Donna and Bree: Mm-hmm.
Sarah: There’s this carriage of her, of her family that sort of shows up, and there’s the woman who has –
Sarah: – the cousin who has a lesbian relationship –
Sarah: – with the, with the woman who was their governess –
Sarah: – and I was like, please write that, please, please, please, please, please.
Donna: PLEASE write that.
Sarah: Please, please please please, pleasepleaseplease. And also, in the Julia Quinn book, I ca-, I’m so bad with titles. I think it was the one that was not a Cure song. The brother of the hero is the heir –
Sarah: – and he’s gay, and he is not going to get married, and he is not going to have an heir, and so his brother is his heir, and the father is, like, completely twisted into madness – speaking of caricature villains – but I want to read the brother’s story. I want there to be a short story about the brother, because you know there were gay people in the Regency.
Someone else: Yeah!
Sarah: It’s, actually, gayness is something that we have all invented right now.
Donna: Yeah, we invented hot sex, we invented gayness, we invented –
Bree: We invented pain perversion.
Donna: – like, last week.
Sarah: Oh, totally, BDSM, like, we made that up.
Donna: Yeah, absolutely. Whips and chains? Nobody was into that before, you know.
Sarah: There are absolutely no Victorian still images of sexual fetish.
Donna: Not at all. And they’re certainly not hot.
Sarah: No, not at all.
Donna: If you find them, they’re not blazingly hot, no.
Sarah: No, they’re – and – that could actually be a really interesting cover art trend. Black and white Victorian-style fetish photography for erotica.
Sarah: I have just given you a merchandise idea. Take it and run! Become wealthy.
Donna: I would be –
Sarah: What are you guys curious to try next? Do you have any ideas of things that you want to do? Are you going to open a store? Develop a –
Donna: We have a store.
Sarah: Develop a – like, an actual physical –
Donna: No, no.
Sarah: That would be, oh, my God. What if you guys did, like, a pop-up store at next year’s RT and then had, by invitation only, swag from other people, and then you could have people come in and buy the physical merchandise?
Donna: We have considered it.
Bree: We can do that, we have a Shopify account –
Bree: – and so we can just, like, put stuff on our iPad and, you know, swipe –
Sarah: Swipe. I – You know what I want to do next year? I want to bring the introvert isolation booth.
Bree: Oh, yes.
Sarah: I want to have, like, one of the – and they’re so fucking expensive, ‘cause most sensory deprivation tanks require you to float in warm water –
Sarah: – but I want to set up, like, a sensory deprivation tank for, you know, introvert recovery center, and like, hey, here’s, you know, $10, you get 15 minutes. Just go in and be silent. Here’s a book. Bye! I want to do that.
Donna: I think I heard from at least, like, a dozen people last night who really could have used it.
Sarah: Oh, I have a, a white noise app on my phone that I use all the time, and one of the noises is crowd noise, and I’m like, are you fucking kidding me? That’s not relaxing!
Donna: Yeah, exactly, no!
Sarah: That makes me want to die! Oh, God, if I’m in a room with a bunch of people! NOOOO!
Donna: I get heart palpitations thinking about it.
Sarah: You know, I mean, you know what, you want to make me listen to water so I have to pee every five seconds, fine. Just not crowd noise.
I heard what Donna liked recently, what she’s been reading. What about you? What have you been reading?
Bree: My favorite thing right now, I’m a couple chapters ahead on Meljean Brook’s –
Donna: Steampunk serial?
Sarah: – The Kraken –
Donna: The Kraken King.
Sarah: The Kraken King. I was like, The Kraken Queen –
Bree: Yes –
Sarah: – The Kraken, shit, it was a kraken! Kraken.
Bree: I, I pester her, I poke her until she sends me –
Sarah: Kraken oat bran. Kraken oat bran! Kraken oat bran, oh, my God! Okay, anyway, sorry. Cereal merchandise.
Bree: Yeah, so I, I poke her until she sends the chapters ahead of time, because I’m a horrible person. [Laughs]
Sarah: No, you are a very fortunate and luck person.
Bree: Yes, yes, I know.
Sarah: Are you liking – ?
Bree: I’ve read everything but the last chapter, and the, the seventh one –
Sarah: She’s here. Are you going to go poke her with a stick?
Bree: I am! I’m going to text her and be like, okay, I’m coming for chapter eight, because chapter seven was so good.
Sarah: What do you like about the series so far? What are you enjoying about it?
Bree: Oh, I just love everything. I love her, like, she’s, she’s, you know – I’m going to just embarrass myself. [Laughs] I adore her steampunk series. I mean, I like the characters. I like how she thought to actually make it so you can enter the series at basically any book.
Bree: You know, she’s built this crazy intricate world, and now she’s exploring different parts of it, and you don’t necessarily have to know all the previous characters. If you didn’t like the first book, you know, then you can, like, look at the second one or look at the third one or read the serial.
Sarah: And her world is an actual world. It is the actual globe –
Sarah: – and the universe is Earth, all of it –
Sarah: – so you can take, the stories can take place, take place in very different parts of the world.
Bree: And she does, and she goes to the different parts of the world, and she, I mean, she must do, you know, incredibly detailed research. I mean, that’s just, I don’t think many people worldbuild like she does with the intricacy and the –
Sarah: Isn’t it amazing how good worldbuilding makes such a difference in what you’re reading –
Bree: It really does.
Sarah: – and it makes such a creative difference in how you are absorbed into the story and how, how well the writer can transport you into that universe.
Sarah: I think the, the contemporary parallel, aside from really good internal conflict, is what a lot of people in fandom call competence porn, where –
Sarah: – competence porn, where you see the characters doing their job, and they are incredibly competent, and so you –
Donna: I talk about that all the time, actually –
Donna: – because it’s like, yeah, it’s the thing.
Donna: I mean, you know, it’s, I think that it’s, there’s, there’s a reason why we likened, like, the whole billionaire thing to, you know, the vampires and stuff, but lately I’ve, I’ve really seen, really what I call it is, I call it the, the Silhouette Desire effect, which is that, you know, sometime in the, I guess it was maybe like the late ‘80s or the early ‘90s, they moved from featuring, like, blue collar type heroes in that line to –
Sarah: To closer to Presents.
Donna: Right, like, they’ve got to be, you know, I think, something like, you know, they don’t work at the construction firm, they’re the CEO of the construction firm was, like –
Donna: – part of their, you know –
Sarah: And you see the blue collar workers more in the yellow ones, Superromance.
Donna: But now, like, what I’ve, what I’ve started seeing is it’s more like people, you know, still want the heroes to be, like, super fucking rich, but, you know, they, they want to –
Sarah: Wealth fantasy, especially in a bad economy –
Sarah: – is a powerful fantasy.
Donna: Yeah, but they also want them to be able to, like, change their own oil in their car if they want to, so, you know, there, there’s a bit of competence porn, like, just being, you know, super frickin good at making money –
Donna: – is not really enough –
Donna: – ‘cause it’s kind of not, I guess, visual enough, maybe? So –
Bree: Well, and I think most of the ways that you really, realistically, make lots and lots of money are kind of boring. [Laughs]
Donna: Yeah, well – [laughs]
Bree: You know.
Donna: There’s that, too.
Bree: And maybe morally bankrupt. [Laughs]
Sarah: One thing that I find very odd, especially in the Presents world, is that wealth is a very subjective, subjective thing. You know, how I consider myself wealthy may rest on having an income of $42,000 a year and having –
Sarah: – you know, health insurance.
Sarah: You know, wealth is an entirely subjective –
Sarah: – construct, and one of the things that romance focuses on is the wealth of healthy relationships and how valid or invaluable a healthy relationship is, so you got, you, if you start characters off with lots and lots of money, it’s like, okay, we don’t have to worry about any of your, you know –
Sarah: – tawdry day-to-day shit. Let’s take care of your shriveled, cold, horrible –
Sarah: – internal self! ‘Cause you’re an asshole!
Sarah: Let’s fix that! [Laughs]
Donna: [Sings] You’re an asshole! I’m singing Dennis Leary now.
Sarah: I don’t know if I can use that, but I might have to, as the outro music.
Donna: Oh, God!
Sarah: I hope you enjoyed the interview with Bree and Donna, and I want to thank them again for all of the time that they gave me at a really, really early point of the day at RT. I have another interview with Farrah Rochon that has been completed but not edited, so you’ll be hearing that one soon, and then it will almost be time for RWA, so if you’ve got more people you’d like me to track down, you know what to do. Or if you don’t know what to do, you can listen to the end of the podcast, and I’ll tell you all of the ways that you can get in touch with us, including, if you’re feeling it, passenger pigeons.
But before we go, I have some email, because email is awesome!
First, this is from Scifigirl:
Dear Sarah and Jane,
I just moved out to California, and I’m looking for some books that take place close to my new home. I thought there would be a ton of books that take place in the Bay Area (I’m in Sunnyvale, a.k.a. the inspiration for Sunnydale in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but most of the books I’ve found are in L.A., which is a whole other monster. I’m not really big on historicals that take place in the U.S., so I’d prefer contemporaries, especially romantic suspense or thrillers. Also, no vampires; I am so over them, unless, of course, their names are Angel or Spike.
Now, oddly enough, Scifigirl, there are a bunch of California contemporaries, but it can be a little tricky to locate them when you try to search on list features on Goodreads. The first that comes to mind is one of my favorite books ever in the history of the universe, Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis, which (a) takes place in Tahoe, and (b) is part of the three-brothers series, all of which take place in the mountainous areas of California.
The weird thing about California, aside from the part where your strawberries are red all the way through and you have all that good produce, is that when you’re in the northeast and the states are small and you can drive through, like, two of them in three hours, you forget how freakin’ big California is. Like, you could be driving for six hours, and it’s still California. That’s incredible. So there’s a lot of places where you can set books. I have come up with a few options, and if you have suggestions, and if you are listening and you want to write in with ideas for Scifigirl, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and say, duh, you forgot this book set in San Francisco!
But here, off the top of my head, are a couple. First, Instant Attraction and the other two books in the series. Suzanne Brockman’s Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series, which, most of which take place in San Diego. Lisa Marie Rice’s book Hotter Than Wildfire also takes place in San Diego, and the Elle Kennedy Out of Uniform series, which I think there are eight or nine books which are supah hot erotic, those all take place in southern California. But you said you were in San Francisco, which is a whole other area.
There is, of course, a whole list of paranormal romances set in San Francisco, and historicals, which is not what you asked for, but, because I know that Carrie has reviewed books one and two in this series, I should point it out to you anyway, just in case you’re curious: Jenn Bennett has a series called the Roaring Twenties. The first one is Bitter Spirits, and the second is Grim Shadows. They are light paranormal historicals set in 1920s San Francisco. So you have ‘20s culture, along with prohibition, and some very mild paranormal elements, all mixed up in one series, and Carrie says they’re really awesome, and I wish to read them as soon as possible. There are a lot of paranormal that are set in San Francisco. There’s a whole list of them, actually, on, on Goodreads, but you said you didn’t want paranormal, so I’ll stop with Bitter Spirits.
The last one that comes immediately to mind is all of the small town contemporaries from Robyn Carr and Susan Mallery. Those are all set in California. Some are in the Sierra Nevadas; I think Robyn Carr’s are up in a different set of mountains, but I can’t remember exactly which ones. I’m sorry that I can’t remember, but I know that most of those are California romances. And I like I said, if you have a duh-Sarah-you-forgot-this-one idea for a contemporary romance set in San Francisco or the surrounding area, you can email me at sbjpodcast, and I will update with that request in a future podcast.
Moving on! I have more email. I got a lot of email, actually. It’s freakin’ awesome. This email is from Cecilia.
Dear Sarah and Jane,
I have been listening to your podcast for a couple of weeks now, and I have to thank you and your guests because I am enjoying it so much. [S: You are so welcome!] I usually listen to it while I work, and it helps me relax and concentrate to listen to someone talk about books. I have only recently started to read romance novels, though I’ve been fascinated with them for a long time. Thanks to your podcast and your respective website, I am putting together a very long TBR list. I’ve read four Mary Baloghs in a row, then The Duchess War by Courtney Milan. Now I’m reading Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale. I knew Balogh’s name before, but I’d never been able to discover the other titles if not searching the Web. Apart from the recs, I also appreciate the podcast for the thought-provoking discussions, such as the voices one hears while reading. I’d never considered such a thing before. Here are my questions, if I may contribute to the discussion:
Do you imagine characters as they are described in the books? If a character’s physical description is not the very first thing that introduces them in the story, I tend to imagine them one way, and often I stick to that image, even after the official description. Do you adapt your mental image to the official description, and do you imagine characters as handsome as they are often described?
Jane and I have talked about this on and on, or on and off, rather, for a little while in a couple different podcasts, and both of us really dislike the intrusion of being told that a character looks like a certain celebrity, because what if you don’t think that celebrity is good looking? The other thing that’s interesting is that, as I’ve said, I like my men short and dorky, and I’ve known my husband since high school, since he had a mullet and we both had bad skin, so my concept of hot is very different from other people’s, and everyone’s concept of what is really attractive is unique, so yes, I absolutely adapt my mental image to my own preferences, and if there’s an official description, I might even ignore it. Like, I’ll get as far as his hair was brown, and I’ll be like, that’s good, that’s all I need to know, next sentence. I don’t necessarily imagine characters handsome or unhandsome. I usually think of people as more interesting looking that are fascinating, so when I have this book in my imagination, I am going to usually imagine a character who’s interesting looking but not stunningly, staggeringly handsome with, you know, cheekbones that you could ski on. I don’t love it when there’s a lot of physical description. In fact, one of the things that really intrigues me about the book that Jane was recommending to me last week was the fact that there isn’t a lot of physical description, and it’s the characters’ inner personalities that define who they are through the course of the story. I am all over that. The last thing I want is for someone to look in the mirror and describe themselves to me. Like, I don’t care that much, really. I’m, I’m more than ready to imagine my own preferences, and I just presume that everyone else is too, but maybe, maybe we’re unique in that; I don’t know.
I don’t particularly care for secret pasts or hidden backgrounds in a character’s storyline, but judging from blurbs and reviews, they seem very popular. Do you particularly like them?
Nope. Sure don’t. And I have a really simple reason. It’s a question of weight. So if you have a character that has a secret or a secret past or a secret baby or a hidden background, part of the tension between the two her-, the two characters, the hero and the heroine or the hero and the hero or the hero and the heroine, or all six of them, whatever, part of the tension between them is the fact that one of them knows the secret and the other one doesn’t, and when the other one finds out, it may change their perception or their opinion of the person who is carrying around the secret. So, the secret or hidden background or what have you has to weigh enough that it is going to affect the opinion of the person who learns it, but it can’t be so heavy that the person who learns of the secret never wants anything to do with the character ever again, because it’s a romance, and that’s not how they end. So if you have a secret that is worth keeping, ultimately, it may weigh so much that you don’t believe that the other character is like, yeah, it’s okay, I’m over it, no big deal. But con-, conversely, if it doesn’t weigh enough, if it doesn’t carry enough plot import, if it doesn’t have enough of an effect on the plot, then what’s the point of keeping it a secret in the first place?
One thing I really have a problem with, and I know I’m not alone in this, is secret babies. I know there are people who love them some secret babies. That is a big secret to keep, and it affects more than just the person who’s keeping the secret, and I have a really hard time with a valid reason for keeping a child secret, the, the exception usually being, dude, I totally thought you were dead, and that’s why I didn’t tell you I had your baby, and surprise! you’re alive, so let me introduce you. I’m, I can understand that. If you think someone’s dead, clearly, you’re not going to tell them all of your secrets. Or you can, you just assume they’re not going to do anything with them. Otherwise, major secrets like that, a secret baby, in my opinion, is, is an example of a secret that is so heavy that once the secret is discovered, at whatever point in the story, either early or in the middle or late, that is so big that I don’t even know if it’s possible for, for me as a reader to sufficiently develop and explain and work through all of the things learning that secret is going to create between the hero and the heroine, and, and people who surround them.
So, yes, secret pasts, hidden backgrounds, not my favorite thing. Unless they’re spies; that’s totally different. But, yes, they are also very popular. It is not my favorite thing, and it is, it is actually kind of a turn off for me – But a secret from her past may tear them apart forever, and I’m like, yeah, okay. Moving on. It doesn’t do it for me either, so you’re not alone, and really? I can promise you, pretty much anything about the romance genre that bothers you, you’re not alone. No way.
Anyway, Cecilia says:
I’m sure I had more questions, but I’ve conveniently forgotten them when this mail threatened to become even longer.
Dude! Email us any time! These are great questions!
Thanks again for all the entertainment you provide, and greetings from Italy,
Cecilia, I hope that you are eating all of the good food, because I really want to come to Italy and just eat everything twice, but, you know, that has nothing to do with romance novels.
This last email is from Michelle:
Hi, Sarah and Jane
I have another question about romance. I notice that you both read category romances. I have shied away from them, thinking they are of inferior quality, and I’ve tried reading a couple but stopped after the first chapter or so because the writing was so cheesy that I could not read on. Am I being a snob? Am I missing out on some good reads? Why do you both read category romances? Is it because there are truly good books out there in category land, or is because you want a specific theme or trope or element that is guaranteed by a certain publisher’s line of books? Or because you’ve run out of single title romances? Is this possible? I would like to know the advantages of reading category romances and am open to being persuaded to try one again.
Michelle, there is an entire category on my website, which will actually soon go away because the redesign does not have room for such a category, but it’s called 1,001 Ways to Eat Crow: Sarah Reads Category Romance. A long time ago, I had the very same opinion about category romances. I did not like the fact that at that time, the titles were all sort of interchangeable. The Billionaire Playboy in the Bedroom Tycoon Secret Mistress Baby Boardroom. I mean, it was like a bunch of words that would, like, be recycled, and I did not like that. Now of course it turns out that those titles actually worked really, really well for a readership that understood what it was that those titles were saying. For me, when you’re using the same set of 60 words, I can’t remember any of the titles, so when I go to look up my favorite category romances, I can never remember the titles if they are comprised of hook words. The worst is a Maya Banks title that I still cannot get right until I do some incredible amounts of searching. I think it’s Tycoon, Maya Banks’ Tycoon, Maya, um, aha! Here it is: The Tycoon’s Rebel Bride. It’s out of print, but if you can find it, it’s lovely. And of course I have other recommendations for you, and fear not, you do not have to grab a pen and scribble maniacally, especially not if you’re driving. I will write about each of these books in the entry for the podcast, and I’ll have links to each book so you can figure out if you want to buy them, and you should probably might want to try one or two, ‘cause they’re awesome!
Okay, the first author I want to recommend is Kathleen O’Reilly. She’s not writing as of right now; I hope she comes back to romance publishing. She has a pretty spiffy book called Hot Under Pressure, but my very favorite of hers is Sex Straight Up, and it’s not the world’s greatest title, but what makes Sex Straight Up really, really unique is that it is about a hero whose wife died in 9/11, and it’s a Harlequin Blaze, which means it’s pretty steamy, but it, it had some serious emotional weight to it, and [laughs] what’s weird is that the, the, the back cover copy doesn’t even talk about the fact that the hero is a widower. One of the things that’s really interesting about this is the way in which the heroine learns about his late wife and how much in her shadow she feels like she is, because she died so tragically and is in so many very public memorials. That is a really good book, it’s really powerful, but Kathleen O’Reilly’s books in general are very smart and very funny, and I like them a lot. Kathleen O’Reilly was writing for Harlequin Blaze, which are contemporary with a little bit more overtly sexual content.
Another author or couple of authors that I love in the Harlequin Presents line are Sarah Morgan and Kate Hewitt, especially. I love Sarah Morgan. I love Kate Hewitt. Their books are really good, and the thing about Harlequin Presents is that it’s very much a wealth and travel fantasy. The heroes are very, very wealthy, and there are a ton of very innocent heroines. The settings are very opulent, often in Europe. There’s usually a great deal of travel involved – their passports get a workout – but all of writers who are frequently writing in the Harlequin Presents line, you would probably really enjoy Sarah Morgan, because her heroines are very, very smart, and Kelly Hunter, who also has some very smart, smart heroines. There are a few other authors you might want to try, like Maisey Yates or Lynn Raye Harris or Lucy Monroe, but usually if someone is just starting out looking at category, I usually say, try Sarah Morgan. Not only are there a lot of them exploring lots of different tropes, but there’s a lot of emotion in each one.
The challenge of category is that – I think it was Nora Roberts who said it’s like dancing Swan Lake in a phone booth – you have the full arc of the story, you have the full emotional journey of the characters in a much smaller word count, and the thing about reading category is, because of the shorter length you can enjoy it in a slightly less amount of time, but if you really like that particular setting or that particular trope, there’s going to be more, because one thing categories are really good at is isolating and identifying tropes and then reinventing them in different ways. There’s also the thing called continuity, where a bunch of different authors will write a series that takes place in a common location or all in the same family, so then you get all of these different people from very different points of views, especially when they’re all, like, one big royal family, and in Harlequin Presents land, like many other real-life places, the royal family is a complete hot mess, no matter what mythical country they’re from.
If you have category recommendations for Michelle, you are welcome to email me. You’re actually welcome to email me about anything you want. You can email me and Jane, especially if you want to tell Jane she’s wrong, because I secretly enjoy that very much. ‘Cause I’m a giant schmuck, but anyway.
If you want to email us, the email address is email@example.com, or if you’re feeling brave, you can call our Google voice number at 1-201-371-DBSA. Don’t forget to leave your name and where you’re calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast, but I’m not going to use the message I got from a yellow pages directory assistance inquiry. I could not figure out for the longest time what book this person was talking about, until I realized that it was a spam call, so I won’t subject you to that one.
If you like the podcast, you can also subscribe to our feed. We’re on iTunes as the DBSA podcast. We’re on PodcastPickle, and we’re also on Stitcher if you want to try Stitcher, and that’s a relatively new service, so I haven’t fully worked out all the kinks. However, I think it’s pretty awesome, and I hope you like it.
This podcast is brought to you by New American Library, publisher of Fall from India Place, the steamy new romance from New York Times bestselling author of On Dublin Street, Samantha Young. This book is available now wherever print and eBooks are sold.
And if you like the music that we’re listening to, that’s awesome, ‘cause we like it too. The music is provided by Sassy Outwater. [music] This track is called “Snug in the Blanket” by Three Mile Stone, which is a group comprised of Marla Fibish, Erin Shrader, and Richard Mandel. You can find this song and other songs off of this album from Three Mile Stone in many locations where you can buy music, and I will link to all of them in the podcast entry.
Let’s see, I covered the email address and where you can find us and how you can listen, and the music is awesome, and New American Library is pretty cool too. I think that’s everything! Wherever you are, Bree and Donna and me and Jane and everyone else I mentioned and people you don’t even know, we all wish you the very best of reading, and thank you for listening.