This week, I sit down with Rose Lerner. Now, I had the flu, and I was stuffy, so I sound terrible, and I apologize for that. Rose Lerner, however, sounds great. We talk about Dorchester, where Lerner began her writing career, the most Heyer way to take a compliment, and the best Heyer way to recommend a book. We also talk about her upcoming release, her current 99c romance, and the short story that just went up on her website today involving vampires and dragons. Yes, indeed: vampires and dragons.
At one point in the podcast, we discuss the Myers-Briggs personality indicator, specifically the NT type, but we don’t clearly define what that means. The NT types are intuitive thinkers. The N stands for intuition, and T is thinking. The types are paired also in the work by psychologist David Keirsey, who paired them into sets. Intuitive Thinking are, according to Keirsey, detail oriented and analytical.
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This Episode's Music
Our music is provided by Sassy Outwater. This is Deviations Project, again again, from their album Adeste Fiddles. Becauseit’s lovely.
This track is Coventry Carol, a traditional English carol from the 16th century.
This podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of My Cowboy Homecoming, the steamy new novel from Z. A. Maxfield. Download it December 2nd!
A sense of duty brings a soldier home…but a passionate cowboy makes him want to stay. After his brother’s tragic death, Tripp has to leave the army and return to New Mexico to take care of his mother while his father is in prison for arson.
Seeking work at the J-Bar Ranch, Tripp is immediately drawn to injured cowboy Lucho Reyes, whose foot was accidentally crushed by a rescue horse. But will the sins of the father interfere with the desires of the son?
Tripp’s father may be responsible for the death of Lucho’s grandfather. Now Tripp must balance caring for his mother, repairing his father’s damages, and trying to win the heart of a man who has every reason to hate him and his family…
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there, and welcome to episode number 121 of the DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, and with me is romance author Rose Lerner. Rose Lerner writes historical romances that were a little ahead of their time when they first came out a couple years ago but now are hitting the market right when readers are all saying to each other, I want to read historicals where not everyone’s nobility and people are involved in nefarious, shady things, and Rose Lerner’s like, yeah, I got that right here, here you go! One of her books is currently 99 cents. It was a bestseller on the Smart Bitches, Dear Author’s bestseller list. We talk about Georgette Heyer, the best way to take a compliment, the most Heyer-ific way to recommend a book, her career that began with Dorchester, and the short story that just went up on her blog today which involves vampires and dragons. Yes. Dragons and vampires, because obviously.
At one point in the podcast, we do discuss the Myers-Briggs personality indicator, specifically the NT type – that’s N for Nancy, T for Thomas. We don’t clearly define during the podcast what that means, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned it now. The NT types are intuitive thinkers. The N stands for intuition, and the T is for thinking. The types were paired together in the work of psychologist David Keirsey who put them into sets. The NTs are intuitive thinkers, are, according to Keirsey, very detail-oriented and analytical, and Lerner has a theory about those personality types, both as writers and characters, and it’s kind of interesting. You’ll hear that towards the middle of the podcast, but I didn’t want you to get there and be like, what are you talking about?
This podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of My Cowboy Homecoming, the steamy new novel from Z. A. Maxfield, available on December 2nd.
And now, on with the podcast!
Sarah: You have had a very strange historical romance writing career.
Rose Lerner: This is true.
Sarah: I mean, that’s one way of putting it.
Rose: I can’t argue with that.
Sarah: Yeah. So, if you would please just list it, to get started, if you would introduce yourself and tell everybody who you are and what you write and when you first started publishing, which was…a really long time ago, Internet-wise.
Rose: God – [laughs] – that’s true. So, I’m Rose Lerner, and I write historical romance, Regency-set, and I’m currently working on a small town series, Lively St. Lemeston, and the first book, Sweet Disorder, which is about a hotly-contested local election, is on sale for 99 cents everywhere now. The second book, which is about a con artist and a philanthropist heiress who needs to get her hands on her dowry, so they agree to a marriage of convenience, that one comes out in January. And I first – gosh, was it 2010 or 20-? I always forget. I think it was 2010. I think it was early 2010 that my first book, In For a Penny, came out with Dorchester.
Sarah: And that was around the time that Dorchester was beginning to sink to the bottom of the ocean.
Rose: Yeah, it kind of was.
Sarah: There was a high-water line on the side of that ship that we were –
Sarah: – all kind of going, ohhh, shit.
Rose: Yeah, I, you know, I, I’d heard rumors, but there are always rumors, and I didn’t, you know, I was really new, and I’d been trying, I mean, I’d been trying to, to get published for a long time. You know, honestly, I don’t even know if I can say that I regret it. It was a really, in some ways, traumatic, but you know, that first book, it, it did, you know, it got buzz. It got me out there. Like, it started my career, so –
Sarah: I don’t know if you would be where you are now if not the experiences that you had.
Rose: Well, yeah.
Sarah: You know, I mean, the, the cumulative effect of your publishing career –
Sarah: – results in a great deal of knowledge now which is very, a very good thing to have!
Sarah: Because in that time, and that was four years ago, which seems like it’s, you know, three or four years ago doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but in the Internet age, that’s, like, the Mesozoic Era?
Sarah: That’s a long-ass time ago in Publishing Land.
Rose: I mean, that was before self-publishing –
Rose: – was, like, a viable option.
Sarah: Self-publishing was for, like, people who – [laughs] – who were vanity publishing –
Sarah: – with a mimeograph machine in their basement –
Sarah: – and they would, like, get the copy of the book and then take a big sniff of the paper, like – [sniffs] – ah, it smells so good, my, my vanity. But no, no one was doing publishing, like self-publishing, oh, and, and Print on Demand was the devil. I mean, that was a whole other era, and you were writing historicals that didn’t fit a, a real clear market at the time. And the good thing about Dorchester is that they had really smart editors who had really good taste, and they took a lot of chances on some way-out-there books that now you’re like, wow! That book set a trend! You know?
Sarah: Like, nobody thinks what Marjorie Liu was writing is so outlandish at, right now, but back then it was like, wait, you’re writing about women who are P.I.s with ghosts and what?
Rose: [Laughs] Yeah, and I feel like the Shomi line was really big at the – like, really new and exciting at the time, too.
Sarah: It was very different. So, there’s a, there’s a lot to be said for the fact that they could take risks like that, and it is still a shame that they fell to the bottom of the ocean.
Sarah: So you got your rights back, and you sold these books to Samhain.
Sarah: Now, the ones that are coming out in December – and by the way, Sweet Disorder is a number one bestseller on our bestseller list.
Sarah: As of yesterday.
Rose: Oh, my gosh!
Sarah: Yes, the Smart Bitches, Dear Author bestsellers list, which is culled from the secretive depths of our affiliate data, which is really not that big of a secret –
Sarah: – Sweet Disorder is a number one bestseller for the past week.
Rose: Oh, my God, that’s so exciting!
Sarah: So you could actually – ‘cause, you know, you’ve seen these, like, somewhat sketchy awards? – you can now proclaim yourself a number one bestselling author.
Sarah: You go right ahead! You run all the way to the bank with that. There’s a website to back it up! You could actually cite your source.
Rose: That’s. Awesome.
Rose: Thank you for telling me!
Sarah: Yes, you’re welcome. Enjoy!
Rose: I have been watching – I, I usually try to not look at my Amazon ranking too often, but this week I’ve been –
Sarah: Well, when it’s 99 cents, and it’s –
Sarah: – and, and there’s good buzz behind it – because one of the things I want to talk to you about for certain is that you write really interesting historicals.
Rose: I try!
Sarah: Well – [laughs] – I know, it’s like, let me take this compliment –
Rose: [Laughs] Did you ever –
Sarah: – gently, gently up.
Rose: Have you read, have you read The Corinthian, the Georgette Heyer?
Sarah: Yes. Yes, I have.
Rose: Okay, there’s this bit at the beginning where his brother-in-law or something tells him that he’s, like, the best-dressed man in town or something, and he’s, like, very, you know, very bored and not, and he’s like, one does one’s poor best.
Sarah: [Laughs] That’s, like, the way to accept it.
Rose: I always want to say that when people give me compliments, and it’s, like, I know that it would just sound weird.
Sarah: I think it sounds awesome. [Laughs]
Rose: I think about it all the time.
Sarah: So you have been writing historicals that are not set in the upper classes, that aren’t even entirely in the Regency. Am I correct about that?
Rose: Well, they are, I mean, the Regency technically is, like, what, 1811 to 1820?
Rose: So I think actually –
Sarah: Depending on who you ask, ‘cause three people just said No out loud, but we’ll just pretend that that’s right.
Rose: Well, yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of different categories for what the Regency is. Some people say it’s, like, the French Revolution to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and others, like, it’s the French Revolution to, like, the Reform Act. Whatever, anyway. I mean, they are all technically the, like, I think In For a Penny is 1819 –
Sarah: So it’s right on the tail end.
Sarah: You’re writing about characters who aren’t all nobility.
Sarah: And you are writing about some very, not seamy characters, but a little on the sketchy side.
Rose: [Laughs] Well, this, this guy in the book in January, True Pretenses, is, yeah, he’s a con artist. He grew up in the slums, like, yeah.
Sarah: So tell us about that book.
Rose: It was inspired by this movie The Brothers Bloom which is, it’s, like, Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are, like, con artist brothers, and Adrien Brody decides that he wants to go straight, and Mark Ruffalo is, like, totally heartbroken because all he wants in life is to, like, travel the world, like, conning people with his little brother. But he’s like, okay, like, I’m going to make this happen for you, and so he’s like, but we’re going to do one last con, and we’re going to –
Sarah: There’s always one last con.
Rose: Yeah, exactly. So he’s like, we’re going to con Rachel Weisz, who’s this, like, eccentric heiress, out of, out of her money. But secretly, his real plan is that Rachel Weisz and Adrien Brody will fall in love, and then he’ll marry her, and then he’ll be, like, rich and taken care of for the rest of his life.
Rose: Yeah, and, and it, this plan works in the movie, and – God, I don’t want to spoil the movie, but I was very unhappy with the end of this movie.
Sarah: And so you were like, I’m going to write this better.
Rose: Yeah. I was extremely unhappy on, like, a number of levels. And as I was sorting through, like, how I thought it was just, like, it, how it, you know, I just very unhap- – and you, you could see it coming from, like, the first five minutes of the movie that this is going to happen, but I just, I was so depressed! I, like, couldn’t speak physically for, like, an hour.
Sarah: All right, who dies? Do, do they both – ?
Rose: Mark Ruffalo. Mark Ruffalo dies.
Sarah: Of course he does.
Rose: He sets it up – because, you know, he doesn’t want to live anymore without his brother, right?
Sarah: Right, so he’s not going to live without his brother.
Rose: Right, so he sets up the con so that –
Sarah: [Ominous voice] Foreshadowing.
Rose: [Laughs] So, yeah, so I was really unhappy, but I was thinking about it, and I was, like, thinking about the Rachel Weisz character, and I was like, you know, like, Mark Ruffalo has picked this guy for, this girl for his brother who is just like him. Who’s, like, the perfect girl for him. And then he’s, like, and it shouldn’t work! Like, he shouldn’t be able to set her up with his brother. Like, he should then fall in love with her himself, and then I was like, oh. This is what’s going to – so that’s what the book is about. The brother wants to go straight. The hero, whose name is Ash, is like, okay, great, we’re going to do one last con to, like, buy you a commission, and we’re going to –
Sarah: Set you up with legitimate career –
Rose: Yeah, exactly.
Sarah: – you big doofus.
Rose: [Laughs] So he, but then the, the woman, the heiress that he has arranged for his brother to marry doesn’t really – he and his, she and his brother don’t really hit it off, and eventually, you know, he has to marry her himself and –
Sarah: And things happen.
Rose: Things happen.
Sarah: And there’s sexytimes.
Rose: Secrets come to light. Oh, there are many sexytimes.
Sarah: Yes, I understand that there’s a great deal of interesting sexytimes.
Rose: Yeah, you know, my first book, In For a Penny, I think my favorite review that I ever got for it was, I think it was on Amazon, I’m not sure, but someone described it as like Georgette Heyer with explicit fellatio.
Sarah: Oh, my God! Have you not put that on the covers of your books?
Rose: [Laughs] I should, right? Isn’t that exactly what, like, that is exactly what I want.
Sarah: Like Georgette Hailer, like Georgette Heyer with explicit fellatio, and I know five or six people just sat up and went, I would like to read that right now. There’s, I mean, that’s almost – no, I think that surpasses a review that says this book has too much sex. I mean –
Rose: [Laughs] I have definitely gotten those as well.
Sarah: Oh, those are, those are the best kinds of reviews. I am completely serious that if I ever decide to sell reviews, that is the only review I will sell. I will sell –
Rose: Sometimes I worry that people will see that, and then they’ll buy the book and then they’ll be disappointed, though, because there’s not enough sex. Because –
Sarah: [Laughs] There was not enough blowjob in this book.
Rose: I think, I mean – right? I mean, I write a fair amount of, of sex scenes, but, like, not – I don’t know, like, I don’t necessarily –
Sarah: You don’t spend the whole book naked.
Rose: – consider the heat level that high on my books? I don’t know.
Sarah: That’s hilarious. So one of the things you wrote to me about a while ago – and if I have to jog your memory, that’s totally cool – was that when you were looking at the rise of eBooks and the success of historicals with unique or difficult heroines who were not easily likable and more of a challenge for the reader to connect with, you, you, you connected that with the Myers-Briggs person-, personality test indicator.
Rose: Oh, yeah. Yes.
Sarah: Do you remember talking about that?
Rose: I do, yeah. I love the Myers-Briggs –
Sarah: Yeah. I am a very big fan of the Myers-Briggs, because that was the first place where I was tested as an introvert, and I was like, oh, you mean –
Sarah: – there’s not something wrong with me?
Sarah: Oh, thank God. Because I am very social. I can talk to people; I am very genuinely interested in people. I think people are really interesting, and I generally think most people, given the chance, will be kind, but if I’m in a room of more than six, after about an hour I need to go be by myself.
Rose: Oh, yeah, me too.
Sarah: I have this dream – [laughs] – of going to RT with one of those sensory deprivation tanks –
Sarah: – and setting it up in the side of the hallway somewhere and being, like, for a donation to a charity, you may have five minutes in the sensory deprivation tank. I would have, like, a line out the door.
Rose: You would, yeah, you would make millions for the charity of your choice.
Sarah: But those things are so fucking expensive, ‘cause it’s like a big bowl of hot water, basically. It’s like a, a submission, or a, a submersion pool where it’s, everything’s, like, 98 degrees.
So would you talk a little bit about the – I think this is so interesting how you connected reading and heroines with the Myers-Briggs personality indicator.
Rose: Well, that type of, sort of, not closed, emotional closed-offness, but I, I feel like the old school heroines are, like, very emotionally expressive, and they’re all about, like, they’re the ones who, like, nurture the her-, the hero, and I, I love those books, but you know, they, they, like, nurture the, the hero with the power of their, like, open heart, and their, like, vivaciousness and –
Sarah: They’re the manic pixie dream girl.
Rose: Yeah, a little bit, yeah, yeah. And I think the, the sort of, the type of heroine that I see a lot more of now that’s the, like, emotionally – the one who you kind of have to pry the love out of her a little bit? I think is much more of like a, like an NT, which is the – I always forget what the letters stand for – it’s abstract thinking, but it’s sort of the, like, geek, it’s like the geek, the science geek personality type. Although I have the Myers-Briggs book, and they, they are always like, all of these people are scientists, and it’s like, well, I’m not a scientist.
Rose: I’m an INTJ, and, you know, I’m, I’m a romance writer, not a scientist, and, and all of the stuff is like, in their laboratories, they do – and it’s like, oh, my God, really. But –
Sarah: But if you’re an INTJ, the general temperament summary for that is a mastermind, so I would –
Rose: I know, it makes me so happy.
Sarah: But you were looking specifically at heroines who you would classify as NT.
Rose: Yeah. And I just wonder if the – I feel like there’s more, like, like, people from, like, geek culture that are, that are writing romance now? That come from that, like, sci-fi, fantasy, or not necessarily, but that, like – I, I feel like maybe there are more NTs writing romance now, and I don’t know if that’s true, but that was just something that I wondered about.
Sarah: That could be, that’s kind of possible. One of the things that, I think it was Nora Roberts who said this, that the, that the romance genre is very fluid and very welcoming.
Sarah: And so there’s, not only is there more overlap of different types of genre fiction, but women who are writing romance have found a very vibrant and welcoming community, whereas in other genre communities –
Sarah: – like science fiction or fantasy, they may not have been so welcomed. And so they’re bringing their, their love of science fiction and fantasy into the romance genre, and I know that if I say, this is a science fiction romance, Carrie will, like, show up on my doorstep –
Sarah: – be like, give it to me now! Put it in my eyeballs immediately! Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme! So you may be right. Maybe there are more writers who fit that type creating stories and creating characters that fit that personality type. What I found that was so interesting about how you explained it was that when you, when you, when you wrote to me, what you said was that NTs, especially the introverted NT, they’re less emotionally open. Maybe we’re writing heroines who have trouble expressing their feelings because it’s an exaggerated version of how we feel about ourselves.
Sarah: And I, I, that really resonated with me because one of the things that I have been looking at and sort of pondering is the idea that the, the heroine is supposed to be the emotionally fluent, nurturing person, and the hero was, was, back in, you know, back in old school –
Sarah: – so very often emotionally inept, completely closed, unfamiliar with all of these pesky feelings. Like, I remember – [laughs]
Sarah: – there’s a scene in, in Devil’s Bride, which is a book I must have read, like, fifty or sixty times by now, where, I forget what she did. Honoria did something stupid, or something that Devil didn’t like –
Sarah: – and they were in the carriage, and he’s all pissed off, and he’s, like, all rigid and shaking, and he goes, I care for you too much, and she said, well, I suppose it’s only fair, because I love you so much it hurts too. And I’m like, he can’t even say the words, girlfriend, you need to make him say – just stick a nail in his foot until he says – I mean, come on! Grow a pair! And so there’s this – [laughs] – this history of the woman being the nurturing, emotional fluency –
Sarah: – that teaches the man to, to tune into his feelings, and what’s funny is when I look at, for example, fatherhood. The portrayals of fatherhood are almost always distant, bumbling men who have no idea what to do with children. The men who are actually fathers, along with my husband, are not that at all. There are stay-at-home dads. They are incredibly emotionally fluent. They are very attentive to raising emotionally healthy children, so this image does not fit reality. And just like in heroes, I know very many men who are completely emotionally fluent, and I know many women who are not.
Sarah: So that expectation that women have to know all about emotions – okay, well, what if she doesn’t?
Rose: Yeah, and I think that that’s – I mean, I think part of it too is that, is, is, I guess, feminism that, because I feel like the –
Sarah: You just said a very bad word. [Laughs]
Rose: – there’s, there’s so much critic-, like, there’s, there used to be a much narrower box for heroines, and there, there’s still, you know, I still wish the box for heroines was a little bigger, but –
Sarah: [Laughs] Box.
Rose: – I, I feel like because readers often want to identify with the heroine, and not necessarily in a way where the heroine is exactly like them, but they want to be able to, while reading the story, put themselves in the heroine’s place and sort of experience the story from her point of view, and I think that women are getting more comfortable with accessing the parts of themselves that are not nurturing, that are angry –
Rose: – that are closed off –
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Rose: – that are defensive, you know, and I think that it used to be really threatening. I mean, it, it’s just how, like, there used to be so many, what were they called, like, forced seductions.
Rose: Because the, the heroine couldn’t say, I want to have sex with you.
Sarah: No, horny pants not allowed.
Rose: Right. So the hero had to make that move, and so I, but, and I think that because, you know, the reader, if the her-, the heroine was, like, a slut, that would be, like, a problem for the reader in, like, being able to, like, feel comfortable experiencing the story with her.
Sarah: Yes. I, I have never believed in the idea that, that readers are always looking to insert themselves into the story through the heroine. I’ve never been that reader. I understand, certainly, that there are, and certainly readers have articulated that very thing.
Sarah: Like, I want to be in the heroine’s place in this story. I totally get that, but that’s not how I read, and I think more and more readers are comfortable reading across multiple characters.
Sarah: And I personally am always looking for the emotion of the story. Like, what, how – for example, I always talk about this with, with Jane when we talk about the differences of how we review. I want to explain how a book made me feel in my review and then assign that a grade based on the result or the cause of that emotion and how it felt within the narrative structure. Jane is almost always looking at a book and saying, okay, how well did you argue for the Happy Ever After of this couple? And so I’m a big, giant hump of, like, big –
Sarah: – whimpering lump of feelings, and I wish to articulate them. That doesn’t mean I’m fluent in them; I just like to give them words.
Sarah: So with your heroines, and you’ve been writing challenging heroines who have definite opinions about themselves and other people, these are very unique characters who are not easy to – they’re, they’re not malleable, and they are not –
Rose: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Sarah: – they are not characters that are easy to relate with instantly. Have you, have you received a lot of positive reader comment about your heroines?
Rose: I think a lot of people really loved Penny from In For a Penny? I mean, I, yeah, I do. The only heroine that I’ve gotten, like, negative feedback about, like she’s a bitch, is Serena from A Lily Among Thorns. I’ve gotten –
Sarah: She actually was kind of a bitch.
Rose: Yeah, no, she totally was.
Sarah: Which is why, which is why she’s awesome.
Rose: [Laughs] Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t have – yes, I agree. But that’s the heroine that’s gotten hate. Penny and Phoebe, while they’re both, like, you’re right, like, they’re, they’re very, they’re not necessarily flexible in, in a lot of ways –
Rose: – but I haven’t really heard them classed in the, like, difficult heroine category.
Sarah: One of the things that I think is interesting about Serena is that she’s pretty unapologetic about the fact that she does bad things.
Rose: Yeah. Well, I wanted her to be sort of an analog of that particular type of, of hero that was really popular in Regencies at the time who always had, like, shady connections with the underworld, and you never really understood, like, why?
Rose: Like, did you, did you read The Gamble by Jo-, Joan Wolf?
Sarah: No, but you wrote about it in one of your email messages to me.
Rose: Yes. Oh, my gosh, like, he is on a first-name basis with, like, every evil dude in London, and it’s, like, never explained, like, why these guys think that he’s worth hanging out with?
Rose: Like, not that I didn’t like him, but, like, if I was, like, the kingpin of the London underworld, like, I don’t know what I would find useful about this, like, random, angsty aristocrat guy?
Rose: Like, unless he’s, like, helping them with his connections in, like, Parliament, like, I just don’t know what he brings to the table, but –
Rose: – I feel like it kind of started with that Georgette Heyer, Regency Buck. No, is it – ? Yeah, I think it’s Regency Buck is the one where for some rea-, he’s, like, investigating who’s poisoning her brother, and at first we’re supposed to think that maybe he’s poisoning her brother, but of course he isn’t, but for some reason he has the resources to, like, investigate a murder –
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Rose: – and – [laughs]
Sarah: Like, all these romance heroes in historical who are connected to the War Office but never had to actually kill anybody?
Sarah: They were very, very dashing spies who never actually killed anyone.
Rose: I mean, I guess if you’re a spy, you probably don’t want to kill somebody, because it would draw attention to you, right?
Sarah: Of course, but they never did anything nefarious; they just had to go, you know, sneak around and then show up at a ball in a cravat and look good.
Sarah: It was like a way of making them sort of dangerous. Whereas then you had the Lisa Kleypas heroes who were actually – is it Bow (Bo) Street or Bow (Bau) Street? I think it’s Bow (Bo).
Rose: I’ve always said it Bow (Bo) Street in my head.
Sarah: Okay, let’s pretend we’re right –
Sarah: – and if we’re wrong, we’ll just ignore it, but, you know, they were all Bow Street Runners, for God’s sake! They were, like, big, muscular, bad-ass cops.
Sarah: And they were the heroes. They actually did difficult things. There was none of this sort of connection to the underworld.
Rose: You know, I don’t think, I’m trying to think. I’ve read, like, one Lisa Kleypas ever.
Sarah: Oh, she had a whole series about the Runners. You, you would like them.
Rose: Really? Okay.
Sarah: Oh, yes. Ohhh, yes.
Rose: All right. I will check it out; that sounds awesome.
Sarah: She plays with the same sort of things you do, because she has always played with class boundary.
Sarah: And in, like, even the Hathaways was an interesting series because they were connected to Gypsy culture, and there’s always a sort of a class boundary issue with many of her stories, particularly the ones where the guys are Bow Street Runners.
Rose: Okay. Awesome!
Sarah: Yeah! So with the next book that’s coming out January 13th, that’s True Pretenses.
Sarah: Is this guy Jewish?
Sarah: ‘Cause his name is Ash Cohen, and I was like, ohhh?
Rose: Yeah. Short –
Sarah: And then my favorite thing –
Rose: – short for Asher.
Sarah: Asher. Bless him. My favorite thing is that you asked for a somewhat Jewish-looking guy without a waxed chest on the cover.
Rose: I did, I did. Well, you know –
Sarah: And you got one! He has got a pelt.
Rose: I know! It makes me so happy. He kind of looks like David Duchovny a little bit.
Sarah: [Laughs] He’s seriously hot.
Sarah: And I do not go for beefcake covers. The man chest really has never done it for me. This is – yeah. I’m, I’m paying attention.
Rose: Yeah, and I think part of it is the hair, because he, it doesn’t have that weird, unnatural sheen –
Rose: – that you sometimes get with the man chest, where it’s, like, too defined and, like –
Sarah: Oh, yeah, and the, and the muscles are oiled –
Sarah: – and they cast their own shadows.
Sarah: There was, I have talked about this before, but there was one time when I was doing an ad for a Maya Banks book, and I had to completely blend out the man’s, the man’s chest, because when you zoomed in too close it looked like he was at least a C cup.
Sarah: Like, you were convinced you were looking at a naked female breast; it was that round –
Sarah: – and that perfect, and I don’t know what that guy did to his pectorals, but it was very effective. Like, who, whatever, if he –
Sarah: – he really did increase his bust with, with whatever he was doing. This guy looks hot, but completely normal.
Rose: Yeah, I know. It makes me so happy. Yeah, I really didn’t want – because, well, first of all, the heroine talks about his chest hair in the book, so I, like, didn’t want, I just didn’t want that to be erased on the cover, you know, and I didn’t feel like –
Sarah: I support this decision.
Rose: – I could, I could say, like, I want a Jewish model, because, like, who knows if that’s possible?
Rose: And like, but I wanted it – I didn’t want some guy who, like, transparently was, like –
Rose: I didn’t want some, like, Aryan wet dream on the cover of my –
Sarah: [Laughs] So you wanted someone who looked plausibly Jewish and did not have a waxed chest and ka-ching! you got him.
Rose: Yeah, you know, they’ve, like, Samhain’s really listened to my requests about covers. Like, I requested a plus-size model on the, on Sweet Disorder, and they did it.
Sarah: I was just looking at that.
Rose: I was sick with wor-, nerves when, like, I was waiting for that cover, because I was so afraid that they were going to put, like, a waif on the front, and they didn’t, and I really appreciate that.
Sarah: When I was working on the Top 10 list, the, the way that the website formats the Top 10 list, the number one book has a big feature – the book, the book cover is the biggest thing on the page – and I was looking at it and I was sort of, you know, doing my thing, and I kept looking at it, and I’m like, what’s, you know, what’s, that, what, what’s different?
Sarah: Hold the phone! She has, like, real shoulders, and –
Sarah: – and I can’t see her clavicle all that much. She’s actually not thin. Like, I was like, what, what’s different, what’s different? And then I looked at it and was like, whoa! She really is a not super waif-thin female.
Rose: Yeah, my ca-, my dream casting for that character is Melissa McCarthy.
Sarah: I love her.
Rose: I love The Heat.
Sarah: Would you believe I have not seen that?
Rose: You know, it’s not a perfect movie, but, like, it’s a female buddy cop movie, and it’s Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and, like, I need nothing else.
Sarah: See, this is exactly my point. I just, I don’t, I don’t have a lot of two-hour time periods where I’m not interrupted by small people –
Sarah: – so I need for them to go to camp next summer, and then I’m going to watch The Heat. But the, the – oh, yeah, that cover’s gorgeous. Plus, the cobalt blue is beautiful.
Rose: I know. I love it. And I, like, they’re, they’re both by Kim Killion, and, like, I was, like, 99% sure she looked at my Pinterest. You know, like, I filled out the form –
Rose: – and I put my Pinterest board on it in case they wanted to look at it, and, like, both the covers have that image at the bottom that’s, like, you know, it’s, like, a house or a bridge or whatever, and they very clearly are, like, things that are similar to things that I had on my Pinterest board. Like, I was really happy.
Sarah: That’s amazing.
Rose: And obviously they’re beautiful. Like I –
Sarah: They are really beautiful. The nice thing about these covers is they have such opulent color.
Sarah: They’re very saturated with color, both of them. With the new book, is this the, the second Lively St. Lemeston book.
Sarah: How many are planned for the series? ‘Cause we have Sweet Disorder, and now True Pretenses. How many more are planned for the series?
Rose: It’s not a series with a defined stopping point, so I will keep writing them as long as people want to read them. I have ideas that I’m really excited about for, like, five more books, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible, but we’ll see. Fingers crossed. But the next book is already sold to Samhain, and it will be out in Jan-, probably January of 2016. That’s not a firm date yet, but – and it’s going to be about, people that have read Sweet Disorder, Nick, the hero, has, like, a, like, an impassive valet (valay) or valet (valett). The heroine has, like, a sassy maid, and they are the hero and heroine of the next book.
Sarah: Oh, my!
Rose: Yes. I’m really excited.
Sarah: Guarantee you, like, four people were just like – [gasp] – I want to read that. [Laughs]
Rose: I’m so excited. I’m, like, I’m, like, 30,000 words in, and I’m having so much fun.
Sarah: And you’re having a really good time?
Sarah: That’s the best feeling.
Sarah: Like, I’m really enjoying this. It doesn’t really matter if I finish right now, ‘cause I’m having a really good time! So, I have a, I have one more question I wanted to ask you about Sweet Disorder.
Sarah: The plot hinges on the heroine having custody of a vote that she cannot exercise. Or two votes, rather, excuse me. So she owns her husband’s vote, but she can’t cast it.
Rose: That’s not, I mean, what, you know, it’s really not that important that readers understand exactly what’s going on, so I, you know, whatever, but, like, people should just, you know, come up with whatever explanation makes sense to them and, like, go with it, but the deal is that there are a bunch of different types of, of legislative districts in the Regency, and they have different types of qualifications for who can vote.
Rose: So some, in some districts, everyone that pays the poor tax can vote. In some districts the votes are attached to, like, particular, sort of traditional properties, and in some districts, which are called freeman boroughs, anyone who’s a freeman of the borough can vote, and the town charter has, like, explanations for how you become a freeman, and typically, you inherit it from your father, or maybe you apprentice to a freeman, you join a guild that members are freemen. You, you can purchase the freedom of the city. And so there were districts where men could become freemen of the city, and you could also, it wasn’t just for voting. Like, you had other, sort of civic privileges associated with it –
Rose: – like, in some towns you could get, like, a, you could, only freemen could have booths in the town market, like that kind of thing.
Rose: So, in, in some districts, you could become a freeman by marrying the daughter of a freeman, and there were districts – the rule in Lively St. Lemeston – ‘cause I didn’t want there to be, like, a bunch of these people running around – the rule in this town is that the eldest daughter of a freeman who died without heirs, her husband will, she can make her husband a freeman.
Rose: And that was, that was a thing in, in some districts. So if she mar-, yeah, if she marries, her husband could become a freeman without having to go through any other process, and then he would have, he would be able to vote, so everyone wants – and, and the two-vote thing, actually every voter in Regency England had two votes, and they, basically, you, you could vote for up to two candidates.
Rose: You didn’t have to use both votes if only one candidate in your party was running, for example, but you could vote for up to two candidates. And then the two candidates with the most votes went to Parliament. Did that make any sense?
Sarah: That totally made sense!
Rose: Sorry. Okay.
Sarah: That made absolute sense. I think it’s fascinating that you sort of were able to, to build a plot on that idea, ‘cause it’s really, it’s very interesting. I mean, when I was researching the history of women’s suffrage in New Jersey, I learned that long, long, long before women’s suffrage was even an idea, women had the right to vote in New Jersey if they owned a certain amount of land.
Sarah: So of course that was restricted to women of some income, and –
Sarah: – of course they were white, but women had the vote a long-ass time ago, before a bunch of guys were like, oh, well, in other states that can’t, so they shouldn’t be able to here –
Sarah: – because, well, yeah. Reasons.
Rose: Yeah. Actually, the first time that voters were officially, legally classified as male only in England was the Reform Act of 1832.
Sarah: So it was a much later concept that became an issue.
Rose: Yeah, there were a lot of women that had sort of, not even, that had various types of electoral privilege before that.
Sarah: And, and the idea of building a romance plot around that makes it very, very interesting, because instead of building the idea that the hero is using the heroine for her wealth or only marrying her for her dowry, is, it’s connecting with someone for political position.
Rose: Mm-hmm. Well, and what I love about that plot is that the hero is actually supposed to, like – she, she’s much, of a much lower social class, so he’s actually supposed to match her up with somebody else – [laughs]
Rose: – that his brother has picked out. And of course, I always love that, that plotline where, like, the, one of the characters is trying to, like, set up the other character with somebody else, but then they fall for them themselves. Like, I’m a sucker for that. I love it when the, the, the heroine is like, I need the hero to teach me to flirt. Like, I love that one.
Rose: Just in general, I just love it.
Sarah: That is, that is one of my catnips, especially because most often the person that the heroine trusts to be honest with her about such things is someone that she’s friends with –
Sarah: – and then when they introduce the idea of sexuality and flirtation, they’re like, wait, oh, this works really well with us.
Sarah: That’s not good. Oh, dear. That’s not going to work right. And I, that is, yeah, that is a very special flavor of my catnip. I would take a very large joint of that. Oh, yes, please. So the book that you’re working on now, do you have any idea when it might be finished or coming out? Is that going to be for 2015 or 2016?
Rose: The, the one with the two servants?
Rose: That’s, it’s tentatively January, it’s going to be ear-, like, by early 2016, and I think it’s been set for January 2016.
Sarah: Yay! So you have –
Rose: I have a deadline –
Sarah: – December, January –
Rose: – and I’m working on it, it’s happening.
Sarah: That’s lovely.
Sarah: All right, so one more question. What books have you read recently that you’re really excited about that you want to talk about? Are there any that you –
Rose: Oh? Yeah.
Sarah: – you want to, you want to mention?
Rose: Oh, yes. I have actually, well, I’m read-, I’m, right now, I’m like 80% of the way through, probably I’m going to go finish it right after this, but Gun-, is it, what’s it, Gunpowder Academy? Gunpowder –
Sarah: Oh, Gunpowder Alchemy.
Rose: Alchemy, yes! I knew that, I knew it started with an A and ended with a y. But yeah, Gunpowder Alchemy, the new Jeannie Lin steampunk? So good! So good.
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Rose: There is something about how Jeannie Lin, like, structures a book that is so perfect for me. Like, I always end her book, like, completely satisfied. Which is kind of rare for me. Like, a lot of times, if a book falls apart for me, it’s going to fall apart in the last, like, thirty pages –
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Rose: – where I suddenly realize that all the things I’ve hoped for aren’t going to happen, you know?
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Rose: And that never hap-, like, her books are just, like, perfect.
Sarah: Are you familiar with computer coding at all? Like HTML code?
Rose: Not, I mean, I can do really basic HTML code, but that’s about it.
Sarah: So, you know how an HTML code, when you open a tag and then you open another tag, you have to close the second one before you can close the first one? That your tags have to be nested.
Rose: Uh-huh, yeah.
Sarah: So if you have a p tag and then there’s a bold tag within that, the bold has to close before the p, and if there’s italics after the bold, then the italics have to close before the bold and before the p, that you have to nest them in the order in which they were opened to close them.
Sarah: So when I was at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I was actually giving a panel, and I was up against Mary Robinette Kowal, which was a bummer, ‘cause I wanted to see her panel, but couldn’t ‘cause I was speaking, so of course I looked at the Twitter feed of her panel afterward, because next best thing. She did this whole presentation on the structure of a story and compared it to nesting code, so that the conflicts that you introduce in order have to be resolved in the reverse order of which they’re introduced.
Sarah: So it may be that what works for you is a, is a very logically nested series of conflicts, so big conflict is introduced with the world, and then a conflict with the heroine, and then a conflict with the hero, and in the end, the hero and then the heroine and then the world are, are resolved so that the conflicts are nested appropriately.
Rose: Wow, I’m going to have to look at that, ‘cause that’s fascinating.
Sarah: Isn’t that fascinating? Like –
Sarah: – I have been looking at reading with that idea in mind since I asked her about it. I was like, that’s really brilliant.
Rose: Yeah, because I always sort of, like, have this vague picture of, like, a book as like – remember how, like, in, in elementary school they taught you about how, like, a book has, like, a climax and a denouement, and they always drew this, like, little line graph –
Rose: – that kind of went up at the end and then it went back down. Yeah. Like, I always imagine that, but it’s not really that helpful for thinking about, like, I can’t, like, sit down and, like, draw one of those for a book, you know?
Sarah: Oh, no, not at all.
Rose: So, yeah, wow.
Sarah: And if you think about what conflict is happening when you’re writing a scene, that’s very logical, but you can’t necessarily predict the conflict of the scene that you haven’t thought of yet.
Sarah: You know, it’s often that when you go back to something you’ve already written that you’re like, oh, oh! Oh, yes, nicely done, Past Me.
Sarah: That was an excellent idea! You’ll, you’ll see those threads pick up in later, in later chapters, but more times than not when I ask an author about it, they’re like, oh, yeah, it was a total accident. I didn’t plan that, are you kidding?
Sarah: It’s all part of the –
Rose: My, my subconscious is –
Sarah: Yeah, it’s your subconscious wanting to organize things. Maybe secretly we’re all really organized people. That would be –
Rose: That’s a beautiful dream.
Sarah: That would be nice, right? [Laughs] ‘Cause I’m not that person right now.
Rose: [Laughs] All I have to do is, like, uncover the true organized person within, and –
Sarah: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. So what else are you reading that you would, you have loved?
Rose: I, I’m on, like, a total contemporary kick right now, actually. Which rarely happens for me, but, like, I’m just, like, all about it. I just read Indecent Proposal, the, the Molly O’Keefe marriage of convenience?
Rose: That made me really happy, ‘cause I love marriage of convenience, and you don’t see it that often in contemporaries for, I mean, I guess, obvious reasons –
Rose: – but it was so cool, because he’s, like, a politician, and he’s running, he’s from this, like, corrupt political dynasty, and he’s running for Congress, and they have, he’s, like, going through personal whatever, and she’s a bartender, and they meet at her bar, and he’s, like, hav-, going through, like, personal trauma, and she reaches out, and they have, like, a beautiful, emotional one-night stand, and then she gets pregnant. They, they did use protection, though; it was just, it was one of those unavoidable things.
Rose: But then he’s like, I can’t be like my father and just pay to hush this up, so they, like, he’s like, we have to get married?
Rose: But it’s awesome! And you know, it took me, like, a little bit to get into the book, but, like, it got to that scene where she’s, like, showed up at his, like, fancy mansion, and, and his mother is being snooty to her, and I was just like, yes. Like, this is exactly what I want.
I’m in the middle of Crooked Hearts, which is the Patricia Gaffney Jewish con artist book? I –
Rose: Yeah, it’s, I mean, I’m loving it. I waited, I wanted to wait ‘til I finished writing mine before, before I read it, but it’s like, it’s like a Western, and they meet – it’s so cute, because they meet on, like, the stagecoach, and she’s pretending to be a nun, and he’s Jewish, and he’s pretending to be, like, a Spanish rancher, and there’s this bit where she’s presenting her, like, ridiculous made-up backstory for why she has a vocation to be a nun, and it involves her friend, like, getting the stigmata in church –
Rose: – and so she’s explaining this, and he’s like, I’m sorry, getting the what? And she’s like, the stigmata. I thought you said you were Catholic. And he’s like, oh, yes, the stigmata! Of course! Silly me! [Laughs]
Sarah: [Gasps] Ohhh.
Rose: But he has, like, no clue. It’s so cute.
Sarah: Well, I, I have a book to recommend to you.
Sarah: Have you read A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai?
Rose: I just – that’s incredible. I just bought that book, like, yesterday.
Sarah: Okay. Since you –
Rose: Is it as good as I think it’s going to be?
Sarah: Seriously? It is the most, it, it is seriously one of the most – and I, I say this in the best possible way – it is deliciously filthy. Like, I have not read a book this filthy where I was like, I cannot read this on the same floor as my children; I must go downstairs now. But here’s what you, I think, will really like is that it inverts the billionaire trope brilliantly. The heroine is the billionaire.
Rose: That’s why I bought it.
Sarah: And she is unapologetically sexually voracious. She likes to have sex with lots of people, lots of the times, as much as possible, with as many people under circumstances that she controls, and she has no problems with that. And the conflict rests on the fact that she, her, her mother, who was very traditional and very abusive towards her, married, for, like, a year, the hero’s father, so they were stepbrother and stepsister for a year.
Rose: Lilith style.
Sarah: Yes, exactly. Long-ass time ago, and he has always been fascinated with her, but they have, he has never acted on it, and she has always interpreted his actions as disapproval –
Sarah: – whereas what it was was he was trying to resist his feelings for her, and he was –
Rose: I always love that one too, where they’re like –
Rose: It’s just there’s something really solid about it.
Sarah: Like, I thought you didn’t actually like me. No, I actually didn’t like the fact that I liked you.
Sarah: Which doesn’t sound much better, but is different. [Laughs] So you will really, really like that.
Rose: Awesome. Yeah, I’m probably, I’ll probably read that next after the, the Jeannie Lin.
Sarah: Especially because if you’ve been on a contemporary kick, you will like that very much.
Rose: Yeah. I’m all about it. I also just read, which I heard about on one of your podcasts, A Bollywood Affair.
Sarah: Oh, I loved that book.
Rose: Life changing!
Sarah: Wasn’t it glorious? Did – ?
Rose: So good!
Sarah: Don’t read it while you’re hungry.
Rose: Oh, I know. I think I went out for Indian food, like, four times in the week after that book.
Sarah: Oh. Well, the night of the book club chat, when I was hosting an online chat about it, I was like, we’re ordering Indian food, ‘cause I can’t get through an hour and a half of talking about this book if I don’t have some food here, ‘cause this is not going to work out well for anybody. I mean, it was, it, wasn’t it just, it, it was just incredible how well done that book was, for me. It just, it was –
Rose: I cried so many times. Like –
Sarah: [Laughs] It is, it, it was, like, for you with Jeannie Lin?
Sarah: It was the book where I was like, this was exactly the thing that I wanted to read. It was perfect for me.
Sarah: It was like, here is your catnip, please enjoy.
Rose: I know, I’m so excited for the next one. I want it to come out sooner. I feel bad because I always, like, when, when, I mean, I know that it’s, like, totally a compliment when people are like, I want – why isn’t your book coming out sooner? But, like, I feel weirdly guilty when people say that to me, so I try to not say it about other people, even though, like, I really want them to write faster.
Rose: But I really want her to write faster.
Sarah: Well, I know that for the next book she talked about in the, in the chat, she talked about the next book, and it’s related to that world, but it’s a character that was only seen for a moment or two.
Sarah: I want to read more books set in the Bollywood industry.
Sarah: Like, I want, I want, I want to – ‘cause she just took all these familiar tropes that were just so delicious when she wrote them.
Sarah: Loved it. Okay, well, before we go, was there anything else that you want to add or mention?
Rose: Okay! On the 26th, so on, on Christmas, two things are going to happen. So every time that, for every book that I write, I write a free short story based on reader suggestions that comes out when my next book, that I put up on my website when my next book comes out.
Sarah: No pressure. Based on reader suggestions. That’s ballsy. That’s fabulous!
Rose: I love, I love prompts. I love prompts. Like, I, I’ve written a lot of fanfiction as well, and I used to love taking prompts. So now I don’t really have time anymore, but I used to write, like, I – yeah, so I love it. And I only have to pick one, so there’s bound to be one that I – so, so the, for the first, for In For a Penny I wrote a story about the secondary romance, and then for A Lily Among Thorns I wrote a short story about Solomon’s little sister, and then for this one I’m just going totally crack-tastic. Somebody suggested Nick as a vampire and Phoebe as a dragon, so I wrote a story –
Rose: – I wrote a story in which Nick is a vampire and Phoebe is a dragon, and really not very much else is different.
Sarah: Okay, that’s kind of awesome.
Rose: I think it’s really awesome, and I’m really excited, and I made, like, a little Photoshopped cover where Nick is, like, really pale.
Sarah: [Laughs] So this is going to come out on the 26th.
Rose: It’s going to go up on, on Christmas.
Sarah: On Christmas.
Rose: So it will be up by the time people are listening to this.
Rose: It will be on my website. Just go to my blog, it’ll be there.
Sarah: And would that be roselerner.com?
Rose: Dot com, yes.
Rose: And then I also am going to be doing a gift basket for True Pretenses that will also be up by then, and I’m going to, I’m giving away copies of the eBook to, like, five, five commenters, and then a, a basket, and the basket looks like a suitcase full of cash?
Rose: Con artist style?
Rose: And I’m giving away, like, Leverage, season one, is going to be in there. There’s, like, a malachite necklace, like the one that the hero gives the heroine in the book. There’s, like, a bunch of different cool con artist stuff, and both Jenny Crusie con artist romances, the Dempsey books.
Rose: So it’s going to be awesome. That’s also going to be on my blog. So people should enter.
Sarah: And that is all for this week’s podcast. I want to thank Rose Lerner for taking the time to speak with me and also putting up with my rather disgusting, snotty voice, and also thank you for listening. Right after I recorded that I had the flu, and then I had no voice, and I think this is the first I’ve been able to talk for, like, a week now. So I’m really pleased that as crappy as I sound, I’m able to talk. Yay!
This podcast was brought to you by InterMix publisher of My Cowboy Homecoming, the steamy new novel from Z. A. Maxfield, on sale now.
The music you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater. You can find her @SassyOutwater on Twitter. This is Adeste Fiddles, ‘cause there’s nothing better than this album because it has the best holiday album name ever, but you already knew that. This is called “Coventry Carol.” “Coventry Carol” is a traditional English carol that dates back to the 16th century, and it was part of a mystery play. The full history is kind of depressing, so I won’t get into the whole thing, but it’s traditionally sung a cappella, and this version, of course, is by Deviations Project because Adeste Fiddles, this is the greatest holiday album in the history of the universe, second only to “Dominick the Christmas Donkey.”
Next week, I will have an interview with romance author and one of Time’s People of the Year, or Person of the Year, author Jennifer McQuiston.
And if you have ideas of who we should interview or people we should speak to or things that you think we ought to talk about on the podcast, you can email us at [email protected]. We happen to love listener email because all of you have really interesting things to say, so if you’re having a thought and you’re thinking, I really should email them, yes, yes! You should absolutely, no question, email us, because we love that.
In the meantime, Rose Lerner and Jane and myself all wish you the very happiest of holidays and the best of reading. Have a great weekend.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
This podcast transcript was sponsored by Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell, a contemporary Hanukkah novella perfect for everyone who loves holiday romances.
Genevieve and Jeremy have known each other since they were seven, and have been summertime best friends at Camp Meira, a Jewish overnight camp in the mountains. Then, last year, with little warning, Jeremy left camp early. After that summer, Gen left the country on a graduate fellowship.
Now, a little over a year since they were last at Meira, Gen and Jeremy are back together to help run a special Winter Camp during Hanukkah. Any water under the bridge is frozen this time of year, and with so much left unspoken and unexplained, this week may be their chance to rekindle their friendship, or turn it into something new.
You can find Lighting the Flames available wherever ebooks are sold!