On a recent Friday Reads post, Bree Bridges noticed that someone was reading Level Up by Cathy Yardley. It was me, and she asked to talk to me when I was done because she was dying to discuss it. I know that feel! So I figured, let’s record a podcast of the two of us squeeing about how much we liked this book. We talk about the book, the heroine, the heroine’s friends, the power of good world building in contemporary romance, and then we squee a lot. We also talk a bit about Bree’s background in programming and working in tech, and the sexism and misogyny one encounters within that industry.
Note: this discussion is a little spoiler-y, so if you want to read the book with no background or insider info, listen to this one after you read it. But go read it. It’s terrific. Trust us. We’ve got 50+ minutes of squee to back us up.
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
Bree also mentioned BioWare’s Dragon Age, which is horribly addictive and also on sale on many gaming systems.
And in an effort to pronounce “Beul na h-Oidhche” correctly, Sarah used Forvo.com, which is a great pronunciation resource.
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This Episode's Music
This track is called, and I hope I didn’t mess up the pronunciation, “Beul na h-Oidhche.”
What do you get when you mix mail order brides and Robin Hood-style pirates with interplanetary science fiction? Water World Warrior by Lisa Lace, now available in audiobook. Ashlyn is shocked she joined the TerraMates dating service, but is even more surprised by the alien she is matched with.
Why would I want to be married to an alien?
I should not have applied to TerraMates! The idea was crazy. I’m a young woman, in the prime of my life.
But I was desperate.
When I landed on another world, his appearance intrigued me. He dripped sexuality and moved like an animal. We have three days together before he sets sail without me. Am I going to escape or submit to my desires?
She has three days with him to make up her mind. Will she go home, or stay with him for a year?
❤ Click to view the transcript ❤
Dear Bitches, Smart Author Podcast, February 12, 2016
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to episode number 180 of the DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me today is Bree Bridges, who is one-half of the writing team known as Kit Rocha. On a recent Friday Reads post, Bree noticed that someone from Smart Bitches was reading Level Up by Cathy Yardley. It was me, and she asked to talk to me when I was done ‘cause she was dying to discuss it with someone. Now, I am someone who knows the feeling of, I really want to talk about this book with someone. Someone please read it! So I figured, let’s record a podcast of the two of us discussing this book and how much we liked it. There is so much squee, you guys. Like, so much squee. We talk about the book, the heroine, the heroine’s friends, the power of really good worldbuilding in contemporary romance, and then we squee some more. We also talk about Bree’s background in programming and working in tech and the sexism and misogyny that one encounters within that industry.
Now, this discussion is a little bit spoiler-y, so if you want to read the book with no background or discussion information you can listen to the beginning of the podcast. There’ll be a quick question that I actually recorded at the end of the interview for people who are curious and want to know why we recommend it. Then there’ll be a pause, and then we’re going to start the discussion that’s quite spoiler-y. That way you can get a little bit of explanation of what it is, and then you can go read it and come back, ‘cause trust us, it’s awesome! Seriously, this book is so great.
So first, I’m going to tell you about the sponsor, then I’m going to give you some cover copy, and then we’re going to do a discussion. You ready? This is kind of an experimental type podcast, so I hope you dig it.
This podcast is brought to you by Lisa Lace. What do you get when you mix mail-order brides and Robin-Hood-style pirates with interplanetary science fiction? Water World Warrior by Lisa Lace, now available in audiobook. Ashlyn is shocked she joined the TerraMates dating service but is even more surprised by the alien she’s matched with. She has three days with him to make up her mind. Will she go home or will she stay with him for a year? At the end of the episode, I’m going to have a sample of this audiobook so that you can get a taste of what it’s like.
The music you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater, and I will have information at the end of the podcast as to who this is. All of our music for this month is new, and I am super excited to share it with you because it is so excellent.
Now before I get started with the interview, I figure it would be wise for me to share with you the cover copy for Level Up by Cathy Yardley so you know a little bit about what book we’re talking about.
“Geeky introvert Tessa Rodriguez will do whatever it takes to get promoted to video game engineer– including create a fandom-based video game in just three weeks. The only problem is, she can’t do it alone. Now, she needs to strong-arm, cajole, and otherwise socialize with her video game coworkers, especially her roommate, Adam, who’s always been strictly business with her. The more they work together, though, the closer they get…
“Adam London has always thought of his roomie Tessa as ‘one of the guys’ until he agreed to help her with this crazy project. Now, he’s thinking of her all the time… and certainly as something more than just a roommate! But his last girlfriend broke up with him to follow her ambitions, and he knows that Tessa is obsessed with getting ahead in the video game world.
“Going from friends to something more is one hell of a challenge. Can Tessa and Adam level up their relationship to love?”
And now, on with the podcast.
Sarah: Thank you for hanging out with me and talking about this book.
Sarah: This is going to be an interesting podcast. I’m going to introduce and be like, okay, so here’s the summary of the book, here’s the cover copy, and now we’re going to spoil the shit out of it –
Sarah: – but you should read it. Bye!
Bree: Maybe listen after you’ve read it.
Sarah: Go read this book and then listen to this podcast, because –
Bree: And it’s free! So there’s no excuse.
Sarah: It’s totally free, and you should totally read it.
Sarah: Okay, so then let me ask you one last question, and I can actually put this at the beginning of the episode.
Sarah: Why should people read this book?
Bree: People should read this book because they are going to want to be best friends with Tessa, and they are going to want to fight for her and watch her fight for herself, and they are going to cheer! –
Bree: – when she kicks people’s butts. Asses, whatever. Am I allowed to say asses on the Smart Bitches podcast? [Laughs]
Sarah: No, we don’t use any bad language here, not ever. What?! Come on, seriously! There’s not even an FCC overseeing these things; we can say whatever the hell we want! I just can’t call it Bitches ‘cause iTunes doesn’t like that.
Sarah: Yeah, we had to change the title of the podcast because they didn’t like the word bitches, and I was like, do, do you know what the names of some of the songs you sell are? But podcasts, it’s like this whole other thing, but okay!
Bree: Oh, gosh.
Sarah: Yeah, say whatever you want.
Bree: So, yes, that is why you should read it. That is why, because she is amazing, and her friends are amazing, and you are going to want to go and hang out with them and talk about –
Sarah: And they’re so real!
Sarah: Even the people who I wanted to kick, they were so real!
Bree: Yes. It was a really just – and I’m not a fast reader, and I was on a deadline, too, so I was, like, trying to finish a book?
Bree: And so I read this in, like, in the span of twenty-four hours, which is –
Bree: – ridiculous for me, so that’s, that’s a – [laughs] – that’s a good sign.
Sarah: I’m, I’m a big fan of realism, so that, this reminds me in a lot of ways like, Act Like It, that this world is incredibly real and could totally exist, and I want to go hang out with these people. Like, I will reread this ‘cause I want to go hang out with them.
Sarah: Yay! [Squee!] Isn’t good, good book squee the best?
Bree: Love it!
Sarah: I know! This, this is why I read romance. Squee!
Bree: Yes. All the happies.
Bree: All the feels!
Sarah: Y’all ready? It’s spoiler time.
Level Up? Oh, my gosh!
Bree: Let’s talk about it.
Sarah: Oh, my goodness! I totally finished this book and went, Eeeee! Like, I legit squeed, and my husband was like, oh, good book, dear? Like, yes! Oh, my God! I loved it!
Bree: This book, like, I loved it, and then sometimes I was so mad at it that I hated it for making me love it –
Bree: – because I loved the heroine so much, but I wanted to crawl into it and strangle half those dudes.
Sarah: Oh, God.
Bree: Just, like – [laughs] – kill them.
Sarah: I wanted, I, okay, Abraham? Needed to be set on fire.
Bree: And I have worked with him and for him and gone to school with him.
Sarah: Yes, I, like, I know that guy. That guy does not change his point of view.
Bree: No. I think that was, like, that was my problem. I loved the story, but then sometimes I was like, oh, God, it’s like I’m back at work.
Bree: No, don’t make me deal with these guys again!
Sarah: Well –
Bree: Because it was so, like, it was so on point with how, not just, you know, in programming but, you know, in gaming and in geek culture, the, the things, all the little, tiny nuances of what it’s like to be a woman engaging with this stuff was so dead on.
Sarah: Oh, yeah. And –
Bree: And so it was amazing, ‘cause it was like, wow, I recognize this!
Sarah: Yes, it –
Bree: But also, oh, God!
Sarah: Yes. The, the things that were real about it made the emotional stakes more powerful, but also made the level of toxicity of the people in the background much more, like, damaging. Like –
Sarah: – I really, I, I didn’t want them to be in that guy’s house. Like, I just didn’t need, I just, like, you just need to not talk to those people. They are all bad. [Laughs]
Bree: And I think it’s, I think it’s like sometimes I was like, okay, Bree, are you being fair? Are you reading what they’re saying, or are you just assuming that this is just that dude –
Sarah: Projecting, yeah.
Bree: – at the comic book store who used to corner you and say, you can’t buy that because you don’t know everything. Answer these nineteen questions.
Bree: So, and I think, you know, I, I, I highlighted some stuff; I have to find it. You know, there was a lot of the, the first one, the first one that made me just recoil was the one where, you know, they said that she lived, he lived with Tessa, but they were like, well, that’s not a girl. Tessa doesn’t count.
Sarah: Yes, where they were like, oh, she’s not really a girl.
Bree: All that stuff!
Sarah: Right, because if you are a, if you’re a female in, in that particular cultural group, if you’re a female who’s accepted, you’re no longer female, because females are bad and other.
Bree: Yes, yeah, it’s basically, and I remember, like, my early twenties was constantly that choice. Like, can I like any of these girly things, or must I commit fully to rejecting everything so that I can be one of the boys?
Sarah: Right, and you have to give up the things that they find bad that aren’t actually that bad for no good reason, just to belong and have respect. And the thing, the thing that, there were two things that bugged me and then, like, eight or nine things that I just loved. One of the things that bugged me was that she’s dressed up as Sailor Moon, and they’re all staring at her because she agreed to do it. If they would help her then she’d dress up as Sailor Moon, and then she did. And then her supervisor, who’s a female, calls her into her office and doesn’t say a word about it.
Sarah: Like, she’s wearing a short skirt, thigh-high boots, and a giant wig. She looks like an anime character. Like, legitimately, they were talking about how well she did, and there’s no comment of, and why?
Bree: See –
Sarah: Now it’s offset by Abraham also dressing up like an anime character –
Sarah: – that was pretty rad. The other thing –
Bree: You know, I don’t think I even noticed that one, though, because I think I’m so used to this idea that women who can call you into your, their office might have already bought into all this stuff so much that –
Sarah: Like, oh, all right. Well, this is a, this is a place where weird shit happens.
Bree: Yeah, I mean, I’ve had a lot of stupervisors – because that’s how you, you get offices that you get offices that you get to call people into, by being the one who laughs at jokes and –
Sarah: You know what, that’s a really good point, and, and it’s like, okay, yeah, it is Sailor Moon Day. Hmm.
Sarah: And, and the thing that, the thing that I, that I didn’t get was, okay, so Tessa needs the programming group to help her put together this game, and she’s willing to barter dressing up as Sailor Moon and humiliating herself, and I know that, having watched a lot of women bosses, they’re, they are willing to be goofy and do things to motivate people because it’s fun when you’re silly and it creates, you know, good camaraderie, but when – it was Adam, right?
Sarah: Adam, thank you, dur. When – you know, the guy who’s in the book – when Adam comes in with the really hot sister from the bookstore who needs this program to help save her store, and he brings her in because, knowing that the guys will fall all over themselves to help her, Tessa gets mad. And I’m like, he’s deploying the same thing you are, just in a slightly different way. Why are you pissed? It worked! Like, what’s your problem? She had this sense that, like, any interference was bad, and in some ways that was true. She needed to stand up to these guys on her own, and he, he used the same method to get them to agree, and that was a problem. And I was like, that’s inconsistent.
Bree: For me, I mean, I think what, the way I read that is it’s different when you’re making that decision for yourself than when some dude is kind of using you to make that decision.
Sarah: This is true.
Bree: But she did sort of, you know, the friend did sort of, like, say that she was cool with it.
Sarah: Yeah, she, she, she agreed, and she suggested it, too.
Bree: So – and so I think after that, yeah, I mean, everybody gets to make their own decision about how they’re going to deploy, I guess.
Sarah: Yes, deploy sexism in their favor.
Bree: I didn’t like him for doing it, though. I didn’t –
Sarah: I didn’t like him for doing it either.
Bree: I was, I was like, you’re losing points there, buddy. Yeah.
Sarah: Yep. Yeah, he definitely lost some points. Even in the beginning of the book, everyone was like, yeah, well, you know, you know how Abraham is. I’m afraid to TP his car ‘cause he’ll kill me, and I’m like, why is that guy allowed to manage that level of threat if you touch his truck in a, in, what, who, how has that not be reined in yet? But then again –
Bree: Oh, terrorizing the, the, the super-competent programmer dudes, man.
Bree: And I have run into a few of those, too. Nobody wants to mess with them ‘cause they get it done.
Bree: And so whatever.
Bree: You know, it’s that –
Sarah: Your competence insulates you.
Bree: it’s that allowed to be an asshole, because – which is, you know, not something we’re ever going to get. [Laughs]
Bree: I don’t think we have a competence level, that there exists a competence level at which we’re allowed to be assholes.
Sarah: That much of an asshole and still do things.
Bree: No. No. So, yeah, I think – what was I going to say? There was something – well, I don’t know. The point is, like, I was like, I was all in Tessa from, like, page one. I loved her, I loved her, and the whole book was a struggle for Adam to get enough points that I would be okay with him being with her.
Bree: I was like, okay, you said she wasn’t a girl. You just lost 10.
Sarah: Yep! You’re getting on down to negative numbers, buddy, and there’s no coming back from that.
Bree: And I, I, I loved her, and I think – she’s the reason I, I tore through this book, and it was her and her friends that she meets at the bookstore. I would read a thousand books about all these chicks at the bookstore doing, having wacky adventures –
Sarah: Oh, my gosh!
Bree: – and hijinks.
Sarah: Yes! And there were times when, like, he would do something that I, that I was really impressed with. Like, he had a whole, like, multiple conversations about consent –
Sarah: – and, like, you’re, you’re, you’re drunk, so no.
Bree: Yes, he got a lot of points for, you know, I’m not going to take advantage of my drunk –
Sarah: And then acknowledging, like, okay –
Sarah: – I could do this, but that’s not who I am. And he gets, at one point he gets upset when she calls him an alpha male, and then she’s like, but it’s a good thing, and he’s like, oh, okay, because for him, that’s a bad thing, and it was watching him sort of pull himself out of a toxic mindset slowly and surely, especially ‘cause he had a bad breakup with someone who treated him poorly –
Sarah: – and, oh, my God, the ex-girlfriend!
Bree: I almost never like ex-girlfriend tropes because a lot of times it’s like it’s the only other woman in the book.
Bree: There were so many awesome women in this book –
Bree: – that I was sort of like, okay, you know, you, not everybody is awesome, but you had so many awesome women, and I was like, okay –
Sarah: Yes. That her awfulness was tolerable because it was offset by excellent people –
Sarah: – and you know that it, and, and it’s weird because I know the, sort of the programmer dudes and all the toxic dudes who are all afraid of the one dude and how they all sort of talk about dating – although I never for once believed that men actually talk to each other like that and make them, make each other take, go on dares to get a date and to hook up with somebody? Like, I don’t actually believe that dudes give a shit like that?
Bree: I don’t know.
Sarah: I, I mean, I have tried to make my husband –
Bree: The, the dating profile conversation, I believed that. [Laughs]
Sarah: I believe that 100%, but, like, oh, no –
Bree: Don’t say anything true!
Sarah: – you need to go get back out there. You, we have a bet, and if you don’t get a date by X day, and then, you know, Tessa doesn’t count ‘cause she’s not a girl and she lives with you, it’s like, okay, dudes don’t, I don’t know those dudes. But I know the other parts of the same group of people, and I know that in terms of the, the ex-girlfriend, I definitely know people who would take advantage of someone who is conscious of being nice and relaxed and kind and accommodating and doing everything that they want to do because they know that person’s not going to put up a fight, and they’re not going to say no, and they’re going to be grateful to have them back.
Sarah: I’ve seen that dynamic.
Bree: Well, I think that that’s a, that’s definitely not even just, that’s a geek stereotype. That’s a sort of, you know, you are lucky to have me –
Bree: – as your girlfriend/boyfriend, and so I am here to relieve you from your loneliness, your life in your mother’s basement or whatever the –
Bree: Is that still, I don’t know if that’s still the popular stereotype. Probably.
Bree: And so since I’m here to actually pay attention to you, you must be grateful.
Sarah: Yes, and of course you’re going to want me back ‘cause I’m so hot.
Bree: Yes. [Laughs]
Sarah: And when you’re, and it’s, it’s a really interesting – all of, this is, this actually just popped into my head – it’s a really interesting riff on the concept of being attractive and female: do you know it and use it? Do you not know it and not use it and then come to realize it and use it a little bit? Because there’s that expectation, and I – who wrote this originally? Somebody wrote this, and I, and I want to say it was a romance author in a book, but I can’t remember. Ugh. But the idea that, you know, women are expected to be utterly gorgeous and yet not know about it.
Sarah: And so –
Bree: Oh, yeah, I mean, if you’re trying to be gorgeous, it’s cheating.
Sarah: Then it’s a problem. Yep.
Bree: So –
Sarah: I was, I was actually talking about this with, with the idea of steroid enhancement in sports? Like, you’re supposed to be naturally possessive of ungodly athletic ability and strength, and you’re not supposed to use steroids and enhancement drugs to get there, much the same as you must be born with perfect beauty and thigh gap, and you may not use extraneous methods to get there because then it’s cheating.
Sarah: But if you don’t, you’re punished. If you don’t achieve that, you’re, you’re not good enough, but you have to achieve it “naturally.”
Bree: Oh, that is, like, that’s totally the trap. It’s why there’s so much baggage, like, with the makeup conversation.
Bree: Like, I am always afraid to engage with that because I don’t want to tell – I mean, I’m not, I’m not a huge makeup fan. I mean, I, I don’t, I don’t, because I spent my twenties trying desperately to be one of the boys –
Sarah: Not to be a girl! Or, or not to be, you know, icky.
Bree: Right, so there’s a lot of things I feel like I’m missed the boat, because I was so busy trying not to, you know, engage with that stuff, and sometimes I still have these, like, kneejerk, really uncool things like, no! People who like pretty shoes are frivolous! No! People who wear lots of makeup are, you know, frivolous, and, and I’ve, I’m spending my thirties trying to, like, back off of that.
Bree: Because people get to, you know, love whatever they want to love, and people get to wear makeup or not wear makeup, but I really wish women who didn’t wear makeup weren’t punished for, you know, not caring or letting go or whatever, you know.
Sarah: Right. And if you don’t know how to put on makeup, it, it’s now easier than it has ever been to learn how to put ma-
Sarah: Oh, my God. I didn’t realize this. Like, it, it’s never been easier to learn how to put on makeup, but still, I don’t know how to do some of this shit! [Laughs] I have no idea! Why is it important?
Bree: I know!
Sarah: And it’s just going to give me pimples! Can we not?
Sarah: And yet, like, when it’s time for RWA, I backdate the shit out of RWA. All right, two weeks out, get your eyebrows waxed. Four days out, get your manicure done. Make sure you have your outfits planned, ‘cause I travel with an outfit schedule so that I don’t –
Sarah: – arrive uncaffeinated at my closet and go, what do I do now? Past Sarah, please help me.
Bree: That is super clever.
Sarah: Well, I, Past Sarah has to help Present Sarah as much as possible ‘cause Present Sarah is tired and stressed and has anxiety, so Past Sarah and Future Sarah work together. But, like –
Bree: That is good.
Sarah: It’s a good, it’s a good strategy; it works well. But, like, in this particular story, there’s, not only are there different kinds of women with different attitudes towards beauty and the way that they’re described, but none of them fall too deeply into the trope of, well, she doesn’t know she’s beautiful, and she doesn’t know she’s hot. Like –
Sarah: – no one puts on a Sailor Moon cartoon with a miniskirt thinking that they’ve got bad thighs.
Bree: No, that’s, I mean, and that’s, it’s all very, you know, it’s, it’s natural and awesome. I, I really, really loved the women in this book.
Sarah: Oh, God, me too.
Bree: I don’t want to keep harping on it, but I mean, I did, I want to be their friend, and I want to hang out at the bookstore –
Sarah: [Laughs] I know.
Bree: – and then I want to talk –
Sarah: Oh, I know.
Bree: – about TV shows with them.
Sarah: And you want to, you want to listen to them talking to each other, because talking, when they talk to each other, you learn more about them, because they’re only, they’re not just talking about guys.
Bree: Yeah. Oh –
Sarah: And dating.
Bree: – it was awesome. I mean, they’re almost never talking about guys –
Bree: – or anything about them.
Sarah: They were talking about their business, and they were talking about what to do with their business and how to make it better and how to fix it, and oh, my gosh, the one who has agoraphobia? Could we please have her story?
Sarah: Oh, my gosh!
Bree: Oh, and I mean, it’s just, I want it almost like, okay, and there’s a mechanic. There’s a mechanic who is, like, described as looking like, like Marilyn Monroe. [Laughs]
Bree: I was like, hi! I would love to read this, and the, the one with, like, the biker boots who, like, works at, I think she worked at the casino? You know, I was just like, okay, I’m ready for all of these stories –
Bree: – but then it was like, but please don’t hook up with those dudes from the programming company. [Laughs]
Sarah: No, the guy, the guys from the programming group are not worthy of you.
Bree: There was one. I don’t remember.
Sarah: The one who was sort of like –
Bree: Maybe it was Jose?
Sarah: No, Jose was the gross one.
Bree: No, Jose was the gross one. Who was –
Sarah: It was, began with an R. It was, like, Rizzo or something.
Bree: Yeah, there was one that I was sort of like, okay, you’re kind of secretly maybe cool.
Sarah: Not a dick.
Bree: I’m, I’m, I’m feeling you. You, you are –
Sarah: But it’s also sort of an example of how toxic that group of men is because there’s a guy who’s fluent in that toxicity who also can step out of it and, and disengage from it. You don’t usually –
Sarah: – have somebody who has that sort of fluency and awareness.
Bree: Well, I think sometimes, I mean, it’s a pressure. It’s a pressure to –
Sarah: Oh, totally.
Bree: – you know –
Bree: And, and I’ve seen, even with, with, I have friends, and I’ve seen them, you know –
Bree: – when we’re just talking, the two of us, it’s fine, but then we go to the, you know – okay, I’m just going to be honest here; I mean, I say it on Twitter – I met my husband in a role-playing game at a comic book store – [laughs] – so, you know.
Sarah: I met my husband in Spanish class in high school. So –
Sarah: – really, it’s okay!
Bree: [Laughs] So, so, yeah, I mean, this is, like, comic book stores and this sort of thing, I mean, this is where, my origin story for my romances. I’m basically a geek romantic comedy. Donna and I –
Bree: – met both of our husbands in the same game, so –
Sarah: Aw! That’s lovely!
Bree: And all of, we and the person who ran that game all got married in 2004, like, in just – [laughs] – a little string of geeky weddings, so, so, yeah, I mean, I used to, some of these dudes when we were at the comic book store, like, with the games around all the other guys, they would be kind of different. Not completely, but you know, it’s –
Sarah: Just a little.
Bree: – it’s, there’s so much, and I think that it’s, you know, and I wasn’t always calling stuff out. I mean, because it was 2004, I was, 2003, I was like, you know, twenty-two, twenty-three –
Sarah: And you were already enough of a, of a, of a, like a, a unique thing in the space already.
Bree: Oh, well, this is something like the way they all were asking the secretary out.
Bree: That is so, it’s like, okay, there’s a new girl. We all have to take a shot at her.
Sarah: We all, we all have to go see if we can, if we can hit that. Like, no.
Bree: Yeah, it, it’s basically the progression, you know.
Bree: Whenever there’s, there’s a new person, everybody’s got to take a run at her, because –
Sarah: Right, because one of us has to be able to hit that.
Bree: So, so, yeah, and it’s, it’s – [laughs]
Sarah: So what did you like about Tessa?
Bree: She, I mean, I just, it was like she, she was somebody I need to meet on Twitter, and then we’d become friends – [laughs]
Bree: – and we’d talk about video games. I mean, I love that she – I get her. I, I, I get her, the anxiety, you know, the, the social awkwardness. It is so hard when you are a woman with these interests –
Bree: – because the men, you know, you’re never going to quite fit in, no matter how hard you try.
Bree: But you don’t, we never really, we’re so trained to not express these interests, not to expose them?
Bree: If you’re a woman who likes this stuff, I mean, in the general public with the normal people –
Bree: You, you don’t hide it, so how do we, you have to go buy the T-shirts –
Bree: – which was, I love when the secretary, when Stacy, Stacy was like, you know, recognizing the T-shirts –
Bree: – and that’s how you do it; it’s your secret code!
Sarah: Right, and then –
Bree: Wave my book or my T-shirt.
Sarah: – and then Adam is standing there, like, baffled that these two women know how to talk to each other, and he’s not part of the conversation. [Laughs]
Bree: I loved the fandom conversation!
Sarah: Yes! And –
Bree: Sherwholock! [Laughs] And they started talking about their ‘ships and, you know –
Sarah: Yes! Because that’s how actual fans talk, and he couldn’t participate in the conversation, which is probably rare for him.
Bree: And, and it makes me, and it always makes me laugh, too, because it makes me think about how, like, these little communities we have around language –
Bree: – and you know, if you’re going to talk about the, the latest kerfuffle in Romancelandia, that’s not a thing!
Bree: It means something to all of us, but if you say it to an outsider – and I’ve, I’ve tried to, like, have these discussions with, like, my mother before. I’m like, oh, somebody retweeted something that somebody else posted on Tumblr, and it was, like, a crazy reblog, and she’s like, what does any of that mean?
Sarah: What did you just say? [Laughs]
Bree: Those are words, but they don’t mean things.
Sarah: My mother-in-law, she followed me on the Twittah and was like, who takes a picture of one shoe? Who cares about one shoe? And I’m like, a lot of people care about one shoe, ‘cause you don’t need to see two, you just need to see one. And, and it’s like she doesn’t understand any of it.
Bree: No. My mother followed me on Twitter over Christmas, and I blocked her and then unblocked her so she unfollowed. [Laughs] She doesn’t need my Twitter feed.
Sarah: [Laughs] What are you do- – You know what I loved about Tessa? That she was very comfortable but unhappy – or, no, she wasn’t very comfortable. She was resigned –
Sarah: – and, and accepting of the fact that she didn’t quite fit in with her family because this was what she was interested in, and she didn’t fit, quite fit in in her chosen profession because of the fact that she was female, and she, she had all of this experience and was doing something that was way beneath her skill set, and she accepted that discomfort sort of resignedly and knew that she could do more to get out of it.
Bree: Yes. Oh, I loved that she was, she was ambitious. I mean, she –
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Bree: – was not going to settle for anything less than being –
Sarah: She –
Bree: – awesome at the job she wanted to do.
Sarah: And she understood that her family didn’t get her and that, you know, for her quinceañera she wanted a computer and she didn’t want a party, and her family’s like, I don’t understand, how do you not want a party? Like, what’s wrong with you? Like, she understood that she, her family didn’t understand her and they still loved her, and she had very few people who truly did get her? And then when she had her friend over Skype who was, who was friends enough with her to not only know her but push her?
Sarah: That’s a, that’s a rare friendship, like, when you’re, when you’re so close to somebody you can be like, I’m going to push you to do things you don’t want to do. Boom! Ha-ha! Have fun! Like –
Sarah: – that’s so powerful, and, and the fact that she was so accustomed to the discomfort meant that she was like, well, fuck it, what’s a little more? I want that job.
Bree: And I liked that that friend was an internet friend.
Sarah: Yes! Yes!
Bree: Because –
Sarah: She was far away!
Bree: Yeah! Because somebody doesn’t have to be in your living room to push you. I mean, someone can be overseas and still be the friend who Skypes you. I mean, that, that really, I really, really liked that.
Sarah: Oh, me too.
Bree: I wish we had more of that, because –
Sarah: Oh, me too.
Bree: – we’re in this whole different, different, like, era now –
Bree: – where it’s not real life. We can’t – I, I still say real life, but that’s kind of ridiculous. I do –
Sarah: No –
Bree: – all of my work online –
Sarah: – this is very real life.
Bree: – all of my coworkers – yeah!
Sarah: I’m actually looking at you! This is real life as I get, really.
Bree: Yeah! I mean –
Sarah: I usually just interact with words, which are a lot easier when you’re, you know, socially like, ugh.
Bree: So, so I, I like that a lot and, you know, and girlfriends. That’s my, that’s my secret weakness. All books. I want, I always want the books where the girlfriends, you know –
Sarah: Oh, God, yes.
Bree: – are the ones that help each other and push each other and have each others’ backs.
Sarah: Yes! Especially because (a) it’s rare in romance, and (b) it’s a real thing that people have, and it’s really valuable, especially when, like, if you’re like me and you’re baffled by a lot of these things that are, that you’re told are important for women to know about? Like, to be a female means that you value this set of things, and I’m like, I’m only interested in, like, two of those –
Sarah: – and I cannot talk to people about these other things. Like, they don’t interest me at all. You know, it’s funny, my, when my mother-in-law was here – bless her, she watched the kids, so my husband and I went out to dinner – and we’ve been tog-, we’ve been together since, God, since 1994. We met each other before that, before we graduated from high school, so, like, in 1992. We’ve known each other since we were seventeen –
Sarah: – we’ve been together for a long-ass time, and, you know, good relationships take work. Like, it –
Sarah: – you don’t just show up and it happens, and we are both the type of person that when we, when we’re interested in something, there’s a finite number of them, it’s not many things that we’re interested in, but we are going to deep dive to the level that we’re going to discover some freaky-ass ocean creatures.
Bree: [Laughs] Yes.
Sarah: Like, we are going to deep dive below, below the level that humans have ever explored before, because this is what we’re into. And we’re not into the same things, so, like, he could tell you all kinds of shit about Game of Thrones, and I’m like, yeah, rape and murder, no. Not for me.
Sarah: But, you know, I will listen to him because he’s totally into it –
Sarah: – and when you’re a person who’s interested in a singular number of things that you love to deep dive into, it can be really hard to, to, to connect with people on a less deep level. I don’t mean superficial as in shallow, but where you only have a handful of things in common, it can be really hard to connect with somebody when you don’t have that personality that’s like, I love this thing; give me all of the things about it right now. Like, that’s –
Bree: Especially because –
Sarah: – that’s hard!
Bree: – let’s be real: that can occasionally make us awkward. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, occasionally?! Like, 80% of the time! [Laughs]
Bree: Like, for example –
Sarah: [Still laughing] Occasionally!
Bree: – I don’t know if you’ve heard –
Sarah: Like, all the time!
Bree: – but I like this thing called Dragon Age.
Sarah: Oh, my goodness, yes, I have heard. And I am, like, debating whether or not to buy it on Xbox ‘cause I’m afraid I’m never going to get off the couch, and my ass will be square. Little square cushion ass.
Bree: Well, and you know, I can’t, I can’t seem to stop myself.
Bree: And, like – [laughs] – I try, because my Twitter account, I’m an author, I’m writing post-apocalyptic, you know –
Bree: – gritty romance about these bad boys, and all I can do is tweet about –
Bree: – knights and dragons all the time! That’s when you’re a fan!
Sarah: But yeah, I totally get it! I totally get it! And it, and, and it’s like when you see people who are like that as a character, like Tessa is seriously into a handful of things, and she’s in this room –
Sarah: – with these women who are, some of them are really beautiful and have demonstrable makeup knowledge and skills that they apply to their face on a daily basis, and she’s like, I don’t, why, why am I here. I don’t fit here. What am I doing? And the receptionist was like, I know you’re one of us. Come with me.
Sarah: That is, that is just, like, an enormously formative and powerful experience when you’re, when you’re not easily able to be like, oh, yeah, group of beautiful people I don’t know, I will totally sit among you! Like, no! No, no, nooo.
Bree: That’s when, and then they, and you find out that people who on the surface may look like they have an entirely different skill set than you –
Bree: – they’re still your people!
Sarah: Yes! And –
Bree: And, you know –
Sarah: – and, like, much like in romance, which I tell to people all the time, like, you know, there’s not just one romance reader. There’s not just this, you know, one lonely white lady with cats and a fanny pack who just reads – like, we are very different from each other, and there are people who I’m like, I got zip in common with you, except this one book –
Sarah: – like, that we both love. Otherwise we are entirely different people. Like, I’m sure that there are people who love romance and are going to vote for Donald Trump, and I don’t get that at all, but I understand the romance part.
Bree: Yes. Well, you remember when you were talking about RT, the whole schedule thing? Like, I used to, in my late twenties, like – I, I think I’ve told you this, too – like, I used to get panicked. I would watch the, the tweets start with all the people buying their shoes –
Bree: – and their purses –
Bree: – and I’d be like, I don’t know how to be part of you! Because –
Sarah: I, oh, no, I don’t, didn’t either.
Bree: But, you know, when I finally went to RT, it, that, there were people there with fabulous shoes –
Bree: – and fabulous purses –
Bree: – but there were also people who were like me, probably wearing flip-flops. [Laughs]
Sarah: Flip-flops are totally high end footwear now –
Bree: So –
Sarah: – so you’re safe.
Bree: And it wasn’t that, people didn’t decide not to talk to me because I was wearing –
Bree: – well, maybe some did, but – [laughs]
Bree: – plenty of people talked to me in spite of the fact I was wearing flip-flops because we love books!
Sarah: Yes. No one’s ever going to remember what you were wearing. I don’t remember what other people were wearing. I remember what I was wearing. So we’re all worried about what we’re wearing, and no one actually remembers. You could probably wear the same outfit and no, and people would be like, oh, you look familiar!
Sarah: It’s ‘cause you’re wearing the same dress, not, oh, you’re wearing the same dress as yesterday? What’s wrong with you? Like, I don’t notice if people change their shoes three times a day. Unless they’re, like, eight inches shorter all of a sudden, and then I’m like, oh, hey, you’re my height! Nice to meet you!
Bree: That’s nice when you can find ways to compensate that don’t involve you having to learn all this stuff, because –
Bree: – I’d rather play Dragon Age! [Laughs]
Sarah: Well, it’s like, it’s, it’s like the self-publishing thing, you know? You have to do your cover, and you have to do your formatting, and you have to build your website, and like, no, if you don’t know how to do that, you outsource that shit.
Sarah: You can say, all right, this is what I want in a cover, but you can also, for a small amount of money, hire a designer who’s going to make it look really good.
Bree: Can I say I love the cover of this book, too? While we’re talking about covers?
Sarah: Oh, my God!
Bree: Isn’t the cover awesome?
Sarah: It’s so great! [muffled] Oh, my God.
Bree: It’s adorable!
Sarah: And, and, and she’s not straddling him. Her legs are across his lap, which is a really important distinction?
Sarah: And –
Bree: And the little game controller. [Laughs]
Sarah: And she’s like, would you stop? I’m trying to play! I love this cover!
Sarah: It’s just lovely. I love it so much!
Bree: It was, it was awesome, and, I mean, yeah, that’s the thing. I, I, I kept sending angry texts to people about the men in the book, so, like, how they were annoying me and how –
Bree: – sexism is so real, but I’m like, someone would say –
Sarah: When they were awful.
Bree: – like, I’m not enjoying the book, and I’m like, no! I’m enjoying the book! I’m just angry!
Sarah: When they’re awful, they’re so awful. They’re so awful when they’re bad, and yet I wanted her to beat them.
Bree: Well, and it’s not that they’re cartoonishly awful, either. They’re just, if they were cartoonishly awful, I probably could have handled it better –
Sarah: Who gives a shit?
Bree: – but they were just so realistically, aggravatingly, casually, completely sexist. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yep. And, like, unaware of how that, how, how they were going to be called on it. Like, when they were called on it –
Bree: Yes, and then they were called on it –
Sarah: – they were like –
Bree: – and I love that they were called on it.
Sarah: Yeah, and, and that, you know, they were like, what, what are you, what are you talking about? This is, this is okay. No, no, it’s not.
Bree: Yeah, and, and she beats, when she beats Abraham at the little code-off thing, I was like, yeah. Yeah, that’s right.
Sarah: [Laughs] And the, the only thing that rang false for me was that he was like, well, yeah she has to be on my team, ‘cause she beat me. I think a guy who’s that wrapped up in his misogyny and his misandry, or his misandry and his, his mis-, mis-, misanthropy, is not going to just roll over because of one battle. I think that that would attack him on a much more deeper insecure level.
Bree: I, yeah, I mean, I, I think that it was, I don’t know, I think that there’s that point where I was just, like, so mad I was, like, willing, I don’t care if it’s realistic.
Bree: She kicked his ass! And now grovel! Now grovel more!
Sarah: Grovel some more, ‘cause you need to grovel badly.
Bree: Now grovel wearing a Sailor Moon costume! Now just keep groveling!
Sarah: [Laughs] So do you thing that in the end of the book Adam earned his, his relationship with someone as awesome as Tessa?
Bree: That is such a hard question. I’m so hard on heroes. I am terrible on heroes –
Bree: – because, because I read books in a way where I want to be best friends with the heroine, and then I’m watching the hero like, do you deserve her? I don’t know if you deserve her.
Sarah: Mm-hmm! You don’t, you don’t replace the heroine with yourself; you ally yourself with the heroine.
Bree: Yeah! I’m, I’m her best friend who’s going to call her and say, ditch that dude! Ditch that dude!
Sarah: [Laughs] I have written a number of reviews where I’ve been like, I didn’t particularly like him, but that’s what she wanted, so I’m glad that she’s happy.
Sarah: ‘Cause you know, in my brain, these are all real people.
Bree: Yes, of course!
Bree: With Adam, I sort of settle as, I didn’t decide to love him –
Bree: – but I thought he showed enough forward progression –
Bree: – and, like, and I feel like I’m kind of unfair to Adam because I think that I would have liked him more –
Bree: – like, by the end I would have loved him, if I hadn’t worked as a programmer and gotten a computer science degree and been so enmeshed in geek culture that sometimes I was just unfairly thinking, well, next you’re going to do this horrible thing that I remember this guy doing, you know.
Bree: I think that on the page, I was pretty happy. I think that he, he learned, and he got better, and it was cool –
Bree: – but I’m so Team Tessa that it’s really hard. I’m like, okay, you can date her now, but I’m watching you.
Bree: I’m watching you!
Sarah: But the best thing about Tessa was that she took no crap.
Sarah: She –
Bree: And that’s, that’s why I almo-, that’s why I believed it in the end, because if he wasn’t doing it –
Bree: – she’s going to be like, I’m watching you!
Sarah: Oh, yeah. Totally. Not only did she, she owned her, her perspective, and she had no problems with her ambition and was not going to sacrifice her ambition for being with him, and she was like, I am totally fine with us casually hooking up. This does not need to be a thing, ‘cause I got other things going on.
Sarah: Yes! She is not going to let him do stupid shit and not call him on it.
Bree: Oh, and speaking of calling on it, like, the other game company?
Sarah: Oh, my God!
Bree: That was supposed to, like, hire her to, like, you know, deal with their big old mess, basically?
Sarah: Right, and then pin the failure on her –
Sarah: – when they brought her in to fix it.
Bree: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: And, and the fact that she figured that out, I was like, ohhh, yeah.
Bree: So, she, she – and I was, I was happy that it wasn’t some sort of thing where she sacrificed some big opportunity, and also that they screwed up so bad, so, you know, she got what she wanted in the end.
Bree: And, you know, and I, and I totally believed that. I believed someone –
Bree: – would, you know –
Bree: Let’s bring in her, and she can totally not meet this impossible deadline, and then it’ll be all her fault.
Sarah: I remember reading, I think it was after Reddit hired a female CEO –
Sarah: – that somebody traced the number of tech companies that have hired a woman and then pinned their troubles on her, and it was something that had happened repeatedly –
Sarah: – over the past ten or fifteen years. And I was like, oh, oh –
Sarah: – ouch.
Bree: Oh, and that was a whole big old mess over on Reddit, too.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, yes it was.
Bree: Went down in flames! So –
Sarah: But she, she totally recognized, like, the guy’s telling her, oh, yeah, all of the people that used to work for this other guy are now going to work for you, and they’ll be fine, and she’s like –
Sarah: – I just met all of them, and they were hostile, so no, it’s not going to be fine. And it, and it’s just another example of how she’s going to see things just slightly differently enough to take care of herself.
Bree: Yeah, I mean, it’s one of those things, it’s a survival instinct, you know –
Bree: – when you cannot get very far –
Bree: – and I – [laughs] – I mean, I, I, there are times I miss. I really liked the programming stuff, the database stuff; I really liked it. But then there are times where I think, okay, I’m going to get up for work this morning, and no one in the romance community is going to email me and assume that I’m my own secretary.
Bree: Nobody’s going to do that to me today –
Bree: – and so – and I was talking about it on Twitter with someone, and – I can’t remember who it was. It might have been Laura Curtis who said it – that when you work in tech, I mean, I get way more disdain now because I’m a romance writer. I mean, not just from men, I mean. It’s like, I get disdain from women too, who respected me –
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Bree: – when I was a programmer who don’t respect me now that I write romance, but I don’t get it from my peers and my colleagues. When I worked in programming I got the shit from the people I had to deal with every day. Now I get it from more people on the whole –
Bree: – but not the people I have to deal with every day.
Sarah: Nope. And you –
Bree: And so –
Sarah: – and you don’t work in an environment where you constantly have to prove yourself and prove your competency.
Bree: Yeah! I mean, it’s, it’s just, I never ever want to leave.
Bree: I don’t know; I mean, sometimes people, like, they’ll do that thing where I don’t want to work in a woman-dominated field because it’s so, what, they, they, what do they, they do the bitchy or the backstabbing or all the –
Bree: Like, okay, because dudes never do that to you at work. Like, where have you been working?
Sarah: No, they, never ever – yeah, all the time.
Bree: So –
Sarah: Try working in finance, pal. Let me know how it goes.
Bree: So, yeah, I mean, I am very happy that I am no longer in tech, even if I’m –
Sarah: But in a way, you still are. You’re just in all the tech parts that you like.
Bree: I am, because the background in tech definitely helps you if you want to self-publish, you know.
Sarah: Just a little.
Bree: And if you want to do online marketing and all that stuff, yeah, tiny bit of advantage.
Sarah: Give you a little help. So, if you were going to grade this book, how, what grade would you give it?
Bree: Well, see, like, book grading, like, I don’t know how reviewers do this, because for me, I have, like, three grades.
Sarah: Oh, it’s a magic alchemy!
Bree: I have three grades: I have, ah! I finished this book, and it was great!
Bree: And then I have, I think I was reading that, but I don’t know where I put it.
Bree: And then I have, I set it on fire.
Bree: Those are, like, basically how I engage with books, and so this one –
Sarah: You know what, that’s a perfectly legitimate rubric. [Laughs] I don’t see what the problem is!
Bree: [Laughs] So, I mean, I loved this book, and I finished it really fast, and so I was like, whee, excited! And it made me super emotional, but, you know, I almost like it more for Tessa and the friends than I did for the romance, even though I did like the romance too.
Bree: And so it’s kind of weird, if I’m giving it a, this is my personal girlfriend-loving crack grade, it’s, like, A with a thousand pluses.
Bree: And I think that Adam, I’ve got hopes for him, so I’m stamping off on him – [laughs] – as the, the hero of this book.
Sarah: For me, Tessa was so awesome, and the story happened on her terms.
Sarah: Like, she was pushed and had ambition to do things, but the story was very much about her. She didn’t necessarily need Adam to be happy. He’s a, he’s like a really good bonus with really good orgasms.
Sarah: And he values her in a way that he’s probably not used to, so I think that he will, he will live up to what I expect him to do in their relationship.
Sarah: Like, if you see, like, there’s a subsequent book and then we get a little glimpse of them, it’s going to be all good because –
Sarah: – he will have figured out how not to be a sexist dick because she’ll call him on it.
Sarah: And I just, she was so great!
Bree: I know!
Sarah: Just so great!
Bree: I know, I know. So I don’t know. I want, I want to give her a million stars.
Bree: Do they have a million stars for heroines?
Sarah: I think so.
Bree: I, I, I don’t know if Goodreads can cover that. Maybe they can –
Sarah: Who the hell knows?
Sarah: But the thing, the thing that is so great is that when, when I was reading it, it was like, I would watch this if this were a show. I would watch this if this were a movie.
Sarah: I would, I would totally revisit this very realistic world because I know these people, and I know people like these people, and I really like the protagonists and the people that are awesome; I want them to be happy. Like, I want everyone in the bookstore to get a good, good, good romance. I want the woman who has agoraphobia to feel better and feel safe, and I want – and I think that the, the girl on Skype gets a story. Did she – ? Or hang on, I’ve got to look at –
Bree: There was a, there was a novella, and I haven’t gotten it yet.
Sarah: Yeah, there’s a novella. I think you, like, do you get it for free?
Bree: You might get it for free. I think there’s an offer at the end, if you subscribe to her newsletter you get it for free. And this book was free. Is it still free?
Sarah: Yes, it is free. It is free, still free.
Bree: Amazingly free.
Bree: See, and this is what I’m talking about when I talk about, people are always like, you know, what do you mean worldbuilding, with contemporary romance? This is what I mean –
Sarah: Nooo. This is what you mean.
Bree: – with contemporary worldbuilding. I mean, this is a little community –
Bree: – and that bookstore and those people, they are, this is a little, a little world that I totally believe in now.
Sarah: And it’s a tiny little piece of Washington State with real problems that happen, and –
Sarah: – and the, the part where his ex-girlfriend left this very small town and went to New York and then was coming back to look for a job, that taps into something really familiar with romance, like, oh, I’m from a small town, I’m going to the big city, this is a horrible place, and there’s someone else who’s all, I kind of like it here; it’s all right. That, that aspect was just, just familiar enough, and then everything else was a completely unique world.
Bree: Yeah. And then –
Sarah: Like, there’re not a lot that are set in game companies.
Bree: [Laughs] No, I, I’m try-, I think I’ve read, there are a few. And I have some, I have – ‘cause I told you I was going to write that, that post about Dragon Age because –
Sarah: Yes, please!
Bree: – have I mentioned lately that I like this thing called Dragon Age? And so I’ve actually been looking for, for more video game romances to read before I do that and, you know, I think Melissa Blue has some, one coming out.
Sarah: Yes, and then there’s a –
Bree: And Alisha Rai has one coming out with a heroine –
Sarah: There’s a male/male one that I read where one of the – oh, goodness, was it Status Update? There’s a, yeah, Status Update. #gaymers is the series name, #gaymers, but one of them is a game developer, and the other is a, I think he’s a geology professor? But he, he’s currently working at a super ultraconservative college that makes him sign, like, a morality clause where he can’t be gay, basically.
Bree: Oh, my –
Sarah: I’m sorry, I beg your pardon. He’s a geoarchaeologist, which is enough of a word to give me a, like, a little mental science, like, but what?! You’re a what? That sounds cool! Let’s learn about that! But the her-, the other hero is a video game designer, and he’s really good at it, but the, the part where he’s a designer isn’t, like, causing him angst. Like, it’s just –
Sarah: – that’s what he does. The part where you have this weird dynamic inside the gaming business, that was fascinating.
Bree: Yeah, that was definitely – and I mean, like I said, it felt, it felt sooo much like – [laughs] – flashbacks!
Bree: Because it’s not like gaming has been a little bit excitable or confrontational lately when it comes to gender issues or anything. [Laughs]
Sarah: No. You know, actually, I was just looking at my highlights, and there is one more thing that bugged me?
Sarah: That he’s at dinner with his ex-girlfriend, and he’s calling her on her bullshit, and he calls his ex-girlfriend’s mom. I was like, are you serious? Who does that?
Bree: I was not super into that whole, that whole thing, but that’s like, you know, that’s like, I don’t like ex-girlfriend stuff, you know. I, I think it’s not ever my favorite sort of thing, you know. I, I, I joke that, you know, People for the Ethical Treatment of Ex-Girlfriends is going to be my, my cause.
Bree: But that reminds me of, like – because I’m always so tensed when I’m reading books, waiting for, like, all the women to turn evil –
Bree: – so that reminded me when at first, Stacy first showed up, you know, the pretty blonde receptionist who in his head he’s comparing to his ex-girlfriend. I’m thinking, oh, God, it’s going to be, you know, a bitchy pretty girl, and then she turned out to be awesome geek lady, and that was, like, when I knew that I was going to probably love this book.
Bree: Because that was, you know –
Sarah: The pre-, when, when the, the person that the heroine, who is, the, the woman who the heroine describes as beautiful and feeling insecure about doesn’t turn into an antagonist –
Sarah: – is so refreshing.
Bree: Yes. And so that’s why, even though ex-girlfriends, like, I really don’t like that thing –
Sarah: Yeah, me either.
Bree: – you know, it’s so, it’s, it’s hard to write a scene with a crazy ex or a mean ex-girlfriend that I will enjoy reading, just because, and it’s not like, I’m not going to ever say that nobody can do it, because people will do it –
Bree: – and people can do anything. So that wasn’t my favorite part, and I was sort of like, oh, come on, Adam. Why did you – ? [Laughs] But, you know, he did, he did have, you know, supposedly, a reason to go to dinner with her, so, so she was sort of underhanded and, you know –
Bree: – ehhh.
Sarah: Well, she was definitely predatory and into taking advantage –
Sarah: – of his kindness and his sort of flexibility –
Sarah: – and she did not treat him with a great deal of respect, and he continued to try to treat her with respect and still, until he started calling her on her bullshit, but why he called her mom, like, that just baffled me. (A) Why do you have her mom’s number in your phone? (B) Why is that a thing you would do? Like, why?
Bree: Maybe people do that, I don’t know.
Sarah: I don’t know.
Bree: [Laughs] I never call anyone’s mom.
Sarah: I wouldn’t voluntarily call –
Bree: That’s, I don’t call people on the phone, so there you –
Sarah: [Laughs] Okay, so I loved this book. I’m so excited about it! Yay!
Bree: I’m excited we got to talk about it!
Sarah: I know! Eee!
Bree: Because when I saw you were reading it, I was like, ah! Ah! More people! More people who aren’t sick of me telling them about it! [Laughs]
Sarah: It’s like a book about the characters who, like us, are people that do the deep dive into something.
Bree: Yes. The, the –
Sarah: Yes, who do not get tired of learning more and more about their favorite things and don’t –
Sarah: – and aren’t ashamed to be like, nope, this is pretty much the greatest thing ever. I’m going to geek out: yay!
Bree: I love books that, that – it reminds me, I mean, this is, like, going to seem like a weird segue in a way, but, like, Tessa Dare’s, was it Romancing, Romancing the Duke? Or no.
Sarah: Which one?
Bree: It was the first Castles book, and now I’ve forgotten the name; that’s very embarrassing. Supposed to be a Tessa fangirl!
Sarah: [Laughs] No, I’m pretty sure that that was Romancing the Duke, where she was in a, her, her father or, had created a fandom.
Bree: Yes! And it was all these people who –
Bree: – just loved, loved, loved the, the medieval cosplayers in the Reg-, Regency.
Bree: And so I always thought that that book was so nice because they, they were borderline ridiculous –
Bree: – but in the end, it treated them like their passion was something worthy and admirable, and their ability to love something so desperately they wanted to be a part of it didn’t make them ridiculous at all.
Bree: And so I love books that say, hey, yes, it’s a little odd that all you want to do is talk about this one piece of media fandom all the time –
Sarah: Yep, yep.
Bree: – but that’s okay because you are passionate and love something, and that’s cool.
Bree: ‘Cause it’s not like we tell people that they’re ridiculous if they are obsessed with football.
Sarah: No, or –
Bree: Which, you know, I don’t get, but lots of people are, so –
Sarah: [Laughs] I will confess that for a really long time, I didn’t quite get fanfiction. Like, I didn’t quite get why that was a thing. And then I realized, once I experienced books and stories that created a fandom around them – and television series – I realized, oh, it’s for all the things that aren’t there that you wish were there so that you can be in that world a little longer, even if you’re constructing your own entry into it.
Sarah: You want to be in this world longer, so you’re going to find a way to be in it, even if you have to write it yourself.
Sarah: That is an enormous amount of creative dedication and enthusiasm, and I didn’t, it’s not like I was ever like, oh, fanfic, that’s dumb. I didn’t mock it; I just didn’t get it. Nope.
Bree: Well, and you know, I wrote fanfiction. That’s how I started writing. I was, you know –
Sarah: As a lot of people do.
Bree: Yep. I mean, I wrote Star Wars fanfiction, I wrote X-Men movie fanfiction. [Laughs]
Bree: I mean, I loved to – and it was always, you want to write, you think, well, I loved that, but what if they had done –
Sarah: This! Yep.
Bree: So it’s, it’s a way to engage with something that you love, and it’s just crazy passion, and –
Sarah: And it’s a deep dive in a, a way that lets you, that lets you be in that world more.
Sarah: And get to be –
Bree: And that’s what we all want to do.
Bree: We want, you know, want to belong to these, these worlds that have, like, captured our imagination.
Sarah: Right, which is why within romance good worldbuilding is so important.
Sarah: Because when you have a good world-, worldbuilding, whether it’s fantasy and science fiction where you expect it or historical where, if you’ve read a little bit of historical, we’re all sort of familiar enough with the basics of the Regency at this point, there’s not a lot of work you’ve got to do. [Laughs]
Bree: Yeah, well, I think that they have their own little, like, shared collective –
Bree: – hallucinated Regency world where it’s, you know – I mean, I shouldn’t say hallucinated, but, you know, it’s, it’s a, it’s a group –
Sarah: It’s very – what’s the right word?
Bree: It’s group fanon. That’s what we used to call, like, not canon, but the fans’ canon.
Sarah: Yes! It is totally fanon!
Bree: It’s like group fanon of the Regency.
Sarah: [Laughs] That’s totally right, ‘cause no one ever – [laughs] – ‘cause Elyse is talking about this. No one ever gets a UTI if they don’t go to the bathroom after they have sex. Like, it’s not a problem, even though a UTI would kill you. No one gets one. Everybody’s babies are healthy.
Sarah: No one has an infant mortality rate problem. They’re all going to have, like, umpty-zillion kids. And it, it, when you have that ability to re-participate in a world, and it’s a contemporary world, that’s a little bit more rare. You know what I mean?
Bree: That’s what I think, and I mean, I think that’s why part of, like, all the small town stuff is, you know, because small towns, like – the, the woman who does our series bible, Lillie, she’ll always say that, like, you know, you think that the fantasy and sci-fi ones will be the worst, but the small towns –
Bree: – because they build those suckers, there’re so many characters, everybody’s a character: the town’s a character, the mailman’s a character –
Bree: – the person at the bank is a character –
Bree: – you know –
Sarah: Everybody knows everybody.
Bree: Yeah, and I think that that’s part of, we build these little worlds, and they’re just which ones we want to go –
Bree: – live in, and, like, that’s why I love to read series, because I’m somebody who, I have a hard time getting into new books with new people, but now I will want to read this, because if I’m stressed out or tired, I want to go back to this world that I’m already familiar with –
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Bree: – that just, like, plays friendly, and catching up with people who I already know –
Sarah: Oh, yeah!
Bree: – I don’t have to learn about anybody new. I don’t have to be emotionally invested in anyone new.
Sarah: When I was, when I was talking with Adam about this – my actual husband, not the character in the book –
Sarah: – he was like, you know, I have all these new books, and I, and I want to re-read this series, and I’m like, to me, that’s a signal my brain is tired, and it wants to revisit the familiar and enjoy something without having to do con-, too much construction. It’s already built.
Sarah: So you just want to go hang out there for a while.
Sarah: And that’s okay! That’s totally okay.
Bree: Oh, I’m a serial rereader, like, I have, I reread my Anne Bishop books, like, twice a year. [Laughs] Sometimes I’m just like, no, I’m tired, I’m going to go visit old friends and –
Sarah: Yep. I’m going to go –
Bree: – and I know everything’s going to end well, because I already know how it ends, or how it goes.
Sarah: Yep, and I’m going to just go hang out with these people some more.
Sarah: And, and when you do good worldbuilding that includes not only the environment, like the gaming business, but also the people who are in it, even though there are, some of them are complete turds, they’re so real –
Sarah: – you want to go back and hang out with them. Like, when I was reading – this is one of the things I loved about Act Like It by Lucy Parker. I wanted to go hang out with all those people! Like, that’s why I reread the book right after I finished it, because they were all very much into their little theater world, this was their job, and they, they had all of these different responsibilities in connection with being with a show that was in, was, was actually running, and I wanted to go hang out with them, because they were all really cool!
Bree: That’s what, I think another thing, like, series are, like, the best of both worlds. They’re rereads that have new material.
Sarah: Yes! It’s so true. [Laughs]
Bree: It is basically, if I’m going to go get a new Nalini Singh book it’s, you know, it’s all the stuff that I already know, but new story.
Bree: So it’s, you know.
Sarah: Continuity, man. It’s another thing that fanfiction teaches you. Good continuity skills.
Bree: Well, because those people, there are people, like, you know, I used to love, my favorite fanfiction was totally when people would take a movie or, like, a TV show, episode of a TV show, and reconstruct and reinterpret everything that happened by putting new stuff that happened off-scene and making it tell a completely different story that wasn’t there before.
Sarah: Oh, yes, absolutely.
Bree: That’s, like, my favorite thing. Because it’s so, it’s so, it’s like you get to, you’ve got to stick with all the rules, but you get to build, and it’s just one of those things that shows you that if you add context –
Bree: – how much it changes everything.
Sarah: Oh, yes. Which is so enjoyable. So enjoyable!
Sarah: And that is all for this week’s episode. I hope you enjoyed our squee-filled discussion, and I hope that if you’re curious you pick up this book, because like we said, it is free, and it is so great, and of course I will have links to it in the podcast entry on smartbitchestrashybooks.com. Thank you so much to Bree for squeeing with me for an hour, ‘cause seriously, that was a lot of fun.
This podcast is brought to you by Lisa Lace, and I am going to have a sample of her audiobook in, like, twenty-five seconds, so get ready. What do you get when you mix mail-order brides and Robin-Hood-style pirates with interplanetary science fiction? Water World Warrior by Lisa Lace, now available in audiobook. Ashlyn is shocked she joined the TerraMates dating service, but is even more surprised by the alien she is matched with. She has three days with him to make up her mind. Will she go home, or will she stay with him for a year? And here, courtesy of Lisa Lace, is a sample of Chapter One:
Chapter One – Nathaniel
The wind whipped the sails of our ship, and we barely held our course. Everyone was on deck to control the ship through the heavy winds. There was a storm coming up, but we needed this cargo. We would do whatever it took to secure it. Lives depended on us.
“There she is!” yelled Vas from high up in the rigging.
I scanned the horizon. Yes, a ship. I hoped it was the correct one.
“Hold the course!” I ordered, and gave over the wheel to a burly sailor. He could steer the ship as well as I could, and they needed me elsewhere.
Vas came down out of the rigging like an agile monkey, in spite of his huge size. I’m a fairly big individual and in pretty good shape, but Vas dwarfs me. He smiled and began giving orders to the sailors around me.
Thirty minutes later, we were attached to the other ship and boarding her. My crew all had their swords out, and we quickly took control of the ship without any incidents. But then I heard a voice behind me.
“Turn and fight, you filthy thief!”
My crew had him surrounded in an instant, but I turned to face the man alone, waving them back to their job of tying up the rest of the crew below decks. I pulled out my sword from its scabbard. Too often I let the crew do all of the dirty work while I stood back and watched. I enjoyed the opportunity to fight. It kept me from getting rusty. Our blades clashed, and we danced back and forth across the deck, parrying each others’ attacks. He lunged at me with a killing blow to the head that I was able to block. My assailant was full of rage, and I wondered why he was so angry.
Sarah: If you like that and you’re curious and you would like to listen to more of it, you can find links to Water World Warrior by Lisa Lace in the podcast show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com.
Our music each week is provided by Sassy Outwater. You can find her on Twitter @SassyOutwater. This is Niteworks, and they compose in a genre that Sassy calls “Gaelectronica,” which is my new favorite word. It’s all electronica, heavily infused with Gaelic. This track is from their album, NW, and it is called “Beul na h-Oidhche.” Somewhere someone who is fluent in Gaelic, probably Sassy, just flinched, like full-body flinching. I’m sorry. I did my best to figure out how to pronounce that using Forvo.com, which is a great resource if you’re trying to figure out how words are pronounced, so if I screwed that up abominably, I’m very sorry. You can find Niteworks’ album at Amazon and iTunes and wherever you buy your fine music. I will have links to the album and to the song in the podcast show notes as well.
Future podcasts will include me and possibly many other people talking about romances, ‘cause that’s how we do things here. Next week I’m going to have an interview with Sassy Outwater talking about how she’s doing, what she’s up to, and what she’s reading, and if you have ideas or suggestions, please email us at [email protected], but in the meantime, on behalf of Bree and everyone else here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a great weekend.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.