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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
The cross stitch project we mentioned in this episode can be found on Etsy.
And the shows Lin and I mentioned were:
- Star Trek
- Great British Bake Off
- Midnight Diner (and you can read more about my love of Midnight Diner too if you’d like!)
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there. Thank you for inviting me into your eardrums. I’m Sarah Wendell, and this is episode number 458 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. My guest today is Hudson Lin. Her new book Hard Sell is out on the 25th of May, and it is a trope-tastic queer romance between Daniel and Tobin. Now, Lin and I talk about so many things: we talk about the writing process and how she portrays Daniel’s professional burnout – I promise, no spoilers. We also talk about why Lin thinks romance is a revolutionary genre.
I will have links to all of the places where you can find Lin and of course all of the books we talk about in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast or in the notes actually attached to the file that you are listening to right now; that’s also where the show notes are. [Laughs]
Hello and thank you to our Patreon community and a compliment for Jorie W.:
The population of songbirds in your area are currently working on their nineteenth collaborative symphony composed in your honor. The other ones, you’ve probably heard them already ‘cause they, they really like you.
If you would like a compliment of your very own, please consider supporting the show at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Every pledge is deeply appreciated and helps me make sure that every episode is transcribed and accessible to everyone! So hello to Frederick S., our newest Patreon community member, and thank you to garlicknitter for transcribing every episode. [You’re welcome, and thank you, Patreon members, for supporting the transcripts! – gk]
We have some new sponsors, which is so exciting. This podcast is brought to you in part by Osea. One thing I have been enjoying in the Quarantimes is taking more attentive care of my skin! And since – trivia alert – your skin is your largest organ, it’s important to take care of all of it. Osea helps you give your skin all the attention that it deserves. Osea’s Undaria algae body oil is my new favorite thing. All the products from Osea smell marvelous – I sounded like such a weirdo on our onboarding conference call because I just couldn’t stop sniffing the body oil in the bottle. [Laughs] It’s so lovely! It’s not greasy or sticky, either. Osea’s Undaria algae body oil is superbly moisturizing and replenishes dry skin. Osea soaks hand-harvested Undaria algae in barrels of oils for up to six months, and the result is a liquid gold: a rich, luxurious, never-greasy body oil, fragrant with sunny citrus and top notes of sweet passion fruit. It is such a nice gift for yourself. You can try Osea risk-free for thirty days and get free shipping on orders over fifty dollars! They even send free samples with every order. You can see what I mean when I talk about how good this stuff smells. You can get ten percent off your first order with my promo code SARAH at oseamalibu.com. That’s ten percent off with code SARAH, S-A-R-A-H, at Osea Malibu, O-S-E-A-M-A-L-I-B-U, dot com!
This episode is also brought to you in part by Headspace. If you have tried meditation before, felt like it didn’t work, or maybe you felt like you were doing it wrong, have a look at Headspace! Especially if mental health is part of your self-care plan this year, you owe it to yourself to give Headspace a try. Headspace is your daily dose of mindfulness in the form of guided meditations in an easy-to-use app. Headspace is one of the only meditation apps advancing the field of mindfulness and meditation through clinically validated research, so whatever the situation, Headspace really can help you feel better! Feeling overwhelmed? Headspace has a three-minute SOS meditation for you. Need some help falling asleep? Headspace has wind-down sessions their members swear by – Amanda loves those. And for parents, there’s even a morning meditation that you can do with your kids. Headspace’s approach to mindfulness can reduce stress, improve sleep, boost focus, and increase your overall sense of wellbeing. I am all for all of those things, and since I started using Headspace, my day does indeed go a little easier when I start it with a meditation. I’ve been meditating every day for over 165 days, and I’m astonished at how easy and how enjoyable it is. The daily meditation is often exactly what I need to think about that day, and I’ve been able to use the techniques to clear my head, relax my shoulders down away from my ears, and reduce my feelings of overwhelm. Headspace is backed by twenty-five published studies on its benefits, six hundred thousand five-star reviews, and over sixty million downloads! Headspace makes it easy for you to build a life-changing meditation practice with mindfulness that works for you on your schedule, anytime, anywhere! You deserve to feel happier, and Headspace is meditation made simple. Go to headspace.com/SARAH; that’s headspace.com/SARAH for a free one-month trial with access to Headspace’s full library of meditations for every situation, including the daily one that I like so much. This is the best deal offered right now, so head to headspace.com/SARAH today!
This episode is also brought to you by Magic Spoon! This week we had a free-for-all dinner where everyone ate whatever they wanted, which usually includes bowls of cereal because, well, obviously. Everyone in my house loves cereal in milk, including me, but, alas, as an adult I realize that sugar is really not good for me. I don’t feel good after I eat it, and the cereals that I love, they have a lot of sugar! Argh! But now I have Magic Spoon. It is in my pantry, and I get to have my bowl of cereal on free-for-all dinner night too! Magic Spoon has zero grams of sugar, thirteen to fourteen grams of protein, and only four net grams of carbs in each serving. It’s 140 calories a serving; it’s keto-friendly, gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, low-carb, and GMO-free! The variety pack comes with four flavors, including Cocoa, Fruity, Frosted, and Peanut Butter. My favorite flavor right now is the Fruity flavor; it takes exactly like my favorite childhood cereal. So I can have a mammoth, very satisfying bowl of cereal, and dinner free-for-all makes me very happy. Go to magicspoon.com/TRASHYBOOKS to grab a variety pack and try it today, and be sure to use promo code TRASHYBOOKS at checkout to save five dollars off your order! Magic Spoon is so confident in their product, it is backed with a one hundred percent happiness guarantee: if you don’t like it, they’ll refund your money, no questions asked. So get your next delicious bowl of cereal at magicspoon.com/TRASHYBOOKS or use code TRASHYBOOKS to save five dollars off, and thank you, Magic Spoon, for sponsoring this episode.
In the beginning of this interview I mention a cross-stitch that is sitting behind Lin during the recording, ‘cause I used video conferencing to record. Obviously this is just audio, but if you’re thinking, I kind of want to see this cross-stitch, I totally put a link to it in the show notes. It’s adorable; if you’re a cross-stitcher you’ll like this one.
But let’s get to this conversation, shall we? On with the podcast.
Hudson Lin: Yeah, sure! My name is Hudson Lin, you can call me Lin, and my pronouns are she and her, and I write queer romance featuring people of color!
Sarah: You have a new book!
Lin: I do!
Lin: Thank you!
Sarah: I love that it’s –
Lin: Very exciting!
Sarah: – perched behind you!
Lin: Yes, exactly.
Sarah: It’s just perfect. There you go.
Sarah: What does the cross-stitch behind you say? I can see –
Lin: Oh –
Sarah: – the triangle.
Lin: Yes. It says, This is a safe space. Oh, it might be backward for you.
Sarah: No, it is, it is, it is – it is straight, but it is also not straight.
Lin: Yes. There you go; exactly.
Sarah: [Laughs] That’s fabulous! I love that!
Sarah: So congratulations.
Sarah: So what will readers find inside Hard Sell? I do have some questions, and it’s hard –
Sarah: – it’s hard to do an interview about a book that’s about to come out, because you want to entice people to reading it –
Sarah: – without spoiling the hell out of it, so there’s going to be –
Sarah: – some vague questions, but what will readers find inside Hard Sell?
Lin: Yeah, so Hard Sell is about Danny, and he is a very successful businessman who has all the trappings of wealth and glitz and glamour, but he’s looking for something a little bit more meaningful than just living the high-flying life, and that’s when his best friend’s kid brother walks back into his life. Tobin is all grown up; he’s smoking hot, impossible to ignore; and they find themselves on the opposite sides of a business deal and, where Danny is trying to buy a company, and Tobin is trying to help the company not get, not get sold. But, you know, they have a history, and they know, they’ve known each other since they were kids, and there was one one-night stand a few years ago that was, that happened and then was never spoken of again. [Laughs]
Lin: And so they pick up their bedroom activities also while they are working on this business deal. So as they are pursuing their very, very secret affair, they also have to navigate their careers and their family to eventually find their Happily Ever After.
Sarah: You have a lot of tropes in this book.
Lin: I do. [Laughs]
Sarah: This is – did you, did you just, like, sort of look at the writing process and be like, all right, where can I fit in one more trope?
Lin: Kind of, yes.
Lin: ‘Cause this is for Carina Adores; it’s Carina’s LGBTQ sort of category romance line –
Lin: – which is very trope-heavy, so –
Sarah: Oh yes.
Lin: – when I was thinking about this I just, like, pulled up a list of tropes and I was like, okay, what, what can I work here? What can I work with?
Lin: What can I squeeze in? And I think it came together fairly well, if I do say so myself.
Sarah: I, yes, I, I agree. I also enjoy a good trope Bingo book. Like, I love it when a book leans into the tropes, but also –
Sarah: – when you have something like, for example – not a spoiler, ‘cause you already said it –
Sarah: – this is a sibling’s best friend –
Sarah: – romance, and –
Sarah: – one of the things that I struggle with in a heterosexual pairing of sibling’s best friend is that the conflict is often heavily based in misogyny where –
Sarah: – where the heroine can’t date this guy because he is her brother’s best friend, and the brother –
Sarah: – will be mad, and the whole basis –
Sarah: – of the brother being mad, for example –
Sarah: – is, you know, it’s just sexism. Not a great conflict in my world, so I don’t always enjoy it because, you know –
Sarah: – you’d think if you had good friends you’d be like, oh, my friend is a great dude, and my sister is going to go out with this great dude who I’m friends with; this is great, and – well, then there’s no book because there’s no conflict.
Sarah: But this is not a conflict I’ve enjoyed because I would like to think that you would trust your friends to not be terrible humans –
Sarah: – and if your friends are terrible humans and you don’t want them dating your sister, then why are they your friend?
Lin: Yeah, that’s a really, really good point.
Sarah: In this book it’s, this is going to be really emotionally messy –
Sarah: – and emotional mess?
Lin: Yeah, yeah, really messy, and I love –
Sarah: Emotional mess is fun, right?
Lin: Totally! I love writing messy books with messy characters, because, like, let’s be honest: we are all messy. You know, who –
Sarah: Extremely! [Laughs]
Lin: – who among us isn’t a mess? But I think that is the, the beauty of romance, right, is, like, you can throw together these characters with a lot of faults and then just kind of figure out, they just figure out how to make it work. And that’s, that’s the beauty of it all.
Lin: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Sarah: Now, you also wrote in this story – again, not a spoiler – that Daniel, while enjoying all of the trappings of being incredibly successful, you, if you made a drinking game out of this book –
Sarah: – and you had someone drink anytime Daniel calls or sends or is in a car service –
Lin: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: – you would have some liver damage; it would be very bad. So I don’t recommend it, although, unless, you know, if you feel like having a drinking game and you’re, maybe you’re drinking a smoothie, you, that –
Sarah: – that you would just power through, ‘cause the man sends a lot of cars. He has a lot of access to a lot of convenience, and –
Sarah: – you know, one of the major signs of someone who’s incredibly well-resourced is they just don’t have to wait for things ever.
Sarah: You never wait in line; like, that’s the highest level of wealth.
Sarah: But he’s also dealing with some really serious career burnout.
Sarah: Like, he’s dealing with burnout, and so –
Sarah: – I have to say, as a, as a compliment, I think that’s a very smart choice as a writer? Burnout is, is exhausting on a lot of levels.
Lin: It is.
Sarah: What led you to that character conflict for him? What led you to that for Daniel?
Lin: Well, I, while I was coming up with the concept of the story, I was experiencing a lot of career burnout myself.
Lin: I was working in finance in a similar type of industry as Danny.
Lin: I was nowhere near Danny’s level of success.
Lin: I was not calling car service every twelve point five seconds. But I was, you know, traveling a lot for work; you know, traveling every, every other week, basically; and when I was traveling for work I would call car service ‘cause then the company would pay for it –
Sarah: Oh yes.
Lin: – and, you know, staying at fairly decent hotels that were way outside of my own personal price range? Calling for room service when I needed it because I just charge it back to the company; it’s fine. [Laughs] But, like, in the midst of that kind of lifestyle, where all my friends are like, wow, that’s so fancy and so glamorous! I was like, it’s exhausting to be constantly on the road, to be going from airport to hotel to meeting to hotel to airport and then back in the office the next day and then having to go back into that nine to five, even though I’ve been across various time zones –
Lin: – it’s just exhausting. And I wasn’t finding any satisfaction in what I was doing, so I channeled a lot of my frustration into Danny! [Laughs] It was very therapeutic, very cathartic –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Lin: – just to, like, put all of that angst and frustration right into his character. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh yeah. And there’s this –
Sarah: – expectation, especially in that industry, where you’re going to give up all of your life and your free time –
Sarah: – and in exchange for the car and the hotel and the room service and the travel –
Sarah: – and you’re, you’re just expected that your, your life comes second to your work, and that’s –
Lin: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: – not sustainable.
Lin: It’s not. It’s really not sustainable, and I have since left that industry, which I’m very happy about –
Lin: – but it’s true, and I think it’s not just in finance, but there’s a lot of industries out there, and there’s a lot of, I would say capitalism in society where it demands a lot of our time and a lot of ourselves to be productive, to contribute to this economy –
Lin: – without very much thought around how that affects us as humans, affects our families, affects our communities, so it’s a microcosm, I think, of a much larger issue.
Sarah: Yeah. And Danny –
Sarah: – has to deal with not only changing his narrative about himself, but accepting that the narrative about him will change?
Sarah: And that’s a hard thing to accept on a personal level, that people are going to say different things about you if you change what you do.
Sarah: And not meeting those expectations, whether they are cultural or, or corporate –
Sarah: – or personal is really very difficult for, you know, most humans.
Lin: It is! It is, especially for a character like Danny who, from a young age he had, he put that pressure on himself –
Lin: – to be successful, and so everything he did was a hundred and fifty percent; he needed to get to the top of his game; and so then to turn around and say all the things that he’s been striving for his whole life is not, that’s not the answer to –
Lin: – what he thought his problems were, you know?
Lin: And so he’s got to sort of start back at zero again –
Lin: – and to redefine who he is and redefine what he wants out of life. That’s, that’s very hard.
Sarah: That’s really hard. That’s really hard.
Sarah: I think it’s – who is it? It just flew out of my head – that there are, you, that a person has two lives, and the second one begins the minute they realize that they only have one?
Sarah: I’m going to remember the source of that; I’ll probably have to put it in the intro or the outro, because of course I have completely forgotten who said that. It was someone much smarter than me.
Lin: [Laughs] I like it, though!
Sarah: But it’s true! It’s very true.
Sarah: And –
Lin: It’s very true.
Sarah: – basically, he’s lost his Why. Why am I doing this?
Sarah: Why am I, why?
Sarah: Oh –
Sarah: – like, seriously, why? Why am I doing this? When you lose your Why –
Sarah: – it’s devastating.
Lin: Mm-hmm! Yeah, that’s a really good way of putting it; I like that, yeah.
Sarah: Toby, or Tobin – this is, this is chapter, like, one, so again, not a spoiler – they have to deal with one of the worst sorts of tech bros?
Sarah: Okay, I just need you to know that this character gave me full-body shudder. I was like, oh, I know this, I know this guy. Oh gosh! And I say that wearing a hoodie, and I’m also wearing slippers, but I’m in my house. Like, nobody cares?
Sarah: Seriously, I, do you know that guy too?
Lin: I don’t! I, luckily, I’ve not had the misfortune of knowing someone exactly like him in real life?
Sarah: Mm-hmm, yep.
Lin: But he’s basically an, an amalgamation of, like, all the worst types of people –
Lin: – in society. [Laughs]
Sarah: He’s entitled; he’s deceitful; he’s, he –
Sarah: – he is a walking macro and micro aggression?
Sarah: He won’t even call you by the name you tell him to call you?
Lin: Yep. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, he’s, he’s like a, a, a measurement of little, tiny bits of disrespect, all packed into one person.
Lin: It’s basically all of the, like, things about people who are entitled and privileged that, like, really bug me; and I had to shove them all into that one character; and it was very, again, like, cathartic and therapeutic to be like, you’re a terrible person, and I’m going to do awful things to this character – [laughs] – because I can’t necessarily do awful things to people in real life.
Sarah: And, and poor Toby has to, like, work with this guy and be –
Sarah: – on his side, sorta –
Sarah: – kinda? Ugh.
Lin: Yeah. He does his best.
Sarah: And that’s a tough position to be in.
Lin: It is! It is. But Toby is, he’s the baby of the family –
Lin: – and he’s been very sort of coddled by his older brother, by his parents, and they kind of write him off as the baby of the family, but he’s like, no, I want to be taken seriously. I want to show that I can do the things that I set myself to, and he doesn’t mind being put into very difficult situations –
Lin: – because he believes that he has the ability and the skills to, to work it out and get himself out, and, and he does! And he, he’s very sort of like, whatever he puts his mind to, he gets it done.
Sarah: Did you have a favorite scene in this book? Is there one that you look at and you’re like, oh, I love this one?
Lin: I’m a huge foodie, so any scenes with food in it are going to be a favorite, and I try to work food in – [laughs] – basically anywhere I can.
Sarah: Of course!
Lin: And I really loved the scenes between Tobin and his roommate, I think because Tobin’s personality is kind of different from mine, and the way that he speaks and the way that he interacts with people is different from the way I would speak and interact with people. It was really fun to put myself into a different mindset, especially that kind of dynamic with the roommate where they’re really good friends and they don’t mind annoying each other, perhaps on purpose? [Laughs]
Lin: Because they know that it’s, you know, it’s teasing; they’ll get over it; they’ll work through it. So those were really fun scenes to write.
Sarah: And there’s also a lovely intimacy when someone is your roommate and your friend, and you’ve reached a level of conversation where you can give each other shit and –
Sarah: – you just kind of have to put up with it? And this person’s –
Sarah: – going to be as honest with you as, as you can deal with.
Lin: Yeah, and you can’t get away with stuff, either –
Lin: – you know, ‘cause they’re going to call you out on it.
Sarah: And it’s lovely; like your, like your cross-stitch behind you, this is, This is a safe space, when you have a –
Sarah: – a home situation where the person or persons that you live with create a space for you to be authentically yourself, it’s –
Sarah: – it’s lovely to have conversations in that space, because you’re getting people –
Sarah: – who are honestly themselves talking to each other –
Sarah: – and, and being as, as honest and direct as they possibly can.
Lin: Yeah, yeah, and I think it’s really rare in this society where, like, we don’t even know the names of our neighbors –
Lin: – right, to have that intimacy in a platonic way –
Lin: – that is, that is enduring and that’s one that you can really count on and you know that person’s going to be there for you.
Sarah: Especially right now, because we’ve all been home a lot?
Sarah: One of the things that I’ve thought a lot about as the Quarantimes are slowly coming to an end is –
Sarah: – the, the question of who are you when no one’s looking at you?
Sarah: Was a big question. Like, I have discovered that I don’t like to wear real pants; I like to wear soft pants, and I’m –
Sarah: – not looking forward to real pants again.
Lin: Neither am I!
Sarah: And I also, there are things I didn’t have to care about. I didn’t have to care about how my hair looked; I didn’t have to care about what I was wearing or what shoes I was wearing or –
Sarah: – you know, I wasn’t having to demonstrate anything –
Sarah: – ‘cause no one was seeing me. So when you have that –
Sarah: – that intimacy and that safety in a space where characters are talking, you get that same sort of, all right, who are you, now that no one is looking at you? You’re not at work; you’re not with Mr. Hoodie Tech Bro; you’re not in front of anybody; you’re not with your family.
Sarah: Who are you when no one’s looking except for this one person?
Lin: Yeah! Like you said, it’s, it’s rare, and I think it’s maybe one of the, one of the good things that have come out of the pandemic is that people have had that time to explore who they are.
Lin: And as, as –
Lin: – like, shitty as the whole pandemic has been –
Lin: – I do think that there have been, you know, nuggets of really good side effects that have come out of it, and that’s definitely one of them.
Sarah: Yeah, a lot of people have figured out their Why.
Sarah: Why am I doing this? Good, good question!
Lin: Yeah, so many people have quit their jobs. Like, I quit my job at the beginning of the pandemic. It wasn’t related to the pandemic, but it, like, the timing just coincided, and it was, having to, like, stay at home all the time gave me that space to be like, okay, I’m moving into a different phase of my life, and what is that going to look like now?
Sarah: And there’s, there’s also so much pressure, and even the characters had to deal with the idea that you’re almost expected to declare the rest of your life at a very young age? Like, this is –
Sarah: – what I’m going to do, and this is who I’m going to be, and I decided this at seventeen or twenty –
Sarah: – and, and that’s, that’s not actually how things work?
Lin: Oh my gosh, yes; I totally agree. I saw something on Twitter – was it just yesterday? – where someone was like, fifteen to twenty-five is where you, like, decide, like, whether you make it in life, and I was like, excuse me –
Sarah: Uhhh, no!
Lin: – when I was twenty-five I didn’t know what I was doing! [Laughs] I barely know what I’m doing now!
Sarah: I am currently forty-five, and I’m making shit up all the time! [Laughs]
Lin: Yeah! And it’s, it’s, it, something I continually remind myself, that, like, people can start new careers at any age.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Lin: They can go back to school at any age –
Sarah: Any time.
Lin: – and it’s like, life isn’t over until it’s, like, over, you know?
Sarah: Yeah! Oh yeah. You –
Lin: So –
Sarah: And the characters, Toby and Danny, figure that out too!
Sarah: Which is –
Lin: Yeah, I think –
Sarah: – a lovely part of the story!
Lin: Yeah. Danny does, for sure, because he is very much, like I, like I mentioned before, one-track mind of, like –
Lin: – I have to be successful in this career that I’ve built –
Lin: – and when he realizes that he has achieved that success, but it’s not fulfilling him the way he thought it was going to be, he has to really re-evaluate everything, you know? Yeah.
Sarah: Yeah, I, I remember hearing a couple of people joke about making partner at a law firm is basically winning a pie-eating contest, and the prize is more pie.
Lin: Mm-hmm, yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: So for, for Danny, I, I know for him, one of his driving motivations in, in the early chapters was that people were saying, you know, you’ve lost your touch. People are saying that you don’t have it, have what it takes anymore, and he has to –
Sarah: – refute that idea –
Sarah: – even though he, he’s not as interested in the things that he was doing, and –
Sarah: – he hasn’t necessarily lost his touch; he’s just not interested in doing that anymore. But that, your, your choosing to do something different is not a consideration. You have to maintain –
Sarah: – the pace that you set for yourself, and the prize –
Sarah: – for being successful is to constantly –
Lin: Is just –
Sarah: – go at this breakneck pace and –
Lin: [Laughs] It’s just more!
Sarah: – completely exhaust yourself. Yes, the prize is more pie.
Lin: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: No, thank you. Yeah, it’s hard to opt out of that!
Lin: It really is! It really is! It’s hard to give up that kind of lifestyle when everyone is like, wow, you’re so good at, you know, what you do. You’re, you’re living such, like, an amazing life, and to be able to say, well, it’s not actually so amazing –
Lin: – is, is really hard. Mm-hmm.
Sarah: It is very difficult.
Sarah: And it is a, it is a revolutionary message to say, I think, as a character in your actual life, I know I made all these choices, and I know I said that this was what I was going to do, but now I’m going to choose something different.
Sarah: I will be right back with more of my conversation with Hudson Lin, but first I just want to tell you that this episode is brought to you in part by Rothy’s. Woohoo, one of my favorite things! It’s 2021, and nobody has time for uncomfortable shoes. That is true. That is where Rothy’s comes in. Rothy’s surveyed thousands of customers, and the number one word used to describe their shoes is “comfy.” Can confirm. What makes Rothy’s so good? Their unique seamless design is incredibly comfortable the moment you put them on, and they’re washable! They are comfortable, they are stylish, and they are washable. I cannot love that more than I do. I have worn them while hosting holidays in the Beforetimes and then in the Aftertimes probably again, because when we’re hosting I want to look what somewhat nice but also be comfortable while I’m cooking. I have spilled soup all over my Rothy’s; I have dropped wet vegetables on them; I have dropped sudsy water from washing the dishes. Whatever. I throw them in the washing machine, and they come out looking perfect, and they’re still effortlessly comfortable, and I’ll wear them the next time I host a holiday! I love something that is high in comfort and style and extremely low maintenance to take care of. That would probably be why I own roughly six pairs of Rothy’s. My, one of my children stole one of my pairs, and I haven’t asked for it back because they’re super great! Upgrade your closet with washable, sustainable, stylish shoes and bags from Rothy’s. Head to rothys.com/SARAH to find your new favorites today. That’s Rothy’s, R-O-T-H-Y-S, dot com slash SARAH!
And now back to my conversation with Hudson Lin about writing romance and why that’s awesome!
Sarah: You also mentioned that you think romance is revolutionary in general –
Lin: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Sarah: – that romance itself is a deeply, fundamentally disruptive concept.
Sarah: Tell me all the things. I agree, but I would really love to hear your take on it.
Lin: Yeah, totally. And this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently –
Lin: – that romance is the only genre that guarantees a Happily Ever After for its characters –
Lin: – and that is extraordinarily powerful in not just literature but any kind of storytelling medium. And so if you look back in history, romance has been the genre that is written by women, for women, sold to women; it centers women’s needs and desires, and it validates their life experiences. You know, historically speaking, it’s been primarily for the middle class white women, but at that time that was very, very radical. You know, in the mid 20th century, women in media were portrayed as, like, very subservient to men. They were the housewives, they were the secretaries, and that was the role and the reality for a lot of women, and then – I mean, to be honest, that’s the reality for a lot of women today too, right? They may not be housewives and secretaries, but they’re still expected to be subservient to men in a lot of industries and a lot of areas of society.
Lin: But romance says no. In a romance novel, the woman’s needs and wants and desires and fantasies and priorities are not subservient to the man’s. Actually, they’re the priority, and the man is the fulfillment of the woman’s journey –
Lin: – and story, right? That fundamentally, I think, flips the narrative of the role of men and women in society completely on its head, which is really, really powerful. And I think nowadays, as we’re moving into a lot of awareness around social justice and around racial inequality and LGBTQ rights and all of that, romance is really taking it a step further, where other folks from other marginalized communities now can have their Happily Ever After, right? So in media there’s a very common trope of Kill Your Gays –
Lin: – so any queer character must die before the end of the story. That is very, very common; you see it all over the place. Or there’s, like, the token Black person or the token brown person, and they’re always the person who dies before the end of the story.
Sarah: Usually to further the emotional motivation of the lead characters.
Lin: Exactly. Exactly, and so it perpetuated, perpetuates this idea that folks from marginalized or racialized communities can only look forward to death or, like, some other very tragic ending, and because we see it so often in media, then people watching that or reading that really internalize it and believe, like –
Lin: – only thing I can look forward to in life is this really, really tragic ending, and that sucks! [Laughs]
Sarah: Yes. I am meant to be the supporting role in someone else’s heroic narrative –
Sarah: – but my role is to be supportive and then dead.
Sarah: Those are –
Lin: Supportive and then dead.
Sarah: No, no, thank you!
Lin: No. I’m –
Sarah: Not a fan! [Laughs]
Lin: – I’m not here for that. I’m not here for that. So, you know, so in romance the tragic endings are not allowed; we axed that; it’s vetoed. And so when you have queer characters or BIPOC characters or disabled folks or any kind of outsider who gets to be the romantic lead in a romance –
Lin: – then they get their Happily Ever After, you know? And they can still be messy; they can have their strengths and their faults, and they can be, you know, whatever full-body person that they are; and at the end, they find somebody who loves them for who they are!
Lin: They get to be the, the hero, the heroine, the main character of the story. They’re not in a supporting role; they’re the protagonist, and they get to come out on top. They get to win by the end of the story. So that’s, again, super, super powerful, and it really flips the narrative that we are all wrestling with in society these days, where –
Lin: – you know, we’re, there’s so much inequality that – and especially the pandemic has highlighted just how much inequality there is in our society –
Lin: – and romance is saying, even the people who are sort of at the bottom of the social hierarchy, you know what? They get a Happily Ever After!
Lin: They get to find someone who loves them. They get to find belonging and community, and they get to win, and that’s, that’s revolutionary. I think that’s a really radical message for, for, not just people from marginalized communities, but for everyone to, to buy into and to really embrace that, that story.
Sarah: Yeah. So it sounds like you enjoy writing romance just a little bit.
Lin: Yeah. Just a little bit. [Laughs]
Sarah: Have you always written romance? Has that always been the thing you wanted to write most of all?
Lin: I have, yes. I would love to dabble in, like, science fiction and stuff, but any time I come up with a plot bunny it’s always a romance. Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: So what are you working on right now?
Lin: So I’m working on book two of the Jade Harbour Capital series. It’s called Going Public, and it’ll be out in the spring of 2022 with Carina Press.
Lin: It is the story of Ray, and Ray is also a partner at Jade Harbour, and he falls in love with his assistant at Jade Harbour.
Sarah: Uh-oh! Trope alert, trope alert!
Lin: Mm-mm, yeah! So it’s a slow-burn, office romance with, you know, the usual shenanigans, and there might be a few more tropes thrown in there, but I, I don’t want to give too much away at this point.
Sarah: Now, you also have a podcast, and I have to say, I love doing podcast interviews with podcasters, because it –
Sarah: – you know, you just, not only do you understand the, how the, the medium works, but –
Sarah: – like you said with romance, I think podcasting is extremely revolutionary, because –
Sarah: – everybody can literally have their voice and their platform, and it used to be that broadcast, voice broadcast was very centralized and to very specific literal channels, and now we have terrestrial and satellite –
Sarah: – but it’s still –
Sarah: – it’s still very limited in who has access to those platforms, and now with podcasting –
Sarah: – much like blogging, much like self-publishing, much like small presses, much like romance –
Sarah: – everybody gets to show up and have their say. There is still –
Sarah: – obviously intersectional in-, intersectional inequality within these structures, but I love the idea of how revolutionary it is.
Lin: It is.
Sarah: Please tell me about your podcast. What led you to podcasting?
Lin: Yeah, so the podcast is called World of Stories, and I co-host it with my friend Margrit, and it was birthed out of these lunch dates I would have with Margrit, and we would just sit and talk about books that we’ve read or TV shows that we’ve watched and whether they had good diversity representation or not, and so we were like, we should record ourselves talking about this stuff and stick it up somewhere and see if there’s anybody who would like to listen to us! So that’s what we did, and like you said, it’s very accessible where, I mean, yes there are some, you know, some equipment that you need to get –
Lin: – and you have to learn how to, like, edit and, like, put it together and, like, upload it, so there is a bit of a learning curve, and there is, there is a bit of a threshold, but it’s much, much lower than, you know, trying to get yourself on to a radio station or –
Lin: – a TV broadcasting thing.
Lin: So it’s, it’s very much accessible to a lot, a lot of people.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Lin: And so it’s, the podcast is about how stories shape our lives, and so we talk about how stories are mirrors that can reflect our own truths back to us and how important to see ourselves represented in stories –
Lin: – but also stories as, as windows for us to see into the lives of others –
Lin: – and to learn a little bit about how other people live. We are in our second season right now, and –
Sarah: Ooh, ooh, nice! Congratulations!
Lin: Thanks! And we’ve been talking about how to survive the pandemic – [laughs] – which has not been easy. We’ve been talking about, you know, what does rest look like in a pandemic, and what does work and productivity look like, and how do you separate work from rest when we’re all stuck inside our homes?
Sarah: When you live with your work.
Sarah: It’s hard; it’s very hard.
Lin: It’s very, very hard. And we talk about what does friendship look like in, in a time where we can’t just go out and see our friends anymore?
Lin: We’ve also been interviewing some of our friends to see how have they been dealing with the pandemic, and how –
Lin: – have their lives changed because of the pandemic? And we ground a lot of these discussions in various books or media that we’ve been consuming, and so we have, like, a recommendation of the episode where we talk about a book that we think would help –
Lin: – people think more about whatever topic we’re talking about.
Sarah: That’s very cool!
Lin: So – yeah!
Sarah: Has podcasting influenced your writing or vice versa, do you think?
Lin: I would say that podcasting has influenced my reading more than my writing. It’s really forced me to read much more widely than I did before. So before I started the podcast, I really only read romance –
Lin: – because it’s the best genre and there’s, you know, why would I want to read anything else? [Laughs] But after I started the podcast, I’ve also expanded a lot more into nonfiction, into literary fiction, into speculative fiction, and just seeing what else is out there –
Lin: – and I’ve really found some wonderful authors along the way: some really good nonfiction authors and some really good YA authors and speculative fiction authors, so I really enjoyed how it forced me a little bit out of my reading comfort zone.
Sarah: That makes sense. So what books are you reading that you would want to tell people about?
Lin: Okay, so I just have to admit that with the pandemic my reading has, like, tanked, basically?
Sarah: Totally normal.
Lin: Yeah. I’ve just been, like, sucked into, like, Netflix binging –
Sarah: Ohhh –
Lin: – and I don’t even –
Sarah: – I understand this completely.
Lin: – I don’t – yeah. I don’t even –
Sarah: I mean, I always ask what books are you reading, but it can be pretty much, what are you consuming? ‘Cause we want to know about it.
Lin: Yeah. So I’ve actually, in the past, like, few weeks I’ve forced myself to get back into reading, ‘cause I’m like, this is ridiculous, and I really need to, I want to get back into reading. So –
Lin: – I have just finished the first and second book of K. J. Charles’, the Will Darling Adventures series? And, I mean, anything by K. J. Charles is amazing, so highly recommend anything she writes. It’s set in the 1920s England, where it’s like full flapper era, so that’s, like, a lot of fun with, when she’s describing the outfits, especially of the women. It’s great, and it’s an m/m romance. It’s, like, espionage and intrigue, and it’s just like this very feel-good, easy read that I blew through in like a day or two. It’s, it’s great.
And then for nonfiction, I really, really loved this book called So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo?
Sarah: I love that book.
Lin: So good, right?
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Lin: Sooo good! Yeah, it’s great. So if, for any listeners who –
Lin: – who don’t know about it, it’s this really, really frank discussion about how to talk about racial inequity. So it’s like, it doesn’t matter where in life you’re coming from –
Lin: – whether you’re, you know, a racialized person or if you’re not, it just not only introduces the topic, but it addresses, like, the really uncomfortable feelings that come up whenever –
Lin: – like, things about race come up? And it just, like, gives people the tools to be like, this is how you talk about it!
Lin: And this is how you, like, address the uncomfortable feelings and how you disarm the situation and make it accessible so that you can actually get to the core of the matter. So I really highly recommend it. I really enjoyed her sense of humour. There are some places where it’s like really dry humour that I was like, yes! [Laughs] I totally get that, yes! Yeah.
Sarah: Any time somebody can write good sarcasm, I’m there.
Sarah: I’m very there. So what have you –
Sarah: – been binging on Netflix? I am always looking for recommendations, and I have, I think I have one for you too.
Lin: Okay, yes, please. Okay, so I have been sort of hopping around a little bit. I started Ozark –
Lin: – which was interesting. It’s about this financial adviser who is laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel; that’s the pres-, the premise of the story? I got a few episodes into it, decided to take a break. I’m now back into I think my third run-through of Star Trek?
Lin: I’m a bit of a Trekkie. I won’t say that I’m, like, official Trekkie. I’ve never been to, like, a Comic Con or anything, I don’t have any outfits, but it’s one of those series where I can just put it on and I know what’s going to happen –
Lin: – and I don’t have to think about it, and it’s just, like, running away and I can, like, do other stuff if I need to. So that’s where I’m currently at. Mm-hmm.
Sarah: Yeah, I think of shows like that at sort of soothing the Jack Russell Terrier part of my brain?
Lin: Mm-hmm, yeah!
Sarah: The part of my brain that’s really jumpy and active –
Sarah: – and doesn’t want to sit down, and I put that on and it’s like, oh, okay, sure, yeah, mm-hmm!
Sarah: Star Trek.
Sarah: Got it. Mm-hmm.
Lin: Yep, exactly.
Sarah: For a lot of people that’s Great British Baking Show or –
Lin: I love that show.
Lin: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Sarah: Exactly. It’s, it’s very soothing on a very specific level.
Lin: Yeah, exactly. And what I love about The Great British Baking Show is that there are a lot of seasons, so you can just, like, start from the beginning and just let it run. [Laughs]
Sarah: And just keep going.
Lin: And just keep going.
Sarah: Keep going.
Lin: That’s what I love about it.
Sarah: And then it’s like, it’s visual eye candy –
Sarah: – ‘cause stuff looks real good and you want to eat it.
Lin: Yeah, and then I’m like, great, now I’ve got to, like, go to the bakery or –
Lin: – learn how to make, I don’t know, like, Victorian sponge? I don’t, what is that?
Sarah: Victoria sp-, I have never made a Victoria sponge.
Lin: No. I have no idea how to make that.
Sarah: No, I don’t – no, not a clue.
Lin: But I really want some.
Lin: [Laughs] Yeah.
Sarah: Just, you just want to make cake.
Lin: Yeah, basically, lots of cake.
Sarah: So have you read The Murderbot Diaries?
Lin: I have not!
Sarah: Okay, as a Trekkie, you may like this –
Sarah: – and as a story person –
Sarah: – you may like this. The Murderbot Diaries are a series of novellas, and there’s one novel –
Sarah: – by Martha Wells, and I’ve –
Sarah: – been talking about them non-stop, so anyone who’s listening is going to be like, oh my God, Sarah’s talking about Murderbot again. Murderbot is a human-bot construct that is –
Sarah: – enslaved by a governor module which will punish it if it deviates from its assignments –
Sarah: – as it is sent out on contracts, usually on mining installations.
Sarah: This is deep space in the future.
Sarah: So Murderbot has hacked its governor module, but continues to do its job because it realized that once it’s hacked its governor module, it didn’t really have anything else that it wanted to do; it didn’t know what else it wanted to do, and then –
Sarah: – it got access to the entertainment feed, so it has been watching thousands and thousands of hours of television and media and serials and audiobooks, and so basically –
Sarah: – it has this really difficult relationship with humanity, because humanity –
Sarah: – is what created it and has enslaved it, and it has broken through its own enslavement, but the humans are also the ones that make all the media!
Sarah: So they’re super annoying. And then Murderbot has to deal with having feelings, which is really not something Murderbot enjoys. It is incredibly interesting to be in this perspective of this agender, asexual, extremely, extremely intelligent being that has to figure out how to deal with humans.
Sarah: And it’s so, it’s so good. I love it so much. I think I’ve reread it like six times in the pandemic.
Lin: Okay, I’m going to have to go look that up.
Sarah: The first one is All Systems Red, and it’s –
Sarah: – how a set of humans learn that Murderbot has, has broken its governor module and is a free agent, which is supposed to be absolutely terrifying. As a, as a SecUnit – that’s what it’s, that’s what it’s called, a SecUnit –
Sarah: As a SecUnit, a rogue SecUnit is deeply dangerous, and the media has –
Sarah: – portrayed them as these monstrous, murdering, killing machines, and –
Sarah: – Murderbot would really just prefer you leave it alone so it can go watch TV?
Lin: Oh yeah.
Sarah: Yeah, I can relate!
Lin: I can understand that!
Sarah: Hard same, right?
Sarah: Hard same!
Lin: Yeah! Just leave me alone. Give me some, like, Netflix –
Lin: – or streaming service. I’ll be good.
Sarah: Exactly. So the other thing –
Sarah: – I want to recommend to you – how are you with doing, with subtitles? I know some people struggle with reading subtitles.
Lin: I love subtitles.
Sarah: Okay. Okay, good.
Lin: Yeah. I love them.
Sarah: Okay, so there is a Japanese television show called Midnight Diner?
Sarah: Oh my gosh! It’s so good!
Lin: I think I’ve seen that pop up on my Netflix before.
Sarah: It’s, it’s starting to, like, get served up by the, the Netflix algorithm?
Sarah: So Midnight Diner is a Japanese show. I have not found a dub. I’ve, I’ve only seen –
Sarah: – the subtitled version, which is hard for me, ‘cause I wear bifocals and the TV is across the room so I can really only do –
Sarah: – about two episodes before my eyes are like, listen, you’re asking a lot for after dinner, before bedtime here, lady –
Lin: Mm. Mm-hmm.
Sarah: – you need to calm down, so I should probably try it on, like, a closer screen?
Sarah: The Midnight Diner is run by a man who runs a diner between midnight and 7 a.m. in Tokyo –
Sarah: – and the stories are about the food that, that he prepares. He will make anything that a guest requests, as long as –
Sarah: – he has the ingredients, but his menu officially only has one item on it.
Sarah: But there’s all of this food that connects people to each other and connects people to their histories and connects them to –
Sarah: – across different lines that you don’t expect, and so there’s always a, each episode is a specific story of the characters in the diner –
Sarah: – and the food that has connected them in some way.
Sarah: They’re like twenty-two minutes long, and they are brilliant storytelling. They’re so good.
Lin: Oh, I’m, I’m going to definitely look that up. ‘Cause I’m –
Sarah: So it’s, it’s food porn –
Sarah: – and story porn, basically is what we’re talking about here.
Lin: That’s, that’s my jam.
Lin: That’s my jam. Mm-hmm.
Sarah: Food and story porn. It’s so good. So, so good.
Sarah: And then there’s all these little aspects of culture and class and occupation and the things that divide and unite the people around this tiny little diner where they’re –
Sarah: – eating food at three in the morning.
Lin: Mm, mm-hmm.
Sarah: It’s so good.
Lin: Yeah. Okay, I’m going to go look that up right now –
Sarah: Okay! So glad.
Lin: – right after we hang up.
Sarah: I love –
Lin: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: – I, I’m a, I’m, I love making recommendations, but I also just, I just love being like, yo! Story people will like this!
Lin: Yes! [Laughs]
Sarah: Is there anything else you want to make sure that people know about Hard Sell, about your writing, anything you want to make sure that people know about?
Lin: I came up with Hard Sell at a period of time where it was, I was in a transition?
Lin: And so I hope that it helps, I hope that it’s, one, just, like, entertaining, you know? And it’s, it’s a romance, it’s fun, it’s a snapshot into this world, and so I hope that people will just enjoy it, but I also hope that it helps them just feel seen, you know?
Lin: ‘Cause we’re all living in, living through, like, a huge transition in the world, and so I hope that people just feel seen and feel like they can connect to some, all of the characters and the situations that they find themselves in.
Sarah: Well, I read this while I was waiting in line to get my vaccine.
Lin: Nice! [Laughs]
Sarah: It was a very long line; it was also raining.
Lin: Oh God!
Sarah: Yeah, it was, it was not optimal, and they stopped the line – it was a very quick process, but they had stopped the line to count the appointments versus the doses that they had on site, so there was a whole –
Sarah: – like, back behind the, in the, in the big tents there were counting of things, and so we were –
Sarah: – waiting outside in the rain, and there were all these people coming down the line saying, we’re really sorry; we know this sucks. You’re in the rain, but I promise that we have doses. It’s not a question of not having enough; we’re just trying to reconcile the number we have. We’re really sorry. It was very communicative –
Sarah: – but I was standing –
Sarah: – in the rain, and I, this was the book I was reading –
Sarah: – while I was waiting for quite a while. So thank you for getting me through that line. I really appreciate it!
Lin: You’re very welcome! I’m glad that it did!
Sarah: Thank you so much for, for doing this interview. I really appreciate it!
Lin: Thank you for having me! I’ve had such a lovely time!
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Hudson Lin for hanging out with me. I will have links to Hard Sell, all of the books that Lin mentioned, and all of the things we talked about, including cross-stitching and television worth binging in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
I always end each episode with a bad joke, and this week is no exception. Thank you to everyone who sends me bad jokes. If you would like to send me one, email me at [email protected] and tell me your terrible jokes, because you know how much love them.
This one is from a parent and daughter combo. You ready?
How do you make a Lamborghini?
How do you make a Lamborghini?
Well, when a Sheep-orghini and a Ram-orghini fall in love, then, well, you know what happens next.
[Laughs] So silly, I love it! If you enjoy the bad jokes as much as I do, thanks for listening all the way to the end, because it’s my favorite part of the outro; it’s probably one of my favorite parts of doing all the post production.
Thank you again for listening. I hope you have a wonderful weekend with the very best of reading.
Oh! Almost forgot: the quote that I tried to recall the source for? That was Confucius. A person has two lives, and the second life begins the minute you understand that you only have one. I’m really glad I could cite my source; it would have bothered me if I couldn’t, and I can’t believe I didn’t remember that during the recording.
Thank you again for listening. Have a wonderful weekend with the very best of reading! We’ll see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to listen to at frolic.media/podcasts.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.