Amanda and I are arranging marriages between books and convenience store candies (we missed this part of Ellen’s question last week!) and we talk about what romances we’d want to see adapted into limited series, who we’d cast in our dream productions, and what we’ve learned over the years of working with the website.
Thanks to Ellen, Kate K, Leslee, and Sue for today’s questions!
↓ Press Play
This podcast player may not work on Chrome and a different browser is suggested. More ways to listen →
Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
Links! We talked about:
- The Scam Goddess Podcast
- Banana Kitkats are TOTALLY a thing
- Bokksu Subscription of Japanese Candy – $15 off!
- Paperback Swap
- Palia – thanks, Bec!
❤ More ways to sponsor:
What did you think of today's episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that's where you hang out online. You can email us at [email protected] or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don't forget to give us a name and where you're calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.
Thanks for listening!
❤ Click to view the transcript ❤
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, September 3, 2021
Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 473 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and Amanda and I are going to arrange some marriages between books and candy. We missed part of Ellen’s question last week – sorry, Ellen! – so we’re going to talk about books and candy, convenience store snacks, what romances we want to see adapted into limited series, who we would cast, and what we’ve learned over the years of working with the website.
I want to thank Ellen, Kate K, Leslee, and Sue for today’s questions, and I want to thank the Patreon community for being wonderful. Not only do they provide questions for episodes like this, but they make sure that every episode is transcribed, and they keep the show going each and every week.
I have a compliment this week for Genny G.:
Genny, you are even better than a unicorn and better than a Pegasus, and better than even an alicorn, because you are magical and inspiring and very, very real.
If you would like to have a look at the Patreon community or perhaps get a compliment of your very own, go to patreon.com/SmartBitches.
This episode is brought to you in part by Osea. I love finding new skincare products that work brilliantly and are good for the planet too. Osea has been making products like that for over twenty-five years, and I love, love, love the Undaria algae body oil. And I know what you’re thinking: body oil, ugh. If you’ve been using body lotion for years, maybe you’re a little wary of body oil, but let me tell you, I love this stuff. And my younger child’s skin was really dry and itchy the other night, so I shared some with him, and he was like, Mom, this is really nice! I love how this smells! Can I use this? It soaks in super easily, it isn’t greasy, and I can’t tell you how soft and smooth my skin feels after I put it on. It leaves my skin with the most beautiful glow, and no body lotion that I’ve tried has done that. Osea’s products are clean, vegan, cruelty-free, climate-neutral, created with sustainably sourced seaweed, and they’re made in California, so you can feel good about what you’re putting on your skin. Experience your new favorite clean skincare line with a special discount just for our listeners: get ten percent off your first order with promo code SARAH at oseamalibu.com. You get free samples with every order, and orders over fifty dollars get free shipping. You’re going to want everything. Go to O-S-E-A Malibu dot com and use code SARAH.
This podcast is also brought to you by Headspace. If you have tried meditation before and felt like it didn’t work or maybe like you were doing it wrong, have a look at Headspace, especially if mental health is part of your self-care plan this year. 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 occasion, Headspace really can help you feel better! Overwhelmed? Headspace has thirty-minute SOS meditations for you. Need some help falling asleep? Headspace has wind-down meditations that Amanda and their members swear by. And for parents, Headspace has morning meditations 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. Since I started using Headspace, my day goes a little easier when I start with meditation, and I’ve meditated nearly every morning. I feel pretty great! I also love the focus music collection in the Headspace app. I love the variety, and I love the curated playlists. 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. This is the best deal offered right now. Head to headspace.com/SARAH today.
This episode was brought to you by Native. Do you know the difference between an antiperspirant and a deodorant? Antiperspirants contain aluminum, which forms a plug in your sweat glands to keep you from sweating. Native Deodorant does not contain aluminum or parabens or sulfates. It’s vegan, and it’s never tested on animals. Making the switch to an aluminum-free deodorant does not mean you have to sacrifice on performance. Native will keep you smelling and feeling fresh all day long. With over ten scents, including their classics and rotating seasonals, you’re guaranteed to find a scent that you love, and their fall scents are out now for both deodorants and their body wash. Oat milk latte, matcha and sweet cream, Earl Grey and mulberry, or cherry and vanilla macaron. I love the deodorant, but I love the body wash too. It doesn’t make my skin feel dry and tight, and the key lime and sugar scent is like one more hit of summer every time I use it. You’re going to love Native as much as I do. Right now, you can save twenty percent on your first purchase! Go to nativedeo.com/TRASHYBOOKS or use promo code TRASHYBOOKS at checkout. That’s nativedeo.com/TRASHYBOOKS or use promo code TRASHYBOOKS at checkout to save twenty percent on your first purchase.
This podcast is brought to you in part by Prose. Now, most of you have heard me talking about learning to take better care of my hair in the Quarantimes, and you may have heard me talking about Prose, the world’s most personalized hair care. First, there’s a quiz, an in-depth hair quiz, which helped me get started. My results created a custom blend that has made my hair softer, my surprising amount of curls more defined, and because I get to choose my own scent, it smells incredible too. Prose is also a carbon-neutral certified B Corp: all their ingredients are sustainably sourced, ethically gathered, and cruelty-free. And if you’re not a hundred percent positive that Prose is the best hair care you’ve ever had, they will take the products back, no questions asked. Prose is the healthy hair regimen with your name all over it. Take your free in-depth hair consultation and get fifteen percent off your first order today. Go to prose.com/TRASHYBOOKS – that’s P-R-O-S-E dot com slash TRASHYBOOKS – for your free in-depth hair consultation and fifteen percent off!
I know that y’all love it when Amanda and I do episodes together, and we are going to talk about a lot of candy and a lot of snacks, so maybe you should go grab something before you continue, because now it’s time to do the podcast. On with the show!
Amanda: Ah! Something funny is – when I was on Discord with my guild members yesterday, I was like, yeah, I have to go; I have to get up to, like, somewhat early, like do some stuff and get ready to do a podcast; and one of, like, the guild masters was like, oh, you’re on a podcast? Like, what’s it about? I was like, what do you think it’s about? It’s about books! And he’s like –
Amanda: – he’s like, well, if you had asked me what a podcast would be about hosted by two white women, I would have said you’re doing a True Crime podcast.
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Amanda: It’s like, fair!
Sarah: Can I, can I recommend a podcast to you?
Amanda: Yeah, of course!
Sarah: Oh, we forgot, we forgot a question in the last episode that we have to go back and fix.
Sarah: Candy pairings and romance.
Amanda: Oh, candy!
Sarah: Ellen, we screwed up. We’re going to come back to you. Okay.
Sarah: Candy pairings.
Amanda: We’re doing it now?
Sarah: We can do it in just a sec.
Sarah: So I found a podcast called Scam Goddess. It is a Black woman comedienne who has different guests each week, and they talk about a scammer or somebody who was super devious, but it’s like –
Amanda: Have they talked about Caroline Calloway yet?
Sarah: Oh yeah. And other influencers and that woman –
Sarah: – that woman who, like, pretended to be an heiress and –
Amanda: Oh yes!
Sarah: Yeah, and was like, oh, I –
Amanda: Okay, this is right up my alley.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Amanda: Yes, yes, yes.
Sarah: But the support community, the Patreon for the, the – I love this so much – this is the Scam Goddess, and it is her CONgregation.
Sarah: I was very excited about that. Ooh! Would you like to hear a terrible joke that I, that still makes me laugh?
Amanda: Oh my God. Sure.
Sarah: I’ve already told this on the podcast, so, you know, if you read the show notes you might have seen it.
Sarah: What is the difference between a black-eyed pea and a chickpea?
Amanda: I feel like you’ve said this, and I don’t remember the answer.
Sarah: Well, Black-Eyed Peas can sing us a song, but the chickpeas can only hummus one.
[Laughs] Amanda has her head in her hand like, oh my God.
Sarah: So let us address our minor screw-up here: in the last episode we had a question from Ellen about candy pairings with books, and –
Sarah: – we completely blanked on that. We, we cheated you of candy discussion.
Sarah: I feel terrible! Let us fix this! Recently, I had to go and pick up my children at sleepaway camp. I would like to thank the sleepaway camp for making this summer work in absolutely rough conditions with this fucking pandemic, but they made it work. I’m really impressed, and I’m very thankful that my kids got to do a somewhat normal thing for the summer. We are doing all the laundry now. Oh my God. Oh –
Amanda: [Laughs] All the stinky laundry.
Sarah: Oh, so many towels. Some of the clothes were like, whose is this? This is not ours! Well, it is now! Don’t know where this towel came from, but okay!
Amanda: Not finding that owner!
Sarah: Yep! A sock: we’re just going to throw it.
But the thing is, there was no bus, obviously, because COVID, so we drove to Pennsylvania. It’s about five hours up – hi, Linus!
Amanda: Did you – yeah, you can hear him.
Sarah: Yeah. What, does he want to come in? Is he just yelling?
Amanda: The door is open!
Sarah: Well, he’s mad about something! What did you do?
Amanda: I don’t know! He probably wants my roommate’s attention. He, like, sticks his face into, like, the crack of her door and, like, meows right into it.
Sarah: Let me in!
Amanda: He’s such an asshole. [Laughs]
Sarah: So we drove five hours up and five hours back with the kids. Lot of driving. So we had to stop at rest stops and, you know, when you stop at a rest stop that has a Wawa, you go buy candy because it’s Wawa.
Amanda: I do know the Wendells love a Wawa.
Sarah: My children love Wawa so much that at the end of a rough week at school during the Quarantimes I would mask everybody up in the car, and we would go to the nearest Wawa, and I would just let them buy –
Amanda: I –
Sarah: – whatever junk they wanted.
Amanda: It’s an experience, because I, I remember my first time in a Wawa. [Laughs] I was –
Sarah: It’s life-changing, isn’t it?
Amanda: I was ten years old, and we were driving to New York because I have family in New York and my mom’s originally from there, so we were road-tripping in a van up to New York, and we stopped at a Wawa in Virginia –
Amanda: – and I walked in, and I’m like, what is this place?
Sarah: [Laughs] It’s a glorious experience, the Wawa.
Sarah: So after coming out of the Wawa with candy for everybody, Adam got gas, and everybody got, everybody got, like, buckets of candy, I had a conversation in the car, coincidentally, about what, in order, are your most recommended road stop –
Sarah: – convenience store candies? And it was, it was very interesting. I had bought the big Reese’s with pretzels in them, thinking, oh yeah, really good! And Adam was like, no, original Reese’s are better! It’s just, I don’t need that much crunch. And I was like, okay, fair enough. So his candies –
Amanda: Adam, you can have both!
Amanda: Do you know that? You can have both of them! It’s not an either-or situation!
Sarah: I just have to go buy them. So I am going to take our recommended candies, top four for me and for Adam, and I will –
Sarah: – try to pair them with a book.
Amanda: Oh boy.
Sarah: All right. So number one from Adam is the Dove dark chocolate peanut butter.
Sarah: Those are super decadent and wonderful, and every, every wrapper comes with a really dumb, like, twee –
Sarah: – eat, eat chocolate, love, drink wine; you are the most masterful, greatest; go, you. It’s like, it’s like the Snapple trivia, only it’s attempting to make you feel good, and mostly it’s just really twee?
Sarah: [Laughs] You could make them into a vinyl cut-out for your wall, for your house.
So I would say the Dove dark chocolate peanut butter would pair really well with Sherry Thomas, particularly the Charlotte Holmes series.
Number two is the Kit Kat, any size.
Sarah: I have memories of Kit Kat from when I was like four or five years old, one of my earliest memories. My dad, and I’m sitting in the front seat of the AMC car that my family owned, and I’m not wearing a seatbelt ‘cause it was the ‘70s. I remember he went into a, a newspaper distributor to buy some newspapers and came out with a Kit Kat, and I had thought, like, this was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I had my own whole Kit Kat, and I was very little. Kit Kat I would pair, ‘cause it is an, it is a dedicated, established, like, you know exactly what you’re going to get; it’s not new, it’s been around forever. There’s lots of variety in the Kit Kat, but you still know that the, you’re going to get this good experience.
Amanda: You’re going to get that wafer; you’re going to get –
Sarah: Yeah! It’s going to be crispy; it’s going to be creamy –
Sarah: – it’s going to be good. You could break them up; you can attempt not to eat all four; good luck.
Amanda: Weirdly enough, one of the best flavored Kit Kats I’ve had is the banana flavor.
Sarah: Get out!
Amanda: I thought it was going to be fucking disgusting. It is delicious!
Sarah: You know what else is really good? Green tea Kit Kats! I had one in Japan; they were wonderful! Super good!
Amanda: Okay, I’ll have to try the green tea; you’ll have to try the banana.
Sarah: I will find the banana. So, given that it is a classic; it, it has so much variety; and yet it is still absolutely perfect the way that it is? I figure the recommendation that goes with that has to be something that no matter when you’re entering their, their backlist, you’re going to come up against something delightful. So I’m going with Jill Shalvis for that one.
Amanda: Mmm! Okay.
Sarah: Because even going all the way back to Harlequin Blaze, those are good books; they’re enjoyable. Sometimes they’re a little dated, but you’re going to get comedy, you’re going to get –
Sarah: – you’re going to get something fun. You’re, you know what you’re going to get.
For Reese’s, now, Adam says Reese’s plain; I like Reese’s pretzel, and I’ve seen Reese’s with other stuff in them, but I’ve only tried the plain and the pretzel.
Amanda: They’ve had, like, the Reese’s Pieces inside.
Sarah: Oh, right, right, right, yeah! That, we had those too.
Amanda: Yeah. Like, an author who has, like, they’re in, like, canon in the genre, but maybe one who also has, like, switched genres or, like, updates it.
Sarah: Bev Jenkins. Bev Jenkins is, is the classic peanut butter and chocolate, classic combo, doing new things – got the Blessings series. There’s always a character who is terrible and dies of stupid; it is very satisfying. Yeah, Bev Jenkins all the way.
And then –
Amanda: There we go!
Sarah: – his, his fourth choice is Snickers.
Amanda: Oh. That’s a disappointment.
Sarah: I don’t like those as much; they’re very waxy. I’m not a fan –
Sarah: – so I’m not going to pair a book with those, because I don’t like them, and then I don’t want to be like –
Sarah: – I don’t like them, but here’s an author – that sounds terrible.
For me, I like any candy that has a candy bar – so milk chocolate is really, really sweet; it’s too sweet for me, so I want a candy bar that has a lot of stuff going out, going on inside that has chocolate on the outside. So, like, a Take 5, which is pretzels and crisped rice and caramel with choc- –
Amanda: That’s on my list!
Sarah: I love those, and Whatchamacallit has been my favorite for ages. So I would say for the Whatchamacallit, which is, again, a classic candy that I have been eating forever and ever and ever, I am going to say Shelly Laurenston, because I have been reading those books for such a long time, ever since they were published, ever since the G. A. Aiken books were published by Samhain and then published by Kensington, and that was when Kate Duffy was still alive, so this was a really long-ass time ago. Gotta go with Shelly Laurenston/G. A. Aiken.
And then for the Take 5, since we have this in common, what –
Sarah: – author do you pair with the Take 5?
Amanda: So I went book pairings instead of author pairings.
Sarah: This is also cool.
Amanda: Yeah. So Take 5 –
Sarah: I mean, who’s going to tell us no? Who’s going to stop us?
Amanda: Yeah. What are you going to do? Write an –
Amanda: – angry letter to us?
Sarah: That’s fine.
Amanda: [Laughs] There’s a lot going on with a Take 5, right?
Sarah: Oh yeah! There’s a lot of stuff going on in there.
Amanda: So I wanted to pick a book that has, like, a lot going on –
Amanda: – that I still found, like, relatively enjoyable and –
Amanda: – fun.
Amanda: And I would, I would pick the new, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton is what I would pick for a Take 5.
Sarah: Good call!
Amanda: They’re just, there’s like crunchy and creamy and chocolate-y, and in that book you’ve got, like, you know, sword fights and flying houses, and it’s just – a villain who writes bad poetry. There’s a lot going on!
Sarah: It’s everything but the kitchen sink and the kitchen sink.
Amanda: That’s what I would, that’s, that’s the book I would pair for a Take 5.
Sarah: Good call.
Amanda: What would you pair?
Sarah: I like that choice. I’m going to go with yours.
Amanda: [Laughs] Okay. So there’s one of my candies.
There’s one – so I recently treated myself to a Japanese food subscription?
Sarah: Which is an excellent choice. We, in the pandemic –
Sarah: – treated ourselves to a Japanese instant ramen subscription –
Sarah: – which was mind-blowingly good.
Amanda: So I went with this subscription called Bokksu, and inside –
Sarah: You’ll send me a link, right?
Amanda: Yeah, I’ll send you a link!
Amanda: I think I have – one second – I think I have the candy right on my desk, too. Ooh, where are you, candies? I know you’re here.
Sarah: Does your shirt say Eat Like You Mean It?
Amanda: Eat Like You Give a Fuck.
Sarah: Oh, love it!
Amanda: It’s, well, it was a promo shirt for the Thug Kitchen cookbook?
Sarah: Oh, bummer!
Amanda: Yeah. ‘Cause my Marketing professor was working on the cookbook when it came out, and she had, like, a bunch of free shit, so I –
Sarah: Looks like a soft shirt.
Amanda: It is; it’s nice! But in the Bokksu subscription was this yuzu and sake hard candy?
Amanda: And it’s delicious, and so, like, I keep it on my desk and I’ll, like, you know, just have one. I love it, and I think for that one I would –
Sarah: Not finding that at the Wawa.
Amanda: You’re not.
Amanda: But Bokksu does sell, like, individual, like, candies or, like, treats or whatever that they include in their box, so you can still buy it. Or I think, like, you can find regular, like, yuzu hard candy? But for this one I would go with Neon Gods by Katee Robert?
Amanda: ‘Cause it’s yuzu and sake, so it’s like a little more adult; a little, like, hard candy; lots of, like, oral fixation. [Laughs]
Sarah: Linus does not like your answer; I can hear him protesting.
Amanda: Linus! Like, he’s such a crybaby!
So that’s what I would pair, and then the last – I would say Swedish Fish –
Amanda: – with the caveat that it’s the Trader Joe’s Swedish Fish.
Sarah: They have much more flavor, and they are very, very –
Sarah: – nicely soft, yes. They, and they don’t live in your teeth against your will for hours.
Amanda: So Swedish Fish and, like, their soft, silky texture –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Amanda: – I would go with All In by Simona Ahrnstedt, who is a Swedish romance author –
Amanda: – and their book is, like, elite and, like, very luxurious. The Trader Joe’s variety is called Scandinavian Swimmers.
So those are my three pairings. Yeah, I’ve been on a weird Swedish Fish kick for –
Sarah: Well, why the hell not?
Amanda: They’re just so good.
Sarah: Continuing with our food theme –
Sarah: – we have a question from Kate K., who also asked about our ideal candy, which we’ve kind of answered.
Sarah: But Kate said, “What sort of salty snacks do you like best? If you could turn a romance into a limited series what would you pick? Casting? (All the questions.)”
Amanda: Oh boy.
Sarah: Okay. So considering that I just did a road trip, this is a subject present in my mind, because everyone was picking out snacks and I had to pick out snacks.
Sarah: So in terms of salty snacks, I love all the salty snacks. I love them so much. I could decimate some Pringles, and it would be embarrassing to everyone in the room. I love salty snacks. I love corn chips; I love tortilla chips. I love corn chips and tortilla –
Amanda: Ooh, I love a chip.
Amanda: I love a chip so much.
Sarah: I love sea salt PopCorners. I love those sour cream and onion gas station potato chips that, like, your hands are greasy and smell funky for hours. But my number one favorite salty snack, going back to I’ve just left the beach, I am exhausted, I want a soda and a snack: Combos.
Amanda: Ooh, what flavor Combos?
Sarah: Classic pretzel and cheese?
Amanda: My favorite Combos –
Sarah: Always the pretzel outside. Whatever’s inside is fine, but the pretzel outside is key. I fucking love Combos. And I love shit like Bugles and, like, Pringles; that’s all great. The Combo is the supreme salty snack for me.
Amanda: My favorite Combo flavor – and Combos always remind me of my late dad, ‘cause whenever we would go to the gas station – and this is terrible – he would get a Foster’s beer –
Amanda: – in a brown paper bag, and I would –
Sarah: As you do.
Amanda: – I would get a bag of Combos, the regular, like, cheese with, like, the regular outside. But my favorite Combos flavor is, what is it, like, the seven-layer dip kind?
Amanda: They’re so good.
Sarah: Nacho dip one.
Amanda: That one’s my favorite.
Amanda: But I love chips too. When I did the foodie romance panel on Saturday, I asked the authors of, like, if you could describe yourself as a food, like, what food would you be?
Sarah: Oh geeze. Can I be wine? Can I just be wine?
Amanda: You can be wine!
Sarah: Okay, I’m wine. [Laughs]
Amanda: I picked nachos, ‘cause, like, there’s a lot of –
Amanda: I was like, there’s a lot going on, and that’s – [laughs] – I feel like that’s me! I love a chip.
Sarah: But the other thing is that nachos fit your personality, because if you’re having nachos there’s something for everyone, right? Every, every interest –
Amanda: [Laughs] I feel like I’m more of an acquired taste, personally!
Sarah: No, because you’re very welcoming! There’s something for everyone in a nacho platter. Whatever your favorite thing is, it’s all equally represented, and that’s the kind of inclusive, like, friend you are.
Amanda: Aww, thank you, Sarah!
Sarah: You’re welcome!
Amanda: Do you have any more snacks?
Sarah: Do I have any more snacks?
Amanda: Before I tell about my snacks.
Sarah: Tell me your snacks. I want to hear your snacks, and then I’m going to be hungry, but then –
Sarah: – we can move another – [laughs] – another part of this question, which is, what snacks are we going to eat at the romance that we turn into a limited series when it premieres?
Amanda: [Laughs] So this question caught me at a time where I just started my period, so all I can think of is, like, salty, crunchy things.
Sarah: That’s fine!
Amanda: So right now in my – I planned ahead – I’ve got bags of, little tiny bags of crunchy Cheetos.
Sarah: Oooh, hot ones or reglier ones?
Amanda: Just regular ones.
Sarah: My, one of, one of my older child’s common speech mistakes was reg-lee-er? Like, the reglier show, and so we all say reglier now.
Amanda: There, there are Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Mac’n Cheese now.
Sarah: I saw that. I was texted a picture from the grocery store with the caption of –
Sarah: – No, I’m not buying this.
Amanda: In, in Canada, Kraft Dinner has come out with new flavor packets, one of which is cotton candy, and it turns your mac and cheese bright pink. People are losing their minds.
Together: Are you okay?
Amanda: And then one of my other favorites are, like, Blue Diamond almonds that have, like, really good flavors. So they have, like, a salt and vinegar one that I get a lot? I think they have, like, a dill pickle one? They have, like, a smokehouse barbecue one. Even their cinnamon, like, sugar almonds are good. So I love a flavored almond.
Sarah: Good choice!
Amanda: That’s what I would go with.
Sarah: And you sound like you are well-equipped for any snacking needs at this time.
Amanda: Oh yeah! I’m ready.
Sarah: [Laughs] Kate’s other question, “If you could turn a romance into a limited series what would you pick? Casting?” I am terrible at casting things, so I am not going to be good to answer this question, but even though this is also an answer I gave for a podcast interview I did on someone else’s show recently, so if you’ve listened to that you’ve already heard this, I think Call of Crows would make an amazing limited series.
Sarah: You’ve got all the Norse gods and all their earthly team representatives. You’ve got himbos everywhere. You’ve got superpowered nerds, and then you’ve got women who are ferocious and terrifying and absolutely fabulous. It would make incredible TV; it would be super soapy, super dishy, super violent, lots of action, really – if you threw, like, a really good CGI budget at this you could have outstanding special effects, and you could put so many awesome actors in this thing. You could have Tessa Thompson? You could have absolutely fabulous actors in this thing, and it would be so great.
Amanda: I would go – it’s funny that you said Shelly Laurenston, ‘cause I would say The Blacksmith Queen by G. A. Aiken. [Laughs]
Sarah: See, she writes a cinematic – why has she not been optioned? Why? Why?
Amanda: I, I want – well, like, so contemporaries hold no appeal in terms of being made into a series. Maybe –
Sarah: I feel like that’s in progress!
Amanda: – because of, like, the costuming and stuff.
Amanda: But I would like, like, a big, magical, fantastical –
Amanda: – action-packed –
Amanda: I think for Keeley, because Keeley is just, like, such a presence that has, like, this affable, friendly personality, I think I would cast Gwendoline Christie?
Sarah: Oh, she would be really good!
Amanda: She’d be so fun. And then for, like, kind of like –
Sarah: Or Lucy Lawless. Lucy Lawless would be good at that too.
Amanda: I think she’d be, like, a good mom –
Amanda: – character.
Amanda: And then, like, the kind of like punchy, was it like, older prizefighting, like, aunt –
Amanda: I, I think Lily Tomlin could be –
Amanda: – so cute? [Laughs]
Amanda: I don’t know who would play Gemma. I know, like, Gemma’s, like, a little prickly; obviously, like, shorter.
Sarah: Kristen Ritter?
Amanda: Well, like, Gemma is not as, like, thin. Gemma’s like more –
Sarah: Oh, right. She’s pretty buff.
Amanda: Yeah, she’s, like, short and just, like, all that and, like, a handful. So I don’t know who I would pair.
Sarah: Jurnee Smollett.
Amanda: And then – mm, maybe. God, she’s so gorgeous. And then –
Sarah: We’re just basically casting women with really great deltoids?
Amanda: I know.
Sarah: It’s just, do you have hot arms? We would like to say your name. [Laughs]
Amanda: And then the hero, like, I know this is a miscast, okay, but I just can’t help myself.
Sarah: Go ahead.
Amanda: Because I love seeing the photos of Gwendoline Christie and Oscar Isaac together?
Amanda: Like, he, like, they look like they’re just having such a great time. And I’d love to see Oscar Isaac be her centaur man.
Sarah: I’m here for it; sounds great!
Sarah: That sounds great to me! I don’t see why that’s a miscast.
Amanda: This is all purely selfish for me.
Sarah: I love this. This is awesome.
Amanda: That’s what I’d, I would also go with, like, you know, Game of Thrones style, Leslye Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles would be really cool.
Sarah: Oh, Earthsinger Chronicles would make a great series.
Amanda: And, and Jurnee would be, like, a, a decent pick too.
Amanda: I also think Lupita, Lupita Nyong’o would be so gorgeous as Jasminda? And then the main guy from Bridgerton, he would be great as Jack, the spy!
Sarah: Regé-Jean –
Sarah: Regé-Jean –
Sarah: Why does his name – I can see him – Page. Regé-Jean Page.
Amanda: Yeah, you can see it! I think he would also make a, a great Jack in the Earthsinger Chronicles.
Sarah: Oh, he would.
Amanda: He would be good.
Sarah: He really would. All right, well, you know, producers call us; we have ideas.
Amanda: Netflix –
Amanda: Netflix, if you’re listening.
Sarah: Pull up to our houses with a truck of money!
Amanda: I would love that.
Sarah: All right, would you read Leslee’s question? This is a very meaty, meaty question.
Amanda: Yes. Leslee says:
“How do you think running the site and all that involves has changed your experience both with romance itself and Romancelandia?”
Amanda: “Are there things you would change if you could go back and start over?”
Amanda: “Things you’ve experienced or learned in particular that have made all the frustrating moments worth it?”
Sue comments on Leslee’s question: “OH I like this question so much. Yes, what’s it like now that you know how the sausage (snerk) is made?”
Sarah: This is such a good question, ‘cause you know I’m all about looking back and spotting patterns, right? Like, that’s –
Sarah: – one of my favorite things? What – you want to go first on this one?
Amanda: Oh boy. [Laughs] I feel like this is a little different for me because I worked in publishing as well, so I kind of knew –
Sarah: And you have a Master’s in Publishing.
Amanda: And I have a Master’s in Publishing. So I kind of –
Sarah: And you’ve been working with me since you were in college.
Amanda: That’s true. Let’s see, we’re –
Sarah: And that’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. Like, we get a lot of very specific –
Amanda: – we’re closing in on a decade.
Amanda: I started in 2012.
Amanda: Yeah, September 2012. Which is wild. It hasn’t felt that long. So I know, like, learning about how books are made in terms of, like, from idea to release and then, like, after that and, like, working as a publicist. It definitely takes some shine off, and I’ve had people come up to me who are like, should I go into publishing? And my answer’s always no.
Amanda: Sorry, publishing.
Sarah: So not only do you have – so just to recap your experience, though, not only do you have your undergraduate degree, you have a graduate degree from Emerson in Publishing, you worked as a publicist at a publishing house –
Sarah: – you’ve worked at a bookstore –
Sarah: – you’ve worked for Smart Bitches –
Sarah: – you have pretty much seen different pieces of the entire industry your entire working career.
Amanda: Yes. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah, so you have always known how the sausage was made, and in some cases was making the sausage!
Amanda: Was making the sausage –
Amanda: – I was a sausage maker!
Amanda: [Laughs] I don’t think I would necessarily change anything about what I’ve done. Maybe there’s, like, one job in particular that I would not have taken that was a terrible, toxic workplace, and I was just so excited at the opportunity to be in a more managerial position that I was like, ooh, this is, like, a big step up career-wise, and it came at a very big cost to my mental health. And so, like, that’s just, like, a general life lesson, not to books. It’s like, really look at the, the options or choices you’re making and kind of weigh, you know, your own self-happiness against the possibility of a step up.
Sarah: Right. In other words, it may come with an increase in title or money, but there is also a cost, and you have to be able to identify the tangible and intangible cost of things like that.
Amanda: And there are a lot of frustrations, I think, that I have, because let’s be honest: there’s, there’s always going to be some hot gossip; we’re always going to know things behind the scenes. It’s, it’s easy to get wrapped up in those things, I feel like, especially with, like, the age of social media, and so it can be frustrating. As Sarah has said before, and I think this is a very good point in that romance readers are siloed –
Amanda: – in the sense that, like, you know, Twitter romance fans probably won’t overlap with, like, Facebook romance fans.
Sarah: And then inside Facebook you have every different kind of group, niche, author group. Like, there’s so many individual silos of romance readers, so if you say, well, take me where the romance readers are, that’s going to be a really long trip with a lot of stops.
Amanda: That’s frustrating in the sense of, like, things that might be, like, popular or seem big and loud on one social media platform might not even be a blip on the radar of another platform.
Sarah: Yep! And even our community has its own tastes. Like, I, like, you and I both know when we’re putting together something like Books on Sale or talking about what, what books we want to talk about, there are books that we know are not of interest to, to the community that we speak to every day that are going to be –
Sarah: – really big sellers in another community, and that, that’s fine! Everyone’s, the thing about social media is everyone’s found a place with people who like the same things they like so they can find more things to read.
Amanda: One thing that frustrates me is a lot of, like, persnickety opinions, I suppose.
Sarah: Well, there’s just a cycle, right? Like we go through the same set of like ten? It’s like, oh, spin the wheel! What time is it?
Amanda: One thing the pandemic has taught me as a person is to just let people enjoy things.
Amanda: It takes less work not to shit on something that someone else is enjoying. You know, with caveats, obviously. You know, so sometimes I get frustrated with, you know, people going in on certain tropes, because if something’s not for you, it’s going to be for somebody else, and I just, sometimes I feel like that sends a wrong message to new readers about, like, oh, well, if, like, if the majority are like squeaky wheels, the loudest commenters don’t like this thing, but I really like it, what, like, that makes me feel bad.
Sarah: Your kink is not my kink, and that’s okay.
Amanda: Yeah! And I’ve had some of those experiences personally over the last, like, year or so.
Amanda: I think that’s, like, one thing I’ve learned is just, different communities may seem big or loud, but they’re just, like, separate communities, and, like, what I like might not be what’s popular on Facebook right now, and so I just have to kind of like separate myself from that community for a minute –
Amanda: – enjoy the things that I like to enjoy –
Amanda: – and then get back at it some other time!
Sarah: Another thing the pandemic has taught me is that there have been several moments where I have looked at a situation and thought, I’m so glad I am not in charge, because I wouldn’t know what to do. And there are a lot of things involving publishing where there are so many problems happening at once right now where I’m like, wow, this is terrible. I’m really glad it is not my job to figure this out. I have a lot of sympathy for the person who has to figure out, okay, we’ve got to move this book because this crate of shipping is not unloaded because of a labor shortage because of delays ‘cause of a canal. Like, there –
Amanda: My – [laughs] –
Sarah: I am so glad I’m not in charge of some of the problems.
Amanda: My roommate called me into her room – so my roommate is a, works in marketing and publicity for a publisher in our area, and books haven’t –
Sarah: Careful, there’s only like two left now.
Amanda: I know.
Amanda: Books hadn’t arrived yet –
Amanda: – and I think it was like the publicist or the editor sent a photo; they’re like, yeah, the books we’re waiting on are in one of these crates stuck at Chicago –
Amanda: – and there was, like, a photo of just shipping containers –
Amanda: – and shipping containers –
Amanda: – and shipping containers. Like, yep, they’re in one of them somewhere!
Amanda: We don’t know where we’ll get them – [laughs] –
Amanda: – so.
Sarah: For me, so this, this question has two parts for me, so I’ll start with the sausage, and then we can move on to the what would we change if we could go back and start over and –
Sarah: – things and, you know, that kind of thing. But “How do you think running the site and all that involves has changed your experience both with romance itself and Romancelandia?” When I cofounded Smart Bitches I did not know shit. I was reading and reviewing books that I was borrowing from PaperBackSwap, and they were all late ‘80s, early ‘90s, older romances. They were, like, these were the paperbacks that not only turned yellow but kind of turned gold they were so old and delicate?
Sarah: And I’ve told this story before, but I met Erin Galloway when she worked at Dorchester, and she said, hey, I’m really enjoying the site! Would you like to be on our list? List, list of what? Well, for review copies! Okay! And this was back when they were publish-, they were printing out review copies in heavy paper wrapped in almost like a, almost like construction paper. It was a single-color cover with just the title and the author, and I felt like I had been given premature babies. These aren’t even out yet, oh my God!
Amanda: They’re still warm!
Sarah: They’re, they’re, they’re tiny! These aren’t even the real books! There’s not even the real cover! What do I do? And I emailed her, and I was like, well, do you want these back when I’m done? And she’s like, no! No! Do not send them back! Geeze, do not. And I kept them. Like, I, when we were moving, I found ARCs from 2007 in the basement when we moved in 2015, ‘cause I couldn’t get rid of them, and now I’m just like chucking ‘em in the recycling, and I don’t even – or I hand them to the neighbor.
Yeah, that, I knew nothing. I knew nothing about how the sausage was made. I knew nothing about how, how a book is made, and knowing more, having been an author, having, on, been on the receiving end of publicity and marketing, having been part of marketing and part of publicity, I have a little bit more of an understanding.
That definitely influenced my editorial work when it comes to editing reviews, because I know how many people may have influenced a book, so that influences how we talk about that book, because we can’t, we cannot know the motivation of why a decision was made; we can only evaluate the decision that was made that created this product. Like, this book –
Sarah: – what is happening? We, we can’t know why it happened or how it happened, because there’s no way of knowing that, but it’s never as straightforward as – I mean, okay, I shouldn’t say never – it is rarely as straightforward as somebody wrote a book, and it went through an editorial process and was largely untouched and nothing was changed, and then it was published. Like, that is a very rare thing. So a lot of things happen to a book; that influences how I edit reviews that are submitted for publication.
It also changes how I interact with marketing? Like cover art? I have never cared about cover art. It never – I don’t, I am one of those people where I don’t need to own it; I don’t need to have it or look at it. It doesn’t interest me? Also, it’s not meant for me. If the point of the cover is to lure me into the genre, I am already inside. I’ve used the bathroom; I know where all the stuff in the kitchen is. Like, I’m already inside; there’s no need to redecorate the house because I’m already in it? It’s the opposite of shutting the barn door after the horse is out.
Sarah: I’m already inside! You don’t need to lure me in; I’m already here. I don’t care; it doesn’t matter. The point is to lure me into the book, I’m not looking at cover art. I’m also usually not seeing it ‘cause I’m getting so many pieces of –
Amanda: That’s true, yeah.
Sarah: – promotional material that are before the cover is finalized. I can admire it, and like I said earlier, like, I’m really glad I’m not in charge. I couldn’t possibly design a cover; I do not have that skill, and I am in awe of designers who make gorgeous cover art and can convey so much in one single image? I’m already inside. You don’t need to worry about me.
I’m going to look at cover copy or the summary of tropes. I love the way that pitching a book has evolved into here are the tags that are attributable to this book? That, that is great; I love that. I am not going to be grabbed by a cover. Like, I’m just not; I never have been –
Sarah: – and it is a waste on me; I’m sorry. I’m in awe of the art. I am so impressed by the design, I don’t have that skill, but that’s not what’s working on me.
The other thing – [laughs] – is then because I’ve been in the com-, it’s almost seventeen years, right?
Sarah: The recurring cycle of things that people get mad at is both really reassuring and discouraging. Like, oh! This again! I know about this! God, we’re still dealing with this? Damn it, people! God! Can we just, can we fix this? Like I said, though, I’m not in charge. I cannot fix it. [Laughs]
Amanda: Yeah, you’re right. There’s, like, a cycle that I hate. Like anytime Valentine’s Day comes around, like –
Sarah: Oh, take cover, get in the bunker, get some wine, just, just –
Amanda: It’s like, relax, this –
Sarah: – just get ready.
Amanda: – this happens every year.
Sarah: Every year.
Amanda: I don’t know why everybody’s surprised that people have shitty takes and shitpost about romance on Valentine’s Day.
Sarah: [Laughs] And then authors –
Amanda: It’s like a –
Sarah: – will start getting press inquiries like, can you tell us about romantic dates? Like, no?
Amanda: It’s like a Groundhog Day scenario, and it’s like, just, we’ve been through it.
Sarah: There’s going to be a bad take! It’s okay; we’ve got cookies. We’re going to get through this.
Amanda: Relax! Do something else for yourself that day.
Sarah: Every year. Every year. Every year; it’s like clockwork.
Amanda: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: If there’s a thing that I would change, if I could go back and start over, I would be better at organizing content, tagging, and creating specific sets of categories. I was not good at that, and then some of the ways that the site structure was informed by our making up things as we went means that the organization is not as intuitive as it, as it would be if I could start now and go back and reorganize things, which is not as easy as it sounds, given how many different columns of content, basically, comprise the site. The site is like three databases and a couple of WordPress post types – like, several different WordPress post types – all harnessed into one thing. Like, it’s a big ol’ beast! I can’t go back and fix all of it? There are things that I have fixed. I wish that I had known more about organizing content and creating intuitive pathways through that content that I know now much more about than I did in 2005. I also know that I’ve learned that because I’ve been managing the content. It’s not as if somebody’s just born knowing that, so it’s okay.
Sarah: Things that I’ve experienced or learned in particular that have made all the frustrating moments worth it? When I am reading a book that grabs my whole brain and gives me chest tingles and makes me feel so happy, that never gets old. I am always grateful for that experience. It never, never gets old; I’m never tired of it.
And if you think about, like, the site started in 2005, right when paranormal was still a massive thing, and trends –
Amanda: That was a weird time.
Sarah: It was a very weird time.
Sarah: And because we didn’t have social media to drive trends faster and faster, it took forever for trends to move forward, so then we moved into erotica. I mean, I used to run a program called Save the Contemporary because there –
Sarah: – were so few of them! I think contemporaries are fine now. Contemporary’s doing just great. But there were so few, there were so few contemporary romances being published, we needed to, like, highlight them!
Amanda: But now there are so few paranormals being published.
Sarah: I know. Unless you’re in KU, in which case they’re everywhere, and all of those heroines have the same hairstyle and lighting treatment.
Amanda: I feel like that’s where they have to go, because no one’s acquiring it.
Sarah: Yeah! And the fundamental aspects of romance, about writing stories of courtship, about humans who want to connect with other humans, and then making those stories so real that I then feel emotions, that never gets old. I’m always grateful that that is still happening. Even as much as I know about romance, I still get that experience, and it makes me so happy.
What about you? What are things you would change, and what is, what makes it worth it?
Amanda: I don’t know what I would change. I don’t think, like – I’ve, I’ve been pretty happy in terms of, like, the trajectory that I’ve gone for, for myself in terms of, like, reading and books.
Amanda: Maybe make use of my library more often so I don’t have this hoard I currently have. [Laughs]
Sarah: I mean, your, your roommate does call you Mandy Dragon; that’s your hoard!
Amanda: That’s true! God, I have so many books! I don’t know what I would do! I don’t think I would change anything necessarily. Besides that one, like, career blip where I was miserable.
Sarah: Working for the terrible publisher with terrible managers?
Amanda: It’s funny ‘cause one of the managers at my bookstore was als-, like, we overlapped at that place by like a month –
Amanda: – and so we, like, commiserate a lot.
What I love is, is telling people about a book that I enjoy and getting them excited about a book that I liked, and then having them come back to me and be like, that was so great.
Sarah: Oh, isn’t that the best feeling?
Amanda: What else do you have?
Sarah: Oh my God, that book was perfect, is the best feeling.
Amanda: I, I get this more, especially, like, working at the bookstore? Like, I hand sold the same book three times over like two days. It wasn’t a romance; it was a horror novel that I mentioned in Hide Your Wallet, When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen, and I’m trying to get her on my Women in Horror panel for October. But, like, the horror section is, like, right next to where the registers are, and so, you know, I saw a couple there, and, like, oh, this one was blurbed by Stephen King! I was like, oh, are you looking at the horror section? Which I created and curated. I’m like, well –
Sarah: Feel the power. The power!
Amanda: I know! I was like, well, if you want horror recommendations – like, yeah, sure! I’m like, there’s this one I really liked and this one I really liked, and they bought like two of the books I suggested, which is such a good feeling. And then, like, I was telling some woman who came in about my staff pick, which is Nightbitch, which is a weird fucking book, but so much fun. And so, like, just being excited about a book and being able to communicate that excitement to a person, especially in person, is such a good feeling, and then to see them buy it because they, like, trust your excitement and they trust your recommendation just feels really nice.
Sarah: It is really nice when I get an email that says, you recommended this book and it was perfect, and thank you, and I, I so appreciate what you do. Like, aw! Thank you!
Amanda: Yeah! I think like that positive feedback is nice, because sometimes, like, we don’t get that. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, we don’t know how we influence the people we influence. I don’t think anybody does.
Sarah: But it is really nice to know, like, right, you know, when this episode airs we’ll be keeping people company and talking about books, and I’ve said several times that being invited into somebody’s eardrums is very intimate, it’s a very big deal, and being able to be trusted with what people like to read, especially if they’ve internalized some stigma and shame about that, which is very common with romance, it makes me so happy to know what someone’s going to like, even if it’s not something I like.
Sarah: That’s the greatest.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Amanda for hanging out with me; thank you to the Patreon community for these questions, especially Ellen, Kate, Leslee, and Sue; and thank you for listening as we hang out and talk books and candy.
I hope that you will tell us what your favorite snack is, because, I mean, the convenience stores are just getting bigger. So if you want to tell me, I would love to know: are you a Combos person too? You can email me at [email protected], or you can call and leave a message at 1-201-371-3272. Tell me a bad joke; those are my favorite. I have one in a second.
But first, I have a new thing! Y’all send me email and it’s really great, so I wanted to share some of the podcast inbox with you. This message is from Bec and Bec says, after listening to the latest episode, I wanted to bring a new game to your attention – heads up, everybody – Palia – I hope I’m saying that right. It’s not out, but Bec is very keen to try it because it looks super cute and comforting. You can find it, and I’ll put a link in the show notes, at palia, P-A-L-I-A, dot com [palia.com]. Thank you, Bec!
If you want to send us a message, want to send us an email, tell us what’s on your mind, [email protected].
And now I have a bad joke, because I end every episode with a terrible joke, and really, that’s why we’re all here, right? Yeah, don’t, don’t lie. I know. That’s why we’re here. Okay. You ready? I wouldn’t let you down.
Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill?
Why did the toilet paper roll all the way down the hill?
To get to the bottom!
[Laughs] I love it! It’s so terrible! Oh, bad jokes make me so happy. To get to the bottom! [Laughs more]
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will be back next week!
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find amazing podcasts to listen to at frolic.media/podcasts.
[end of music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.