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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
You can find Danielle Jackson on her website at DanielleJacksonBooks.com. She co-hosts the Fresh Fiction podcast!
Danielle mentioned a model named Ashley Graham.
We also mentioned the amazing cover of The Accidental Pinup, and Capri’s Book Island’s incredible cosplay of the cover!
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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 519 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and I am on the mend; thank you for your many kind messages. My guest this week is Danielle Jackson. Danielle Jackson’s new book The Accidental Pinup is out now, and I bet you’ve seen the cover: it is terrific. Danielle and I are going to chat about her book, what happened when she saw the cover, and every professional role she’s had within publishing. She’s been a publicist – she was my publicist for one of my books; she’s also a bookseller, and now she’s an author! So we have a lot to talk about.
I will have links to all of the books we mention in this episode in the show notes, and you can find them at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
Hello and thank you to the Patreon community that keeps the show going every week and makes sure that every episode has a transcript that is hand-compiled by garlicknitter. Thank you, garlicknitter! [You’re welcome! – gk] If you would like to support the show, if you enjoy what we do, please have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
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All right, let’s get started with this podcast, shall we? On with my conversation with Danielle Jackson.
Danielle Jackson: My name is Danielle Jackson, and I’m a contemporary romance author. My debut novel The Accidental Pinup comes out on July 19th. And I’m also the event coordinator at Anderson’s Bookshop, which is an independent bookstore outside of Chicago in the suburbs, and I have worn many hats in all different sides of publishing, so I’ve always been in books, I’ve always been interested in books, and, and now I’ve got one coming out.
Sarah: So you’ve, you’ve actually taken a very long, roundabout way to being published.
Danielle: Yeah, kinda, yeah! I, I don’t know, yeah! I mean, I’ve always been that person – I feel like a lot of people who end up writing a book say this – like, I’ve always been a writer; I’ve always been interested in books and writing –
Danielle: – and I don’t know why I – I don’t want to say I waited, because I feel like I just needed to get to this point where I could write a book, you know, but –
Sarah: Of course!
Danielle: – I, for a long time I was really content being kind of behind the scenes of it all. But you know, you, you get an idea, and, and you write it down, and, and here we are. [Laughs]
Sarah: And sometimes when you get that idea it’s because you really want to read this book and it isn’t out there –
Sarah: – and you’re like, all right, guess I’m going to do it myself.
Danielle: Yeah! I’ve got to do, I had to do it, right? [Laughs]
Sarah: So, congratulations on The Accidental Pinup. That cover is an absolute joy.
Sarah: Did you, like, put your head between your knees when you saw the cover? ‘Cause it caused an absolute ruckus in the SBTB Slack where all the reviewers are?
Sarah: There was –
Danielle: Love it.
Sarah: – there was a lot of emoji use when we saw that cover.
Danielle: [Laughs] First of all, that’s amazing; I, I appreciate that very much; but yes, I mean, it is one of those things. I was really lucky that my publisher, Berkley, my editor there, they did ask for ideas or if there were illustrators I liked –
Danielle: – and so, you know, I mean, it was like pie in the sky. I was like, well, Leni Kauffman, who’s the illustrator of the, of the image of the cover, I was just like, well, she’s like my fave right now; I’ve been a fan of hers for years. I mean, I, I love what she’s done for Olivia Dade –
Danielle: – Mimi Grace, and Karen Booth, all of the covers. I mean, anything that Leni does, whether it’s a cover or an illustration, is just so beautiful and so detailed? I think that’s what I really admired –
Danielle: – about Leni’s work.
Sarah: Lot of texture!
Danielle: Yeah! And there’s, like, backgrounds, and there’s a lot of movement in her covers. And so I, I put her name at the top of the list, and, and they turned around and they were like, yeah, Leni’s doing it, and I was like, wait, what?
Danielle: So that kind of actually, like, made me be a little bit more calm about the whole cover process, ‘cause most of the time authors don’t know what’s happening when it comes to their covers.
Sarah: No. It’s like, surprise, here it is! Sometimes they find out when the cover goes up –
Sarah: – on Amazon, and they’re like, oh, I guess that’s my cover. Oookay.
Danielle: Yeah. Exactly! But yeah, when I saw it and I saw, I saw a few different versions of it and was really just absolutely floored, and then the design team at Berkley, they, I, I had some tweaks and some suggestions –
Danielle: – and they were able to, you know, to make that happen, and, and in the end this beautiful, this beautiful image came together, and I, I have to say, the face that Leni created for my main character, whose name is Cassie, I mean, it’s exactly her. It’s, it’s wild. [Laughs]
Sarah: And one of the things I love about the image is how much confidence is in her pose? Like, she is very confident –
Sarah: – in her body.
Danielle: Yeah, totally!
Sarah: And it comes across at a glance. And it, and you know, I talk about this a lot: the cover has – I mean, you, you know this from a publicity standpoint and from a bookseller’s standpoint – the cover has a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time.
Danielle: Yeah, exactly!
Sarah: Like, you should be able to glance at it, tell what genre it is –
Sarah: – tell what kind of a book it is, maybe even get a clue about the conflict or the hook or whatever –
Sarah: – and it’s a lot!
Sarah: So tell me about The Accidental Pinup: what will readers find inside this book?
Danielle: So The Accidental Pinup, or as, like in emails, I just write T-A-P, so I call it TAP in my head?
Danielle: So TAP is a contemporary romance that’s set in the world of boudoir and pinup photography in my favorite city, which is what I consider my home city of Chicago – I’ve lived right outside of Chicago my entire life. Cassie is an up-and-coming photographer whose best friend is a beauty and fashion influencer who is kind of doing one of those cool, like, collaborative, like, lingerie lines. I drew a lot of inspiration from Savage X Fenty, which is Rihanna’s brand, or there’s a plus-size model named Ashley Graham who has done some collaborations, and so I was kind of intrigued by that. But anyway, her best friend has this lingerie line coming out, and of course Cassie is going to photograph the big national ad campaign that’s, you know, going to be on, hopefully, billboards and in magazines and going out to customers, but her friend’s pregnancy complicates things, and Cassie suddenly finds herself, a beautiful, Black, plus-size woman, in front of the camera instead of taking the pictures behind it. And then, of course, the person that they hire to take the photos for this campaign is her biggest professional rival, and his name is Reid –
Danielle: – and they have to work together and, and, you know, she has these big ideas for the campaign, and while they do have similar photography styles, they are very different, and they kind of get into that when they are starting to work together more.
Danielle: And you know, and Reid has some stuff in his past and that, that’s kind of bubbling up into the present, that complicate things, and, you know, he may need, he has his own reasons for needing creative control over this campaign.
Danielle: So – and then of course those pesky things called feelings get in the way, because –
Sarah: Oh! Hate that!
Danielle: – yeah! – they’re both smoking hot, and they have to hang out together –
Danielle: – and she’s in lingerie all the time, so you know! Things happen!
Sarah: They’re both hot and they have to hang out together! Oh!
Sarah: Well, you know –
Danielle: [Laughs] Yeah. So yeah!
Sarah: Do you remember where you started with this book? ‘Cause you mentioned –
Sarah: – oh, I got an idea and I had to write it down. Do you remember where you started?
Danielle: This is so random: it actually started – so most of the book takes place in a neighborhood in Chicago called River North, and I was at a bachelorette party, and we – and I was helping plan it – and we went to Ri-, we were like, you know what, River North has a lot of great restaurants; it has some, like, clubs. Even though we’re in our mid-thirties we were like, do we –
Danielle: – really need to go to a club? So there were some lounges, more or less.
Sarah: Ooh! See, lounging implies sitting, right?
Danielle: Yes, exactly, yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s what you want when you’re in your thirties and you’re doing some kind of evening event.
Sarah: Lounge implies chairs.
Danielle: Right. Yeah, so you can just, like, hang, you can literally sit down –
Danielle: – and just chat, and the music is not too loud. [Laughs] But yeah, so I was in River North walking around, and, and there, in this book as well, there’s a restaurant that is kind of, like, kind of the center point where a lot of meeting, like, people meet and talk and hang out there, and – I, I don’t know, it was just like, I need to set a book here. And then I had seen a lot of, I mean, I follow a ton of just boudoir photographers in general; I think it’s such a beautiful art form; and I was like, oh this is a thing! You know, and it just kind of, like, snowballed and went from there, and –
Danielle: – and it went to, instead of the photographer being the photographer, suddenly she has to be the model, and how that makes her tick and, and everything like that.
Sarah: And boudoir photography is incredibly empowering!
Danielle: Yeah! Exactly.
Sarah: And it allows you to see images of women and their bodies –
Sarah: – where normally the only body you see as sexy and attractive is a very narrow –
Sarah: – definition; it’s a very narrow set of attributes that get assigned sexy and appropriate for public consumption –
Sarah: – and boudoir photography, especially what’s posted online –
Sarah: – it undoes so much of that! It’s so empowering to do. Have you done it before?
Danielle: I haven’t! [Laughs]
Sarah: Think you’re going to have to!
Danielle: I know! That’s what so many people have said, and that’s one of the number one questions I get asked is, have you done this before?
Danielle: No, but may-, I, I don’t know. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do it yet, but I will say the research for it was really fun.
Sarah: Yeah? What did you learn?
Danielle: I mean, you know, most, I, I wrote the bulk of this book – well, I started it in 2019, and then, you know, the rest of it was in 2020, so I wasn’t, like, hanging out with boudoir photographers –
Danielle: – but, I mean, it literally was just combing over pages, like going on Instagram; I mean, you can just put boudoir photography in as a hashtag and it explodes and it’s amazing, but then going, finding specific places, just, you know, going to the websites, going through their portfolios and also, you know, there are a lot of interviews, you know, you can find. There, you know, you can find someone who’s interested in something and there’s going to be an, an interview about it somewhere, and so –
Danielle: – I just was read-, reading so much. I’ve always been interested in photography as well, so, so, yeah, I got to combine, like, a whole bunch of interests in, in one thing. [Laughs]
Sarah: Isn’t it an interesting feeling when all of these little things that you knew about that you didn’t think –
Sarah: – were connected, all of a sudden they’re connected and you’re like, ohhh!
Sarah: So that’s why I was into that! Oh, okay!
Danielle: [Laughs] Yeah.
Sarah: So you were once my publicist –
Sarah: – once upon a time, long time ago –
Danielle: Very long time ago.
Sarah: – and you have had a lot of jobs in and around books.
Sarah: We talked a little bit about this before: what are all of the ways in which you’ve worked around books?
Danielle: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Well, I mean, yeah, first of all, this is a very full circle moment. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yes, it’s very full circle.
Sarah: So I am doing, I am doing, essentially, publicity for you –
Danielle: Yes! [Laughs]
Sarah: – and you used to do publicity for me, which is hilarious!
Danielle: It is very funny. I mean, it goes as far back as, like, I think when I was like ten or eleven I volunteered at my library, you know, for the summer –
Danielle: – to, like, shelve books, and yeah, that’s when it started. Always loved books. But yeah, when I really, I was an English major in college, and then I was an intern at Sourcebooks and worked my way up to assistant publicity manager overseeing PR specifically for the romance imprint, which was Sourcebooks Casablanca –
Danielle: – which is still around and amazing, and they’re doing some really cool stuff there; I’m really impressed. After that I took a little break, I had a baby, but I never quite really left Romancelandia. I was still, you know, on Twitter; I was still following authors on Instagram and, and Facebook and things like that; and eventually I worked for a review website called, called freshfiction.com as the editorial manager. I mostly managed the blog, but I also edited some reviews, attended conferences, and I still co-host The Fresh Fiction Podcast; we have a lot of fun interviewing authors over there. And then, you know, after, after a while of doing that I kind of randomly on, on Instagram saw that Anderson’s had an open position for event coordinator, and I applied. I actually worked with the director of events at Sourcebooks way back when, so it all, we’re all connected.
Danielle: I mean, and I think a lot of people who, people who work in publishing kind of always know that; like, you always kind of know almost everyone somehow?
Sarah: Yes. It’s not a big community –
Sarah: – and everyone switches places when someone rings a bell.
Sarah: Like, someone’ll ring a bell and this person goes here –
Sarah: – and this person goes there –
Sarah: – and they go over – yep.
Sarah: It’s like – and I imagine romance publishing in Chicago is an even smaller community.
Danielle: Yes! Yeah, we’re all, it’s all kind of the same. Not the, I don’t want to say it’s all the same people, but especially with, there’s the Chicago-North Romance Writers group, and then there is –
Danielle: – the Windy City RWA group and, you know, most people belong to both, and then between everyone who’s going to bookstores and things like that, you know, at the different various bookstores, and Chicago’s really great ‘cause it has – Chicagoland, I should say – so many bookstores.
Danielle: And yeah! So, yeah, I never really saw myself doing anything else except something in the world of books, and I’ve been really lucky that I’ve gotten to stay in it as long as I have, so. And, and being on so many different sides and, and then now having my own book come out. It’s all, it’s, like, very surreal, but also very familiar – [laughs] – in a way?
Danielle: So yeah.
Sarah: Absolutely. So what are some of the changes you’ve noticed? ‘Cause, I mean, we’re going back to my second book that you worked on was 2011, I think, so that’s ten years since that book came out, more than ten years.
Sarah: And there’s been a lot of changes –
Sarah: – in romance, in the way we talk about books, even in the publicity of books. What are some of the changes you’ve noticed over those years?
Danielle: Yeah, it’s so interesting ‘cause when I started working at Sourcebooks that was in like the end of 2008, so the book blogger explosion, like, hadn’t quite hit yet. It was like –
Danielle: – right before.
Danielle: And so I got to see, like, that happen. I also got to see, towards the end, when I was working, like, I stopped working at Sourcebooks in 2014, and I, I was like, how, how old, it was one of my daughters, I was like, how old is my kid? And I had to think about it; that’s weird.
Danielle: Anyway! [Laughs] But –
Sarah: I do that too.
Danielle: Yeah, so then, but then it got to, like, kind of to the point where the book blogger thing was kind of waning, and social media was kind of starting to ramp up.
Sarah: Yep! We’re moving from book bloggers and Twitter to –
Sarah: – Bookstagram –
Sarah: – and yeah.
Danielle: And now BookTok and everything, so what I’ve noticed is that everything is up in the air, particularly after, I think, being cooped up for the last almost three years.
Danielle: I feel like so many people have to relearn, like, what is working and what isn’t working? And one of the biggest things that I’ve noticed, especially coming from it, from working at a bookstore and also being an author is that, like, what works for one author isn’t going to work for another author?
Sarah: Very true.
Danielle: And so I think that’s really the biggest thing, ‘cause I feel like for a while it was like, here is this formula that, that’s what’s going to make or break a book –
Danielle: – and now it’s, well, this person did something viral on BookTok; this person did a really big grassroots campaign where they just went to a ton of bookstores; or this publisher put a ton of money behind it; this publisher put no money behind it and it still hit. You know, I really feel like what’s considered successful, that necessarily hasn’t changed, that, that hasn’t changed, but how you get to be successful can be any number of different ways.
And I also think, too, I think it’s so important to remember that everything has a cycle.
Danielle: I think right now everyone’s talking, everyone needs to be on TikTok; like, that’s all you hear. I think that’s like, everyone’s like, you need to be on TikTok, and for me, TikTok, like, makes me want to break out in hives.
Sarah: No, thank you!
Danielle: [Laughs] Yeah! Exactly!
Sarah: I am friends with enough people, like my co-host for Lovestruck Daily, Alisha Rai –
Danielle: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: – is so good at TikTok. She is so good at it.
Sarah: She’s like, you need to get on TikTok, and I’m like, no, I do not!
Sarah: I could barely tolerate Instagram.
Sarah: I want to know which apps are not going to talk to me or make noise. I want silent social media. If I’m going to invent a social media, it’s going to be a social media with no audio. I want shhhh –
Danielle: No talking! [Laughs]
Sarah: – no talking! Shhhh, no talking.
Danielle: I love that; I would sign up. I’ll be the first person to sign up, hundred percent!
Sarah: [Laughs] Like introvert social media: don’t talk to me –
Danielle: Yeah! [Laughs]
Sarah: – don’t make any noise. Like, even when I scroll Twitter, if I move my thumb wrong –
Sarah: – all of a sudden videos start playing and I’m like, blahhh!
Danielle: Yeah, no.
Sarah: Make it stop!
Danielle: It’s too much.
Sarah: No, shhhh! I need quiet!
Danielle: [Laughs] I love that. Yeah, no, we’re definitely on the same wavelength there.
Sarah: And it’s interesting because you know at some point TikTok is going to wane –
Sarah: – and we don’t know what the next thing is –
Sarah: – but there’s going to be another thing!
Danielle: There’s going to be something else, so.
Sarah: This is my favorite game, by the way: where’s my venture capitalist?
Sarah: Any venture capitalists going to be listening to this –
Danielle: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: – come talk to me about silent social media; it’ll be great.
Danielle: Seriously! Ah! But, and we’re even in the genres, like the subgenres of romance, I mean, right now you can’t look at anything without contemporary romance just bombarding you in the face –
Danielle: – and yet we all know – and I think you and I know this especially – there’re, there’re always the other subgenres out there. You know –
Sarah: Oh yes.
Danielle: – there’s still people writing paranormal; obviously, there are still –
Sarah: Ohhh yes!
Danielle: – historicals, I mean, are kind of are like the backbone of romance. You know, that’s where it kind of started and where it’s going to keep going, but they all kind of get their time to shine, if you will? Yeah, ebbs and flows, up and down, so, you know, in, in a couple of years we’ll be like, contemporary romance? Who’s writing that? You know, we’ll have to struggle to find that; who knows?
Sarah: So my, my site started in 2005, and I want to say around 2007 I used to do a campaign with Dear Author called “Save the Contemporary.”
Danielle: I remember! I remember this! Yeah!
Sarah: Because there were so few. I don’t, I don’t think it needs saving –
Sarah: – I think it’s just fine! [Laughs]
Danielle: But maybe it’s your campaign, Sarah – [laughs] – that brought it about – no, I’m kidding.
Sarah: I don’t think so. [Laughs] No, that was like ten years too early!
Sarah: But also, when I started my site in 2005, that was still when everything was vampires.
Sarah: Every cover was leather pants and big hair –
Sarah: – and seriously, y’all, if vampires have preternatural hearing, leather pants are noisy! They creak and they make noise! Like, why would you go hunt a vampire in pants that talk for you?
Danielle: In leather pants. [Laughs]
Sarah: Seriously, the older I get, the more I’m just like, everything, shhhh –
Sarah: – everything just be quiet.
Danielle: I love that. Oh gosh!
Sarah: What are, what are the trends you want?
Danielle: Oh man! I mean, I feel like it’s kind of having this moment, but I love small town. I think they’re so quaint and adorable, but I’ve been really enjoying, like, the more diverse small towns?
Sarah: The ones that actually look like human reality?
Danielle: Yes. The ones that, like, show me the town I live in, yeah.
Sarah: I think you’re right, though, because that’s community –
Sarah: – sequel bait.
Danielle: Yeah. Oh my gosh.
Sarah: Love some sequel bait.
Danielle: Every person in that town’s going to have a love story.
Sarah: If they’re single, game on!
Danielle: [Laughs] And just being friendly! Even, even the antagonists in small town romance aren’t that bad?
Danielle: Like, they’re just kind of annoying.
Sarah: They’re not trying to destroy the earth.
Danielle: Yes! They’re not, yeah, they’re not trying to just take over. They’re trying to take over, you know, like, a block of, of the city for real estate; they’re not trying to literally own the entire –
Sarah: Destroy –
Danielle: – town, necessarily –
Sarah: – the world.
Danielle: – yeah, or destroy the world, yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah. And then there’s all the monster-fucking.
Danielle: Which is not my cup of tea.
Danielle: But I’m very intrigued. Like, I’m always like, oh, okay, like, let me hear more about the Krakens: am I going to sit down and read it? No, but I, am I going to go –
Sarah: Oh, absolutely!
Danielle: – find, I’m going to go find all the spoilers on Goodreads for sure and, and –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Danielle: – find out what’s going on! [Laughs]
Sarah: And then you have the cross-section of small town monster-fucking –
Danielle: Yeah! Which –
Sarah: – which I love.
Danielle: Maybe that’s what I need! Maybe that’s what I need to read.
Sarah: Maybe you need some wholesome monster-fucking!
Sarah: I love some wholesome monster-fucking.
Danielle: So if anyone has suggestions, please come find me and tell me.
Sarah: Oh, many. I have many suggestions.
Danielle: Sure, yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: So what does your work at the bookstore involve in events? ‘Cause I’ve, I’ve been on the receiving ends of events –
Sarah: – obviously, been in the audience, and I’ve done moderation or –
Sarah: – been in conversation with somebody at events, and I do a lot of preparation for that, but I’m the one who’s just, you know, on stage for an hour with a microphone –
Danielle: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: – trying to facilitate a conversation, and I know, having done events planning in other industries –
Sarah: – there’s a lot involved.
Danielle: There’s a lot going on.
Sarah: So what, what, for you, when you’re doing events at Anderson’s, what does your job involve, and what do you think are the elements of a really good event?
Danielle: Yeah! Oh, this is a great question. So, like I, I mentioned earlier, there’s the director of events, and she really is the person who is contacting publishers, or working with authors, ‘cause we do work with some local authors and things like that, but she’s the one who’s really going, and you can go into various websites, but the biggest one is Edelweiss, and you can, like, request an event with an author, and so she, like, clicks that we’re interested in an event, and then a publicist or their event person, you know, at the publisher, they will reach out and say yes, let’s try to figure out a date, usually around a release, and we go from there. And so when, when I come into the picture is I’m really trying to nail down all of the details, so it’s like, is this author going to be talking to someone? Are they doing a solo presentation? The director of events and I will kind of decide if it, if it’s an event we can do in the bookstore or if it’s going to be off-site, and then we have to contact the off-site venues and secure all of that. You know, so it’s all of those, like, tiny little details that, that does it, kind of, you know, eventually mutates down into about an hour – [laughs] – of, of people talking about books, and then hopefully moving into a book signing. You know, and then there, the flip side is, well, if they’re not going to do a signing are they pre-signing the books, or are we doing bookplates? You know, so it’s like just kind of, we have, like, very long checklists that we go through and check them all off –
Danielle: – to make sure it all kind of comes together. And then, too, like, part of my job is we, you know, we have ticketing links for the, especially for off-site events; those need to be, people to buy tickets for those, and so I create those, those little ticketed links and put in all the info and press Live!
Danielle: So –
Sarah: That’s a lot!
Danielle: Yeah! It is a lot, but it’s fun; it really is.
Sarah: And the thing about book events is that there’s a bunch of different elements that only happen then.
Danielle: Yeah, right.
Sarah: Right, like being in the event live with people –
Sarah: – it’s this weird, weird intersection of reading –
Sarah: – and entertainment.
Sarah: Like it’s a show about your books, but not exactly, but kind of yes?
Danielle: Yeah! It is, yeah, I totally agree, and so going back to your question about what makes a successful book event –
Sarah: Yeah, for sure.
Danielle: – it really varies? You know, my, the very first event I did with Anderson’s was their first event after it, you know, not doing in-person events. They had been doing virtual events – we still do virtual events – but the very first event that they had in-person was with Bob Odenkirk, and there were almost a thousand people, and that was the, my first in-person event with Anderson’s.
Sarah: Wooow, that’s a lot of humans in one place.
Danielle: It was.
Sarah: Especially after COVID! Whoo!
Danielle: Yes. And it, and it was, this was in March, so we were still masking –
Danielle: – and that was really important to us as a bookstore, but also to Bob Odenkirk: he wanted everyone to be masked as well.
Sarah: Yeah, oh yeah, absolutely.
Danielle: But, I mean, you know, so he was telling us stories about, you know, his days on SNL, but then a few days we had, like, kind of twenty people in the bookstore with – I’m trying to think – or maybe it was, it was, it was a little bit more than that, but it was Ibi Zoboi, who writes, you know, a, middle-grade and YA and mostly a lot of speculative fiction –
Danielle: – and, you know, but every person in that audience, I think, in that, in that smaller audience was just as engaged –
Danielle: – as, you know, a thousand people watching, you know, Bob Odenkirk tell jokes –
Danielle: – you know, and, and it was real, that was really cool for me to go from one event to, like, one extreme to the other, and, and it was just, it was really awesome, and I think engagement is that, is the key word there. It’s like, if people are there and they are interested in the subject matter or the person or the author, you know, or the book itself, and they are enjoying themselves and they are listening –
Danielle: – you know, and not on their phones or aren’t distracted or whatever, I mean, I think that’s a successful event, you know, where people are just, like, really excited about a book, really, in particular, and, and, and they get to hear more about it! That’s really cool!
Sarah: Back in the days of RT, I used to think how amazing it was that people would take almost a week off of work, away from their kids –
Sarah: – away from the parents they care for, away from all of their home responsibilities, and they would essentially go on a vacation about books.
Danielle: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: And I used to think, you know, I don’t necessarily have a lot of things in common with every single person who attends this conference, but we’re all here because of this one thing –
Sarah: – and that’s really cool! Like –
Sarah: – I want to talk to the people whose vacation priority is books.
Sarah: Yeah, like, even if you’re going to a place that I’ve never thought of going before –
Sarah: – well, the books are going to be there, and the book people are going to be there, so that’s where I’m going. That’s really interesting!
Sarah: And essentially you’re creating an event about books!
Danielle: Yeah. We were kind of, before, you know, we were, when we were emailing, and so you had talked with Christina Lauren on their tour.
Sarah: Yes, I did their first event, and that was, that was three hundred and fifty people –
Sarah: – in a theater –
Sarah: – sold out. It started late because the line to get in, to get your book and to check your vax card –
Sarah: – was two blocks long.
Danielle: Oh my God!
Sarah: I was like, y’all can take as much time as you need.
Sarah: And that was amazing!
Danielle: It was so cool. Yeah, I mean, and then I was, like, in the signing line taking photos of everyone as they were kind of coming up.
Danielle: They did candid photos, and it was just like, people were, like, sobbing meeting them –
Sarah: Oh, absolutely!
Danielle: – and I was just like, this, this is where I’m supposed to be! Like, hanging out with people who are just as excited as I am about, about books. It’s just great.
Sarah: And I think people outside of books as an industry and as a community don’t necessarily understand, especially in romance.
Sarah: How much intimacy is involved in evoking an emotional response from somebody in something that they wrote?
Danielle: Totally. Yeah.
Sarah: Like, so many people came up to Christina Lauren at the event in DC saying, you, you got me through such a hard time –
Sarah: – and I don’t know how to thank you.
Danielle: Right! [Laughs]
Sarah: And that’s really important! It’s important to, to, to figure out what to do with that emotional response.
Sarah: And it’s a very powerful thing to even create it in someone else already.
Danielle: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Sarah: And I imagine the crowd in, in Chicago was the same.
Danielle: Oh yeah. It was, it was such a good crowd. It was Christina and Lauren, and Sonali Dev was there, and Jen Prokop from Fated Mates was moderating, and it was just –
Danielle: – we just, it was like, it was like a fun night out for everyone.
Danielle: Even though I was working, I felt, I still –
Danielle: – was like, this is fine! This is great, you know, so yeah, yeah, it’s a really, it’s a really cool job to have, and I, I think I’m really lucky that I get to, like, bring books to readers in this way.
Sarah: Yeah. Must be kind of a relief to move away from virtual only, because –
Danielle: Yes. [Laughs]
Sarah: – as much as I don’t like going to places where people are, I recognize that there is a very specific cohesive magic that happens when people are all in the same place for the same purpose.
Sarah: That’s a very unique experience.
Danielle: I definitely still see the value in virtual events.
Sarah: Absolutely. They’re accessible unilaterally.
Danielle: Yeah, and you get to see people who you never in a million years, probably –
Danielle: – would be able to see?
Danielle: But yeah, I mean, there is something quite magical about, you know, sitting in a room, and you’re all excited about this one book.
Danielle: Like, it’s just, it’s really cool. [Laughs]
Sarah: There are some things that exist only in the moments that they are happening.
Sarah: And that’s, part of your job is to create that experience.
Sarah: So how has that work influenced how you are approaching your own book launch?
Danielle: Oh, this is great. [Laughs] The biggest thing I think that I’m taking away is I really am trying to enjoy the idea of my book coming out and, like, just being a part of that process.
Sarah: Oh, that’s so important. So important.
Danielle: Right! And I think part of it is because, number one, I know how much work goes into all aspects of it, you know –
Danielle: – so I know what it’s like for someone to sit down and write a book. I also know –
Sarah: [Laughs] Yeah!
Danielle: – like, how many people look at a book before it even gets sent to a printer, you know, and –
Danielle: – there’s so many different moving parts when it comes to create just one book, and, and now – and you know, and then when it happens, it’s kind of like, okay, here’s the book! [Laughs] And, and that’s it! But there are so many opportunities along the way, and I’m not going to sit here and act like I’ve been completely calm the entire time. Like, I have definitely –
Danielle: – like –
Sarah: I wouldn’t believe you.
Danielle: – been up very late at night, like, trying to figure out where a comma goes or, you know, or, like, worried about if this sentence actually makes sense or whatever, you know, or if I sent the right file to my editor or whatever! There are a million things to just get really worked up over, and so I’ve been really trying to, like, allow the working up happen, but then also –
Danielle: – to be like, you have done what you can do –
Danielle: – now you have to just let it go and –
Danielle: – and that’s where it is. But yeah, I mean, you know, you get told you have to do X, Y, and Z; you have so many things that you should be doing before your book comes out; but then at the same time, X, Y, and Z really doesn’t move the needle?
Sarah: No. It’s so frustrating, right?
Danielle: Really frustrating! So that’s why I’ve kind, that’s, I think that’s one thing where I’ve been kind of like, okay, like, I, I, I know what my publisher has planned to do, and I know what I have planned to do, and if, and if it goes viral or whatever that operative word may be –
Danielle: – if it does something, great, but if not, you know what, I wrote the book, and I’m excited about it, and I’m proud of it, so –
Danielle: – and here it is. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yep! And your moment of control ends when it releases. That’s the end –
Sarah: – you can’t do anything more about it. That book now belongs to everyone who reads it.
Sarah: And your responsibility for it ends in terms of being able to change it. You can’t make any changes after that point.
Danielle: Yeah! I mean, I think, and I think, too, it’s like, I don’t want to sit here and say, like, I’m not on social media, and I don’t do anything; I just write. No, like, I do all the other things too!
Sarah: That’s the reality, yeah.
Danielle: Yeah, I think I also, though, kind of, I think I just know, like, oh, yeah, like, Instagram’s cool, but does it really sell a ton of books? Like, sometimes, but not always –
Danielle: – you know, and, and so yeah, I try, I’m really trying to, like, balance it all out and just –
Danielle: – enjoy it! You know, I had someone before the book even came out, someone was, like, cosplaying as my book cover.
Sarah: That’s so cool!
Danielle: It was beautiful, it was absolutely amazing, and she hadn’t even read the book!
Sarah: I need to see this, and I need –
Sarah: – to put it in the show notes; that’s amazing.
Danielle: I’ll send it to you ASAP.
Sarah: Please do!
Danielle: I will. It was, you know, and that, and, like, so I would rather focus on that?
Sarah: Yes, absolutely!
Sarah: You can also invest in the community that you have. You already have somebody cosplaying as your book! That’s amazing!
Danielle: I know, it’s, it was, I was like, what is happening?
Sarah: That’s so cool!
Danielle: [Laughs] Yeah, totally.
Sarah: So I always ask this question: what books are you reading that you want to tell people about?
Danielle: Gosh. So many, but I, I did narrow it down.
Sarah: This is a very dangerous question to ask a bookseller; I don’t know what I was thinking.
Danielle: [Laughs] The first I want to mention, I mentioned her a few minutes ago, but it’s The Emma Project by Sonali Dev.
Danielle: Yeah. So delight-, like, just what a delight! First of all, she’s a delight in general, but also that, this book is so much fun. It’s the fourth book in her Rajes series, which is about, it follows a very well-to-do family that, they live in California, and all of the books are kind of Austen-inspired, and so this, this last one is Emma-inspired, and the, you know, it’s, it’s kind of, it’s a gender-flipped Emma retelling –
Danielle: – and it’s just, it’s set in, like, kind of the nonprofit world, which is really interesting to me –
Danielle: – and I just didn’t realize it was so dramatic there!
Sarah: Oh yes, it is!
Danielle: Yeah, right? Well, I think anywhere, anywhere is dramatic with the right circumstances, but I mean it’s just, it’s beautiful and, and Sonali, I think, really does, like, heartwrenching and heartwarming –
Danielle: – in the same, like, paragraph most of the time?
Sarah: Oh yes.
Danielle: She’s just so good.
Sarah: Yes. She is going to slowly remove your heart from between your ribs.
Sarah: It’ll be fine.
Danielle: And then put it back!
Sarah: And then put it back.
Sarah: But yeah, there’s a removal process, yeah.
Danielle: [Laughs] Next, I literally finished this morning A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera.
Danielle: It’s so fun! It’s set at, like, the, it starts at the 1880s Paris world’s fair, and it’s about a Dominican woman who makes rum trying to get, like, her rum business in Europe, basically, and of course there’s a man who sells whisky, who is, like, kind of complicating things, and there may or may not be a marriage of convenience that happens, and it’s just, and they go to Scotland. It’s great; it’s really, really good; but what I love the most about this book is that I learned so much? I just –
Danielle: – did not know very much about the Caribbean during the 1880s, and it was just so cool to, like, see this woman go through a lot of the things that women today go through still.
Danielle: Like, I personally could have, as a Black woman, could completely relate to, and, and finding, you know, finding allies who are actually doing the good work, not just being performative, and, and being successful and being creative and being proud of her work. Like, it was so awesome, so I real-, I highly recommend that. And it clearly is setting up for more books, so I cannot wait.
Another really fun book that I just finished a few days ago is Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley. It’s a contemporary romance, and it’s about an NFL player who opens a cupcake shop –
Sarah: As you do.
Danielle: Right! Right, totally makes sense. And then there’s a woman who was on a Bachelor-style show, and she declines the proposal, like, on national TV, and everyone hates her, literally everyone in America hates her, but she ends up, for reasons, working at the cupcake shop, and they, and they, like, kind of immediately butt heads, but also really like each other – [laughs] – from, from the start? And it’s, it’s just, it’s, it’s really cute, it’s really adorable, and I now just want to eat cupcakes all the time.
Danielle: I mean, obviously, and then I think, moving into more food, I also finished, recently finished The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett, and this is a Sapphic romance about two women. One of them owns a restaurant, and then one of them is the executive chef at the restaurant, and they are kind of trying to save the business and not fall in love and also figure out what, what could happen if, if their restaurant closes and, you know, and, and just kind of different, different aspects. And one of them is coming out, she comes out as bisexual, and, and, you know, she has to kind of grapple with, you know, telling the people in her life and also just like really owning it herself, so that was really great.
Danielle: And then the last one, and this is one that when this goes up, it won’t, it’ll be out like a week after this goes up, but it’s –
Sarah: That’s fine!
Danielle: – yeah, After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez, and it’s about a woman who’s a bartender in Chicago, but she kind of has to quit her job because, like, a video of her blowing up at someone goes viral, and so she goes back home to the bar that her family owns, and it’s, you know, she, she knows that they’d been struggling but didn’t realize how bad it was, and there’s a very hot professor who is living in the apartment above the bar, but you don’t get a good read of him, of, like, why he’s there exactly, and she, she questions it immediately.
Danielle: Also, they literally, in chapter one, immediately are hooking up, and that’s like the level that this book stays on. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh my!
Danielle: Yeah –
Sarah: So it bangs –
Sarah: – is what you’re saying here.
Sarah: It bangs.
Danielle: Yes, totally does bang. And it’s just, it’s really great, and again, this is a book where I learn, I did not know about how Mexican people came from Mexico and were in Oklahoma and have been there for centuries, and, and that – and Angelina’s a friend of mine, I should say, but, you know, her, that’s, like, where her family is from, so this book is really personal to her, and just having spoken with her throughout writing this book and now that it’s coming out, like –
Danielle: – this book really means a lot, and I think you can tell that: it’s such a special, interesting, awesome book, so I, that’s another one I’m really excited for.
Sarah: That’s so cool!
Sarah: Well, thank you! Tell, tell people where they can find you on the internet, please.
Danielle: Yeah! My website is daniellejacksonbooks.com, and you can find me mostly on Instagram and sometimes on Twitter, and at both places I’m @DJacksonBooks.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Danielle Jackson for hanging out with me, and congratulations again on the release of The Accidental Pinup. If you are looking for a copy, you can find one in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast, and you can find Danielle Jackson on her website, daniellejacksonbooks.com.
I will also link in the show notes to the artist who designed the cover. I love looking at the artwork of cover designers. Isn’t that fun? They’re on Instagram, and I will have a link; do not worry.
As always, I end with a terrible joke, and I told this joke to my husband, and he didn’t even bother to respond: that’s how bad it is. So are you ready to afflict this joke upon everyone you know? Because I am about to inflict it upon you. All right, here we go:
Why was Billy Joel’s laundry still wet?
Why was Billy Joel’s laundry still wet?
He didn’t start the dryer!
[Laughs] I can hear you groaning! Like, I can hear you groaning right now. Like, somewhere there’s someone walking around just going, ahhh! Please enjoy sharing that joke. He didn’t start the dryer!
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week with a very special guest! It’s Julie Garwood! Shhhh! Until then, have a great weekend.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
[end of lovely music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
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Thanks for a fun interview, Sarah and Danielle. And, yes, that cover is lovely!
Thank you, Garlic Knitter, for the transcript.