Then we talk about Karelia’s latest book, Behind the Scenes, which was one of Amanda’s favorite books.
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
Oh, yes, we have so many links.
You can find Karelia Stetz-Waters on her website, and you can also sign up for the newsletter there, too!
We also mentioned:
- IG: Ozzy the Mean Mug Pug
- IG: Pug People Tales
- ASMR: Moonlight Cottage – The Hair Parlour
- SteamyLit Con
And, the French Olympic mascots:
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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 557 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and today Amanda and I are talking to author Karelia Stetz-Waters. We are going to talk about collecting clitorises and the French Olympic mascot design, and then we’re going to talk about Karelia’s latest book, Behind the Scenes, which was one of Amanda’s favorite books this year. And I know it’s only like April, so it’s early, but this is still one of her favorites.
There’s something for everybody in this episode, and if you’re curious about any of the things we’re talking about, have a look at the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast, because we are going to have ASMR recs and Instagram recs, so I’ve got a lot of links for you in this one.
Hello and thank you to our Patreon community. Thank you for supporting the show. I have a compliment this week, which makes me so happy!
To Mary Jo: You have a superpower! Do you know what it is? You are an Instant Environmental Upgrade: wherever you are, everything around you is sixty-seven percent improved in every way, just because you are there.
If you would like a compliment of your very own or if you would like to support this here podcast, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Every pledge is deeply appreciated, keeps me going, makes sure there’s an episode transcript – hi, garlicknitter! – and you get access to bonus episodes and an absolutely lovely podcast Patreon Discord.
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All right, are you ready? We are going to talk about so many things, starting with collecting clitorises. Clitor-, clitori? Clitorim. Clitorim! I’ve decided: it’s clitorim. On with the podcast:
Karelia Stetz-Waters: Well, I’m so delighted to be here! As I told the publicist at publishing house, being on this podcast is a bucket list item for me, so –
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Karelia: – thank you for making my dreams come true.
Sarah: Well, we can just stop there; it’s fine. Achievement unlocked! Thanks very much! If you were nervous, you, you’re, you’re fine now! Everything you do is perfect! [Laughs] Thank you!
Karelia: So let me see here: about myself, I’ve written a lot of things, but I had found my heart in contemporary, Sapphic rom-coms, with my breakout hit, so to speak, Satisfaction Guaranteed, which came out in 2021, which is the story of two women who co-inherit a bankrupt sex toy store, and my latest, Behind the Scenes, which just came out in January.
I am the woman to whom strangers on the internet send clitorises, and I don’t mind, so DMs got like clitoris, clitoris, clitoris. I collect them: a clitoris-pattern dress, models, jewelry, stamps, stencil, wall art, and a 3D-printed clitoris cookie cutter. I’m wearing my clitoris necklace, not that the listeners can see, and –
Amanda: We did not know this about you!
Sarah: We did not know this at all. I am just –
Amanda: I am –
Sarah: I have –
Amanda: – fascinated.
Sarah: – I have so many questions.
Sarah: So many questions.
Karelia: The whole clitoris thing came about as I was researching for Satisfaction Guaranteed, which is set in a sex toy store. I realized that there was a lot about the clitoris and vulva and the sexuality of folks who have those parts that I didn’t know, and I kind of thought of myself as, like, someone who knows about lesbian sex, at least. I was like, I know. And then I said, Well, I’m not sure I know, then was educated by people like Emily Nagoski, who you just had on a couple episodes ago.
Sarah: She’s amazing.
Karelia: She’s amazing. So I started to bring forward that research in my romances, not – like, in an approachable way. Not in a, like, let’s get the speculum out and have some sex ed kind of way, but just – a lot of readers have told me that after reading Satisfaction they felt like they knew their bodies a little better.
Sarah: Oh wow!
Karelia: Meant a lot to me, and so I guess that’s, that’s kind of my brand image: the Sapphic rom-com with the sex-positivity, if that’s the right term for it. It’s something I’m, I’m pretty passionate about, really found a, a calling there.
And then besides writing I teach technical writing at community college in Albany, Oregon, which is the Grass Seed Capital of the World. If you have a lawn, we probably grew it. Our only competitor is in Turkey. And I’m about to celebrate twenty-four years with my wife!
Sarah: Ooh, congratulations!
Sarah: So first, first question, most importantly: have you seen the French Olympic mascots?
Sarah: Amanda, have you seen the French Olympic mascots?
Sarah: Okay, so we are all also in agreement that those are a pair of clitorises, right?
Sarah: Okay, I’m just making sure that we are all agreed that the, the mas- –
Amanda: France says that’s not what they’re supposed to be, but if anyone was going to have a clitoris as a mascot, it would be the French…
Sarah: That is two thousand percent a clit. Like, it even has a hood, and it has little legs and everything. I mean – okay, I just wanted to make sure, because if I’m speaking to someone who is an expert in receiving the variety of what clitorises look like, that you would be uniquely positioned to say, Absolutely! Those –
Karelia: Absolutely! Absolutely, and I wonder if that obviousness of that, that, those clitorises is a sign that perhaps we need more cliteracy, because it feels like someone should have said, Oh, I like that, but it is two clitorises, right? And are you sure that’s how you want to represent the Olympics? But nobody said that. Maybe there was someone in the back being like, Oh my gosh, they don’t know what that looks like.
Amanda: Just let them have it!
Karelia: I’m not sure –
Amanda: Just let them go with it. I want to see what happens.
Karelia: Yeah. I’ve got to get a T-shirt.
Sarah: Well, chances –
Amanda: Also, clit and literacy –
Sarah: – chances are –
Amanda: – cliteracy, that was great!
Sarah: I do like that; well played. Cliteracy.
Karelia: Oh, that was coined, or at least popularized, by Sophia Wallace, who does amazing clitoris artwork.
Sarah: The nice thing – well, I wouldn’t say sup-, well, maybe, maybe not so, not so much nice, but one thing that is subversively enjoyable is that because so few people have cliteracy, you can just, like, wear a clitoris and people are going to be like, Oh, that’s a cool design!
Amanda: Is it a flower? What is that?
Sarah: Is that Georgia O’Keeffe? What’s that? Yeah.
Sarah: Not, Y’all, that’s a yoni is what that is.
Karelia: [Laughs] True that! True that!
Amanda: Not to shamelessly plug myself, but the reason why we’re having this podcast is how much I loved Behind the Scenes?
Sarah: It’s true!
Amanda: [Laughs] And how much I told Sarah that I loved it. So congrats on the release; I believe it came out in January. What is your elevator pitch for this book, and what will readers find inside?
Karelia: All right, so! Elevator pitch: a very successful business consultant who is secretly an ASMR artist and a film director who’s been kind of cast out or canceled by Hollywood fall in love while trying to pitch a film to a wealthy producer. They’re both talented, kind, likable, and both carrying around some baggage from the past, and because of that Rose won’t take – Rose, the business consultant – won’t take any risks with her life, and Ash, the film director, won’t take any risks with her heart.
And for what they’ll find inside, a lot of flirtatious banter between the characters, lot of funny text strings between Rose and her sisters, a plus-sized character? Rose is a beautiful, curvy woman. The two main characters are emotionally intelligent; they’re thirty-eight and forty respectively, so they’re grown! You’ll get the one-bed scene, which I know is such a cliché, but I love it anyways, and I don’t care.
Sarah: I will never get tired of it. Never. Mm-mm. Not, not ever, ever, ever.
Karelia: There’ll be a cameo from the Satisfaction Guaranteed main characters. Pugs; the pugs steal the show.
Karelia: And then it’s a story about fulfilling your dreams. But for me the most important thing is what’s not in there. Spoiler – can I give a spoiler?
Sarah: Of course!
Karelia: Okay. So there’s no third act breakup, and as I was writing I kept putting Insert Breakup Here, and then pushing that chapter farther and farther along in outline and not writing it. I love the catharsis of that reunion that comes after the breakup, but I just felt too protective of the characters? I didn’t feel like dragging them through hell. Ash especially has been through a lot, and if Rose hurts her, she’s not going to bounce back, and, and they’re too kind to each other and too emotionally intelligent for that.
So, so I didn’t include that, that breakup at the end and really worried that that might tank the book, that readers are looking forward to that, and they’re going to come to the end and say, Well, where’s the breakup? But I think what I’ve been able to do is create the, the longing and then the pathos and relief of the reunion without the actual breakup, so the satisfaction without the pain, or without too much angst. And I really like it. I have gotten a little bit tired of the, If only one of us would say the thing or listen to the other one say the thing or not rush off, everything would be okay, but we don’t do it. We don’t say the thing, and then we have to break up. I have written that scene and loved it. I have read that scene and loved it. But with these characters, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I think I set the reader up a couple times to expect that Big Misunderstanding: Oh, this is the part where they’re going to misunderstand each other, they’re not going to say what they mean, they’re going to break up; and then instead they talk about it and they listen to each other, and it’s okay.
So that’s what’s in, and also what’s not in the book.
Sarah: I love that, because sometimes you can sort of tell when there’s the feeling that the plot is being enforced upon the characters, and the characters would not actually do those things, even though the plot seems to require it. But then there’s the wonderful tension of having, of a writer having set up the Big Misunderstanding very, very early, that there’s something between these characters that they aren’t acknowledging or that they don’t know about, and it’s kind of like a boulder on a distant hill, and it keeps rolling towards you, and it keeps rolling towards you, and you’re like, Oh crap, you guys are getting along so well and I know it’s coming, NOOO! [Laughs] And not ha-, not having to enforce that conflict on characters for whom it doesn’t fit makes a lot of sense, and also allows the characters to be more authentic to the reader, I think.
Karelia: I think so too, and I think the plot is about the challenges that they are overcoming in their lives and also the challenge they’re facing. They like each other initially, they think they’re attracted to each other relatively quickly, but the question is, can that be a real relationship –
Karelia: – which actually works? So –
Karelia: – it’s not, Does she like me, does she not, or have we had this terrible breakup, but, but can we see each other, be together long term? Can that work? And in that, you have that same kind of boulder on the hill feeling, because there are a lot of reasons why, even though they do like each other, they would not make a feasible long-term couple, so that’s hanging over their heads, and –
Karelia: – and that’s what the reader, I think, is – Oh, please make it work, please make it work, please let it be more than just a crush or more than just a fling.
Amanda: So what I really liked about Behind the Scenes is the humor involved? Admittedly, I am very picky when it comes to humor in my books, ‘cause humor’s very subjective. But you managed to find a really good balance of, it’s not too twee, and it’s not too mean-spirited, and I immediately thought of Rose, and the moment we meet Rose she’s at an animal fundraiser with her pugs, and they’re wearing, like, Gucci jackets, and I thought, oh no, this is going to be too much for me. But Rose is in on the joke. Rose is like, I am a single woman with dispensable income, and if I want to rescue pugs and dress them up, that’s what I’m going to do. And I loved how she was aware of, like, the joke and really leaned into it?
Amanda: And so I wanted to know how you struck that balance of humor where the characters are in on the jokes, but it doesn’t feel like they’re poking fun at people.
Karelia: Well, I love that question because I feel like, I feel like that’s the thing that I, the smiling signature move. It’s what I think I do best, and I think that the technique is to edge up on sadness and then kind of dart back to humor, or get the reader laughing, you know, LOL, and then right at the end of the passage ring just a little note of sadness. Like a tuning fork, that one, like, clear note, and I think that moment is everything. It’s, it’s what it means to be human, because the happiest day has a little sadness in it, because if nothing else, it’s because time is fleeting and it’s not going to happen again, and dark times do have little glimpses of light in them. It might not be enough, but they do.
I, I was thinking about that, that, the passage with the Gucci dog coats and actually pulled a couple sentences here. This is the first time I do that technique in the story. When, then the woman – this is Ash; they met at this, Ash and Rose met at this fundraiser, and Rose has this little moment where she’s thinking like, Ah, this, there’s this exciting, beautiful, interesting woman and I have just had this conversation. Maybe, just maybe something might happen, and then the woman was walking away with a slight limp and two enormous laptops under her arm, and Rose was Rose Josten, Senior Associate at Integral Business Solutions, faithful sister, fearful flyer, thirty-eight years old, holding a dog in a Gucci coat covered in dumpster grease.
And so that’s the first time in the story where I, like, approach something a little sad, a little disappointing – her life isn’t where she wants it to be – and then turn it with that humor at, at the end.
And there’s another passage later on where Rose and Ash are having a picnic, and Rose finally tells Ash about the trauma in her past, and it’s a very healing moment for her, and says it was like happiness and sadness lay on the blanket side by side holding hands. They didn’t negate each other; they were both part of being alive.
And I, I think that’s the, the spirit in which I can present something funny without it being saccharine or, or poking fun at the characters, and I think that it’s really important to establish the reader’s trust. So, like, to say, We’re going to go to the edge, but we’re not going to stay long, and I’m not going to let you go over. And we’re going to have fun, but we’re not making fun of these characters, because we all see part of ourselves in them.
Sarah: I also think that part of what makes it work is that, that you and the character and the reader all know the why. You know why she’s silly; you know why she’s dressing up her pugs in silly costumes. It’s not just being in on the joke, but it’s that the decision was a conscious choice, and once you know the why, it adds that bittersweet element. (Trying not to give away too much here.) Once you know the why, the silliness has gravity to it. The silliness is in response to the fact that, you know, life is precious and life is short, and why not dress your pug up in clothes? Like, what, what is the harm? No one’s dying here. This it, it’s, it’s a dog in clothes. It’s fine.
Karelia: Right! Right!
Sarah: Once you know the reasoning behind it, it adds the, it undercuts the, the silliness going to be too twee and makes it more rooted in, in a genuine bittersweet emotion.
Karelia: Absolutely! Absolutely! Or I hope so. That’s, that’s my goal.
Sarah: Well, I mean, mission accomplished; you did it.
Amanda: Yeah. [Laughs]
Karelia: In my work, I’m an English professor by day, and we’re all talking about ChatGPT, which is the AI that can write student papers for them?
Sarah: I, I get like ten spam messages a day. Have you found this new AI to write your content? I’m like, Okay, I, if I turned Smart Bitches over to an AI for a week, people would be like, What is this garbage?! [Laughs]
Karelia: Right?! That is, that’s, that’s bizarre. Who would want that? Who would want AI doing anything? Well, my students, potentially would like it to write their papers for them, at least if they’re in a time crunch, although most of my students, I think that they would still want to do their own work.
But when I first heard about it, my fir-, I was like, Oh my gosh, what if it can write my romance novels for it? And, and, and if you put in like, Write me a lesbian sex scene, you know it, it really can’t.
Sarah: So what you’re saying is ChatGPT does not know where the clitoris is.
Karelia: I don’t think –
Karelia: – ChatGPT has any idea. And the other thing I don’t think ChatGPT will be able to do is to strike that balance between happiness and sadness –
Karelia: – and like that, that knowing just when the moment hangs in that balance.
Karelia: It’s going to be a long time till AI figures out that and where is the clitoris.
Sarah: Yes, for sure.
Amanda: [Laughs] Back to Rose’s pugs! So between Rose’s pugs and, I don’t know if you were following Noodle the pug on social media –
Karelia: Oh yes!
Amanda: My heart belongs to Noodle.
Sarah: Noodle was a, Noodle was a Jeopardy! question this past week.
Amanda: I saw! And Noodle’s owner went to Emerson, which is where I went to, so. And shout out to Noodle’s children’s book; I think another one just came out. They’re adorable.
And Rose is also into ASMR and runs an ASMR account, so I’m very curious if you have your own favorite social media accounts, whether it’s cute little pugs or ASMR, and kind of why you went into, like, more of a social media aspect, especially with Rose.
Karelia: Well, I do have two social media accounts which I absolutely adore. One is Ozzy the Mean Mug Pug. If you have not seen Ozzy, he –
Amanda: I have my phone I’m going to –
Karelia: – he blows Grumpy Cat out of the water. He is – or she; I’m not even sure – is the best. Those eyes pop out at you like they’re looking into your soul.
And then the other one that I really like is Pug People Tales on Instagram, and they have four categories of posts: they have pugs in vintage photographs and have pugs in works of classic art. They have celebrities and their pugs, and then they have Confessions from pug owners, and the, the captions for the vintage and the art are, are just to make it, they’re so funny, and then you would not know how many people who are famous have pugs that they love, and for the Confessions, it’s when some, just someone from the community confesses to what they, the lengths they have gone to for their pug, and I want to, like, volunteer my wife for this, because I’ve been teasing her about it for years now. She bought the pug a, like, white velveteen chaise longue to sleep on, and that is totally normal. I mean, of course, if you have a pug, it needs to have a white chaise longue.
Karelia: She bought it, she bought it on overnight shipping so the pug wouldn’t have to wait for it, and that could make it into Confessions on Pug People Tales.
Sarah: Overnight shipping for a being that has no sense of time as a temporal ex-, entity. Okay, yeah!
Karelia: And she always lets the pug sleep in our bed.
Sarah: Well, I mean, obviously.
Amanda: Of course!
Sarah: Obviously. Oh my gosh.
Karelia: She’s a very kind woman. She’s kind to me too. She would buy me a chaise longue, over-, overnight shipping.
Sarah: That is, that is just, yeah, that’s incredible.
Amanda: But if, if she could only get overnight shipping on one, would it be you or the pug?
Karelia: Oh, it would be me.
Sarah: Okay, good!
Karelia: And I’d remind the pug of it all the time. I’m like, I get –
Karelia: – ‘cause I am the human.
Sarah: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Amanda: Do you follow any ASMR accounts? There’s –
Amanda: – one on YouTube I can’t remember the name of; I’ll, I’ll hunt for it. She recreates historical scenes, like you’re a woman going to get your hair done before a ball. She, like, the whole set, like, turns into this Victorian-era, like, hairdressing shop. It is wild, the lengths this person goes to. I’m going to try to track it down.
Karelia: I do not, I have not seen that one, and I hope that you’ll send me the link or put it in the show notes.
Sarah: Oh, she will.
Karelia: I, I’m not following, like faithfully following, any particular ASMR artist. Doing research for the book, I looked at all sorts of different ASMR from the more, like, sexual down to some kind of odd vegetable ones that were – like a cross between those two I suppose were my inspiration for Rose.
It doesn’t really affect me? I love the idea of ASMR. I wish I felt that tingle that people, people feel. So it’s, it’s not my thing, per se, but I really liked it as a device in the book.
Amanda: I don’t get the tingles with ASMR? I do find it soothing to listen to? You know, if I want to take a nap, maybe I’ll thing like that on, but I don’t get like the sensation that goes along with it. I wish I did, I’m very curious about it, but I don’t get it!
Karelia: Me neither.
Amanda: So we’ve talked about Rose; let’s talk a little bit about Ash. Mainly, as a filmmaker, what do you think Ash’s favorite queer TV movies are, TV and movies are? What do you think she pulls from for her inspiration, and what are your top three queer pieces of media?
Karelia: Ash is much classier than I am…
Karelia: So Moonlight, I think, is one of Ash’s favorites; that was an Academy Award Best Picture in 2016. Beautiful, complex story that follows one man through, you know, childhood into, into adulthood. Really powerful.
She also loves Ingmar Bergman? The old black and white, very elegant films. She loves Persona, even though she realizes that the lesbian content is very fraught with a lot of problems and, you know, not, it is not a healthy portrayal of queer women’s sexuality, but it is, it is dark and creepy and beautiful and sexy in a sort of disturbing way, so she, she likes, she likes that as well and has studied these filmmakers to inspire her own work.
I like Sex Education. If you’ve not seen that show, it’s fabulous. It’s not specifically all queer characters, but there are queer characters, and it is funny and touching, and Sex Education does something that’s very, very important to me in a television show, and that is at the end of each season it has an end. It is a complete story and there’s a conclusion at the end of the season. I don’t like a lot of television because it doesn’t end, and as an English teacher and novelist, I want things to have a narrative arc. I don’t want them to just be good for three seasons and then suck for three seasons and then get cut.
Karelia: So –
Amanda: We’ve talked about this, Sarah, about how people don’t know when to end a show. They’ll just carry it on for season after season.
Sarah: And it’s interesting because today the news broke that Succession is going to end after season four, and people are really upset, and I’m like, No, that’s good! That’s a good thing! That means that whoever’s doing this knows where they’re going!
Karelia: Exactly! Yeah! I, I usually get about three seasons of show in me, and then I’m like, Ugh! You, you just por-, it’s, it’s popular, so you’re just dragging it out, so I’m, I’m done. I’m out.
So Sex Education, I love it, and then I’m going to put down Bound, which is an old lesbian film from the ‘90s. If, you know, younger listeners, don’t go out and stream it. It probably doesn’t hold up; it’s probably got so much, like, wrong with it now, but one Thanksgiving I was living with my roommate in Boston in a building which we think was technically condemned, but the plumbing and the electric worked, so it was fine, and I watched Bound –
Karelia: – five times –
Karelia: – on Thanksgiving –
Karelia: – and it’s, it’s got a place in my heart.
And then finally, Ash and I agree on When Night Is Falling, which is a beautiful, gorgeous, very visual film. A lot, a lot of the story is told through the visuals, not through the dialogue. Absolutely gorgeous. That’s also an older one which folks should go back and stream. It got an NC-17 when it came out, and now –
Karelia: – if you look at it, it is so tame and gentle and discreet that, like, today doesn’t even recognize it as, like, you know, controversial or anything, but when it came out it, it, it was.
So those are, those are our recommendations. Ash is much classier than I am.
Amanda: [Laughs] If this is picked up to be made into a movie or, you know, a three-season TV show, who are you casting as, as the leads? If you could cast anyone, budget notwithstanding, you can afford any actress you wanted, who would you cast as Rose and Ash?
Karelia: All right, so I’m – [laughs] – I’m terrible at this game. I was on Reader Seeks Romance with Liz Donatelli, and she asked me the same question, and I absolutely froze. I couldn’t remember the name of, like, any actor besides, like, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had nothing.
Sarah: Okay, well, that’s definitely a choice.
Karelia: That is a choice! That is a choice.
Karelia: And Liz saved me in post production by editing out my panicked moment of not being able to think of any actor or actress and put in her own suggestions, which I liked a lot, and those were Sara Ramirez for Ash and Rebel Wilson for Rose.
Karelia: And if I were to cast, I really like Sara Ramirez for Ash. Also, if I have all the budget in the world, Kristen Stewart for Ash. She could totally play the vulnerable, cool, sexy indie film director, and for –
Sarah: She kind of already does on the daily, right?
Karelia: Yeah, kind of! Yeah, she wouldn’t even have to – it’s just a small step.
Karelia: Just a little looking out the door there.
Sarah: I mean, she’s just one of those people where I see her picture and I’m like, Yep! Cooler than me. Doesn’t matter, whatever she’s doing. She could be having a nap; she could be really sick; I’m like, Yep, still cooler than me.
Karelia: Still cooler than me! Exactly, and that’s, that’s how Rose feels about Ash in the book. She’s like, she even says it to her at one point like, I, I can’t even compete; you’re just so cool. And there, again, it’s like, they’re kind of in on the joke. Like –
Karelia: – Ash kind of knows that Rose isn’t really intimidated; she just has to point it out, You are so cool. I, I know a woman like that. She’s like, she fixes car, like, cars for car races in Italy, and she’s got, like, tattoo sleeves…
Sarah: As you do, right, yeah.
Karelia: You are so cool. Anyways, for Rose, I thought maybe Adele. The earlier Adele when she was like a fuller-figured woman? Very beautiful, very sexy. Not Adele’s music’s personality, Rose isn’t that dramatic, but I could see Adele be a nice Rose.
Sarah: Hmm. Has Adele acted? Have I missed that?
Karelia: No, no, I’m just giving her a new career.
Sarah: Okay, that’s totally fine!
Amanda: She hosted SNL, but I think that might be the extent of it.
Sarah: Well, this could be her breakout role.
Karelia: I, I think so. Yeah, yeah. I’ll call her about it; I’m sure she’ll be fine with it.
Amanda: [Laughs] I think maybe Christina Hendricks, formerly of Mad Men, could be a good Rose. I could see her carrying a little pug in a jacket.
Sarah: For sure. Absolutely.
Amanda: What books are you reading right now? What do you want to shout about?
Sarah: Yes, tell us all the things.
Karelia: All the things. So right now I’m reading an ARC copy of a book called All the Right Notes by author Dominic Lim? It’s his breakout, or his first one, his debut, and it’s about a, a musician who’s, you know, he, he plays in a piano bar; he fills in in off-Broadway orchestras; that kind of thing. He’s, he’s, he’s making music, but he’s not, like, he’s not living the dream. And his father, who is the music teacher at his high school, asks him to come back and direct his, the last musical of his father’s career. Dad’s retiring; Would you come back and help direct the, the last musical of my career? And by the way, would you get your best friend from high school, who is now a movie star, to come and be part of it? And they were not best friends; or maybe they were “best friends” – I’m putting it in quotation marks. They’ve lost touch; they haven’t talked to each other for twenty years. So now, to, you know, fulfill his father’s dream, he’s got to get this movie star to – who he has a crush on, or did. Anyways, it’s just so funny and so well-written, and I think I, I was thinking like, this can’t possibly be true, but I think it’s the first truly romance-genre romance I read by a man.
Karelia: I was looking, looking through books like, Yeah! They’re all women! Anyways, it’s, you could preorder it: All the Right Notes by Dominic Lim. Beautiful.
And then I’ve got to give a shout-out to Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once for Me, which I loved so much that I bought – I can’t call it fan art, because the artist is like a very well established illustrator, but she did a pict-, art for that book, and I bought it and had framed it and hung it in my office at work, ‘cause I just want to look at the characters every day. That book is almost all the, We just can’t tell each other the thing? But it works. It works for the character; it works for the plot; it works for what time they are in their lives and the situations they find themselves in. So even though I said earlier, like, I’m getting a little tired of that, Cochrun rocked it.
Karelia: She totally rocked that, and I love it, and I bought the art, and I will get the T-shirt, and I will see her at the Steamy Lit Con in Anaheim in August, so I’m –
Karelia: – like, going to try not to fangirl all over her.
Those are the, the two novels that are at the top of my mind, and then I also bought recently How to Stop Overthinking: The 7-Step Plan to Control and Eliminate Negative Thoughts, Declutter Your Mind and Start Thinking Positively in 5 Minutes or Less, I have not found five minutes to start reading it…
Karelia: – things I do! I’m going to be like the most positively thinking person you’ve ever met.
Sarah: That, that sounds like a book I want to read, actually. Can I ask –
Amanda: Yeah, ‘cause, like, that sounds like it’s Sarah’s kind of book.
Sarah: That is definitely Sarah’s kind of book. That is a thousand percent Sarah’s kind of book.
So can I ask what you’re working on right now?
Karelia: Ah, so! I just turned in a manuscript on January 31st, the same day that Behind the Scenes, scenes came out, so slightly bad timing there. But super, super excited about this: my wife and I wrote that book together.
Karelia: And writing with her was a dream. Everything that I’m kind of lukewarm about doing, she was really good at. We had so much fun talking through the characters, they became like friends that were living with us in our house, and she’s a civil rights attorney, so she deals with dark stuff all the time, and she said she really liked this chance to step into a world where people are good and it’s safe and we know how it’s going to come out, and that story will be coming out next year, and it is about a, a classically trained ballerina, a Black woman, who ends up on a reality television show with a burlesque performer, and the story of their, their, their love in the context of this reality TV show. So –
Sarah: Very cool!
Karelia: – that, we just finished that; it’s so good! So much less stress writing with my wife, and we are working on the next one, which is going to be set in the world of restaurants and food carts with two competing chefs, and that’s going to be really fun too. We’re just starting to outline that one.
Sarah: What, what led you to start writing with your wife? Was this just an idea you both had, or had you been talking about it for a while?
Karelia: We’d always wanted to write something together, and we think we have just a beautiful marriage, beautiful relationship. We get along so well, and we always wanted to write a book that would sort of share that love with people, like, like an advice book, but then we have no platform. Like, the fact that we have a nice marriage does not mean that someone wants to publish a book of advice from us. So somewhere, I remember we were at a coffee shop, and I don’t know quite how it came up, but she suggested, You know, what if, what if I help you? What if we do this together, and it can be our way to collaborate? We love to have projects together, so it’s like a big project and a chance to share our love with other people through the lives of the characters. It’s very much in keeping with the style and tone of Behind the Scenes. In fact, the Behind the Scenes characters cameo in the new book, so it’s not in any way stepping away from the brand image, but I think it’s, well, it’s much more sexual. It is not a slow burn. We get right into the action, which I think people will enjoy, and so I think that’s, reflects some of our relationship, and then just the love between the characters is, is, I don’t know, it’s us, in a way!
Sarah: Oh, I think that’s so cool! Especially because it just, it sounds like it made you really happy.
Karelia: It made me really happy, and it was a wonderful kind of next step in my career. Like, you know, what comes next to keep me motivated and excited and interested? And this was, was definitely part of that.
Sarah: That’s excellent!
Where can people find you if you wish to be found?
Karelia: Instagram and my website and my newsletter, which you can sign up for in the website. You will receive a free e-book novella when you do, and I would love to hear from you. If you want to hear from me, hear back, you can just respond back to the newsletter emails.
Karelia: They go straight to my, to my inbox, and I answer every one. And – but that’s it! I gave up Twitter, and I technically have a Facebook account, but I never check it, so please come to Instagram and the website and sign up for the newsletter, which I have been told is one of the best author newsletters out there, and also, I’m really busy, so it doesn’t come out that often, because I often forget –
Karelia: – so don’t worry that you’re going to get the spam filling every two days. You’re like, There’s Stetz-Waters again. That is definitely not going to happen.
Sarah: [Laughs] Well, thank you so much for doing this interview. This has been really, really delightful.
Karelia: I –
Amanda: I do have one final question.
Sarah: Oh, hit it! Hit, hit us with it, please!
Amanda: You mentioned the pug with the chaise longue; what’s the pug’s name?
Sarah: Oh my gosh! Yes, important question!
Amanda: We didn’t get a pug name!
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Karelia: The, the pug is Willa Cather, and that, that was actually, my wife chose the name, not me, the English major. The last one we had was Lord Byron, and Willa Cather is, is a lovely, lovely, food-obsessed dog.
Amanda: [Laughs] And I’m sure plenty of photos on your Instagram.
Karelia: Oh yes! Yes! Plenty of photos. Every newsletter’s like an excuse to, to put an – and the thing that I’m most obsessed with – I love this, it will never get old for me – is filming her in slow motion?
Karelia: Like, running or eating or anything in slo-mo. Slo-mo pug is just like, I love it! I will never get tired of it.
Sarah: That sounds like it could be its own Instagram or, or TikTok: Pugs in Slo-Mo.
Karelia: I, I think so! There’s a guy my wife follows who, his whole feed is what you can do with rice paper wrapper. And you actually, you have to subscribe. It’s like five dollars a month to subscribe to what you can do with rice paper wrapper, and if that can make, be monetized, I feel like slo-mo pug has got a place in, in the world.
Sarah: Absolutely, no question.
Sarah: I mean, someone right now is like, I would buy advertising on Slo-Mo Pug. Why am I not doing that right now?
Karelia: And I probably won’t do it, so if anyone wants to take that good idea –
Sarah: Yeah, free idea. Let it into the world, because we just want to look at the slo-mo pugs; we don’t necessarily want to do the film editing of the slo-mo pugs.
Karelia: Yeah, yeah! That’s a lot of work; I don’t have the time for that.
Sarah: It’s a lot; editing is a lot.
Sarah: Trust me, I know.
Karelia: [Laughs] I love it!
Sarah: Thank you so, so much for doing this. This has been so much fun. And I’m, I’m really honored that this was on your bucket list! Thank you!
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Karelia for hanging out with us; thank you, Amanda, for taking the lead on this interview; and thank you for listening. It is always a pleasure to keep you company.
I will have links to all of the things we discussed, do not fear, in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast, and I want to let you know we have a sticker store! I got stickers! I have a limited edition sticker of Pudding the cat who helps Elyse recap The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I have Bad Decisions Book Club stickers, and I have my favorite, a set of five Smart Bitches Advisory stickers, which are wee and teeny and adorable and look like those labels that used to be on CDs in the ‘90s. So have a look at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/store.
As always, I end with a terrible joke. This joke comes from Laura B. in the podcast Patreon Discord, which is one of my favorite places on the internet. Are you ready?
What does Batman say to Robin before they get into the Batmobile?
Give up? What does Batman say to Robin before they get in the Batmobile?
He says, “Get in the car.”
[Laughs] Get in the car!
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!
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
Get in the car! [Laughs]
[end of music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
Add Your Comment →
“Get in the car!” made me laugh,too.
Sarah, Amanda, and Karelia: Thanks for a fun interview.