When did you first fall in love with romance as a genre? I started young, with beat-up paperbacks left behind at Girl Scout camp that all featured mustachioed heroes. I did not understand half of what they were doing (why was she tossing her head back and seeing fireworks??), but I was hooked by the drama of it. Then I went to college and was a Fancy English Major, and didn’t rediscover romance until I went to library school, where I learned Fancy Reading isn’t the only reading, and reading’s not much fun if you’re not reading what you like. So. I came back to romance, and like a great second chance love story, this time it’s even better.
Fill in the blank: romance is EMPOWERING.
What makes a good romance novel, hero or heroine? To me, the most important thing in a romance novel (aside from the HEA) (and varying levels of smoochin’) is that both characters become better because of their love for the other. The stories that make me all swoony are the ones where love is mutually transformative – the hero gets the heroine to come out of her shell while she shows him the joys of quiet contemplation, the hero teaches the other hero how to be comfortable in his own skin, the heroine convinces the hero to adopt a sweet dog whose raucous shenanigans teach them both a little something about responsibility. Also, no romance novel was ever hurt by the presence of a dog. So: make each other better, get a dog. The end.
Tell us about your newest book? It has a dog in it! And shows the transformative power of love! The Undateable features a librarian whose lack of poker face makes her the unfortunate subject of an unflattering meme, and a writer whose cushy job depends on this big story about finding dates for said librarian. There’s a makeover, resistance to the makeover, an anonymous advice columnist, and thirty terrible dates all around San Francisco. And some smoochin’, too.
What’s your all-time favourite fictional love story (it doesn’t need to be a book!)? Sometimes when I’m feeling low, I re-read the end of Persuasion, when Anne Elliott is talking to her friend about love and constancy, and Frederick Wentworth can’t take it and he scribbles a note to her that is all, I STILL LOVE YOU AND SORRY FOR BEING SO STUPID AND BLIND AND IF YOU DON’T HATE ME LET’S GET MARRIED AND STUFF. Something like that. You spend the whole book seeing Anne’s goodness and kindness and humility, and watching her get the love that she deserves is like…swoon.
What are you reading now? Right now I’m reading Jo Goodman’s latest, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. I just love love love her writing. Her characters have such subtle, wry humor and there’s such a crackle between them...I could probably reread any of her books and be happy. But I’m reading a new one now so I’m even happier.
Also, INSERT GROOM HERE by KM Jackson, which also has a heroine getting set up for love, but it’s so different from mine and I’m loving it.
What are some common misconceptions people have about romance readers or writers? Hm. How do I answer this question without cursing and throwing things at the wall? That we are dumb, that we fill our minds with fluff and unrealistic expectations, that what we read or write is not worthwhile because the emphasis is on the story and the characters rather than whatever self-congratulatory white guy stuff they’d prefer we read. (Ooo, girl, I’m gettin’ het up.) Also, the phrase “mommy porn” makes me SO RAGE-Y. How dismissive and insulting is that! And it just reveals the prudishness of the accuser - if you have to clutch your pearls at the idea that women have sexual desire and that they might enjoy about other women who have sexual desire, well, I can’t help you.
Speaking of dates, if you could choose anyone, living or dead to have a coffee with, who would you choose? Jane Austen. Is that a cliché? But wouldn’t it be fun to sit in Starbucks with her with an iPad and show her all the stuff her legacy hath wrought?