Transcript: An Interview with Sarah MacLean

C: Welcome back to episode 36 of Not Now, I’m Reading, your one-stop shop for all things genre. My name is Chelsea.

K: And I’m Kay. And we just spent five minutes making ‘title of your sex tape’ jokes so we had to start over.

C: Yeah, hopefully that’s all out of our system, but no fucking promises, guys. Today we are doing such a cool and special thing that we’ve never done before. I got the chance to sit down with Sarah MacLean, who’s one of my absolute favorite romance authors. She’s’ written some of my favorite books and favorite series.

K: That’s a lot of favorites.

C: Lot of favorites, Kay, I justlove so much about her. So I had a total blast sitting down with her. Unfortunately Kay had to work.

K: Sorry.

C: Cause capitalism is the fucking worst and we hate it. But. So it was just me and I know that Sarah and I both really missed you getting to sit down with us.

K: It sounds like you guys had so much fun.

C: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

K: Without me. Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

C: Guys , I told you. No promises. We had so much fun talking about her new book coming out tomorrow and some of the stuff that’s been going on in romance in general. We talked about Cockygate and some of those things, so. I’m just really excited for you guys to hear that. But, of course, before we do that interview, we wanted to take a minute to tell you guys what we’re currently reading! This is always our favorite part of the episode, so it’s the part we have to make sure we always have included. Kay, why don’t you go first this time.

K: Awesome. So we’re just gonna do a couple this time, cause we recorded just a couple days ago. We’re gonna do kind of a double feature here, because I don’t know if you saw the terrible Dana Schwartz tweet recently where she was talking about a ‘no-name actor’ in the new Ocean’s 8 movie.

C: Scare quotes a ‘no-name actor.’

K: Guys, it was fucking Richard Armitage.

C: Richard Armitage!

K: Richard Armitage. I’m not saying that he is a household name, but the man was a main cast member in a fucking three billion dollar franchise.

C: Yeah, I mean, he’s also not…not a household name. If you told me ‘I dunno who Richard Armitage is’ I wouldn’t be surprised if you were like ‘Brad Pitt,’ but it’s not like he’s just some off the street random guy.

K: No.

C: Who they put in this movie.

K: No, and as I have said, both publicly and privately, he’s peak stern, but bangable. Who’s exactly what you want for your possibly villain guy in your  movie. Come on.

C: Granted, my only interaction with Richard Armitage, cause I have not seen Ocean’s 8, yet, though I want to.

K: We’re gonna.

C: Which is when he played Francis Dollarhyde in the Hannibal TV show.

K: He’s amazing even though the writing for that story arc is not great.

C: Visually and aesthetically and acting-wise and accent. There’s a lot of moving pieces with his role in that show, but like you said he’s such a good villain that even in that role where he’s not bangable and he’s not supposed to be he’s just so fucking entrancing and captivating and just like…who is this?

K: It’s very hard to look away from him whenever he’s on screen. And Ive herad from people who’ve seen him in theater things that he’s just very hard to look away from when he’s onstage.

C: I can see that.

K: He just really has a presence. And he’s got a great voice. Romancelandia friends, if you are a Georgette Heyer fan, I don’t do abridged versions of things, but he’s done the abridged versions of a couple of Georgette Heyer novels on audio.

C: That’s the only thing is I don’t want…

K: I’ve heard such good things.

C: I don’t understand abridged. I will never really understand abridged volumes.

K: Yeah.

C: That’s a different…your mileage may vary.

K: But guys, he’s a great narrator. So.

C: Go do that cause he’s amazing.

K: Yeah. Great voice. But!

C: Why are we talking about Richard Armitage? [Laughs]

K: Because that conversation spured the, oh, I should probably make Chelsea watch this if she hasn’t seen it.

C: Because Romancelandia blew up, right? Cause if there’s one thing you’re not gonna do it’s try and no-name.

K: Don’t no-name our bae. [Laughs]

C: He’s been in every, well, not every, but a large majority of BBC adaptations.

K: Not really. [Laughs]

C: Robin Hood and North and South.

K: He’s great. He’s much beloved by a certain portion of our corner of the internet.

C: Which brought up a lot of people talking about their favorite things he’s in.

K: So many.

C: I’ve never seen North and South, because North and South was always right just to the left of Jane Austen…

K: And we know Chelsea’s feelings about Jane Austen.

C: In the Venn Diagram of things and I don’t. And y’all know. We’re not even gonna go into that. But! I have been tempted to pick it up on audio. I’ve leafed through it. I do love labor issues.

K: And I already have it on audio, which I am currently rereading, so I am highly recommending the narration by Juliet Stevenson, who I know I’ve talked about on the podcast before. She’s a British character actress and she does a lot of audio narrations for classics. She’s done quite a few Jane Austens and etc. And she’s done a version of North and South that you can pick up from Audible that’s just fantastic. If you’re unfamiliar with North and South in general, it’s about a girl from the south whose dad is a dick.

C: [Laughs] Yeah.

K: Who decides to take a principled stand against something that’s really not that big of a deal and moves their whole family to this northern mill town and just kind of makes everyone miserable. [Laughs] And there’s actually many, may tragic things both in her backstory and that happen to her during the book/miniseries. But she does get a happy ending. [Pauses, snorts] Title of your sex tape.

C: Dammit! [Laughs] I wasn’t gonna do it.

K: I couldn’t help it. I could see it behind your eyes.

C: Let the record forever state, I am the more professional of the two of us. It’s official.

K: Blatant lies.

[Laughter]

C: I mean, yeah.

K: But.

C: Title of your sex tape? [Laughs] If I could take a picture of the face you’re making right now, I’d make that the title of your sex tape.

K: Why are you like this? It’s not an episode of the podcast until i say that.

C: It’s official.

K: Anyway, but the hero is a mill owner with a tragic backstory. Content warnings for…all the things? Labor shit.

C: Death and labor shit?

K: There’s lots of background death in this?

C: 18th century milltown life? Bleakness?

K: The hero’s father killed himself after speculating and losing a bunch of money and then they had to live in abject poverty for a long time. All sorts of stuff.

C: It’s not the greatest in terms of death.

K: Most of the horrible stuff is offscreen/offpage stuff you just hear about after the fact. There’s not a ton of graphicness. But still.

C: It’s pretty fucking dark.

K: It’s darker than your run of the mill when you’re thinking of this type of thing.

C: One of the big underlying b plots is the mill workers labor striking.

K: You haven’t even gotten to the part about her brother’s tragic backstory. You didn’t even know she had a brother.

C: I didn’t!

K: It’s a secret brother.

[Laughter]

C: Is it really? Is it really a secret brother?

K: Sort of. [Laughs]

C: Jesus Christ, Victorians.

K: The brother has a tragic backstory. Guys, everyone has a tragic backstory.

C: Well, naturally.

K: But they do get a happily ever after.

C: Well, that’s good.

K: There’s lots of death and tragedy along the way.

C: Happily, asterisk, for the context of the time.

K: Yeah.

C: It’s still happy. They end up together and nobody dies.

K: No, people die. They don’t die. [Laughs]

C: When I say people I mean neither the main hero or heroine dies.

K: But a ton of other people do.

C: I mean, yeah.

K: I’m trying…guys.

C: It opens with Richard Armitage beating the shit out of some dude and they’ve just lot a whole mill full of people to fire.

K: Well, someone else in town lost a mill full of people, but yeah. They’re talking about four hundred bodies laid out.

C: Children and whoa! It is very…stern but bangable extra. Which is peak the ething tha tI want.

K: Guys, the costuming in this minseries is just…

C: I guess I shoudld finish. That’s my rec. Kay’s reading the book and I’m watching the miniseries for the first time and every BBC,  not every, but most BBC  minseries are.

K: The BBC has a ton of costumes they just have because they do tons of this so you can jus tmodify a lot of things. But there are people who have blogs that’ll be like this piece of clothing showed up in these various miniseries.

C: Exactly and it’s like, every, there’s that pastiche that style.

K: And this takes place around 1851/1852-ish?

C: And because it’s in a mill town.

K: They go to the Great Exhibition at one point in this.

C: And the clothing is not…not necessarily.

K: There’s a lot of serviceable stuff.

C: Not Regency-ish. they’re in am ill town so it’s not your typical ball gowns.

K: You’re not gonna see a lot of ball gowns, there’s a lot of servicable daywear. The hero’s mom wears these very dour, black outfits, but with gorgeous detailing.

C: And everything is beautiful. The cinematography, they’re in a mill town so so many of those scenes.

K: Dngy and dark with floating cotton through the air.

C: It looks like snow and beautiful white.

K: There’s also soot.

C: The BBC is not painting with a light, delicate touch.

K: No.

C: It ain’t trying to be subtle.

K: But that’s not the point.

C: But also, we just got to the end of the first episode and at the end fo the first episode she’s writing that letter home.

K: To her cousin, who got married.

C: The color of hell isn’t red, the color of hell is pure white and then we see Richard Armitage.

K: In his black.

C: Close cut, like rising out of this billowing cotton in the warehouse.

K: It’s not subtle, but it’s very effective.

C: Damn. With the scoring behind it?

K: It’s just good.

C: You always know why the BBC does what it does and there’s a reason they continue to do what they do, but peak on point BBC artistry in that scene so I’m very excited about watching the rest of them. And then so the next book I’ve read is not only a nonfiction book, but it’s a nonfiction book I read in print.

K: What?!

C: I know! I can count on one hand the number of print books I’ve read this year and this is literally the only nonfiction one. We’ve talked about, before, you guys, my penchant for audio when it comes to nonfiction, a bit more of an auditory learner, but I couldn’t find this one on audio and it seemed like so in my wheelhouse that I knew I had to read it, anyway. It’s called Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th Century New York by Stacy Horn. And it’s basically kind of the history of how Roosevelt’s Island, aka Blackwell’s Island in New York, rose and then fell as the central location of basically poverty, crime, and mental health treatment. The convection of all of those circles. So on Blackwell’s Island in 19th century New York they built, what they called, I’m using their terminology, the lunatic asylum, the state lunatic asylum, as well as a prison, an alms house, and a workhouse. So you had on this same geographical spread of very small island, some of the poorest, some of the most mentally ill, and also some of just the most petty criminal and the book makes a really good point of mentioning on frequent occasions, those for whom society just didn’t have a tolerance ie think woman and people with mental health and people of color or queer people whose quote unquote lifestyle choices, which I fucking hate that phrase, but gah. Would put them in a place where other members of their family or society could point to them as other and needing to be kept in an other place. The book is very interesting because it takes root in the fact that a lot of these institutions came form an urge to do well. The book starts, and although these institutions are tied up in this really revolutionary idea of therapy in the early 19th century, which started to look at mental illness as an illness, so that’s the point at which you start to see less we’re going to keep our  mentally ill restrained in, like, okay. I wanna give trigger warnings for some of the stuff I’m going to talk about in the course of talking about this book. It’s not great if you have any passing familiarity with medical history or mental health medical history you know some.

K: Shit’s not been great for a very long time.

C: But if that’s something that’s really gonna bug you, just skip ahead just a little bit. But this is the point at which we stop restraining or performing full on lobotomies, where we didn’t keep them in cages, where we didn’t deprive them of all sunlight, and we did early medical health professionals did their best to kind of categorize different levels of care needed by different members of the mental health community. It obviously wasn’t great. Obviously lots, and a system that is good in practice on a single individual does not scale well to mass levels of societal need, necessarily. So obviously the story is about how all of that goes off the rails. It’s really interesting. It’s that really great almost narrative nonfiction, where because it’s talking about a point of history that we have a lot of documentation on. There’s a lot of case studies. A lot of individual narratives of people who entered Blackwells through the almshouse, through the poorhouse, or the asylum and came out the other side or had family who did. So it move really quickly in terms of the quote unquote narrative behind it. If you have any interest in early New York history, which is also a weird subset of things I find really fascinating, is how New York city developed as such a major metropolis. This touches on that. Medical history. Early law history. All of that stuff. So if any of that is our bag, that’s Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th Century New York by Stacy Horn.

K: Nice. I will definitely never read that.

C: That’s fine, it’s not your…that’s not gonna be a book for you. But it’s really good.

K: Yeah, no, it sounds like it was very well done and everything. Next up, I’ve got a fic that I’m really excited is finally finished so I get to read it. So I’m not done with this one, but it is tagged happy ending. Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

K: So I trust this author, I’ve read enough of their stuff that if it says happy ending it’s gonna have a happy ending. So. I mean, mind the tags on it, anyway.

C: Just an aside. If you’re gonna do a longterm work in progress, if you know that’s what’s coming?

K: Please let us know.

C: Tag that. I am ten times more likely to start reading your thing even if it’s not done even if I know I’m not gonna be left.

K: This is an author who I know they finish stuff, but I still watied till it was done. Cause they said they’d been writing it since February and they weren’t quite done so I didn’t know how long it was gonna be. And I’m talking February last year.

C: Oh, February 2017?

K: Yes, because they started posting in December.

C: Oh, okay, okay, okay.

K: So this fic is finally done. It’s called Where You Still Remember Dreaming by yodasyoyo. I think I have recced some stuff by them on the podcast before. So this is a total au. It’s a Teen Wolf fic. The tagged pairings are Derek/Stiles and Boyd/Erica, which yes. Excellent. I’m just gonnaa read thorugh all of these tags real quick. Wolf Derek, drifter Derek, half-fae Stiles, magic Stiles, families of choice, pack dynamics, gratutious Princess Bride references, basically a repository for all my feels tbh, slow burn, mainly Derek POV, but some Sheriff POV, alpha Derek, Isaac’s dad is an abusive dick just like in canon, Hale Pack 2.0, who are beautifully dysfunctional and at times a little bit incompetent but still kick ass, Vernon Boyd and Isaac Lahey friendship, bamf Stiles, happy ending, Derek Hale deserves nice things, and so does Stiles. Guys, I hate it when people do Tumblr style tags like this.

C: I was gonna say, but if you’re gonna do it.

K: If you’re gonna do it, this is the way to do it. Thank you. Especially because yodasyoyo is like me and doesn’t do real summaries, usually. They’ll just take a chunk of the fic and use it as the summary. Which, i think is very effective especially with shorter stuff, but with a longer fic it’s hard to know what the fic is gonna be about without the tags. So I don’t mind.

C: If you’re gonna do your Tumblr tags, I do appreciate interspersing them with actual tags.

K: yes, cause there are Tumblr tags and actual tags there. Which, guys. This is novel length, so I needed some info. It’s 95,567 words. So excited to finish this later.

C: Jesus Christ.

K: The summary is just a chunk of text from the first chapter. It’s: “What’s your name? I can’t keep calling you Balto.”

“What’s yours?”

“Stiles.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. That isn’t his real name. There’s no way. But now that he thinks about it, he has a vague memory of someone, probably Uncle Peter, that with the fae, names have power. “I’m Miguel,” he says.

“Lie.”

“Are you trying to tell me your real name is Stiles?”

Stiles runs his tongue across his teeth and considers Derek carefully. “Fair enough,” he says. “Miguel it is.”

Grabbing his groceries and pocketing the change, Derek turns to leave. He’s nearly at the door when Stiles calls out, “By the way, Miguel, if you’re interested it’s two for one on bags of kibble at the pet store down the street.”

Derek doesn’t look back. Doesn’t hesitate, just raises a hand and flips him off on the way out.

And guys, that just really sets the stage for the attitude on this fic.

C: So good.

K: But there’s some really lovely kind of fairy tale-ish vibes going on in the parts I’ve read so far. It’s still ver much a realistic kind of contemporary setting, but you get kind of a little bit of the fairy tale vibes in the prose style, which is fun. So again, that’s Where You Still Remember Dreaming by yodasyoyo, and it’s done. yay!

C: That’s so wonderful! And then the last thing that I’m gonna talk about is actually the book that I read right before we talked to Sarah. I’d been saving it for a little bit closer to the interview, one, so it could be fresher on the details, cause you all know how good I am with details and books and I figured I should probably be a little bit better about it if I’m going to be talking to the person who wrote it.

[Laughter]

C: You know.

K: Profesh to death.

C: Profesh af. So I saved it, but also because I knew, it was one of those things where I am like…like so many people, especially in romance, when the new book comes out they gobble it up right away. They can’t wait. I’m more of the it’s my…my precious My treasure. I will save it for the time I think I will most enjoy it.

K: I’m either gonna read an e-galley way too early or I’m gonna save it for when I’m having a down day.

C: Exactly. And that’s the thing. It’s either or. When I got the new Cat Sebastian I was like nothing else is happening today. But the Sarah I was like I’m gonna save it and I’m gonna take it in. And I loved it. It’s called Wicked and the Wallflower. Which is the first in the Bareknuckle Bastards series, which I knew I was gonna love this book when I got to that series name.

[Kay laughs]

C: Cause the Bareknuckle Bastards.

K: Great cover.

C: Great cover.

K: We’ll have a picture, obviously.

C: It’s so, that hot pink dress just looks so….it pops. it is definitely one of those tings where even if I didn’t know Sarah if I just saw that chilling on a display or sitting on a table I’d immediately be like Scooby Doo noise.

[Kay makes the Scooby Doo noise]

C: Exactly. [snaps] See, who needs an expensive sound board when I’ve got you? We’ll talk a little bit more in the interview about what the book is actually about, but my elevator pitch to everybody is it’s about a female lock pick named Felicity and a small time crime lord named Devil that she falls in love with and it’s really great. It’s just so good. I spend a lot of time gushing about it in the interview and getting to pick Sarah’s brain about some of the cool historical stuff. This book has, so when I say small time crime lord, the Bareknuckle Bastards are smugglers and part of their smuggling operations involves importing ice and that was something I had never even conceptually thought of. There’s a couple other things like that in the book that I get to talk to Sarah about that are just fun details of the world building. Angst at eleven. Fucking Sarah always brings it.

K: Sounds like 100% your jam.

C: 10000% in my wheelhouse. So that’s, we’ll talk about it all in the interview coming up, but it was so much fun to read it knowing I was gonna get the chance to talk to her about it and answer some questions about what she was doing and some of the really cool overlaps between this and some of her other book so it was just a really awesome experience. So that’s Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean.

K: So thanks again to Sarah and her lovely publicist.

C: Libby and everybody at Avon for facilitating it and letting this happen. Getting an ARC to us and letting us read it. It was such a cool experience and for our first author interview it was pretty fucking rad.

[Laughter]

K: Alright, I’ve got another novel length fic, cause I’m just not giving you any short shit, today, apparently. Guys, I’m sorry, it’s a Hobbit fic. [Laughs]

C: I. I would blame the Armitage thing, but it’s not like I don’t know you’ve been playing in this pool for way longer than is healthy, anyway.

K: I’m pretty sure I met Claire because of Hobbit fandom.

C: You definnitely didn’t meet her cause of Les Mis, so it’s entirely possible.

[Laughter]

K: We have many things to thank/blame various fandoms for throughout our lives, you know? So this is a rule 63 fic, which you guys know I’m so fucking weak for. And girl!Bilbo is one of those things that I’m just such a sucker for.

C: Girl Bilbo does sound like it should be the title of a sex tape.

[Laughter]

K: Alright, so it’s lady Bilbo which I’m weak to. And it’s 103,000 words so it’s actually novel length and paced really well. And it’s an AU everyone lives/nobody dies fic, which I’m also such a sucker for. And it’s also a thing about horrible cultural differences and miscommunications that result in sadness and separation but it has a happy ending, cause I’m not gonna fucking rec you a thing that doesn’t have a happy ending when it’s a novel length romance.

C: We don’t do that.

K: I don’t do that. It’s called The Seedling by Chrononautical. The summary is: In the course of her adventures, Bilbo finds herself pregnant. Without an offer of marriage from Thorin, she returns to The Shire to raise the child with the help of her family.

The King Under the Mountain is heartbroken that Bilbo chooses to leave Erebor, but he cannot blame her. Not after he tried to kill her. There was a time when she would’ve proposed marriage, but that time is clearly passed. If all he can have of her is her letters, then he’ll be grateful for the missives.

Getting these two to talk might just take divine intervention, or the intervention of a particularly interested child.

So.

C: Boom!

K: It’s much angstier than I normally read. You might actually like it, Chelsea. [Laughs]

C: If I liked any of the words.

K: I know.

C: That came before ‘angst.’ I might be on board with you, but unfortunately.

K: But it’s super charming.

C: Angst alone cannot sustain it for me.

K: The prose is gorgeous. The pacing is really great. If you  have even passing familiarity with The Hobbit story in general you can read it.

C: I have never read the books and have never seen the movies. I have no familiarity.

K: They go on an adventure together and it ends badly for basically everyone.

C: There’s like a dragon. And dwarves and stuff?

K: You need to know nothing except they met on an adventure and Bilbo left and went back to The Shire. That’s all the background you guys need.

C: Done. Cool. I might actually read that, cause it doesn’t sound like. if you’re gonna rule 63 something, please let it be The Hobbit because oh my Jesus.

K: So many dudes.

C: So many dudes.

K: Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

C: Alright, you know what? I’m gonna leave that one in. That was a good one. We’ll leave that one in. Title of your sex tape!

[Laughter]

C: Okay, we have to end this. It’s been almost forty minutes and at least half an hour of that is title of your sex tape jokes.

K: That’s about on brand.

[Chelsea laughs]

K: Anyway, that was all I had to say about that, so again that’s The Seedling by Chrononautical. It’s 103,000 words.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

C: Alright, so today I have the incredible honor of talking to Sarah MacLean, who you guys listening know is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, historical romance authors of all time.

S: Of all time? [Laughs]

C: Of all time. So this is a huge deal for me. I have been low-key freaking out about this for the whole time I was reading your book. The new one is Wicked and the Wallflower, which is what we’re gonna talk about today. C: The Wicked and the Wallflower is about Felicity Faircloth who is Fairweather Felicity. She’s Wallflower Felicity. She had a unfortunate faux pas where she wound up in the locked bedroom of a person she should not have been in. She has been kind of ousted from society. She’s no longer a beloved of the Ton. She’s on the shelf. And one day, to kind of get back at these people who are being very mean to her, she kinda wants to tell them off. She says she is betrothed to the duke. She’s not. That is a lie. Who overhears that? Is Devil. Devil and Whit, who are through very complicated machinations, here to pay a reckoning to the duke, so to speak. There have been promises made. And they are here to make sure those promises are kept. Devil overhears this and realizes that his perhaps ultimate revenge on the duke is perhaps to get him betrothed to Felicity only to ruin Felicity from beneath him. Do you want to give a little intro, bio, preview, Sarah, for people who may not know you?

S: Sure! Well, first, thanks for having me. I’m super excited. I am Sarah MacLean and I write historical romances. This one that’s out next, well, wait. [Laughs] The time is funky. It’s out the 19th of June and it’s called Wicked and the Wallflower, as you said. And it’s my thirteenth.

C: Wow.

S: Thirteenth? Twelfth?

[Laughter]

S: Set in London. And I really like things like casinos and boxers and men with cane swords. So [Laughs] I try really hard to write books that have all those things in them.

C: I’m going to try very hard to reign myself in and not take us on crazy tangents, cause that’s the thing that I do. But I just, I have this very particular thing for men in jewelry.

[Laughter]

C: And when I was reading, when I got to the first part of this book where you introduce Devil, I put it down and I went and tracked down my roommate, Kay, who is my other cohost. Who is very sad she couldn’t be here.

S: Yeah, I’m sad, too!

C: She has to work. She has to go have a grownup job in an office. But I was like Kay. Devil wears big silver rings.

[Sarah laughs]

C: And she just, she knows what a thing that is for me. She just gave me that look.

[Laughter]

C: And I was just like whatever, I am so into it, already. He carries this silver cane and it’s just like. Those little perfect things that I just love so much about all your characters.

S: Well, thank you. I’m really excited because this is my, I think, I think he’s my roughest hero. And I’ve written some heroes who have baggage and who, you know, work it out in the boxing ring or whatever. But I think Devil is definitely my roughest. He grew up, you know, on the streets and then, you know, he had a shot at being something kind of not at all rough and very refined and he didn’t get that shot. So he just sort of leaned into wearing big silver rings and carrying a cane sword, so.

C: And this just, this like, I. The found family of the Rookery and him and Whit and I just. I don’t want to spoil anything because the way that the layers of plot in this book are peeled back is what makes it so, I think, delicious. And that’s what I love about your books so much is there’s so much going on underneath. In terms of, like you were saying, that big universe you were creating. The Fallen Angels series is just, I stan for it till the end of time.

S: Thank you! [Laughs]

C: Cross is my second favorite romance hero across the board of any genre.

S: Wait, who’s your first, then. Wait?

C: My first is an OT3. Kit Rocha, her book Beyond Jealousy. Rachel, Cruz, and Ace.

S: Awwww. That’s a great one.

C: Yeah. So I can’t really pick, so that’s my number one prime because Cross comes in at a firm number two. Devil might. Cross has the red hair, but Devil has that angsty. Everybody who knows me knows I’m an angst monster and Devil? Brings it. The Bareknuckle Bastards bring it for that and I just. It was so.

S: Oh, I’m so glad.

C: Turning pages.

S: And it’s so interesting because you are not the first person who is a major Cross lover who Devil has really worked for in an intense way. And it’s funny, because I don’t actually think of them as being very similar in my head. But now I’m like oh, I get it. If you liked Cross and Pippa, Devil and Felicity should do it for you.

C: Yeah, there’s a lot of that teasing and banter. A lot of that male dealing with family responsibility. And obviously the circumstances are drastically different. But there’s that underlying character idea I really love of I’m not worthy of you. I have these x, y, z things that sully me. And I am not worthy of whatever. But [sighs] when it’s Devil or when it’s Cross?

[Sarah laughs]

C: It’s so, to see a man in love with the way he loves his ladies is like.

S: [Laughs] Well, I really like a broken hero, though. I really like a ‘I’m not worthy of you’ hero.

C: Yeah. Yeah! Same.

S: Myself, when I’m reading. Which is why, I mean, if you follow me on Twitter or really have ever heard me talk anywhere ever recently about romance novels, you hear me sort of stanning hard for Kresley Cole and the Immortals After Dark series. And part of the reason why that is, is because every hero is like ‘I’m not worthy of you’ in that series.

C: Okay, it’s probably time to own up for my big blind spot. I’ve never read a paranormal.

[Sarah gasps]

C: Or a shifter. Or any kinda.

S: You should! I will say, you’re very similar to me. I will say yeah, if you like a broken hero, really a paranormal. All the internal angst of the broken hero is sort of exploded into insanity in paranormals, in many paranormals. But the Immortals After Dark series is crackerjack. [Laughs]

C: Okay. Okay, I’m gonna have to put that at the top of the list, then.

S: Start there.

C: Crackerjack. I’m gonna have to put on the top of the list, that’s amazing. We talked about who my favorite hero is. Who’s your favorite hero? That you’ve written.

S: Oh, of mine?

C: Of your people. Time to play Thunderdome.

S: Okay, so. [Sighs] That’s a tough one. Well, I really like. Okay. I’m a big fan of Temple, who’s the hero of No Good Duke Goes Unpunished. Because, I mean, he is really, he’s super. His past is really shattered.

C: Mmhmm.

S: He thinks he might, the entire premise of that book is kinda bananas. But when he was eighteen he went to bed with a woman and woke up in a bloody bed and he thinks he killed her. And she turns up alive. And she’s his heroine. And she’s made, she’s a heroine who’s made a lot of mistakes and he’s a hero who has sort of had to become a man, become a grown man, thinking is it possible that I am a murderer? And so I think he’s like mentally broken in a way that, you know. I’m into.

[Laughter]

C: It’s really hard to come back from. Cause he does, that’s the thing, he doesn’t ever know.

S: He doesn’t know.

C: Until he knows. Spends all that time wondering. Whether or not he’s done that thing.

S: Yeah! And then she turns up totally alive and she, and he’s like.

C: Mara Lowe’s just. I love her.

S: She is a heroine who people either love or hate. I think she’s deeply, she can be deeply unlikable.

C: Yeah, that’s fair. She did kind of a really shitty thing.

S: She really did, but I think she, you know.

C: I love her.

S: I feel like sixteen-year-olds make stupid decisions and she did this thing when she was young and stupid. And now she, you know, has to make amends for it. But yeah. He’s pissed when she turns back up. And has every right to be.

C: Yeah, for good reason. That’s probably my second favorite book in that series cause I love the foundling home.

S: Yeah.

C: The orphanage that Mara Lowe ends up working at, which you do a really similar vibe when you create the rookery in this Bareknuckle Bastards book. I love that. It never hurts to have these big, very violent and dangerous men —

[Sarah laughs]

C: — also promising to make ice cream for the neighborhood kids and chucking little girls under the chin and being super adorable.

[Laughter]

C: That’s never a bad look.

S: No, that’s. I mean, you are clearly a sucker for a good solid Regency trope.

[Laughter]

S: Because that foundling. The child as, you can put a kid on the page and a hero will always be a decent person to that child. And so the rookery, the series is set really kind of out of place for most romance novels set during this time. It’s not set with money and, you know, Mayfair ballrooms in the posh area of London. It’s set in a pretty gritty place and I was really interested in unpeeling this world that is full of the best and the worst of life.

C: It’s very violent and it’s very dark. They are smugglers, but also they are ice importers, which is fascinating and something I wanna talk about. I read the afterword and you talked a little bit about learning or realizing about ice importation, but how did you lock down on that. And what was the coolest thing you found when you were looking up all of how that part of the book was gonna work?

S: So, I think ice came from a couple of different places. The first issue is, I was in London. I go to London a couple times a year, I tell everybody that I go for research. [Laughs] But really I just go to sit around in London. And I was in Covent Garden, in a bar, in a pub near a pub and garden market. I was sitting there and there was an old guy next to me and he told me that his grandfather sold lemon ice, or strawberry ice. Like fruit ice in Covent Garden. And he would haul a big block of ice from the dock up to Covent Garden every day and then shave the block of ice for people. And I was really surprised by this. Doesn’t seem like this guy’s, who would conceivably be my great-great grandfather. It just so weird that that happened. Ice was lugged from the dockside. So I sort of filed that away. I wasn’t working on the series yet. And then when I started writing the series I sort of knew they had to be criminals. They can’t. There’s no aboveboard business that these three are running in Covent Garden. And so I started thinking about smuggling. And obviously smuggling is one of those things where I wasn’t interested in, you know, weapons or in drugs or in people.

C: Yeah.

[Laughter]

S: They needed to be noble.

C: Criminals, but not like criminals.

S: Exactly. I didn’t want slavers! So they had to be noble scoundrels. And so I came up with this idea of, well, they can smuggle at the time, everything was taxed heavily. It was, you know, alcohol and tobacco and playing cards and dice. Anything that was a vice was taxed. And taxed to the tune of three, four hundred percent. So I started, face powder. Women’s makeup or wigs. And so I was like alright, they’re just smugglers. Regular smugglers. How did they get the stuff in and out? And that’s when I was like oh wait. Ice. Ice is coming in from Scandinavia at the time cause there’s no refrigeration. And even in the winter there isn’t enough. It has to be really cold to make massive blocks of ice. So it was coming in on ships and it would melt, obviously, in travel, in transit cause ships were made of wood.

C: [Laughs] Yeah.

S: And it was not, it’s just, it’s the best way to get ice to London in 1830. It’s not a great business plan. But at the time it was. At the time it was a great cover, I think. I don’t have any evidence that people did smuggle the way the Bareknuckle Bastards smuggle. Which is essentially, in the book, what they do is they take the smuggled material and they funnel it through Norway and then it’s loaded onto the ships and then surrounded with big blocks of ice. And then when the ships come off the Thames they come up almost sunk in the water because there’s been so much melt inside the hold that literally the ship is sinking from the inside. So that’s my super exciting ice history. Historical. And yeah, Felicity’s no fool. She walks in there. She sees how much, he clearly has money.

C: This is clearly not ice.

S: Not a huge amount of money in ice. Cause the product melts. And she’s like there’s no way. You’re definitely doing something illegal in here. And he sort of holds it, he holds the line for a long time. He doesn’t tell her the truth for a long time.

C: I gave the Devil credit for that, it was longer than I thought it would be. He held out without actually. I mean, he does the thing where he doesn’t deny it necessarily. But he doesn’t tell her what’s going on.

S: Yeah, yeah.

C: For a good minute.

S: Yeah, but what I do love about that is there’s this moment where she’s like whatever. Don’t tell me. We both know I know. Which, you know, is a moment that I can remember writing and thinking oh. This is the two of them. This is how their whole life is gonna be. Tell me or don’t tell me, we both know I’m just as smart as you are.

C: It’s fine.

[Laughter]

S: Exactly!

C: You don’t have to say it out loud, it’s fine. Was there anything when you were doing all your ice research or the research on the Chubb lock?

S: The Chubb.

C: Was there anything that you found that was really cool?

S: Mmhmm.

C: That you didn’t get to use? Or something that you found you squirreled away for later or?

S: So the Chubb is really interesting. So Felicity is a lock pick and there was this time between, that straddles about 35 years and that straddled the 18th and 19th century. Where there was such a thing as perfect security. And what that means is that prior to that time locks could be easily picked. And so houses would do things like, if you go to Europe you’ll often stumble upon doors that have multiple locks and multiple keyholes in the exterior door. Typically what that is, is there’s, say it has four. Three of them are fake and one of them is real. And the idea is it would just be long enough that maybe your neighbor would be walking by and be able to say hey, you shouldn’t pick that lock. Because locks were so easily picked. And then a guy name Chubb, an Englishman named Chubb.

[Laughter]

S: He invented a lock that was un-pickable. It works just the way that it’s explained in the book. Hopefully it’s not boring, the explanation.

C: No, it’s fascinating! I’ve never been so interested in locks and lock picking.

[Sarah laughs]

C: I’ve never been so tempted to go and I definitely wasn’t looking at lock picking tools on Amazon. That definitely didn’t happen. [Laughs] I definitely wasn’t Googling potential lock pick stuff.

S: [Laughs] Oh let me tell you! I did so much research on lock picking that then I picked my lock and I am drunk on power. I feel like there’s no such thing as —

C: I’m unstoppable!

S: I’m unstoppable. Basically building a sort of Ocean’s 8 style heist team.

C: Yes! I literally just put all my favorite romance authors on an Ocean’s 8 style heist team and my brain exploded.

[Laughter]

C: Sarah, that’s genius. But oh man, so I can only imagine. That’s one of those fun micro-history things, kind of like the ice. You’re aware of it but you’re not necessarily thinking about locks and home security until you really dig into it.

S: Sure! And well, I got really. So Felicity is, what’s very interesting about this story, and if you get a chance there’s a great podcast, 99% Invisible, and it’s produced by a guy named Roman Mars. It’s basically about design. This idea that good design is 99% invisible. And there’s an episode about this perfect security and the great lock controversy of, you know, the 18, I wanna say 1860.

C: Sure.

S: But basically what happened was there was an un-pickable lock. And it was so un-pickable that they gave it to, they had a guy who was in prison for life in Newgate for life. And Newgate is no.

C: That’s no joke, dude.

S: No joke! It’s terrible in there. And they brought him the Chubb and they said if you can pick this we’ll let you free forever. Exonerated. And he couldn’t do it. He kept it for a full month and he couldn’t do it. And then Chubb offered what was at the time an extraordinary amount of money to anybody who could pick this lock. And it was a whole thing. If you had a Chubb lock you were safe. At the World’s Fair Exhibition, in comes an American who I’m fascinated by, who I envision wearing a big hat and carrying six-shooters.

C: Spurs.

S: American.

C: American.

S: Cowboy! Comes in and he’s like I can pick it. And he does it. [Snaps] Like instantly. And everybody’s like what?! And of course Chubb thinks that he’s done something to it so he has to do it again and he does and then that’s the end of perfect security. Since then there has never been an un-pickable lock.

C: Wow.

S: And I like to sort of tell my husband that security is a myth, when he’s like did you lock the door? And I’m like no. Security’s a myth. [Laughs]

C: It doesn’t matter if I did. They’re coming in anyway.

S: So stuff like that, I mean, obviously. That American would’ve been great! But Felicity had to be the one to pick it.

C: But I also kinda love that idea of this created history of maybe that guy picked it up somehow from somebody who picked it up from Felicity.

S: Yeah!

C: She was a couple years’ his predecessor.

S: Exactly. And she didn’t need the money, so maybe she could just pick the Chubb lock and never went and collected the reward.

C: She was running her little crime kingdom with Devil on the side, which is like.

S: Exactly.

C: I love it. Okay, so I wanted to. We talked a little bit about research, and I’m sure as all writers do, you get a lot of questions about process and how you write and what everything is.

S: Mmhmm.

C: But the thing I wanna know is what’s hard?

S: All of it! [Laughs]

C: What’s the thing about the thing that you dislike having to do the most?

S: Um. [Laughs] No. It’s not research and it’s not dialogue. That’s the good part. That’s all the fun part. And it’s not, so for me, my first drafts are just hot garbage. They just are. They’re terrible.

C: Oh, good. That makes me feel 5% better. [Laughs]

S: No, they take me forever to write. I’m not a fast writer. I feel like every word is just a slog. And then for me revision is where the magic happens. And what I mean by that is quite literally, I’m not, I’m not being modest. The draft is terrible and then I go back in and usually the reason why the draft is terrible is because it take me 60 to 70,000 words to figure out what I’m even doing. Who the characters are. Why they are in this place. Some people.

C: So you write through that.

S: I do. I start at the beginning. I mean, I know, obviously.

C: Yeah.

S: Right now I’m working on book two, right? Which is Brazen and the Beast.

C: [Gasps] I’m so excited.

S: [Laughs] And Whit is obviously, he has a personality. A very clear personality.

C: He’s a fighter, dude. We’re getting back to another boxer, man. Another fighter. I’m excited.

S: He’s a fighter. He carries throwing knives.

[Chelsea gasps]

S: That’s his weapon of choice.

C: Ohmygod, Sarah, the noise I just made. Oh my god, I’m so excited.

S: [Laughs] He is, he’s like kind of antisocial. He’s not, he’s a grump. And so his heroine is a complete chatterbox. You sort of start to figure out how is this going to work. What are these? So at the start you sort of think you’ve got it. But then you do. I mean, I start with, I don’t write around. I write the first word and then I write the whole thing. And then by the time I get to 60 or 70,000 words I think to myself oh. I get it know. I know what Whit’s secret is or what her problem is or how it’s all. But I actually don’t start a book unless I know the end. And what I mean by that is not as simple as, well, they obviously get together.

[Laughter]

S: That’s not. But I have to know. So, in romance, you’re a romance reader so you know this. But there’s the moment 90% of the way through or 85% of the way through where all is lost.

C: Yeah. They’re not gonna get together.

S: And how.

C: You know there’s no way they won’t, the bridge will be crossed, obviously it will be.

S: Exactly. How is this ever going to happen? And I have to know that. That scene. Before I can start the book. And that doesn’t, that’s not for any plotting reason. I wish it made it easier to plot them. It’s just, for me, then I know. I’m writing to that. So where do I go from here? But for me, writing is the hardest part. It’s not, I’m not exaggerating when I say literally sitting down and putting the words on the page is the hardest part.

C: So then what is, so like for this last book for example, what is the thing that changed the most from that first kind of conception to what is now out, or going to be out in the world.

S: Well, okay. So there’s a…the hero, the conceit of the whole series. The series is conceived as three books and the premise of the series is once upon a time there were three brothers. Three half-brothers, who were all born on the same day at the same hour at the same minute to the same man, but to different women. And none of them are legitimate and he is a duke. Their father was a duke. At the time the father was married to his wife, the duchess, and she too was pregnant, but with a child that was not his. So he sort of needs an heir and he’s willing to suck it up and take the heir who is born, but she is born and she is a girl. And she can’t become the heir. So he goes and he hunts down these three boys and he brings them to his country house and he basically does Regency Hunger Games with them.

C: It’s disgusting. And I say that as a full compliment. Ewan and his father and the way that part of the story played out was truly villainous.

S: Yeah.

C: On an emotional level that I think is really well crafted. Are we getting a Ewan book? Because that’s such, I can see how that would be a hard book to write.

S: Yeah, Ewan is the hero of book three. And Grace is the heroine.

C: That’s the thing about him, is there’s so much sympathy for him because of what his father did. But he’s also done so many things of his own.

S: Oh, he’s a monster.

C: He’s a monster, especially in this first book. So I’m very excited to see how that works out.

S: Obviously there’s a big piece of this story is about motivation and what drives you to do the things that you do. And what you’re willing to do for the people you love. What you’re willing to do for your own salvation. And that’s, I mean, that’s all Ewan’s past. Right? Why would he have done all the things that he did. So, anyway, so that’s the whole setup is that. And I set it all up and I put it on the page and then by the time I got to the end of the first draft, I sent it to people and multiple people were like: I don’t understand. I don’t understand this. How this relationship with their father, how it would’ve crafted them. What was it like? What were their…I think I wasn’t prepared to sort of go dark with it and really show that sort of glimmer of. So Devil was an orphan. And he was, you know, literally a pure orphan. Was left on the side of the riverbank when he was an infant. And he was raised in an orphanage. And then suddenly in the middle of the night this man comes and tells him, basically, I’m going to save you. And children believe these things. Children are deeply manipulate-able. And so I had to sort of write that in. And that was definitely the revelation that I had to bring it to that dark place in order to get us out of it. Not only, I think, did a good service to the book, but also set up all the other characters in a much more powerful way. So that as a series, I think, I have a much clearer direction.

C: Yeah, and I think that’s what’s so, both so hard and so powerful to do, right? Is to create that person who can be a villain, but at the same time be coming from a place of not-villain. That anti-villain, almost.

S: Yeah.

C: People make the choices they have to, to survive.

S: Yeah, and also I think that romance, more than any other genre, does this really interesting thing where everyone’s the hero of their own story. In a really, I think we see it more and more powerfully in romance often than we do in other places. And the reason why is, ultimately, many of us, not all of us, many of us will take on the challenge of flipping a villain. And, you know, I’ve done it and I think about, like, Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter.

C: A tough one. When I picked that one up?

S: Yeah!

C: I was very reluctant to kind of have my mind changed about that book, because yeah.

S: He literally.

C: He’s awful in the first one!

S: He attempts to kidnap the heroine of the prior book in the series. He’s a villain! And then now, he’s widely considered. He’s not my favorite of hers.

C: No, but people will die on the hill of that book and that hero.

S: People will fall on the sword. I think he’s amazing. My favorite just happens to be Derek Craven.

C: Yes, please.

S: Who’s just more of my thing. [Laughs]

C: Don’t @ me, Kleypas fans.

S: Far more broken.

C: I like ’em broken.

S: Far more broken.

C: I don’t like ’em cracked, I like ’em broken into a million little pieces. [Laughs]

S: Oh, for sure. Well, I am, I have been very lucky to meet Lisa a few times and I told her that basically, now, I just write these casinos and dudes who live in Covent Garden because of Derek Craven. Cause Derek Craven has imprinted upon me. [Laughs]

C: Yep, yep.

S: So.

C: So my thing is like, and I feel like part of what we were talking about is, what I love about romance and this book expands on what you’ve already done, is that so much of romance stories are interconnected. We meet so many of the characters so early on and we kind of get those bits and bobs of backstory that can make it harder to turn a villain or easier to kind of fall in love with a heroine that we’ve seen flitting in and out through the back pages. And I had so much fun underlining, in this book, references to my favorite Fallen Angels!

[Sarah laughs]

C: It was so much fun! And I’m just wondering is that something that just pops up organically?

S: Well, I mean, first of all, the heroine of this first book is a prominent figure in the last book, which, technically, is a different series. But I wrote a book called Day of the Duchess and she, in that book, is sort of a Bachelorette in a Bachelor-style competition to be married to a duke and she is one of the Bachelorettes in that book. So that move is easy enough. That book also had a tavern in Covent Garden, which features in this book. And so there’s that. But that whole series was spun off of the series prior to it, too. And that series was spun off the series prior to that. So while time is marching, the worlds are interconnected.

C: I love Easter eggs and I love, they make me feel so smart. [Laughs]

S: I do, too!

C: It’s one of those little things where I get that! I know what that is! And it’s just such a, obviously, it has nothing to, if you haven’t read those, readers, you will not be missing out on anything. They are in no way integral to anything. But if you’ve read other Sarah stuff you will see them and they are delightful.

S: Well, thank you! I mean, I love it, too, as a reader. I love feeling like, oh! They’re going to that. It’s a, you know, if you read small town contemporary romance it’s like that sort of, everybody goes to the same coffee shop or everybody goes to the same diner. And it’s always the same waitress. And that sort of feel, it makes you feel like you’re part of the world. And suddenly you have a very sort of visceral reaction to it as a reader. For me, obviously, any time anybody talks about their club they’re talking about the Fallen Angel. They’re all members at the Fallen Angel. And so we’ll see, these guys, they smuggle alcohol. They smuggle playing cards. They smuggle dice. People are pissed because at some point in this book they have to hold all the, they can’t deliver their product. The guys at the Fallen Angel need their dice. They need it! [Laughs] Or, you know, American who runs the bar in Covent Garden needs his whiskey. So yeah. It’s really, really fun. That’s the most fun. Is all the little. Felicity’s a lock pick and they all go to the same dressmaker. And, you know, everything that colors the characters? That’s the fun part.

C: And it’s so much fun to do the headcanon thing of picturing them all going to the Angel. Or of Chase and Devil having to reckon the ledgers or whatever the thing is.

S: For sure.

C: You know, that’s such a fun kind of external to the books further engagement with the content that I think is not necessarily easy to do well, but always super fun to get as a reader. I guess, I have a couple more questions. I wanted to ask, so there’s been a lot of stuff kind of going on in the romance world in general, at large.

[Laughter]

C: Between everything that’s going on with RT and then the Cockygate stuff and now the Kindle Unlimited.

S: Yeah.

C: Listeners, go back previous episodes, we’ve done kind of some rundowns. [Laughs] I won’t go through the full thing here.

S: Exactly.

C: So what do you, how do you see being the big next thing going on in romance? What do you feel is, are gonna be some of the big lasting changes?

S: I’ll tell you what. I am really pissed off about Cockygate. I think it, I’m really angry about it. And I don’t write.

C: It’s not your…

S: I write cocky heroes.

C: But it’s not your brand, necessarily.

[Laughter]

S: Not my brand and it really shouldn’t…it’s not, it should not bother me at the level it bothers me, but I’m really pissed off on behalf of readers. Because I feel like what we’re looking at is somebody who actually has a deep, deep lack of respect for readers. We don’t have enough of that. The call can’t come from inside the house. [Laughs] But even prior to the testimony, the whole ‘my readers are unsophisticated’ like first of all, can I swear on this show? Fuck you! Fuck you!

[Laughter]

S: But second of all, there’s this big issue of, so I’ve said this from the start. Romance readers know what they like, right? At its core, romance, reading romance is about finding books that speak directly to your id. Right? And so, for a lot of people, the duke, people are always like why are there so many dukes? There are so many dukes because readers like dukes.

C: Yeah.

S: That’s why.

C: Why we get billionaires, why we get dukes, sexy cops, that’s why we get those things.

S: Every romance, most, I mean, I think 95% of romance heroes are kings in some way. And that royalty is coded in words that the genre, for fifty years, has provided to readers as signposts. Not because readers are unsophisticated, but because we’re so fucking voracious.

C: Yeah!

S: I don’t care who wrote it. I don’t care what the story is. Does it have a billionaire? I wanna read it.

C: Exactly.

S: Does it have wicked in the title? I definitely wanna read that.

C: Give it to me now, exactly.

S: And that doesn’t make us unsophisticated. It makes us really fucking avid readers.

C: The comparisons I always heard were, I mean, obviously there’s way less disdain because these aren’t female-centered markets. But it would be like going into a fantasy aisle and saying that someone was an unsophisticated reader because they went by whether there was a sword or a spaceship or a dragon.

S: Exactly!

C: Or a cowboy. These are all visual codes that all genres embrace as a signpost to their readers as a quick thing to hey, pick me up.

S: Exactly.

C: So to turn that as, to like, a you’re literally too stupid to read words, you can’t even figure out what’s going on beyond that? Is just.

S: Yeah. And she didn’t, first of all, didn’t invent the cocky hero. People’ve been writing it for forty years. She didn’t invent the title cocky. Penelope Ward wrote Cocky Bastard in 2015. That is one of those contemporaries where if you talk to anybody who’s a rabid contemporary reader they’ve read that book. It sold well over a million copies.

C: Contemporary is so not my genre of choice and I was well aware of that book.

S: Yeah! I mean, so there’s so many things that I can nitpick on, but my biggest issue here is if she wins…that is gonna change the way the genre exists. Because other people are gonna grab for words.

C: We’ve already seen it! We’ve seen it in the stupidest ways.

S: Yeah.

C: And she hasn’t even won yet. I’m not a lawyer.

S: I feel like it would give me the opportunity to grab, say, bastard, but what a dumb thing for me to do!

C: What a dumb, and also just what a shitty thing to do. That’s almost like. I almost keep coming back to it on a personal level of, I don’t understand one, you clearly have no understanding of how romance readers work to think we were just gonna let that shit slide and no one was gonna put up a fight.

S: Yeah.

C: Or that nobody is gonna have the longest memory ever about you, Miss Falina, and how all of this happened. But also it’s mean! It’s deeply mean on a level that it crosses lines of professionalism to go after somebody on something like that. It’s just gross.

S: And what she’s done is she’s sort of pitted herself against…I will say this. Romance. Like, look. We have our issues. Clearly. We have our issues, right? But it is one of those, it is a genre where alright, nobody gets to insult my sister but me. It’s a very, we take care of our own, And I’ve never seen romance so thoroughly coalesce.

C: We never agree about anything. What was the recent one. Romancelandia just blew up about Richard Armitage in the last 36 hours?

S: Oh, I know.

C: We can never agree on anything, but we agreed on that one really fast.

S: And the remarkable thing is, had she stuck it out and written her books and done the work that so many other writers are doing, I do not write in that world, but I have dear, dear friends who do. And they, I mean, one only need look at the Cocktales Anthology and how many authors got on board. And how they ended up with like 750 pages.

C: It was crazy!

S: yeah.

C: Bonkers.

S: It was amazing.

C: Cole I think turned around and wrote a 60,000 word novella in like 36 hours?

S: Yeah.

C: People just took it and ran in the most positive direction after it happened.

S: Yeah, and those people, those people would have welcomed her. And instead she shat on them. So she deserves what she gets.

C: Faileena.

[Laughter]

C: It’s all I have to say.

S: I mean.

C: I’ve genre hopped several times in my life, but I hopped to romance and have never left because I’ve never met a more welcoming group of readers. There’s always that thing where you haven’t read something and the two tones you can take. It’s always, you haven’t read Lord of the Rings? I can’t believe you’ve never read Lord of the Rings.

S: Yeah. You’re not a real fan.

C: This gate be closed to you. I am the keeper of the gate As opposed to ohmygod, I’m so excited. You’ve never read a Sarah MacLean? Please, come! Let me hand all of these books to you so you can join me here and it’s that difference of attitude.

S: I’m so jealous, like you’ve never read paranormal. Now I just want you to tweet at me every time you read a Kresley Cole book.

[Chelsea laughs]

S: I want you to livetweet your read of that book, because it’s so good and I’m so jealous that you get to read it for the first time, again. So whenever we, before the internet, I tell this story a lot. I came to reading romance when I was reading ten or eleven. I got a bunch of my, when I was in middle school, the public library was like next door to my middle school. So I would go over there and wait and go to the library. And they kept the romance novels literally in the dark. The lights were turned off in that section of the library and it’s the back corner of the library and you had to go back there and ask for the lights to be turned on.

C: Like a behind the velvet curtain kind of thing?

S: Yeah, right?

C: No thank you!

S: And I was like, of course that made it even before.

C: Right? [Laughs]

S: Secret part of the library. But at the time it was like Johanna Lindsey. The heyday of Johanna Lindsey and Julie Garwood.

C: My mom always had those kind of books in our basement, which was why I kind of almost, you know, did the whole what are parents do, do not. The dudes with the muscles and the hair? I was like nah, this is not my scene.

S: Well, no. And Fabio was on a thousand covers and I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

C: He won some award for it, or something.

S: And also.

C: For being on so many covers.

S: Yeah! And people come after Fabio, it’s whatever.

C: They sold. Those fucking books sold. He made his money.

S: Exactly. So I would go and, you know, at the time all the titles were the same. Prisoner of My Desire. My Desire’s Loincloth or whatever.

[Laughter]

S: That’s a terrible title. Don’t use it.

[Laughter]

C: Nope. I’m gonna write it now. Gonna make my authorial debut.

[Laughter]

S: The Desire of my Loincloth. So you couldn’t tell the different, necessarily, from the covers. If you looked at forty Johanna Lindsey books, they all sort of look the same. So inside on the back cover the romance readers in my library would mark, they would put little hieroglyphs to mark. A little x in pencil or a red dot or whatever. And if that was there you knew you had read that book. And at the bottom of the back page people would put an exclamation point if they liked it.

C: Oh cool!

S: It was like Goodreads beta! All these people had read it. Like oh, green dot lady and I like all the same books, right? Or look at all the exclamation points on this book. This one is a good one. And none of us, I mean, I dunno. I was young. I don’t think any of them knew each other. I think they were just, it was just our little knitting circle of telling people, telling ourselves, first of all, I’ve read this book. But then telling other people I read this book and I liked it. And that kind of community is, first of all, incredibly female. In the sense of, it’s a mark of womanhood. That we have to find ourselves in these whisper networks about things we might be ashamed of. We might have to have shame for. Things we shouldn’t be public about. And then on top of it, it’s really, really powerful as a space, as a culture. And I think romance has, the internet only made that more accessible to people.

C: And I think that there is, I mean, I feel like a lot of readers obviously go through this. But without the internet, I mean, as a whole my social network would be lacking. But also that specific funneling to, as people who have kind of paved the path already and have done the reading and have done the thing who can then ask you okay. If you like your heroes broken and your heroines sassy and your x, y, z’s in a line, you can follow these three paths. And then these three paths will lead you down these paths. And I feel like that’s not necessarily is something that is replicated. That whisper network and almost outlying sense of community has forced it to be created. And in other genres you go in and you’re almost presented with this checklist. Read these things you will pass the gate you will get your membership hat and then you can turn around and help us judge all the other people who are on the outside of the gate.

S: Sure.

[Laughs]

C: Which is not fun. I mean, I love judging things. But judging people for what they’re reading is not on the list.

[Laughter]

S: Yeah.

C: So I just think that’s something that is incredibly important to bring in that newer generation of readers who live so much online. Who, like you’re saying, don’t necessarily have a, a romance section in their library, anymore, let alone should they actually visit their library. So I love that there is that Goodreads, Twitter, blog, hashtag network that is creating that same safe path to trod for readers.

S: Exactly. And I also love, right now, and this is really new in romance and I’m kind of in love with it. Is when people put up their promo tweets now they tag the tropes.

C: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

S: And so she’s a lock pick, he’s a smuggler. It’s enemies to lovers. Or I dunno, whatever it is. And so suddenly you’re like oh! Wait! Yes, I want that. Right? I just read, and I was spewing about this online, I read Adriana Anders’s Loving the Secret Billionaire.

[Laughter]

S: Which is, I mean, not at all a title I would ever pick up, but first of all immediately if you’re into secret billionaires.

C: You know what you’re looking for.

S: Get it into my eyeballs. Although somebody pointed out, we were talking about Cockygate related to it, and I was talking about this book and they were like I immediately when to Amazon and I typed it in and there were 70 results for secret billionaires. And somehow she still found the one I was talking about, so. I dunno. Seems pretty sophisticated to me.

C: Smarter than you think, capable of doing a little research and reading. Using those eyeballs.

S: Anyway. So the reason why I picked this up is because somebody was like so the heroine is running for public office.

C: Aw, yeah.

S: She’s running for city council.

C: Sign me up for that.

S: Of some Townville, USA. And she’s canvassing and she canvasses the mansion in the woods. [Laughs] And inside the mansion in the woods is a blind billionaire hacker recluse. Who also happens to be younger than her. And is a virgin. And also a dirty talker.

C: [Shrieks] Sarah, stop!

S: I literally couldn’t, I dropped my phone I was trying so hard to order this book.

C: I’m like sweating in my chair, Sarah, stop, ohmygod it sounds so good.

S: First of all, my god. It’s delicious.

C: [Sighs] I love a good dirty talk book.

S: It’s so good.

C: They’re so good.

S: It’s so good, but also I feel like, I mean, that woman knew. She knew how to pile ’em on. So that you were like, yes. Yes get in my face.

C: Like you were saying. It’s that id channeling of just yes. Give it to me.

S: I felt my id, like, come out and grab onto my phone. It was amazing. It was amazing. Highly recommend that book.

C: Which is, actually, a good transition. That’s my next and last question.

S: [Laughs] yes.

C: Is there anything, just media in general, that you’re super consuming right now.

S: Well, I read a book a day, so I always have something to recommend. So Loving the Secret Billionaire. Big fan. This one is everywhere, but I feel like I have to say it because I agree with all the hype. And that is —

Both: The Kiss Quotient.

S: Yeah!

C: It’s good.

S: Yes.

C: It’s so fucking good.

S: I read it this weekend on a plane and it was, I just was delighted by it. It’s so sexy. Nobody seems to be talking about the fact that it’s super sexy, but it is! And the hero’s, so, and I’m also a huge sucker for an escort story. Claire Kent wrote a book called Escorted that is, I think, one of my favorite contemporaries and it’s a male escort story.

C: Okay, putting that on my list.

S: So if you loved that part of The Kiss Quotient, try that. But just, I loved the family dynamics. I loved lots of things. But the thing I liked the most about the two of them together was how open their relationship, their sexual, and it had to be, right? She hires an escort to teach her how to do sex, essentially.

[Laughter]

S: So obviously it has to be open and full of communication. But the communication is so hot and so intense. And I just loved every second of it. And so big fan. I am, right now, glomming the entire backlist of Naima Simone. I don’t love sports romances, but I’ve been reading her WAGS series. W-A-G-S. The first one is called Scoring Off the Field. And it’s unrequited friends to lovers. And it’s, I love an unrequited love story.

C: Love a good unrequited.

S: And I don’t think they’re done very well, often, because I often think it’s…they’re a real challenge to write really well. I also think that sometimes just the conflict isn’t really…

C: Yeah.

S: I think people often don’t lean into the conflict. And in this particular it’s unrequited friends to lovers. And she has been in love with him for ten years or something. So she’s also…he’s a football players. She’s his personal assistant. It begins with her quitting. If I continue to be around you I am going to stop…I’m not gonna ever have a life of my own. Because I’m just gonna be consumed by the fact that I love you. So she quits and he’s horrified, and he’s basically like you can’t quit, you’re everything! And it’s just so good. So I really loved that. And I’m reading right now, I think it’s called Scoring with the Wrong Twin? It might not be scoring. Something about Wrong Twin. And it’s a mistaken identity.

C: Oh, okay, okay.

S: He’s a twin and there’s…

C: Some things happening. Shenanigans.

S: Yeah. So very big fan of those books. Yeah, I have a list on my website of the 200 books, romances that I really love. And I update it pretty regularly since I read so fast and there’s so much cool stuff out there, now.

C: Always. I’m trying to put together my summer bingo cards.

S: Yeah!

C: And it’s just like almost overwhelming because I’m trying to create a big list I can pick from, but then I’m like there’s too many. So I’m trying to create smaller lists within a list. So I get drowned by choice.

S: Yeah. But I try, also, it’s not just covers. I try to give you a little taste of what’s in it so you can see if it scratches your itch.

C: All the links for book titles and websites and everything we’ve talked about today will be in the show notes and the transcript. So yeah.

S: Cool!

C: I guess we’ll go ahead and wrap up. I wanna say thanks again for talking to me today. This has been a dream come true. I don’t think I have words for how excited I was to do this.

S: Oh, thank you!

C: And how awesome it’s been. So thank you so much, Sarah.

S: Thanks for having me! I’m so excited and I’m sorry Kay wasn’t here, but send her my love.

C: She’ll be so excited to listen to edit.

S: Oh, poor Kay. [Laughs]

C: Do you wanna tell everyone where they can find you, real quick? If they’re looking for you or their books?

S: Yes! So I am sarahmaclean.net online. That has the book list and the recommendations for romances and my events and everything. But the best place to find me is Twitter, where I am @sarahmaclean. And I’m on Facebook, too, but it’s terrible.

[Chelsea laughs]

S: So I’m facebook.com/sarahmaclean if you wanna know me over there, but I don’t update as much as I should. And I’m on Instagram, which I really like, too, but it’s like pictures of my kid and my fish and also other randomness from New York, but you’re welcome to follow me there. It’s @sarahmaclean.

C: Prime Sarah MacLean. Behind the scenes content, folks.

[Laughter]

S: Exactly. My editor doesn’t like that very much, cause often she’s like I saw on Instagram you were night writing today.

[Laughter]

C: Whoopsie!

S: There should be a rule that they don’t follow us on social media.

C: It’s like your parents, man. If they’re gonna follow you on social media.

S: Yeah!

C: They can’t, like, comment to you about the things they see on your social media. You’re here as an observer.

S: Exactly. [Laughs]

C: Thank you, Sarah. Everybody, Wicked and the Wallflower will be coming out tomorrow, the 19th. We will have buy links available in the show notes. If you’re listening now, you can still pre-order. If not, catch it in the AM. Guys, put it in your brain. Put it in your eyes. It is my id incarnate and I loved it so much.

S: Oh, yay!

C: And thank you, Sarah.

S: No, thank you. This is great. Take care!

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

C: Alright, friends, I want to say thank you, again, to Sarah for sitting down and taking the time to talk to me. And to Libby her publicist for reaching out to set it up. Everybody at Avon for providing ARCs and stuff. It was just such a great process and such a great, cool thing to do. And we missed you, but we had a ton of fun talking. So, again, I’mma tell you guys to get Wicked and the Wallflower.

K: Do it.

C: It’s on pre-sale now if you’re listening on release day.

K: We will clearly have all the links.

C: If you’re listening to it after our release day, it goes on sale June 19th of 2018, so you can go pick it up wherever you pick up your books from. You will absolutely not regret it. Until then, you can find us at either of our two internet homes. nnirpodcast.wordpress.com or patreon.com/nnirpodcast. All of our content is available at both places. You can find me on Twitter @anoutlawlife.

K: And you can find me @kaytaylorrea, pretty much everywhere on the internet.

C: And we know we promised you guyy this time that we would be doing our Dealing with Dragons episode, but.

K: But that’s cause this was a surprise. We’re bumping it. If you read it and you’re mad at us, we’re sorry, but it’ll just be next time!

C: And don’t be mad cause you got to read such a great book! And we’re talking about it next time.

K: We promise.

C: We’ve already got that one recorded.

K: It’s done.

C: It’s gonna happen.

K: It’s in the can.

C: It. It’s in the can. Title of your sex tape? [Laughs]

K: Fuck you! Also title of your sex tape.

C: [Laughs] Alright, you know what? We’re just gonna end it there. Until next time, take care of yourselves, take care of each other, and have happy reading. Goodbye.

K: Bye!

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Outtakes

[Laughing]

C: Just start. Title of your sex tape. [Claps and laughs]

K: [Long-suffering] Fuck you! Also the title of your sex tape.

C: This is my favorite game. [Laughs]

C: Goddammit, I hate things.

[Kay laughs]

K: Just things in general. All of them. They all suck. Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

C: It’s not fair. I’m so easy and they’re so good. Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

C: God bless Brooklyn Nine Nine. Noice.

K: Title of your sex tape!

[laughter]

C: You can hear me bounce so hard on this chair I’m gonna fucking break it.

[Pause, then laughter]

C: I think I’m just gonna do the whole fucking thing again.

K: [While laughing] Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter and clapping]

K: This is what you signed up for. You deserve this in all the ways that that can possibly be construed.

C: Title of your sex tape even though it’s really long?

K: Even though it’s really long, title of your sex tape!

[Laughter]

C: Fuck, okay. Alright.

K: That thing, yeah. [Whispers] Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

K: Just pouring a smelly brown beverage on someone, title of your sex tape!

[laughter]

C: Well, everything before this has just been nothing.

K: It’s garbage. Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

K: I wanna throw things at you, but they’re mostly shaped like dildos. And it would just make this situation worse.

C: Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

C: Mostly shaped like dildos would just make the situation worse. Title of your sex tape.

K: Worst. Everything about this is the worst.

[Chelsea laughs]

K: I don’t wanna get picked up by a major podcast network.

C: I mean, I don’t either.

K: They would want us to be way more professional than we are.

C: I mean, yeah. Then I wouldn’t get to put together a title of your sex tape supercut.

Both: Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

C: My face hurts.

K: [Laughing] Title of your sex tape.

[Laughter]

C: It is rude of you to drag me in the middle of the title of your sex tape game. It is rude.

[Laughter]

K: I’m trying really hard to get it together.

C: Title of your sex tape!

[Laughter]

K: I knew it was coming.

C: Title of your sex tape!

K: And I didn’t brace myself.

[Laughter]

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