Rank #1: 364. Love, Romance, and Beautiful Friendships: Melody and Erin from Heaving Bosoms Podcast
Does the dog bark? Yes.
Are they each other’s biggest fans? Absolutely.
Is this delightful? Totally.
Don’t miss the part where they reveal the secret ingredient to everything.
TW/CW: at about 35 minutes in, there's a discussion of old skool romances, and in particular a Johanna Lindsey viking romance with some on-page assault.
Rank #2: 273. Sex Toys, Self Love, and Erotic Romance: A Very Bawdy Podcast with Thien-Kim Lam
Rank #3: 354. Six Books Amanda’s Excited About, and Other Stories from BEA 2019
We talk about her impressions of this year’s BEA, who it’s for, and how it’s changed over her time working in various parts of publishing. We also talk about how much Amanda likes reading blurbs on the covers of new books.
We talk about so many upcoming releases that aren’t available yet, so we’re very sorry in advance. Key terms to listen for: “claustrophobic thriller” and “snakes are having a moment.”
Plus we talk about what Amanda’s reading right now.
CW/TW: Amanda tells some stories about wrangling snakes in her childhood - so if you’re not on board with snake discussion, heads up at 39 minutes in, when Amanda mentions snake stores, you might want to skip ahead about a minute total.
So, what about you? Would you want to attend BEA? Do you like meetings? Do you read blurbs from other writers on the covers of books? I'm curious!
Rank #4: 281. Alyssa Cole and Alisha Rai: Romance and the Resistance from Politics and Prose
Rank #5: 257. Bitches Assemble: Our Favorite Recommendations and the Expectations of Tentacles
And because we’re, well, us, we talk about weird sex scenes we’ve read, wonderful and funny sex scenes we’ve loved, managing chronic pain and reading BDSM stories, and interesting female inventors in history. Plus, we discuss at length (heh) the expectations of tentacles, and what new books we’re going to end up recommending frequently.
Note: Elyse is a little fuzzy, and I think she might have been in a wind machine.
Rank #6: 296. Acting, Narrating, and Writing: An Interview with Julia Whelan
This is a full score production: dogs barking! Car horns! The street sounds of midtown Manhattan! We cover her start as a child actor, and how she moved through acting to audiobook narration to writing screenplays and then a novel.
Among the topics we discuss:
What makes a good narration?
What are the differences between screenplays and novels?
How does being an audiobook narrator and actor influence her writing, and vice versa?
I also ask some vague non-spoiler questions about the characters in My Oxford Year, and we get a teeny sample of her performance of the audiobook and some of the key characters. We also discuss my very strange idea that Gone Girl and YA have some elements in common, and of course, I ask what she’s reading.
I really enjoyed this interview - I almost titled it English Major Nerds Talking. I hope you enjoy it, too.
Rank #7: 310. Heroine Sociopaths and Emotional Suspense: An Interview with Victoria Helen Stone
Victoria Helen Stone, also known as romance author Victoria Dahl, has a new book out, Jane Doe [bookmention slug="jane-doe"]. I read it in one sitting - it was terrifyingly good. Her heroine, Jane, is a self-acknowledged sociopath, and hanging out in her head was quite an experience as she gets revenge on someone who did irreparable harm to her best friend. In this interview, we talk about shifting from romance to revenge thrillers - or as Stone calls them, Emotional Suspense.
We also discuss:
The catharsis of addressing double standards and processing rage through her writing.
The enjoyment of burning shit down.
The use of genre terms such as “women’s fiction,” “chick lit,” “psychological thrillers,” and “book club fiction.”
The empowerment of women taking control, including when they lose control.
The freeing experience of writing Jane Doe, a sociopathic heroine who has zero self-doubt, and being inside the head of a person who is determined to exact complete and total revenge.
Among her recommendations, we talk about safe spaces to explore kink in romance fiction, and her frustrations with the horror genre.
Stay tuned to the end of the interview where she drops this fascinating idea:
“Romance and horror are the flip sides of the same human drive to survive.”
CW: We talk about gas lighting, harassment, school shootings, entitlement, the foundations of emotionally abusive relationships, and then have an in-depth discussion of sociopathy.
Rank #8: 285. Labyrinth, Girl Scout Cookies, and Good Book Noise: An Interview with S. Jae-Jones
How being an editorial assistant prepared her for a career as an author - and what secret knowledge (not really secret) she shares with fellow writers.
How Labyrinth, Phantom of the Opera, the myth of Hades and Persephone, The Magic Flute, fanfic communities, and fandom terms influence her writing.
How she navigates the issue of sexxytimes in YA with her own writing.
And, in a key portion of this interview, we discuss the parameters of identifying Which Girl Scout Cookie Are You? Spoiler alert: Amanda has very strong opinions about peanut butter, Girl Scout cookies, and oatmeal.
JJ also discusses bi-polar characters, writing mental illness, writing with mental illness, making Cho Chang the heroine of a magical world, and how head canons help her with feelings of isolation.
This interview goes everywhere, and sometimes the audio is a little muddy, for which I apologize. But fear not! We have an extra-strength collection of recommendations from JJ, complete with Good Book Noise®, creepy stories, and books that are hard to describe but should be required reading. Heads up: she likes to read books specifically looking for the romances, so this is a tasty recommendation list indeed.
Rank #9: 232. The First Year of The Ripped Bodice – An Interview with Bea and Leah Koch
They also shared details about books being written in the store, and how authors and readers have embraced The Ripped Bodice as a place to shop, work, and add to their own novels-in-progress. Plus, we get a peek into upcoming events, including a shoppable exhibition, as well as their predictions in romance fiction and their reading wish lists. It’s a big long list of books, so get ready for books, mutual admiration, dog squeeing, and more book talk!
Rank #10: 344. Burnout – A Feminist Book about Stress: An Interview with Emily and Amelia Nagoski
Their own description of this book might be the best one. On Amelia’s Medium bio, it says “A feminist book about stress” On Emily’s website, the description reads, It’s for women who feel overwhelmed and exhausted by all they have to do, yet worrying that they’re not doing “enough.”
Emily’s name you might recognize from previous podcast interviews. She writes romance fiction as Emily Foster, and is the author of Come As You Are, about the science of arousal and orgasm.
Amelia is a choral conductor, and during our conversation, we take a side trip into self awareness of one’s own voice, the policing of women’s speaking styles, and then the larger picture of being aware of one’s entire body.
The section on stress and emotional processing in Emily’s book Come As You Are partially inspired this book, along with the personal experience of Amelia and Emily using the information in their own lives.
We talk about how wellness has become an achievement and how we as individuals can allow wellness to happen
There is so much practical advice, too! Such as things we can do to smash the patriarchy a piece at a time - including and especially SLEEP. Oh, sleep is everything.
We talk a LOT about what stress is, what it does to your body, and what you can do to better handle the effects of it through the Stress Response Cycle. Short version: stress isn’t solved or dissolved by dealing with what caused the stress. Stress is a cycle that is completed by action, that we have to complete within and through our physical bodies, and incomplete stress cycles accumulate. But good news: reading romance is one way to help complete stress cycles and emotional cycles. To quote Amelia: “Romance novels are a nutritious part of this Burnout Prevention Strategy.”
Spoiler alert! At about 43:20 - 44:30: I spoil the ending of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World as we talk about the importance of completing emotional cycles in the entertainment we consume - and yes, this is part of why cliffhangers are so deeply upsetting.
Basically, your body is trying to take care of you, and there’s a lot more we can do to help ourselves out. Learning to take care of one’s own body is difficult, and this interview talks about some of these concepts, but the book explores them in greater detail. If you read our review, and yes, I’ll link to it in the show notes, you know that reading this book changed a number of the ways I treat myself, talk to myself, and care for myself, to be more patient and gentle and understanding of what my body is trying to do. I can’t recommend this book more highly.
And I can’t recommend this interview more emphatically. Amelia and Emily are, in their own words, trying to encourage us to "change the world by caring for each other and not letting the world demand of us what we are unable to give."
Rank #11: 241. Living and Writing in Alaska, and Making Your Own Fun: An Interview with Cathy Pegau
Rank #12: 295. Inclusive History, Magical Writing, and Fan Art: An Interview with KJ Charles
Some of the audio is a bit muddy in the recording, and my apologies for that.
We discuss what plot and structure are doing in a story, and spend even more time on examining what erasure does in historical settings. When people of color, people of different classes, queer people are erased from history, that has consequences, and Charles has a lot to say about those issues, especially why it matters right now that history is actively rewritten as entirely white, rich, cis gendered and heterosexual.
Other topics we discuss include:
Fan art, and works inspired by her books and characters - she has a gallery!
Use of magic in historical settings
World building rules that make for effective stories
Is there such a thing as correct use of a language? (Spoiler: not)
How being an editor influenced her writing, and vice versa
The importance of own voices in LGBT romance and in historical romance, and of representation of accurate history
The distinction between inclusion of diverse characters and writing experiences that are not one’s own
Big thanks to the Patreon community for questions and enthusiasm about this interview!
Rank #13: 353. Setting Boundaries and Getting Help: A Candid Conversation with Dr. Kelly J. Baker
But the core of this episode is talking about setting boundaries. Kelly and I have been having an ongoing casual email conversation about setting boundaries, especially within specific organizations and settings.
We talk about the expectations placed upon women in terms of
Social media interactions
Demands up on your time
External expectations of time and expertise
Organizations like the PTA
We are going to dish on PTA a LOT. I bet you have PTA stories. Bring it. Tell me about them.
We talk at length about the ways groups of people keep one another in line with damaging expectations, and how much shame and shaming play a role in that exercise. And without being explicit, we are also talking about emotional labor, and how, when people, often women, refuse to tolerate unpaid emotional labor, and say no, usually someone else who is vulnerable pays the price. It’s a whole thing.
As I read in Burnout, it can be a challenge to have empathy and compassion for a person or group who is trying to push you back in line with their expectations of your behavior, knowing that in a lot of ways they may be driven by internalized misogyny and patriarchy. Those expectations come in many different subtle, damaging messages, and we’re going to talk about some of them.
Kelly also touches on setting boundaries for yourself in working from home, or being self employed, and the pressure we put on ourselves to Produce All The Time.
We also talk at length about mental health, and mental health crises, and seeking therapy. Kelly recently wrote about the the cost of coming to terms with your own mental illness and asking for help.
And of course, we have book recommendations.
Rank #14: 224. Earl Had to Die: Sarah and Elyse Discuss Dr. Strange, Heroine Rage, and True Crime
Because this episode talks extensively about the endings of movies, books, and tv shows, it’s pretty spoiler-tactic. Alas, it’s nearly impossible to discuss vindication and catharsis in fiction without discussing the ending that makes it so. ALSO: Trigger Warning for rape and discussion of criminal justice system failings as pertains to rape victims.
Plus, after the outro, a rather inappropriate outtake wherein they rag on a former quarterback and on dick pics in general. Listener discretion advised.
Rank #15: 250. Being A Writer, and Being Yourself: An Interview with Sara Flynn and Meg Tilly
Trigger warning: 48:25 - 48:35 min
Earlier books published under the name Meg Tilly deal with child sexual abuse, and she mentions the plot of one that may be upsetting. So skip ahead if that might upset you, k? I want you to feel safe.
Rank #16: 240. Extraordinary Optimism Through History: An Interview with Alyssa Cole
Sometimes the connection was uneven and there are some crackles in the audio - my apologies. Alyssa lives in the caribbean, so it was a long, long, very long distance recording!
Rank #17: 341. The Self Care of Unapologetically Massive Happy Endings: An Interview with Adriana Herrera
We also discuss:
- Embracing and representing various lived experiences in a story: “It’s like seeing something in a museum, then taking the glass away and being able to touch it.”
- Moving from being in the community as a reader to being a debut author
- The layers of meaning in the names of characters in her series
- The occupational hazard of writing food p0rn
- How writing romance began as an exercise in self care while she completing her master’s degree in social work, and how she balances writing with her MSW
- How she focuses on making the “yes” of consent in a romance real and structurally sound
- What to means to level up characters so they are ready for real, committed relationships
And of course, we talk about what she’s working on, and what she’s reading.
Thank you to Leigh for her questions! When I asked the Patreon community for their ideas, Leigh wrote, “I am super excited Adriana is coming on the podcast! She is the loveliest and I'm so excited to read American Dreamer.”
TW/CW: Please be aware that because Adriana works with domestic violence, we touch on that topic a few times throughout the interview, particularly when we discuss writing consent and power dynamics and her work as a social worker.
Rank #18: 271. Dating as a Romance Author: A Conversation with Alisha Rai
So many listeners contacted me to let me know how much they enjoyed hearing Alisha talk about the intricacies of modern dating from the point of view of someone who is fluent in the romance genre. I’m so pleased to bring you a follow up interview!
Trigger warning: mention of Trump and his comments on sexual assault at 36:45.
Rank #19: 229. Romance, Dating, and Very Real Expectations: An Interview with Alisha Rai
Rank #20: 267. Recommendation Requests with Sarah and Amanda, Part the First!
So we start with reader requests for romances with beta heroes, friends to lovers, intelligent heroines, virginal characters, mystery romances and heroines in disguise. Along the way we talk about post-therapy food indulgences and both of our Very Large Cats who assisted during this episode.
This is a three-part conversation, so come back next week for even more fun and amazement at Amanda’s excellent memory.