This month, I’m delighted to bring you an interview with the amazing Sarah Wendell who runs Smart Bitches Trashy Books, which is one of those rare sites that has built up a strong community around it.

 

Hi Sarah, welcome to the RNA blog. Your blog has the strap line ‘all of the romance, none of the bullshit’. What is the ethos of the blog? Can you tell us about the community that has grown up around the site?
The purpose of Smart Bitches is to connect romance readers with one another, and with the books they want to read. We want to be a welcoming and fun community for anyone who loves romance or is curious about it to talk honestly and critically about the books and the genre we love. The community spans the globe, which is always astonishing to me, and includes people of every age group and gender.


You came to the RNA conference in 2016, which is a much, much smaller event than the enormous RWA convention. Apart from the difference in size, how do you feel the romance market in the UK differs to that in the USA?
I had a great time, too! I always appreciate any conference that includes a tea break! There were so many subtle differences but the affection for the genre and stories of optimism was very similar. While I can’t speak specifically to the market since I don’t have much expertise in publishing, I gathered from my conversations with different attendees that there are similarities in translation, too: small town contemporaries in the US translate to Cornwall settings, for example. UK romance fiction and romantic fiction will not ever run out of tea shops and bake shops, which is also a relief!

What advice would you give someone submitting a book to you for review?
Alas, the life of a writer is always pitching, one pitch after another, in multiple directions, and the same is true of review pitches. I’m sorry about that!  A good pitch for review explains the book’s plot briefly, the hook or major trope elements that it may contain (friends to lovers! Trapped in a treehouse!) and, if possible, which reviewer might be best suited if the pitch is directed specifically.

More information on how to submit a book for review.

What, in your opinion, makes a good romance novel?
THIS IS SUCH A MEAN QUESTION OH MY GOSH, RHODA. A good romance novel can include many different elements, but my favorites across all genres contain both internal and external conflict, characters who evolve as real and thoughtful people who aren’t perfect, and an underlying optimism that reaches a happy ever after.

Is there a romance trope/ sub genre you’d like to see more of? Why?
I have lately loved traveling through my reading, so more romances set in new places, and not the tourist version thereof, would be delightful for me. I also love what many readers (myself included) call “competence porn,” which feature characters who are deeply skilled at what they do, and demonstrate their competence throughout the story.

How do you like to spend your time when not working or reading?
When I’m not working or reading, if it’s dark, I’m probably sleeping. Otherwise, I’m cooking (while listening to audiobooks, so still reading), walking my dogs (while listening to audiobooks, so still STILL reading) or cross stitching (again (while listening to audiobooks, so still STILL OMG STILL reading).

We often ask industry professionals what they consider to be the next “big thing” – what do you hope to see in 2018?
I don’t know if it’s a big thing so much as a change I see as a requirement, but the genre needs to be better represent the people who read and write it, and every step in that direction gives me utter joy.

Thank you for the fabulous interview, Sarah. I’ll let you get back to your reading now!

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Sarah Wendell is the co-founder of Smart Bitches, and the author of novella Lighting the Flames and the book Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels. Sarah is also the co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels, published in April 2009 by Touchstone Fireside. Yes, Sarah really does seem to like Really Long Titles for things!

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Rhoda Baxter writes feel good stories about strong women and nice guy heroes. She especially likes it when they make her laugh. You can find out more about her award nominated books and mentoring services on www.rhodabaxter.com

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