Romantic Novelists' Association

Caroline O’donoghue: Sentimental Garbage Podcast

10 December 2018

Today I’m delighted to be talking to Caroline from the Sentimental Garbage podcast – which specialises in discussing chicklit. Hi Caroline, welcome to the RNA blog.


You’ve just started a new podcast ‘Sentimental Garbage’ which specialises in talking about chicklit. Can you tell us about the team behind the podcast?

Sentimental Garbage is created by author Caroline O’Donoghue and producer Hannah Varrall, both of whom met working in women’s media. Together with comedian Alexandra Haddow, they created the general knowledge comedy podcast School for Dumb Women in June 2017 and are now continuing the brand with Sentimental Garbage

How did the podcast come about and is there a specific ethos behind it?

I love book podcasts, but I noticed that every books podcast I listen to caters to a certain kind of book: usually reasonably highbrow literary fiction, established classics or, occasionally, young adult/fantasy series that are being turned into expensive TV shows. There’s nothing to do with romance fiction or commercial women’s fiction in general – which is crazy, when you consider that million and millions of these books are sold every year, but there’s very few people giving these authors the same critical respect as they do for, say, Zadie Smith. Why is that? What makes White Teeth so much more deserving of discussion and critique then Watermelon by Marian Keyes?

The more I looked into this and spoke to people who work in the industry, I discovered that people who put out commercial women’s fiction have a huge problem with this! Magazines, newspapers, podcasts, radio shows – if there’s a place discussing books, they will only discuss chick-lit if it claims to be “with a new twist”. So, they will only talk about chick-lit if it’s enough not like chick-lit to be deemed “respectable”.

What’s the best thing about running a podcast?

That you can make your own rules! Podcasting is such an evolving format that you decide how long it is, who you talk to, what you talk to them about – and no one can really tell you what to do or how to do it. It’s still a new enough art form that people are still inventing new ways to tell stories, but old enough (because it’s so rooted in the radio tradition) that there’s enough of a blueprint to go by.

What’s the worst bit about running a podcast?

It’s so much more time consuming than you think it’s going to be – even arranging a time and place for your guests is usually 10-to-15 emails. And that takes time! And you’re usually not getting paid for them!

If RNA members wanted to take part on in the podcast or get involved in the community you’re forming, how would they do that?

The twitter is the best place (@SentimentalPod)! All news is through there, and periodically I invent romantic plots for our followers.

What makes an ideal podcast guest?

Someone who immediately forgets that they are talking on a podcast, and just enjoys the conversation they’re having. Some guests need a lot more coaxing, because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. To these people, we always remind them that we edit everything, and we would never stitch them up.

How do you like to spend your spare time (assuming you have any spare time!)?

Spare time is genuinely a premium at the moment: I’m a novelist, a podcaster and a journalist so almost everything I do gets funnelled back into work, whether it’s reading or watching a movie. You’re always thinking: “what can I take from this?” Or: “I wonder if I can write a piece about this…” Walking the dog is probably the one thing I do that doesn’t have a professional aspect to it.

Is there a romance trope/ sub genre you’d like to see more of? Why?

I think in the 1990s, romance novelists were much happier writing plots that had smaller stakes. Like, take Bridget Jones: even if she never got with Mark Darcy, her life would have been probably fine. These days it feels like a lot of romance novelists are aping the Jojo Moyes thing, where someone is always dying, or has cancer, or has a brain tumor. Why can’t we just have people falling in love? Do we need it to be a matter of life and death every time?

We often ask our guests what they consider to be the next “big thing” – what do you hope to see more of in 2019?

I think we’re going to see a lot more queer stories cropping up in mainstream chicklit. One thing that always bothers me is that gay people in romance fiction tend to be very sidelined, either the best friend of the heroine or the comedy-twist (“you thought she was stealing your man, but she’s actually a lesbian!”) Young Adult is getting really good for this. I loved Becky Albertelli’s Leah on the Off Beat, about a young bisexual girl falling in love with the high school cheerleader) and I would love to see chicklit catchup.



Thank you for coming to chat to us, Caroline and Happy Holidays!

The Sentimental Garbage podcast starts broadcasting on the 16th of December. You can find out more (and buy them a cup of coffee) on their website.




Rhoda Baxter writes feel good stories about strong women and nice guy heroes. She especially likes it when they make her laugh. She also writes multi-cultural romances as Jeevani Charika. You can find out more about her award nominated books and mentoring services on