Monday, May 4, 2009

DANGER: Laughter Ahead—Smart Bitches Working Together

I love a good Romance.

One of the enduring qualities that draw us to romance time and again is the fact they are love stories and traditionally they have an emotionally satisfying ending. Romance stories can be set in practically any time or place. Some like their romance sweet and some—like me—love them hot.

Sarah Wendell, my guest Over Coffee is unabashedly, a lover of Romance novels. Sarah, along with Candy Tan, is part of the dynamic duo known as Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You may have read their very popular blog by the same name,
http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/. Together, Sarah and Candy co-authored the popular book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels. As a writer, I have collaborated with others to write. I can tell you it’s not easy and it’s not always smooth sailing, particularly when blending different writing styles and voices into a cohesive end product. So, I wondered how the two of them were able to work together to write such a fantastically funny, irreverent book, especially considering they don’t even live near each other?

I had questions and Sarah was happy to give some me answers:




Sia said, when I asked what she'd like me to write about, that she "was interested in how the two of you took a project such as this and worked together to produce the finished product--I'm sure the tale was full of the usual frustrations, glitches, laughter, and the satisfaction of a job well done. [What were] the reactions of those authors you did contact when they found out what you were doing?"

Since we started the site in 2005, Candy and I have been in the same place at the same time exactly twice. Once in Dallas at the 2006 RWA National, and then in San Francisco at the 2007 RWA National Conference. It could be their new slogan! "RWA: Bringing Smart Bitches Together - and Damn the Consequences."

So we're very used to working online, despite the four-hour time difference between us, and the complete differences of our schedules. When it came time to writing the book, we had a few goals:
  • it was absolutely not going to be reprinting of any content that already appeared online.

  • it would be longer pieces and fun ideas that we really couldn't produce within the limitations and confines of a blog. So we had ideas from illustrations to games to Choose Your Own Man-Titty.

  • it would be part analysis, part fun, part goofy, and all awesome. Or as awesome as we could make it, anyway.


I started out by drafting an outline of things we wanted to touch on in each chapter, and we divided that up and added or subtracted as necessary. Ultimately we emailed chapters back and forth, editing and resubmitting to each other until we had a workable manuscript.

That was about 18,000 words over the limit.

Oops.

So we edited—same process. The thing about working with Candy that I like best is, well, two pronged. A hemipene of positivity, if you will. First, from the start of the website to the formation of Beyond Heaving Bosoms, our goal was partly to crack each other up. Few people make me laugh as hard as Candy, and few people impress me more with their creative ease and twisting subversion of language. Second, we are each other's best editors. She's very, very good at taking content wherein I am way too long winded and cutting out the unnecessary parts.

The best part of writing the book, however, was how enthusiastic folks were when I contacted them for interviews. By the time we had the complete manuscript with all the edits, I realized that in a unique way, Beyond Heaving Bosoms spans sub-genres and publishing houses and unites authors and readers (two traits that are often conveniently housed in the same person) with one common message: that romance is wonderful, sometimes hilarious, and absolutely ought to be taken seriously. I think that because we were clearly writing an affectionate guide to the genre, the people we contacted for interviews were receptive and very generous with their time (thank you!).

I had email interviews and phone conversations with authors whose books I've adored, and publishers who I've only seen on panels at conferences or seen mentioned in the acknowledgments of a book, and all of them said, "I'm so glad you are doing this." To be honest, their enthusiasm made the writing part so much easier, and also so much more intimidating, because I then had to do justice to their faith that we could adequately represent the entire genre and what makes it wild, wooly, and wonderful. No pressure, or anything.

The one person who wouldn't return my calls or email messages? Fabio.



John DeSalvo, on the other hand, was a marvelous interview subject and I learned about the entire process of creating a romance cover from him, and artist Jon Paul.

The reactions of the people we contacted while writing Beyond Heaving Bosoms was probably the first and greatest indication that our approach to the genre and our affectionate examination of it from the best of the best to the mullety of the mullets, might be received by an equally eager and enthusiastic audience. So far, our reader mail, reviews, and the reactions from people at our book signings have been tremendous confirmation of what we suspected all along: that smart, savvy people love romance novels, and love nothing more than finding fellow romance lovers who recognize honestly the diverse power of romance novels. We're pleased and proud to be among the smart women and men who read romance.




***
By day Sarah Wendell is mild mannered and heavily caffeinated. By evening she dons her cranky costume, consumes yet more caffeine, and becomes Smart Bitch Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/

The site specializes in reviewing romance novels, examining the history and future of the genre, and bemoaning the enormous prevalence of bodacious pectorals adorning male cover models. In April 2009, Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels was born, published by Touchstone Fireside and co-authored by Sarah and her partner in nefarious deeds, Candy Tan.


Sarah has spoken at Romance Writers of America’s national conference, at the Romantic Times BookLovers’ Convention, and at several RWA chapter conferences and meetings. Sarah was invited to speak as part of the closing plenary panel at the first academic conference devoted to the romance genre, Love as the Practice of Freedom, at Princeton University in April 2009. Her writing has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Tango Magazine, and in the SmartPop book Grey’s Anatomy 101: Seattle Grace, Unauthorized. Sarah has appeared on The Today Show, the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Steven and Chris Show, and on Too Many Books. Sarah has been quoted in The New York Times, The New York Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times Book Blog, Metro:New York, and Publishers Weekly.

Picture of John DeSalvo is published here with John's permission. Thank you John, :-)

22 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

I want to give a warm welcome to Sarah Wendell along with Candy Tan, who is part of the dynamic duo known as Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) there's hot muffins and scones, and join in the discussion!

Netti said...

Awesome post and I think what you two have done with the book is fantastic!

As always Sia, love your blog ;)

Judi Fennell said...

I can attest to the speaking engagement at RT - a fun time was had by all. And those bosom cookies at the signing - omg, laugh-out-loud hysterical! (courtesy of Alesia Holliday).

See you in DC, Sarah!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Great blog post. This book is making the rounds of my CG. We all need a good laugh these days and enjoy the love of what we do.

Thanks Sarah, and thanks Sia for hosting!

Cheers-

~Sia McKye~ said...

Judi, there were bosom cookies? What a grand idea! I can see where cookies like that would be a great marketing ploy and be received with lots of laughter. And it would make the book something to remember.

I've heard Sarah speak. She's funny and knows how to play to the audience.

Ps. Mermaids would make good cookies, just sayin'

~Sia McKye~ said...

Nancy, Laughter is the best medicine! This book was both informative, and wildly funny. I loved the diagram on how to tell Old Skool and New Skool romance novels. I was cracking up so hard as I read that.

It's a good read.

Anonymous said...

Sia!

Another awesome post! Thank you. xoxox

Sarah and Candy - you both sound like people I'd like to know...Smart and dynamic! I can't wait to get the book...it sounds more than interesting!

Sia, thatnks for the chat and coffee ~ I enjoyed it!

Hugs
Hawk

Sheila Deeth said...

Great chat, and I actually read it with coffee in hand today.

Dana Fredsti said...

I absolutely can't wait to read this. Sia, another wonderful guest and I always enjoy your coffee!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Shiela!

Dana, that's because I don't do wimpy coffee and have plenty of treats--can you imagine if it wasn't virtual? Yes, I really do bake scones and muffins. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sarah will be stopping by later today. Her servants are on strike and she has to actually work today, lololol!

Christine Husom said...

What a fun group! The tour must have been a hoot. Great post--thanks.

Kat Sheridan said...

I heard there were scones, muffins, bosom cookies, and Sia's coffee, and just had to stop by (I have a google alert set to "cookie")! I've been hearing about this book and the rave reviews and can't wait to get my hands on a copy! And how wonderful, Sarah (and Candy) that you were able to put this together working this way! There's nothing so wonderful in the writing world as having a partner you can trust (and who can make you laugh!) Sia, another great blog!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Chris! I'm so glad to see you here! :-) It's always nice when other authors stop by.

Sarah is in the middle of a pretty hectic tour for her book. Many times, readers don't understand how exhausting tours can be and that's true whether you are doing Blog tours or book tours. Sarah is doing both. In fact she has two book tour engagements in NJ tomorrow.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, so it was my coffee that drew you here, eh? Hmmm, the last time I checked there were muffins, scones, and other goodies. *peering in the cornucopia of goodies...Bosom cookies? Nope, Sarah has been holding out on us. She offers them to RT conference goers, but none shared here? Sheesh.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Sia! Hi Sarah! Congratulations on Heaving Bosoms. Hmm, I think my PE teacher said that to me after I tried to run 100m. No, she didn't - she thought I wasn't trying, I was so slow and she made me run it again when I was even slower. Oh, the miseries of being an absolute klutz in PE class. You can see why I spent a lot of my adolescence lost in the magic of romance novels, can't you? Sarah, you guys are everywhere. What was it like talking to Alan Brough on Oz radio? As I think you will have gathered by now, he has a bit of a cult following thanks to a wonderful musical quiz show here called Spicks and Specks. Sadly, I missed the show! Whaaah! But I hear you stood up for Aussie romance writers like a huge gum tree!

Claire Collins said...

Remember when the term "Heaving bosoms" was scandalous? And now it's comical. I'm glad to be part of the modern romance authors! Great post!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Claire, it was at one time, wasn't it? Times change and so do we, eh? The book is really good tho, believe me you'll laugh. A Lot. thanks for stopping by.:-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anna, I tried to get the show to stream on my computer. No luck. I hope he offers a replay of it on the radio site.

And if you were as good in PE as you are at writing, the running world would have gotten a star!

thank you for stopping by.

Pat Bertram said...

You make romance novels sound like so much fun. Maybe I'll have to grab a cup of coffee, pick up a romance, and indulge myself.

Or not. I think I'll pass on the coffee. Steamy romances and steamy drinks might be too much for me.

Thanks for introducing us to another great guest.

SB Sarah said...

Hi folks! Indeed, I am exhausted. I don't know if this is common knowledge but Smart Bitches isn't my day job. I have another full time job so that plus book stuff plus the blog plus the other parts of my life combined means I want cloning and I want it NOW.

Barring that, more caffeine please! So thanks for being patient with me. Am tired bitch.

Thanks for the enthusiasm and the compliments! I'm turgidly proud of the book, but more importantly of romance as a genre, and hope that folks can learn to appreciate the novels we adore.

Kat: I have to say, writing with a partner is intimidating and rewarding. I'm not the only one looking at what I write ...and conversely, I'm not the only one looking at what I write. I can't be blinded by my own brilliance!

Anna Campbell:"What was it like talking to Alan Brough on Oz radio?"

AWESOME. I'm hoping it's up on a podcast soon or at least available in snippets because Candy and I had a BALL cracking him up. He'd read a digital copy of the book and loved it, and it was a pleasure talking to someone who had a tremendously sharp sense of humor and who could appreciate both the savvy and the silly things about romance novels.

And HELL YEAH I pimped Aussie and Kiwi authors like a big gum tree (Aren't there kookaburras up in there or something?). You guys rule.

And big heaping thanks (and warm chocolate croissants) to Sia for having me here. Pass the coffee? Need more caffeine.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you for being my guest Over Coffee, Sarah. :-)

ps, for people like you Have an IV, lolol!