Monday, April 13, 2009
Beyond Heaving Bosoms - Interview and Contest!
Funny, irreverent, insightful, and thorough, this guide zeros in on the joys and the woes of the romance genre.
-- Nora Roberts, NY Times bestselling author
A high-octane, hilarious, and relevatory look at the romance genre. . . This sparkling book is required reading. It's too much fun to be missed.
-- Lisa Kleypas, NY Times bestselling author
A Word from Carolyn
Those of you who've visited my blog may already know that for me, the acid test of a book's worthiness (imho!) is whether I decide to pass it along to my sister. She's a hard core mystery reader and I am slowly and slyly bringing her into the Romance world by handing over ONLY books I believe are really, really awesome.
Does Beyond Heaving Bosoms past the sister test? My God, there wasn't even a test. There was almost a fight, though. When my copy arrived, she saw me opening it gleefully and she said, What's that? and then she took the book from my hands and started flipping through it. And laughing. Loudly. We almost had a throw down just to make her give it back to me.
This book rocks.
OK, Sarah, the blog is yours. Go.
Leave a comment, win a book. Easiest giveaway ever! I'll send a signed copy of the Bosoms to a lucky reader who comments on this entry and tells me what, if anything, you're looking forward to in the Bitch Book. And if this is the first you're hearing of it, that's cool too - just say howdy!
Note from Carolyn: if you actually want to receive your awesome winning you must either leave an email address, have a blogger or google id that easily tracks to contact info for you, or else commit to watching this blog on, say, Friday April 17 (give or take a day) to see if you won. K?
Beyond Heaving Bosoms - About The Book
Wendell and Tan give a hilarious, no-holds-barred look at the ins and outs of romance novels.
With their biting humor and sarcastic commentary, the authors both mock and pay homage to this highly successful genre while giving delicious tidbits of information for hardcover romance lovers, curious dabblers, and skeptics alike. Sure, the authors visit the wild love scenes where the hero/heroine Must Have Sex NOW -- but they also speak with famous romance authors and explore how this genre has influenced gender and sexual roles in our society. Filled with witty remarks and an abundance of expletives, BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS provides insight on questions such as:
- Could romance novels be considered porn? (no)
- Why are the plots so cliché sometimes? (yes they can be cringingly bad but are always delicious in the end)
- Can we tame the hero? (hard, but definitely not impossible)
- What is the importance of the Magic Hoo Hoo and Heroic Wang of Mighty Lovin'? (I'm sure you can figure out what these are and have decided that yes They Are Very Important)
- What is the difference between Old Skool and New Skool romances?
Full of sarcasm and sass, Wendell and Tan bring new insight and irreverent commentary to a long frowned-upon genre. The authors dismiss these jaded perceptions and reinforce why romance novels have long been -- and will remain -- the best loved book genre. From insider advice on writing romance novels to discovering your inner Viking warrior, BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS shows that while some romance novels can be silly, maybe even tawdry; they're also intelligent, savvy, feminist, and fabulous -- just like the Smart Bitches.
10 Commandments of Heroine Conduct
- Thou shalt not lust in thy panties for any male's mighty wang due to normal sexual horny pants. Thou shalt lust in thy panties only for the mighty wang of the hero. There is no "ho" in heroine.
- Thou shalt not offer an accurate representation of the financial insecurities of women at the time period by actively looking for a hero of wealth and reputation, and admitting that thou art doing so without remorse. Just because every unmarried woman at that time actually was doing so is no excuse for similar behavior in a romance heroine.
- If thou art in a historical, thou shalt not be without a loyal, trusty servant, even though trusting the servant put the servant in a complicated position of power over her mistress, and really, a heroine who is blackmailed by her servants is scarcely a noble prototype of admirable behavior.
- Thou shalt not be aware of your beauty. Every villain, sleazy uncle, and otherwise able-bodied male who has ever clapped eyes on thee may make sexual overtures on thee, but thou shalt remain in blissful oblivion.
- Thou shalt have a nurturing streak larger and warmer than the South China Sea. Thy desire for children shall be unquestioned and unperturbed by real-life concerns such as the cost of child rearing, reproductive choice, and child-support payments (in contemporaries), or the dangers ofchildbearing (in historicals). And shouldst thou choose to remain child-free, thou freak of nature, verily though shouldst display your nurturing streak with animals. Preferably cute, neurotic ones.
- If thou shalt have a baby with the hero prior to getting together with him, thou shalt keep this baby a secret.
- Thy amnesia shalt be sexy and not be complicated by distinctly unsexy side effects such as loss of motor control, speech impediments, loss of cognitive skills, and inability to control bodily functions.
- Thou shalt not win against the hero in any significant way. A few moral victories shall be thine; all other substantive victories shalt lie with the hero, for yea, his wang is mighty.
- If in a historical, thou shalt desire escape from the domestic sphere. If a contemporary, thou shalt desire escape from a soul-sucking career. If in a paranormal, thou shalt desire escape from the superpowers and eternal life that have been foisted unwillingly upon thee.
- Thou shalt not kill, unless it be accidental or under extremely limited circumstances. Thou especially shalt not be an efficient killer, unless thou art in a paranormal and thou killest most nonhuman bad guys who verily had it coming to their asses.
About the Authors - Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan, the Smart Bitches
Sarah Wendell is a transplanted Pittsburgher currently living in New York metropolitan area. By day she's 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. 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. Sarah is co-author of the seminal monument to all things romance: Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels.
Candy Tan is currently a perpetually sleep-deprived law student who lives in Portland, Oregon with two cats and seven bookcases (all of them double--even triple--stacked). She looks forward to becoming a less sleep-deprived lawyer. She is startled and gleeful whenever she meets people who have heard of Smart Bitches before they ever met her, and has been known to introduce herself as "Your friendly local D-list Internet celebrity" at parties.
Interview with Smart Bitch Sarah
Q: What made you decide to write this book? What's the passion behind it?
A: Once Rose Hilliard from St. Martin's Press gave us the idea, we realized we had a TON of things about the romance genre that we wanted to discuss and illustrate through our own odd style of comedy. So the passion behind the book is simple: we love romance novels, and it's high time we paid critical attention to what makes them wonderful, what makes them woefully bad, and why so many women love them, too.
Q: Milk chocolate or dark?
A: Dark. With currants, hazelnuts, or crystallized ginger, please.
Q: Romance, unlike any other genre of writing, seems to be judged solely by its flaws, as if flawed books define the genre and cancel out everything else. Can you talk a little bit about how your book attempts (if you feel it does) to reconcile the highs and lows of the genre?
A: We definitely think it attempts to reconcile he highs and the lows of the genre. For example: yes, in old skool romance, there were bodices ripped, hymens stolen, and heroines raped. It's true. But we also talk at length (hur) about the fact that one, this doesn't happen in romances published today, and more importantly, even in the heyday of the rapetastic hero, there is a very important distinction that isn't mentioned nearly enough. In most canonical literature, the wages of premarital sex were death, diesase, disgrace, or all three. Consider "Pamela" and its ilk: even if a heroine were raped through no fault of her own, the loss of her hymen equaled instant moral turpitude and a future of degredation and loss, with no recovery of social status or even personal happiness.
But in a romance novel, she who may have had her hymen plucked against her will ... has a happy ending. There might be varying levels of remorse on the part of the hero, but she will achieve some access to sexual agency, establish some degree of self-actualization, and have. a. happy. ending.
No other genre allows a happy ending for a heroine who engages, forcibly or by choice, in premarital sex. The subtext is powerful: sexually awakened heroines are not on the short track to death and ostracization. There is value inherent in that subtext that isn't nearly appreciated enough.
So by highlighting those flaws, or even the more shameful and embarrassing bits of romance's narrative history, we can also discover the subversion and potential empowerment of women inherent in romance's core. Those flaws don't look so much like flaws when examined critically, especially against the total anthropologically-rich history of women's sexuality that comprises the whole of the romance genre.
Q: Let’s talk ISM's: Sexism, Feminism, Chauvinism, Reverse-isms and any others you want to throw in there. One could argue, convincingly, I think, that the reason Romance enjoys (with full irony intended) its poor reputation, has to do with the fact that romances are primarily read and written by women. Do you agree with me on that? How does your book contribute to the conversation?
A: Ayup. I surely do. It's absolutely ludicrous that a billion dollar industry created by women operating independent businesses writing female-centered narratives for an audience of mostly women who never cease with the dedicated bookbuying isn't taken more serious from an economic, social, political or even literary point of view. Sometimes I huff at this slight and think, "Well, screw you. More for me to read." And other times I want to knock heads together because there's so much to discover and appreciate within romance that few people ever realize.
But in many fields and -isms in our society, anything produced by and for women is automatically less-than, marginalized, and not taken as seriously. Our book attempts to contribute to the conversation by highlighting some of the literary achievements at work within the genre, and also by including copious amount of literary theory that is usually only applied to canonical works. We discuss Jungian shadow selves, heteronormativity, and feminist lit crit while also paying attention to the man-titty, the Mighty Wang of Lovin', and the importance of the mullet.
Q: Pirates. They rock. How come? Or, why not?
A: Current pirates, in dinghies attacking freighters, suck and suck bigtime. I have a friend in the Navy who is deployed to fight pirates. It's kind of funny to say out loud but the core of what he's doing is dangerous.
Historical romance pirates? Buckling of swashes? Swashing of buckles? Cross dressing heroines, charming pet pigs or pet geese? Tortured noblemen disguised as marauding pirates? Shirts unbuttoned but still tucked in, with wide leather belts, man-titty and long, erect, powerful swords matched only by the stalwart mizzen mast? Candy and I both love it and love it hard. From undermining of heterosexist archetypes to revealing a heroine of nuanced cleverness beneath a clueless exterior, pirate romances done well have it all.
Q: 5-10 years from now, you're preparing an updated edition of your book. What will you be adding, deleting and updating?
A: Wait, what? More Bosoms? From your lips to the publisher's ears!
The updated edition would have to revisit some of the perennial questions that plague romance, such as sexuality, sexual content, plagiarism, and hero and heroine expectations.
But in 5 to 10 years I'd hope like hell we would have a definitive and unmistakable recognition of the importance and fundamental power of digital publishing, and that primarily digital publishers who have demonstrated their acumen as romance publishing houses would by that time be taken seriously and recognized. In 5-10 years, it may be that most of us read romance digitally - that alone could be several chapters of discussion.
Q: Someone who doesn't read romance reads your book. What happens to her afterward? Does his brain implode? Is she whisked into an alternate dimension in which men are alpha and the women kick ass? Assuming this hypothetical reader has a fairly open mind, what do you hope he takes away from his reading experience? Will she end up with an idea of where to start her newly-informed reading?
A: Since we include tons of recommendations from just about every subgenre we could think of, I'd hope a curious reader would find at least a few titles to start with. If anything, I hope that a reader unfamiliar with romance might read our book and realize that by dismissing romance, one is missing the opportunity to read and experience some truly incredible narrative fiction.
Q: Do you have a favorite section of your book? Funniest line?
A: Favorite section? Oh, boy. Probably the sexual mythology of romance novels, in which I discuss all the things that happen in sex scenes in romance novels that can't possibly happen in real life. And my favorite line: the last line of the book itself.
Carolyn here: OK, I peeked at the last line. Yeah, me, too.
Q: Talk about what drew you into romance in the first place and how you got from there to writing a book about the genre.
A: The short version is, I was not a good reader in school and was never curious or challenged by or even interested in many of the books being taught in class. I didn't want to answer the same questions being asked of the same twelve books every year, and I developed a sense that there was something wrong with me that I couldn't appreciate these giant thick massive books. Then, in high school, the class valedictorian (the girl - there were two and I married the other one) introduced me to romance novels, and boy howdy was I a happy girl. This was back in the day of the pack-every-historical-detail-in-each-chapter historical romances, and I got a crash-course in English history, language, social customs, society, and, let's face it, sexuality. I was hooked.
Once I discovered the genre, I read as much as I could, and pondered the different facets of the genre - but never had anyone to discuss it with, really. Not that many people I knew read romance or would talk about it.
Then came the internet. And it was good.
Q: Man-Titty. I think you guys may actually have coined that phrase. Does your book uncover the subject? If so, why, and (if you have your author copies yet) what page numbers?
A: The man-titty has been uncovered on its own for years now. It's hard to miss! But we did uncover a discussion of what cover images sell, and WHY they sell. It's sort of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: do clinch covers sell because they are visual shorthand for romance, or is romance best represented by the clinch cover, and ergo it sells?
Q: Anything else you want to add or talk about?
A: Nope - I'm tired. Thank you for the opportunity, though. It was an honor to be interviewed by you!
Smart Bitch Sarah
Smart Bitches Trashy Books LLC
Co-Author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels
Buy from Amazon
posted by Carolyn @ 4/13/2009 09:26:00 PM Permalink
The commandments were fab, especially "...there is no ho in heroine" and "...a few moral victories will be yours..."
And dare I say it, the differentiation between IRL pirates (so ungood)and the paperback version (so excellent) seems symbolic of the whole debate, in a way. OK it's very late and I may not have thought that one all the way through.
Thanks for the interview.
As for why I would like a copy of the book---I just want to be able to freak people out on the Metro.
'Probably the sexual mythology of romance novels, in which I discuss all the things that happen in sex scenes in romance novels that can't possibly happen in real life'
LOL ok so I'll admit I'm not looking forward to my bubble of complete virginal ignorance being burst (half-kidding, I know guys in books do it better and it takes a rare man to compare and compete with the extremely vigorous, not to mention talented, Lucian or Sebastian and the odd Bobby-Tom), mostly I want to read the cliches and the discussion on porn (which I vehemently answer no to as well).