Introducing Sarah Wendell!
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. 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 the co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels (2009), and author of Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels (2011).
Sarah Wendell is a fascinating woman. I was first introduced to her through her much discussed, and sometimes, controversial site, www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com. But what I didn’t know, or understand, until I read Sarah’s new book, Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels, was just how much she loves the romance genre.
Sarah Wendell is a romance junkie. (Like me! Like so many of you!)
She is also a fan of some of my most favorite authors…Loretta Chase and Georgette Heyer, to name just two, and she has sections in her book that literally warmed my heart (her chapter ‘We Know How to Spot Real Life Heroes and Heroine’ is awesome), so I’ve asked Sarah to talk to us today a bit about who she is as a reader, a writer, and yes, the feared book reviewer.
Sarah, okay–reviewing can’t always be easy, because if you’re honestly reviewing, or giving an honest review, you’re not going to love everything everyone writes. I know I don’t love everything even my favorite authors write, so it has to take some thick skin. Was there ever a point you said–I don’t like doing this? Or were you able to step into big-girl panties from the start, and separate you, the woman/wife/mom from you, the reviewer?
I haven’t reached a point where I have said, “I don’t like doing this,” and I hope I never do. I love what I do, and I love that I talk to readers about books at any hour of the day. That part is wonderful fun. I can separate the job from me as a mom or wife or silly person, but there’s a piece of that role in me every moment anyhow. I can compartmentalize my priorities – i.e. not checking email for the next few hours because ZOO! – but I’m still the reviewer and the mom and the person who likes to makes silly jokes no matter what the priority is at that moment. It’s just a question of what my most urgent task is when I am working. Plus, I think everyone is reviewing something more and more frequently. We’re invited as consumers to give feedback and stars and comments and reviews for all sorts of services and commerce opportunities. Like I said, nothing is exempt from review, and that goes for books, too. Books most especially, because finding someone whose tastes align with yours is invaluable to a dedicated, curious reader!
What is your perception of social media marketing and how can it help an author’s business goals?
Social media enables a writer to connect directly with her readers. There are few connections more powerful than that- there’s no one between you. For most readers, being able to speak directly to an author whose books they love is a terrific and exciting thing, and never gets old. If an author’s business goals include building a name that is recognizable, social media interaction is a key component – most forms of social media are free to join, and many have readers already there.
How much time should authors spend on social media every week?
As much as is beneficial, but not so much that it harms productivity and creativity. That’s a different amount for every person.
Your advice on how authors should handle negative reviews on social media and review sites?
No one is exempt from reviews. Not the vacuum cleaner, not the restaurants we eat at, not the things we buy, the things we wear, and the things we consume. Everything gets reviewed.
Therefore, no book is exempt from reviews. This is what you signed up for when you published a book: people will review it. They might not like it. That’s ok.
Your enemy is not a negative review from a reader who did not like your book. Your enemy is no review, and no one talking about your book at all.
Let’s switch hats, and shift from Sarah the critic to Sarah the writer. Was there anyone or anything that helped inspire you to be a writer?
Email! Honestly. In the beginning of …whoa, I get to say “my writing career,” DUDE THAT IS AMAZING. Anyway, in the beginning, before I found online journals, I’d email rants about crap drivers or how much I hated this one billboard or why my cats were insane to my friends, and receive replies asking for more. Then I found online journals and was inspired by those writers to be more brave and more public about what I thought and what I wanted to say. But initially, it was email – I could type and rant and send and get instant replies. That feedback loop can be addictive.
So let’s talk about your new book!
Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels – by Sarah Wendell
Take a dashing hero with a heart of gold and a mullet of awesome. Add a heroine with a bustle and the will to kick major butt. Then include enough contrivances to keep them fighting while getting them alone and possibly without key pieces of clothing, and what do you have? A romance novel. What else? Enough lessons about life, love, and everything in between to help you with your own happily-ever-after.
•Romance means believing you are worthy of a happy ending
•Learning to tell the prince from the frog
•Real-life romance is still alive and kicking
•No matter how bad it is, at least you haven’t been kidnapped by a Scottish duke (probably)
Sarah, I bought a copy of Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels, at Nora Roberts’ book store in April and I love it. It’s creative, fun, inspiring. I think my readers who embrace romance, would, enjoy it, too. Can you tell us more about it?
I describe Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels as something of a book-sized party for the romance genre. While the first book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms, was critical and evaluative in nature, EIKAL is all about celebrating the parts of the romance genre that are so valuable to the readers and writers who enjoy it. If I could arrange streamers, balloons, party horns, and confetti to explode from the pages when someone opened it, I would, but I suspect bookstores and libraries would find that especially tiresome. My goal when I wrote it was to rebuke in as many possible ways the idea that romance has no value. On the contrary, the stories and characters of many romance novels offer subtle and sometimes seditious messages about honor, courage, sexual autonomy, self actualization (to use Pam Regis’ term), commitment, and the process of maintaining healthy, happy relationships.
My other goal was to give readers a piece of “Good Book Noise,” which is my name for that sigh when someone finishes a book that makes them feel very happy and intellectually and emotionally sated. It’s a lofty goal, and I can’t ever know for sure if I achieved it with every reader, but so many books have given me that feeling over the years, I wanted to give a piece of it back. Romances that have left me with that wonderful feeling of blissful intellectual satisfaction are among my most treasured books – I still have most of them. And that connection to the books we romance readers love is one of the major parts of the genre that I wanted to celebrate.
So some easy things to answer now! What’s your astrological sign?
Gemini! My birthday is this week, in fact!
Vampire, werewolf, alien or ghost?
Vampire werewolf alien billionaire viscount secret cowboy tycoon, please.
Best book signing moment?
Every single time someone comes up to me and asks if I would sign their book. It never gets old, it is always so exciting, and I get giddy every time.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Be Yourself. Always.
Sarah, thanks so much for sharing with us! I really enjoyed having you here and know my readers and friends will enjoy this sneak peek into the writing/reviewing world.
Readers, do check out Sarah’s website to learn more about her, and what this talented woman does in the book world. To celebrate Sarah’s visit on my JaneBlog, I’m giving away, to two lucky winners, a copy of Sarah’s novel Everything I know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels, a Starbucks drink card, a small stack of romances, and lots of fun JP goodies! For a chance to win, tell me how much emphasis you put on reviews before you buy a book. Contest runs through Friday, and I’ll announce winners on Saturday.