I want to tell you about the time I went to a dinner party with not just one but two pimple patches on my face. And they weren't in any covert locations. They were noveau-beauty marks on my chin and too obvious for anyone but me to miss. So chic. So elegant.
So, I arrive at this dinner party with my front-and-center blemishes and my locally famous cheese tray which is on a large, heavy stoneware plate that weighs about as much as a toddler, and before I can even put the cheese child down, the host holds up a copy of In a Jam and says, “Loved it.”
There are many reasons why this kind of comment threw me for a loopsie-loop but chief among them is that I, author lady and patron saint of Friendship, Rhode Island, am mostly incognito in my private life. Most people know I write, some know I write romance, and a few are familiar with my books. It's always been my position that friends and family are welcome to pick up my books but it's never an expectation. I'm too much of a mood reader to hoist that kind of obligation on anyone.
However. It appeared that, while I was off being a shut-in and writing Shucked, my neighborhood got together and started chipping away at my backlist. And they wanted to talk about it.
Now, I'm going to let you in a secret that is bigger than the stress acne I acquired while shut-in and writing Shucked, which is that I am not equipped to converse about my books, in person, with real-life humans, on any old day. I can prepare for it when I'm going to a signing event. I was not prepared for any part of this dinner party. There is a significant difference--for me, at least--between writing books and stepping away from the keyboard and talking about the books I've written. Most of the time, I am in an ever-present cloud of Penn Station-style noise populated with characters and plots and editors and irrepressible inner critics.
On the one hand, it's fantastic because I can glance at a real estate listing for an old Boston carriage house and hear an entire debate between the Walshes. Any chapter where they were all together and yelling at each other basically flew out of my fingers. On the other, it's a very noisy cloud and those things are difficult to escape to be present in worlds that are not works of fiction.
Over the course of four hours, I discovered the pimple patches (to my great horror), learned that Gennie is universally adored (no surprise there), accepted a lot of love for Zelda and Shay, Stella and Jasper (also unsurprising), and marveled at the drunken bumblebee order in which some of my neighbors were reading (series order purists wouldn't simply clutch their pearls, they'd crush them in this fists. I'm not a purist so it's all good). That's when the discussion turned to starting a podcast to discuss my books, since there was so much more to talk about.
My friend, this was one of the most amusing ways I'd ever been blindsided. Even better than the time when, over a huge family Christmas dinner, one of my uncles piped up with, “So, how long have you been writing p*rn?”
Like I said earlier, I carry no sense of obligation for those around me to read my books. That much of my extended family does read is actually something I have to avoid making prolonged eye contact with should I ever want to write spicy bits ever again. But this evening, and the text messages I've been getting for the past few months about which books everyone is reading now and why it makes sense to go from Preservation to The Spire to The Cornerstone to The Space Between to Underneath It All, are all so stunningly delightful and unexpected.
The very best part was watching while people fell in love with love stories. So many of us have our own circuitous paths in and out of romance novels (I've talked about Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet and then the Quinn Brothers finding me at the precise moment I needed it most), and it's so great to say to someone, Yeah, you can read and love books that are fun and spicy and just f'ing hopeful because the whole world is burning and crumbling and we need cling to the tiniest bits of joy that we can find now more than ever. If we can't squirrel that joy and hope away for ourselves, we will burn and crumble right along with everything else, and that just won't do.
It was a good night, even though I arrived in pimple patches and I consumed zero ounces of alcohol and my chunky cheese tray died an early death when it teetered off the corner of a table and unceremoniously thunked to the floor.
★ I'm offering a signed and personalized copy of In a Jam (and whatever else I feel like sending the winner's way) for the Fall Into Romance auction! Ends Sunday, October 15!
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