Shelf Love

2 North, and 2 South: Romance Catnip

Short Description

Part 2 of the conversation about North and South with Helena Greer. AI generated these action items from the transcript of this episode. AI responses can be inaccurate or misleading.

[ ] Schedule a kiss scene between the main characters for modern audiences [ ] Make the male protagonist more sympathetic by toning down his violent behavior [ ] Make the female protagonist more likable and relatable to modern romance audiences [ ] Follow a beat sheet to hit expected pacing and plot points for romance novels

Show Notes

Part 2 of the conversation about North and South with Helena Greer. AI generated these action items from the transcript of this episode. AI responses can be inaccurate or misleading.

This is part 2 of the conversation about North and South. Check out episode 136 for part 1.

Shelf Love:

Discussed: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and North and South the 2004 BBC adaptation starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe

SAVE the Cat:

Guest: Helena Greer

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Storyloom Choose Your Own Adventure

Helena Greer is a long time librarian and romance reader, and recent romance novelist. She has a degree in mythography and is interested in deconstructing the social context around the decisions storytellers make about how to frame --or reframe-- their stories.


Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Shelf Love, a podcast about romance novels and how they reflect, explore, challenge, and shape, desire. I'm your host, Andrea Martucci, and on this episode, I'm joined by writer, sex educator, and librarian Helena Greer to discuss North and South.

Nicholas: This is part 2 of the conversation about North and South. Check out episode 136 for part 1.

Another quick announcement: you can now find Shelf Love on Substack.

subscribe for free at to read dispatches and musings about romance novels.

Andrea Martucci: So why do you think they made the changes other than, okay, yes, sometimes you need things to be different for brevity. Like in the commentary on the first episode of the adaptation, they were talking about how to deal with the fact that in the novel, there are many scenes that lead up to the point before they're heading north.

A lot happens and they're like how do we quickly explain what Margaret has been up to and how they find themselves in this situation? We get that from a pacing standpoint, there is much less patience for that. So that's a brevity argument. Then there's a, like for modern audiences, I wanna see them kiss

Helena Greer: yeah. No, absolutely.

Andrea Martucci: I wanna see their bodies pressed up against each other. I wanna see a hand clench, I wanna see face stroking, et cetera. So then there's the okay, modern audience stuff.

When it comes to the likability and Thornton beating somebody or not. Margaret, chastising people for why are you not happy? You're going to go to heaven and be with God soon? Bessie, why aren't you happy you're dying? Versus not doing that in the adaptation. What do you think is behind that?

Helena Greer: Yeah. So I think Margaret's is pretty obvious because Margaret is our main character, right? And we as modern romance audiences are used to the assumption that we are going to. put ourselves in the shoes of the main female character. We don't have a lot of patience for unlikable female characters. I'm doing scare quotes. You can't see this on the podcast, but that's what I'm doing, around unlikeable female characters.

We don't as a whole, as romance readership, have a lot of patience for female main characters that we just don't sympathize with very much. And we have a difficult time liking.

Arguably 19th century British literature had more of that. We had Emma, we had every single person in Middlemarch. Elizabeth Bennett is kind of a jerk when we first meet her. That was more of a thing then. And it's not now.

And we don't necessarily wanna put forth a movie where we have this beautiful woman who is terrible to everyone for three quarters of the film until she gets it together.

So That makes sense to me.

I was thinking about there's this tiny moment where Thornton goes to have dinner with the masters who he like hangs out with all the time cuz they're all making decisions about this strike. And one of them is telling a [00:03:00] story about how he didn't put a fan into his factory because the workers said they would wanna be paid if they worked in a factory with a fan because there would be less cotton in the air and it wouldn't fill their bellies as much, they wouldn't swallow as much cotton, so they would need to eat more.

This when it's told by a factory owner, sounds like a wild assertion to get out of making a safety regulation because it does not sound like a thing a human being would ever say.

I don't want my lungs to be safer cuz I want to eat cotton during the day out of the air.


Andrea Martucci: I want to die faster because then you can pay me less because I'll be filled up with the cotton in my stomach and lungs.

Helena Greer: yeah. In the book, that's a story Bessie tells to Margaret as a thing that the workers are saying amongst each other.

Andrea Martucci: so they actually feel like that as opposed to the masters telling themselves that these dumb factory workers

Helena Greer: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: don't understand

Helena Greer: And as I was thinking about that change, I was thinking Thornton is sitting there at dinner he has the fans but he's associating with these men. These are his friends, these are his colleagues, these are the people that he has over for dinner. These are the people that he hangs out with.

These sort of like capitalist industrialist monsters, right?

Andrea Martucci: capitalist pigs.

Helena Greer: They are, they're horrible. And he is just sort of like, ha ha and has a drink, and I don't know what the sort of storytelling reasoning was for making that change in the movie. But to me it spoke to this larger pattern of Thornton being less sympathetic at the beginning than he is in the book.

And I think there are several reasons. One has been pointed out to me by people, someone who likes men sexually more than I do, that if you're gonna cast Richard Armitage, you have to make him like a monster. Otherwise people would just be throwing themselves at him all the time.

Andrea Martucci: They're like I don't understand why you are not hot for this person. Instantly. Yeah.

Helena Greer: then part of it is just that, if you put Richard Armitage there looking like that, everyone who sees him is just gonna be like, oh, I'm in love with you. So I don't know.

Andrea Martucci: Is it wrong, Helena, that I was in love with, this is very wrong, is that even as I watched him beat the guy, I was like, he's hot.

Helena Greer: Incredibly beautiful in this film, as is Margaret. Even when she's like being lit to be like sallow and haughty and a pain in the butt, like she's really beautiful. Like they just stare at each other. But he gets to do the bulk of the staring pinily, which is, we love as modern romance audiences.

We love a man who's just like head over heels way before the woman is. I think part of it is that we get more [00:06:00] clarity about his emotional journey. It's like a bigger bang at the end when he starts working with Higgins and when he makes all of these changes and he lies for Margaret and he stands up to his mom, we have a bigger arc, character arc of him.

We have an expectation within the genre that people are going to be emotionally saved by love in some way. And by having him start out as a much worse person than he does in the book, we get to have that modern expectation met of him being emotionally saved by love, which he sort is in the book anyway, but he makes those decisions more on his own in because he loves Margaret rather than doing them for Margaret directly.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, and I guess look, I feel shame for this. But I'm just gonna be real, that when a handsome person does something, you instinctively think differently about it than when somebody who looks less attractive or repugnant to you does it, right.

Helena Greer: absolutely

Andrea Martucci: So when you have Richard Armitage do this, I am so willing to believe exactly what he tells me, which is that he had to watch all of these children's bodies be laid out after they burned in a fire after somebody lit a cigarette in a factory and the whole thing went up in two minutes and everybody died.

I'm like, you are right. You should beat the shit outta this guy.

Helena Greer: right? You have so much passion and you care so much and you just, you're so passionate. Not like you have a real rage problem.

Andrea Martucci: Like the thing is there's like a middle ground there, right? You are allowed to be mad at this guy for smoking and kick him out and not give him his job back and all of that. Do you have to beat the shit out of him?

Helena Greer: Yeah,

Andrea Martucci: Watching this adaptation? I was like, he did need to beat the shit out of him. ,That was a rational response. And is it because he's handsome or is it because I am so indoctrinated as we all are, by like this idea that violence is excusable within like a Well no, but it like made sense to me so, okay.

Helena Greer: I think that the movie pulls off, it's speaking to a beauty and the beast trope expectation that the book is not trying to, because it was written for such a different audience. The book is wanting Margaret to become a better person and in, in very similar ways to Austen, although this book is 40 years later than Austen or whatever, asking these female characters to wrestle with their own poor judgment or like prejudgment or emotional problems and grow up enough to be ready to be in love.

We're not asking that as modern romance readers of Margaret. We do want her to [00:09:00] have some emotional growth and she does.

But we are asking for this violent, angry, passionate man to be like, humbled and wanna change his whole life for this woman and pine after her and be softened by her.

I mean, this is a morality chain romance, right? He doesn't like care about them until she asks him to.

Andrea Martucci: And he kind of loves her and wants her for the essence of who she is, not because she becomes "better," which, yeah. Which I think that is a hundred percent the romantic fantasy that is a huge part of why most people love romance novels.

This is like from Radway's observations in like 1984. The fantasy is being the center of somebody else's focus and desire and like feeling that directed at you. And I definitely feel like modern audiences they're like, no, she deserves this from the beginning. We don't have to feel like she doesn't deserve this from the beginning and that she needs to go through this big growth arc.

Like, Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Like It's a story. So she has to have some character development, but she wasn't a problem at the beginning cuz none of us wanna believe that we're a problem that need to be solved. Everybody else is the problem that needs to be solved.

We're perfect.

Helena Greer: So he is wealthy, beautiful, and single.

Andrea Martucci: in the book. He's not super handsome. He's fine.

Helena Greer: No, He's average, but in the movie, in adaptation, he's wealthy, beautiful, and single.

Andrea Martucci: exactly.

Helena Greer: Every woman of any class at all in the entirety of Milton is trying to get him. If you listen to his mother is like, every girl is trying to trap him into marriage. Everyone wants to marry him, but it's probably true. Like all society, women are, he's like the most eligible bachelor in Milton,

Andrea Martucci: And then you look at that room of Masters, right? And any of the ones who are maybe closer in age to Thornton, they're coded in ways that are supposed to make you feel like they're less attractive. And in fact, his sister, Fanny marries one of the other guys who, he's definitely older than her and like more middle aged, but you're kind of like, oh, like that was the best Fanny could do. So he's definitely positioned as the most eligible rich guy in town.

Helena Greer: He's the most eligible rich guy in town, and he doesn't wanna marry any of these women that his mother's trying to set him up with, who are throwing them, throwing themselves at him. He wants to marry this like pure, beautiful woman who's disinterested in him, who shows up and isn't afraid to speak her mind and say everything that she feels and dresses dowdy and doesn't have any money.

And he like, sees her as if [00:12:00] a light were shining on her. And she's so much better than every other woman who's ever tried to convince him to marry them. She's not throwing herself at him. She's not pretending to be less smart than she is. She barely gives him the time gives day.

And he just laps it up with a spoon and he's like mom and Fanny, you gotta go visit her. You have to be nice to her. You have to make her a part of society. Like you gotta make her feel okay. Gonna show up and have dinner at her house all the time. Like he's immediately, this is it for me and that is catnip.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. A catnip of somebody who likes me when I say the things that I, according to society, should not be saying out loud and doesn't care if I'm wearing the fripperies. But also this is definitely reinforcing the trying makes you a bad woman,

Helena Greer: yeah. It has some not like other girls energy pretty strongly.

Andrea Martucci: Which I mean okay again, written much earlier than this, but like Elizabeth Bennett, what makes her valuable and the right match for Mr. Darcy is that she is not trying to marry the most eligible man in her midst. She wants to marry somebody for love. And very similarly, Margaret is not impressed with John's wealth and status.

Is that for class reasons? At the beginning, a hundred percent. But she's also not throwing herself at like gentry in London.

Helena Greer: She also says no to the guy who's gonna be a pretty well off barrister eventually,

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. So women are doing the right thing by prioritizing finding somebody who, a, worships them . And, but b, also that trying means that you don't deserve the thing, right? So you just have to wait passively for somebody to show up who just loves you exactly as you are. That's not like super problematic to be like, no, I'm really holding out for somebody who loves me the way I am.


Helena Greer: Yeah, it's wonderful.

Andrea Martucci: fine. It's the sort of like passive part and the like, you can never try, you can never want this.

Helena Greer: also think it's interesting in the book, Fanny is, annoying, but she's a little bit more of a Mary Bennett than Lydia or Kitty. She's obsessed with music, but she's a terrible piano player. And her mom hates her so much and is like really obvious about how much she hates her and how much she thinks she's useless.

And she's like really trying . She's just, she's a little bit more of a, like pitiable character than a just annoying little sister. But in the movie, and I think this is partly cuz modern audiences have a familiarity with a certain kind of stereotypical little sister in these movies. You've got Mary, you've got [00:15:00] Lydia and Kitty, and you've got Amy March.

I'm Team Lydia and Team Amy March. I have a strong affinity for the annoying little sister. But I think audiences are used to that character and so that's played up quite a bit in the movie. She's really awful.

But I also think it, it's a foil.

Right. She's acting as much more of a foil for Margaret. She shows up and Margaret's watching her out of the window in the adaptation the first time they meet.

And she's like, that's a lot of crinoline. How long does it take to iron those things? Whereas Margaret makes do with their one servant who only still works for them because she loves her mother and she's like wearing very simple clothing and she doesn't wear things that require a lot of fuss.

And Fanny throughout the adaptation, flighty and silly and self-obsessed and

Andrea Martucci: and trying to marry somebody very blatantly who is very well positioned. As a look, I'm gonna one up you brother by marrying some guy who has even more than you. So she is exactly as you're saying, she's a foil to Margaret.

And and they play it up. Like the actress is amazing. She plays up this character's humor. So well I just tweeted this out about. Mrs. Thornton comes to chastise Margaret for being a hussy at some point. And Margaret doesn't realize this yet, and she's like, oh by the way, my aunt wrote with some information about music that Fanny was inquiring about.

And Mrs. Thornton goes, I'm not here about Fanny's thirst for light music or something.

Helena Greer: Yeah, she does.

Andrea Martucci: And it's it's so dismissive. Like you were

Helena Greer: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: her.

but but it's so funny. Like Fanny's thirst for light music, it's gold.

Helena Greer: It's, oh, Mrs. Thorton is like a really complex, thorny character.

Andrea Martucci: Thorny-ton?

Helena Greer: She is, she's trying really hard to be the correct mom for her son, but

Andrea Martucci: everything was done properly, but she says everything through gritted teeth, just, but oh my God.

If you had to tie a bow on the changes, because like somebody could write a dissertation about this topic, right? Do you feel like there's form differences, and then there's also like 150 years, I feel like, honestly that does a lot to explain what's going on.

On top of that, the genre expectations, I feel like this adaptation is aware of not just like at a historical romance adaptations, like Pride and Prejudice. I feel like it's aware of what we as romance readers find to be catnip also.

Helena Greer: As I was thinking about the form of the adaptation, I was thinking like, this hits a [00:18:00] beat sheet, right? This hits where you would expect things to hit if you looked at Romancing the Beat and the beat sheets that are available. And you like wrote it to that.

Romancing the Beat was written because those beats already existed. It was taking that information and synthesizing it in a way that was usable.

Andrea Martucci: this is a book by Gwen Hayes. And I think, I think it's important that this was done in the romance genre specifically, but I think it was following up on Blake Snyder's, what is it? Steal the Cat or whatever it is. Yeah. And it's it is really about screenplays.

Helena Greer: Save the Cat? What is that book

Andrea Martucci: Save the cat some something, the cat, and it's about

Helena Greer: Andrea's gonna find it before this podcast goes live and link to it, even though right now we cannot remember what the name

Andrea Martucci: murder the cat. I think I said kill the cat, but, and you said save the cat. It's one of

Helena Greer: or steal the cat.

Andrea Martucci: Steal the cat.

Helena Greer: I don't know. It sounds like there's a cat involved it's about where beats go in storytelling for like films and novels.

Andrea Martucci: And so then there was like, Gwen Hayes wrote this specifically for romance novels, which again, very important. But but yes, this is just like how do we describe what we understand works? it

Helena Greer: Where you expect things to happen. A third act breakup, maybe some kind of like a kiss at 50% or a proposal in this ca- You know what, it understands where in a story pacing wise, we as romance readers expect to have certain things happen.

So the part of me that's cynical about heterosexual romance expectations thinks that we, all of us, like I'm not excluding myself from this having, been a romance reader since 2009 or whatever. I read 300 romance novels a year, and I write them. There's, I'm not excluding myself from this.

I think that we have a fascination with a certain type of behavior in our male heroes that would be very toxic if we saw it in real life. And that we're very interested in seeing that behavior made better by the love of the right woman. We're very interested in that and I I think that this plays on that sort of, addiction to like seeing the toxic man brought low to his knees and pining and changing his behavior and becoming a better person.

Andrea Martucci: That is very much in line with changing understandings of marriage over the last 150 years where covered this a couple episodes ago, but essentially if you're talking about people in 2004 when this BBC adaptation comes out, I think that understanding men as violent and how do we rehabilitate a violent man?

And no, he's gonna change for me. I'm not gonna find a nonviolent man. I'm gonna take the violent man that [00:21:00] I'm familiar with in my life and instead he's doing that to protect me or he's gonna stop doing it because he loves me. Or whatever. I'm not saying violent men didn't exist in 1850, that's not true. How

Helena Greer: Definitely not true.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. But in 1850, people's understanding of marriage and heterosexual unions as like a man protecting a woman, I think would be foremost in people's minds, do you know what I mean? I don't think that, like the reader at that time is dealing with the same conception of the problem, even if the problems were not that different.

Helena Greer: Yes. Yeah. And I think some of it is time, right? I think at the time, I don't know that much about 19th century British literature, but I've read some, and it seems to me that 19th century British literature written by women, there was this sort of focus on realism like a almost gritty realism and not gritty in the way that we would think of like Batman,

Andrea Martucci: Mm-hmm. . but people dying and people like not having enough food and

Helena Greer: yeah. And also the sort of like underbelly of rural life where everyone was kind of jerks. Because I think that those women novelists were trying to be seen as not just like silly fripperies, in the same way that women romance novelists are trying to be seen today as not just silly fripperies, even though I like a silly frippery.

I think part of how they were trying to do that was to make their books like a meditation on the human condition. And so you know, Margaret is not going to fundamentally change the fact that Thornton is like a guy who really likes Oliver Cromwell which is, he talks about in the book but he's a Cromwell fan.

But she's gonna change some and he's gonna change some. And the romance of it is that they've managed to find another person who's like at their intellectual level who challenges them and who's willing to like, change big parts of their lives for the other. And they've both kind of made each other have these big alterations in their character to become better people.

Which as you said, modern audiences are just not that excited about having to watch our female characters go through this

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I think sadly, modern audiences are also not that interested in actually seeing two people do positive relationship building things together. They're much more interested in the dramatic moments that verge on violence, showing that emotion.

And I feel like what makes this work, despite the fact that it was written at a time where the culture was very different, people's problems were both similar but different. It was a different context.

I think what really works is that even though Gaskell obviously has an agenda, like she wants to write about unions and she wants to talk about industrialization and kind of the changing landscape of England and all of that, she also [00:24:00] doesn't employ her characters like props.

That's my sense from hearing you talk about the book. And it's also my sense from the adaptation's take on it where like this could have been a very dower meditation on like union rights. And as I watched two of the four hours again today, I was like, despite the fact that like a lot of stuff is happening, I always feel like the romance is forefront and that these characters and their emotions are forefront.

Helena Greer: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, Middlemarch was written not that long after this, timing-wise, I think 20 years or something, which, it was less time in the 19, in the 18 hundreds than it is now in terms of like societal change, and that is a dour book.

Everyone is miserable. Everyone hates their lives, everyone hates each other. Everyone falls in love with and marries the wrong person and then hates their marriage.

And in North and South you have Thornton like wishing that Margaret would press her body up against him again. And like also it's fun. it's sad that her brother is getting court marshaled, but like the fact that the entire middle of the book is like a misunderstanding about like a, a naval mutiny. is a shenanigan, in a way that you wouldn't see in Middlemarch or whatever.

Because it would take itself more seriously. And I think Gaskell was taking herself pretty seriously. There's a lot of that. But she allows for there to be humor moments like. It's funny that Fanny's terrible at the piano and doesn't know it, right? And she like, thinks that Margaret is not a accomplished woman because she can't play the piano, but everybody else knows Fanny can't play the piano either.

Like that's a, it's funny. And the romance is like central to what is driving these two human beings to change is their relationship with each other and their knowledge of each other and the way that they challenge one another. Which I do think is a very modern idea. I think there's a lot about the book that works as a modern romance novel as well.

So yeah, to tie it together in a bow, I think that the change in what we expect from the genre as the genre has codified more, I think our dislike or disinterest in very difficult to like or sympathize with female characters and our interest in being the one woman who can change a monstrous, violent, hot man into rich he is not rich at the end by the time they get married. But she is right. And then she has all the social power.

Andrea Martucci: Somebody's gotta be rich so that they can all be rich at the end. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. It's, it'll never get old. For me, every time I'm like, when I watch North and South this time, will I be bored? Every single time, the answer is no. I'm still compelled by it.

And it's an A plus adaptation, but I think also the fact that such a [00:27:00] strong adaptation could be made from the source text with some changes, but not completely remade.

Like the essence of the book is there. I think it speaks to the strength of the original text in giving me, us what we want.


Helena Greer: Absolutely.

And I think

there are things that I like better about the book. It makes more sense they all move to Milton because Mr. Bell tells them to, which is a moment that's just not in the adaptation. And I'm always like, why did they move here?

No one ever explains that I'm like, cause Mr. Bell's best friends with her dad and he owns a bunch of property there. And he's like, hey, you should move here . It's one of those things, a storyteller that bothers me cuz it would take one minute in the scene for them to explain that. It's not seamless.

Like the places that they cut for time or to get the plot moving is not seamless. And I love the interiority of understanding that Margaret can't figure out that she's in love with him because everyone around her has been dying for two years and she's just in a grief fog and she can't have any feelings at all.

And then she finally gets some time to herself and she's like, oh, I'm in love with that guy. Which is very clear and I think pretty amazing for an 1850s novel that she's able to articulate that emotion to herself. That the reason she didn't realize it is because she just never had any a moment to sit down and ask herself what her feelings were.

Andrea Martucci: right?

Helena Greer: Cuz she kept having to go to funerals.

Andrea Martucci: And, oh my God, I can't help myself. Also from a psychoanalysis standpoint, in order for her to grow up, her parents had to die. Her dream of being a child and remaining a child had to die by her parents dying. So anyways if you want to hear more about psychoanalysis, go listen to the episode about Anais Nin.

Helena Greer: Yeah, no, it's very true. There's a lot of her being forced into adulthood. Some of it is just because it makes the plot easier. Cause it's just like, what's gonna happen next? Somebody dies, what's gonna happen next? Somebody dies.

But think that the adaptation does something that I don't think the novel is able to do, which is that the camera work is so stunning, especially like in Milton and inside the factory, that it brings this incredible emotional vibrancy to the horror of this factory town.

Because the people who were reading like a serialized novel edited by Dickens would have known that the factory towns were a horror,

Andrea Martucci: they probably lived in one.

Helena Greer: They probably lived in one. Dickens, wrote a lot about it, they understand the immediacy. And so the book is much more internal about these two people's feelings.

But to bring that to a modern audience and have it be believable when this is a line that, that they made up for the movie. It's not in the book, but it rings very true to both versions of Margaret where she writes to her cousin that she thinks she's found hell, right? [00:30:00] She's seen hell as. The machines are going and the cotton is flying.

I think is does an incredible job. Like all of the visual storytelling is so beautifully done.

Andrea Martucci: I've seen hell, and it's snow white. Do, do, do, do. (hums main theme fro m soundtrack)

Helena Greer: Yeah. .And then there's this man who looks like Lucifer standing above everybody, right? Like watching them, but he's like a hot Hades

Andrea Martucci: which is very hot right now.

Helena Greer: very hot right now.

Andrea Martucci: Helena, I've been smirking this entire time because I have to say it. I agree. The camera work in the book sucks compared to the camera work in the adaptation.

Helena Greer: Yes. Absolutely.

I don't think we see that external. We don't get as much description of what's going on in the world around her because it's so internal to both of them.

And we need that external description for a modern audience because they can't, in their minds just know what a factory town would look like. And so the adaptation would lose a lot if it didn't have such arresting camera work.

Andrea Martucci: Right. Well, if,

Helena Greer: that descriptive language.

Andrea Martucci: if we didn't see like pig carcasses hanging in the street and people filthy and Yeah. There's just, there is a lot of that like lingering on the claustrophobia and the dankness and just the Yeah, totally.

Helena Greer: Yes, and it's a lesser known novel right? Than some of the other like big famous 19th century British novels. I don't think people read it as much, which which partly because it's just, ooh, there's the prose is flowery.

Andrea Martucci: so this is obviously in the public domain because of how old it is. I would love for somebody to create a non fanfic version of this that takes the essence of it and boils it down to the adaptation version. And by the way, I'm aware that this is exactly what a lot of fanfic tries to do. I'm not saying all Fanfic is bad, I have yet to find a good fanfic that does exactly what I'm looking for there,

Helena Greer: It takes the book essence, but takes out the really Dickensian prosiness of it and gets down to what these characters are really doing. Because I think there's a lot from modern audiences in that that's slightly different from what the adaptation is doing, because my bachelor's is in comparative mythology and creative writing, I'm really interested in the ways that texts get rewritten for the popular audience and then the adaptation gets adapted.

So Wizard of Oz, for instance, right? Which got made into the book Wicked and then the Musical Wicked. And then there is the book Wizard of Oz, and then the movie Wizard of Oz. And then the book Wicked, like there's, there's a version of The Wizard of Oz that exists in our collective consciousness that is like a mishmash of all of those [00:33:00] things.

Andrea Martucci: and The Wiz too,

Helena Greer: and the Wiz. And so when we write about them, when we write about Wizard of Oz, when we talk to each other about Wizard of Oz, it's like the idea of writing a fanfic of the adaptation of a book. As we get further away, we mythologize what's a single text by a single author.

But I think in this case there's a lot of room to get back to what's in the original text. But without the hard part for modern audiences, which I actually don't even think is how insufferable -I do think that how insufferable Margaret is would be difficult for modern audiences for some people because some people will not like a female main character of a romance novel who is even a little bit difficult to sympathize with.

But I think that the prose itself is a stopping point for people because it's so overbearingly flowery. Even for me

Andrea Martucci: Let me just be the litmus test for this. I have no patience for it. I feel very secure in how intelligent I am as a person, and I'll just say I refuse to do it.

Helena Greer: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: like, I'm just like, Nope, don't care. This was not written for me because this was not written in my cultural moment, which is why I think that the farther away we get from when a text is created, if the text is meant to be popular, the whole point of a popular text is it's supposed to land and resonate with the audience.

So it has to speak to them in their language. And yeah, I mean I think that look, even read romance from 50 years ago and you're like, people were wild about this at the time, but it's just not landing for me. you know? Helena, thank you so much for a coming and being here today. B reading the text so I don't have to

Helena Greer: I listened to it. It was on Libby just appreciating my public library.

Andrea Martucci: and listening counts as reading.

Helena Greer: Yeah, it does, I could listen to the prosiness read by like a beautiful British voice while I was on my commute. Instead of trying to eyeball read through pages and pages of flowery prose, which I think.

Andrea Martucci: I'm sure it did. Yes. So thanks again for being here. Where can listeners find you and your work and what are you working on now?

Helena Greer: I am for now and as long as Twitter is Twitter, I am there at BlumAgainCurios I am also on Instagram and on Tumblr there, same BlumAgainCurios and you can find all that information on my website, which is This might be easier and you can find buy links for Season of Love.

And I am at the end of edits on the second book in the Carrigan series. It's called For Never and Always, if you have read, Season of Love, For Never and Always is Hannah and Levi's book. It is a childhood best [00:36:00] friends, to a lovers, to catastrophic Breakup, to haven't spoken in many years, and now back together in forced proximity kind of a story.

Andrea Martucci: friends, to lovers, to enemies to forced proximity to lovers,

Helena Greer: That book is coming out in November of this year and it has an absolutely killer, phenomenal cover by Leni Kaufman, and I am hoping that I get to put that out in public. I don't know if I'm allowed to say that, but I am saying it. I have no idea. I am hoping that I'm allowed to make that cover public soon.

So if you are like interested in that, you can follow my newsletter where I will probably preview it and yeah.

Oh, I'm also writing an interactive narrative fiction, Choose Your own Adventure game on Storyloom called The Seance Scam about a girl who comes from a family of psychics, but she doesn't have any power and her parents ask her to go undercover to find her missing sister.

And she has to pretend to be a real psychic working for a fake psychic. It's fun. You get to choose who you romance and what your sexuality is and also go along trying to solve this mystery of what's going on with this TikTok influencer, fake medium.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. That's super cool. And so you're in progress on that. So it's not available yet,

Helena Greer: It is. The first two chapters are up on Story Loom right now.

Andrea Martucci: cool.

Helena Greer: The first two chapters are up and it's free to play,

Andrea Martucci: Very cool. Okay. All right. I'm gonna check that out.

Helena Greer: it's really

Fun. I love Story Loom. It's a beta thing, like Choices. It's just starting. Rosie Thor has a couple of really phenomenal stories out. MK England, a bunch of really cool people are writing for it. And I'm excited that I got asked to do it and having a really fun time learning dropdown logic coding for it .

Andrea Martucci: A new world for romance storytelling. I love it.

Thanks again for being here and I had a lot of fun talking about this and I enjoyed being able to give the starry-eyed this is what makes my heart beat faster about this adaptation. So thank you.

Helena Greer: You're welcome. I'm excited because it's like a brand new to me text, and I got to do a deep dive into it and look at what makes it tick.

Andrea Martucci: Thank you so much for spending time with me today. If you enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe, rate, or review on your favorite podcast app or tell a friend. Check out ShelfLovePodcast.Com for transcripts and other resources. Or you can find me @shelflovepod on Twitter or @shelflovepodcast on Instagram. Or you can always email me at Andrea at Shelf Love Podcast dot com.

That's all for today. Thanks so much. Bye. [00:39:00]