Shelf Love

055. Nicole Falls: Imposter Syndrome in the Time of Coronavirus

Short Description

Highly irreverent, wholly lovable Nicole Falls joins me to discuss imposter syndrome, how gifted and talented programs destroyed us, having the privilege to explore creative, personally fulfilling projects and the concessions we make to prioritize those projects, Danielle Steel's desk, incorporating the pandemic into contemporary romance, plant puns and plant bae, and how quickly and often people forget that not everyone has their worldview.


genre discussions

Show Notes

Highly irreverent, wholly lovable Nicole Falls joins me to discuss imposter syndrome, how gifted and talented programs destroyed us, having the privilege to explore creative, personally fulfilling projects and the concessions we make to prioritize those projects, Danielle Steel's desk, incorporating the pandemic into contemporary romance, plant puns and plant bae, and how quickly and often people forget that not everyone has their worldview.


Show Notes:

Shelf Love:

Guest: Nicole Falls

Twitter | Website | #fallsonlove podcast | Buy Nicole's books - includes KU options

Modern Romance Canon Nomination: One Last Shot by Alexandra Warren



Andrea Martucci:   Hello, and welcome to episode 55 of Shelf Love the podcast that has fun taking romance novels seriously. Guests lend their expertise to help me explore identity, relationships and romance as a genre. I'm Andrea Martucci host of the Shelf Love podcast. And today I am joined by highly irreverent, wholly lovable, Nicole Falls, a romance author, podcaster editor, and winner of her third and fifth grade spelling bees.

We discuss imposter syndrome, how gifted and talented programs destroyed us, having the privilege to explore creative, personally fulfilling projects and the concessions we make to prioritize those projects. We also discuss Danielle Steele's desk, incorporating the pandemic into contemporary romance, plant puns and plant bae, and how quickly and often people forget that not everyone shares their worldview.

She also nominates her pick for the modern romance canon. Nicole will be back in episode 56 to discuss a romance worth reading, I Think I Might Love You by Christina C. Jones.

Before we jump in I'm 90% sure that I will be renaming the "modern romance canon" project, because apparently the word "canon" has a lot of baggage as discussed in episode 52, canon does have a definition and well, I chose to ignore it, apparently not everyone shares my worldview. If you can think of a catchy title for the project, please let me know.

If you like free romance books and discounts, make sure you enter the Bookstore Romance Day giveaway that I'm doing with Copper Dog Books. Bookstore Romance Day is Saturday, August 15th, 2020.

You can enter the giveaway and get more information at day2020. And of course that link is in the show notes. Every book in the Celebrate Romance collection will be 20% off between August 15th, 2020 and August 23rd, 2020. The giveaway will be open until August 23rd, 2020.

And now Nicole Falls.

Marker [00:01:58]

What should people know about the Nicole Falls?

Nicole Falls: Okay. So I came up with this great four-word phrase, and then I promptly forgot it, cause I didn't put it in my notes, but I believe that the phrase was highly irreverent, wholly. Like W H O L L Y lovable.

Andrea Martucci: Highly irreverent, wholly lovable.

Nicole Falls: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: It's a bit of a tongue twister.

Nicole Falls: It is, but you know, that's me.

Andrea Martucci: Cause I almost said irrelevant and I don't think [00:02:30] that's it.

Nicole Falls: Yeah, so irreverent, I, if you follow me on any sort of social media, you know, that I will just spout out and say whatever's on my mind. And then think about the consequences later. and I don't have a lot of, I guess I would say room for, conventions and traditions and rules.

Particularly when it comes to like language or story construction and things of that matter. So that's where the irreverent part comes from. And then, I'm charming as hell. So that's where the lovable work come from. I'm also very humble.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. Yes. That's very important when you're a writer. For sure.

Nicole Falls: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: You are, I believe at work on your 25th writing project?

Nicole Falls: Oh, wow. Yes I am. At work is a bit of a stretch. We will say that, I am in the pre working process where the idea is fully formulated in my mind. And now I'm trying to convince myself that it's worth writing. So yeah, that's where I am now,

Andrea Martucci: Is this the one that you were talking about that takes place maybe in the eighties?

Or something?

Nicole Falls: No, I wish, not quite yet. This project is actually, and I'm going to be probably super vague here, but it's  an idea that came to me based upon a title of a song from one of my favorite artists. And I won't say the song title, cause that would give away a lot of what's happening in it, but essentially I ended up using that one songtitle is like, the title of the project and the framework for the project. And then I'm leaving in, I think, eight additional songs from the same artist that will narrate the journey of the heroine throughout the story. So we're going to get hurt at, well, actually it ends up being 10 songs, because we have the intro and the, exit, but then in the middle are eight tracks, that speak to different points in the heroine's sexual journey over her life.

Andrea Martucci: Ooh, I like that. You know, I just read The Changeup and I liked that you did like the innings for the chapters. So  is this like something that you like to play with to give structure

Nicole Falls: So I, I do like to do that, to give structure. So  when The Changeup came to me, it was the day after I had just done like a reader's event. And the funny thing is that that book was actually supposed to be, I think, book three in that series as I'd plotted out. But the night after that, that readers, I, and I was just so like keyed up still just from the energy and all the room and talking to people all day or whatever.

And it was like 1:00 AM. And I was texting with one of my friends and I was like, [00:05:00] Oh, tell me what to write. And she goes, well, remember, you're going to write the baseball girl, write the baseball girl first instead of making her third. So I was like, okay. So I sat with that for a little while. And then it was literally like, my brain just downloaded all of the information.

And one of two things that I knew for sure, when I started the project, were that, the chapters are going to be ending. So I knew that it was going to be nine chapters and I knew that it would be all from her point of view. Which I typically do the dual point of view thing. But, for some reason I don't know why I was just like, no, it all has to be from the heroine's point of view. The entire trajectory needs to be from her point of view.

And then maybe we'll hear from him at the end, who knows. But I knew for sure that those night innings what happened and that the heroine's point of view will be the entire book.

Andrea Martucci: I was wondering as I was reading it, something I noticed in The Changeup. And I think probably - the other book of yours that I read was Fuck and Fall In Love. That's not spelled out on Amazon, but,  if you had to search it for Amazon, What would you have to type F asterisk

Nicole Falls: asterisk.

Andrea Martucci: C K. So you can. Okay. Alright. But for the purposes of this podcast, I'm going to call it Fuck and Fall in Love.

And, there were moments where I feel like my expectation as a romance reader was that, The  heroine would spend time with her love interest, and instead she spent time with her friends or her family.  And I was curious if  this is  something you're  purposefully infusing like a value system that you have when you're thinking about  romantic relationships or love, generally,  I guess how intentional those decisions are, or if you're just kinda like, I don't know, I think that's what she should do.

Nicole Falls: So it's, it's semi intentional, I think that, while romance is about the romantic relationship, it's also about these two people, right? And so we have to have them have some sort of context. And I think what better way than to give someone context than to show you how they act around the people who have known them the longest.

So that's why normally I'll have like a group of girlfriends or, you know, a close family member's situation or something like that. Just because it gives you more than just the view of how that person looks in the eyes of their love interest. And it helps the character not be flat.

Because honestly we aren't always - particularly when it's the beginning of a romantic  situation - we aren't always fully ourselves in those moments. And so I think giving those breaks away from that [00:07:30] person that you're sort of putting on this persona in the beginning with, to show who that person is on the other side of that, I just think that it's a necessary and also, important thing, I guess

Andrea Martucci: I can only come up with like the crudest example of this in my head. It's I'm going to I'll just say it and then I'll walk it back. Okay. It's it's the peeing with the bathroom door open stage of the relationship?

Nicole Falls: Yep.

Andrea Martucci: I really feel like for me to believe that these two, you know, these two or three or more people are going to live happily together for any period of time, I need them to be at the stage where they could pee with bathroom door open with each other without major embarrassment. You know what I mean? Like they can't still be at that like we're treating each other very delicately, like strangers.

Nicole Falls: Yup. Yeah.  had to just truncate the first thought I had,

Andrea Martucci: I never actually walked back the pee with the bathroom door open thing.


Nicole Falls: But that's, but that's like a perfect example, right? Because that's like one of the highest levels of vulnerability, like the bathroom is to me anyway. I don't know how everyone else feels about it, but the bathroom is a very sacred place. So it's not a space that's a communal place, is not a place where, you know, people gather whenever.

So, being free with somebody like that, you know, having that openness. Being at whatever stage of the relationship is important. So I kinda, you know, I get the metaphor you're putting forth there. I'm picking up what to putting down.

Andrea Martucci: Thank you so much. Otherwise I was going to feel real gross, which is OK.

I could, I could just cut it out. Yeah.

Marker [00:09:08]

What book would you nominate for the modern romance canon?

Nicole Falls: So immediately, when I saw that in your email, I was like, okay, I'm going to nominate an Alexander Warren book. Like I knew like off top it was going to be an Alex Warren, book - just because  she's  in my top two contemporary, Black, romance writers. And I feel like honestly, people are so asleep on her and her pen. So any chance that I get to express how much I love her work and get other people to read it, cause it's amazing, I will do so.

So I got to the point, I was like, okay, cool. Alex Warren, bam. Okay. Now I have to narrow this down to one book. Wow. That's rude. So I had three. Okay. I had Wins and Losses. I had Love Unsolicited and had One Last Shot. Obviously you said a book. So I said, okay, I'm not going to pull it. Andrea told me one book, I'm going to [00:10:00] narrow this down to one.

So out of my three, I went back to your promp t  again and I was like, okay, that exemplifies what the genre can do and relevant to readers today. Cool. Boom choices made immediately. All three of those books fall into that category. But for me, the one that I picked that I was like, yes, this is the one, would be One Last Shot by Alexander Warren. And so, this is going to sound like I am being egoistic, but whatever it's part of the collaboration that we did, that's not,  why I picked it.

I picked it because it touches on so many relevant issues, of today in a way that kind of like weaves them into the characters, without it being like force fed or you're beat over the head with things.

It runs the gamut of issues from - so it's about, a WNBA player, Selena Samuels, who is moving to the team in her hometown. And so she's kind of coming in with something to prove. She's trying to come home and she's trying to ensure that that team wins the championship for the first time. So she comes home with all of that on her shoulders.

And then she runs into the new assistant coach who is Dre, whose last name, I just forgot because my brain does that all the time. But anyway, so Selena and Dre, end up clashing from the beginning because Selena just is not a fan of how Dre left the league and everything that happened because he was also a professional basketball player.

So everything that happened with him when he left the league, she was just not a fan of any of it. And so they have this contentious start. But eventually, you know, it comes around and since he's assistant coach, you know, they're working together, yada yada, yada. And I just think that they're both sort of on parallel journeys because, like I said, she's trying to prove herself that she can come home and won the championship and make her team, you know, the team. And then he's trying to prove that he's not the old him that got into all the things that he got into. I'm being purposely vague right now because some of it is spoilers for the plot, so I don't want to give any of that away.

But yeah, it's just, they're fighting like to prove to themselves and the world that they got, what it takes to achieve their goals. And it's just, honestly, it's just such a beautiful journey, right? Of like two people, like not only discovering each other, but also discovering things about themselves that shore up their confidences, and I love that book.

Like I was lucky in that when she was writing it, I got to read it as it was being written. So I was like, Oh, what's going to happen next. Like, I don't know. And then [00:12:30] like reading it in its entirety. Once it was finished, I was like, wow, I have to keep up with this. This is the kind of writing I have to keep up with. Come on!

Are you kidding me? And it did the very good thing of balancing sports and romance in a sports romance novel, which a lot of romance novels that involve sports tend not to do because people are hyper focused on the romance, but I don't know. I'm a girl who likes sports so when it comes to the sports romance, like if y'all,  don't have them playing at least one ball game and they're like, I'm gonna feel a way.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I'm, I'm not the biggest fan of sports  but I hear what you're saying.  I mean, it's the same way with any career or interest of the characters where like you have to see enough of it on page where you're, where you actually believe it.

Otherwise, it feels like a little bit cardboard. Like you've put Barbie in the astronaut uniform and you're like, look, she's an astronaut. And you're like, But is she?

Nicole Falls: Did she?

Andrea Martucci: Did she go to school for that?

Nicole Falls: The astronaut school, is that how that works?

Andrea Martucci: Astronaut school, right.  Where you were going with explaining why you like this as exemplifying what the romance genre can do is that, that dual arc or like three things arc of like, there's the romance of like the two of those people together, but then both of them kind of having their own character development that makes sense in the romance.

Nicole Falls: Yup, exactly. So, essentially what happens is that they both have this sort of common goal, which is obviously to see the team succeed. But then Selena has a personal goal of being the one to make sure that her team gets there. Dre has the goal of trying to prove to people that he's not that punk kid that got into the trouble that he got into, but then you also like peel it back a bit and you see why Selena is motivated to go as hard as she does.

So you find out about some things that happened in her past and how that  affected her trajectory going forward, and then with Dre you find out about his past and everything that you thought that you knew about him was not necessarily what was the truth.

And I think that a thing that a lot of people get wrong is that romance is just about the sex.

And it's it's - yes. It's about the sex. It's also about the journeys of these people. Like be it for [00:15:00] seven hours or seven months. The people that we meet at the beginning of a book should not be the same people that we meet at the end of this book. And what I think a lot of people get wrong and what kind of really annoys me with a lot of the dismissiveness  that the romance genre is treated with is that there's so many fricking romance writers that are  writing these, like intense storylines with characters who are palpable. Like, you know what I mean? Like they're real life people. And it's like, how dare you just reduce it to being sex books when it's so much more?

And with One Last Shot, man, like I said, it's just, the layers behind the scenes aid and and abet to build up of the romance and all that stuff. So, yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I'm so interested in exploring the reasons why people denigrate the romance genre and, and you're right. There is something incredibly insulting in particular about the idea that it is boiled down to sex, which by the way, first of all, not every romance novel has sex, you know, baseline, it's just false, but then even romance novels that do have sex, I think sex  when used effectively as a way to explore the relationship between people, right?

Like it's the same as like seeing people cook together or like any sort of other  physical interaction where you see people together,  it's a way to show their expression of love or how they work together or how the commute, I don't, I don't know. It's just like, so much deeper than that. And, and also, I mean, some romance novels that don't use sex in that way are not very successful romance novels.

Right. Like they could have hot sex, but  at a certain point, unless you're just reading it as like erotica, let's say, which again, nothing wrong with that. But yeah, if you're there for the emotional relationship and build up, like the sex, can't just be like empty, bunny rabbit sex, right?

Nicole Falls: Right. Or color by numbers. Or I can tell this person plopped in a sex scene here because they thought that sex should happen at this point. Like it has to be an organic thing. It has to be an extension of the intimacy that we already see building between the people. It can't just be. Insert sex here

Andrea Martucci: or yeah. Like oh, I'm at 50%.

Nicole Falls: Yeah. Might as well do it!

Andrea Martucci: Right. Like they're in the middle of a baseball game and just -

Nicole Falls: - take a trip to the dugout.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. [00:17:30] I have baseball on the brain now,

Nicole Falls: What's so funny is that I know nothing about baseball. Absolutely nothing. One of my friends though, she's a huge baseball fan. She's like, do you realize how many random questions you asked me about baseball?

She's like, that I don't think people would have asked. She's like, you were asking about like pitching and speeds. And I was like, it was important to the narrative damn it!

Andrea Martucci: Yeah! You had to know what an  impressive, but reasonable pitching speed was. Come on.

Nicole Falls: I did.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, I would have been like, she pitched 3000 miles per hour.

Seriously. Whenever anybody makes like a sports reference , Oh, like you don't even know what, like sport that is cause I named like a sport team name. I'm like, you're absolutely right. I don't even -

Nicole Falls: like, I don't.

Andrea Martucci: I'm like the Giants?

Nicole Falls: They play with a ball, which one? I don't know.

Andrea Martucci: Or maybe multiple balls or maybe a puck.

Marker [00:18:27]

  this segues perfectly into talking about imposter syndrome.

Nicole Falls: Yes. So listen. Good old imposter syndrome. So it's so funny because I'd made that tweet. Right. So for the people who are hearing this later, I tweeted randomly one day, and I don't remember where it got started, but I was like, Oh, who wants to give me space to give them, you know, five to 750 words about imposter syndrome?

Cause I could totally do it.

Andrea Martucci: I slid into your DMS,

Nicole Falls: You sure did, you sure did, you slid in like, So hey girl, you wanna come do the pod? And I was like, we can do that. Absolutely. Imposter syndrome, man, it's a mother effer, like I just told you about the project that I'm working on. Right? So you got all those details, not in depth, but all of those details, enough to give you an idea of how the book will be formulated.

Right? You would think that would be enough for me to go ahead and start writing. Nope. It's not because now I'm at the stage of, well, what's the purpose of this? What does anyone get from this? What will it all mean? Like, it's, it's the dumbest thing in the world. So I guess I should like roll it back a little bit or whatever, for people who might be like, what is imposter syndrome?

So earlier today I went and found a proper definition because my definition probably would have been long and meandering, but it said that it could be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persists despite evident success. I thought [00:20:00] that was the most succinct way to put it, particularly that "despite evident success," because that is the part, right?

That's the part that always gets you cause I mean success is relative. Everyone has sort of their own  ideas of what big success, small success, whatever means. But the fact of the matter is that anytime you complete a task should be celebrated as a success. Most of us, however, don't believe in that, we think that it has to be like some big monumental thing that has been done that shakes the earth.

And Oh, now I may be worthy of just a smidgen of praise. Not too much though. I could, I could, I could really ramble for hours about this

Andrea Martucci: You know, when you said that I thought of a couple of things and one of them is we live in an incredibly achievement-oriented society, right?

Like on the one hand if you let yourself get so tripped up by this stuff, you will never complete anything. So there's sorta like the productivity element of it, where like done is better than perfect. And people who actually finish things can go on to actually get accolades and/or achieve something because they've actually completed something.

But we also live in a society that like ranks everything and  quantifies, everything. And also is incredibly focused on like commercial success instead of really discussing openly, I think other,  qualifiers of success, like personal satisfaction.

Nicole Falls: Yup.  It's a, it's a strange thing that our brains do to us, particularly if you are a child of a certain generation, hello, millennials, I'm speaking to you, refugees of the gifted and talented programs. Hello, my friends, we were all told that we were exceptional as children, and guess what? We fucking weren't

Andrea Martucci: as a, as a fellow gifted and talented program graduate.

So  the first thing I came into  therapy with was I was like, I'm so fucking special. How come I can't do anything?

Nicole Falls: Yeah, it's wild. So we went from in like when we were younger, and going through like elementary and middle school of the hierarchy thing, right?

So you have your G and T kids who were like the top, the cream of the crop and, Oh, they're going to be this, they're going to be that they're going to be the best. And then there was [00:22:30] the average kids, who it was like, well, you know, Hey, you tried you got you. And then there were the below average kids. So now where the kids now, like, I think about, my faux child that I have, like participation trophies are things, right?

So they don't have to deal with the, the idea of feeling less than because they are always validated no matter what. Whereas we were growing up, we didn't have the luxury of that. And I think that plays a lot into the imposter syndrome thing now, because you get to adulthood and you're like, well, all this time I kept thinking I was special because everyone told me I was special.

But in actuality I found out that I wasn't as special as I think I am. Or maybe I am. I don't know. Really who can tell me. You're looking for outside validation when I just think that personal satisfaction should be paramount. Particularly when it comes to feeling good about anything that you do or anything that you put out in this world. It's so easy to get caught up in that external validation, is someone else giving you a pat on the back or, you know, telling them good job Champ, did it.

As opposed to thinking about how you feel when you do something that you said you were gonna do, because it's just, I don't know, man, like I just I have very high standards for myself and some of them are believably high, you know, like achievably high,

They're SMART goals?

And Others of them. Yeah. They're SMART goals, but then others , or they just don't make sense, but I'll still beat myself up because I haven't attained them either by a certain period in time or, you know, I told myself I'm going to write 10,000 words in one day. And if I write 6,000 words and not 10,000 words, I'm like, wow you're trash.

It's the, if I don't reach this outrageous goal that I feel like I'm trash. I can't do anything. Why can't I get to this 10,000? As opposed to being proud of the fact that there are some people who can't write 600 words a day, let alone 6,000. So like taking that victory, like the easy win, like a lot of the time, it's just so hard to take the easy win, because you're thinking about everything that you didn't do well enough.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And it's like a balance, right? Because  if you're somebody who wants to achieve things, you do have to have a certain amount of like, [00:25:00] that wasn't good enough. I'm going to do more. But if you fall too hard on that side, you start psyching yourself out of being able to accomplish anything slash your morale is so low that what you are doing is like maybe suffering as a result.

Nicole Falls: Yeah,  it's counterproductive, man. It's just like you have to set reasonable expectations for yourself. Sometimes you may set a stretch goal where it's like, Oh, I want to, I don't know. For example, if I say in the year 2020, I want to release five projects. Right. So I say that I get to June and I've released two projects.

I know. Okay. Over the next six months. I don't know what's going to happen. We'll see if I can push out those additional three.  If I can, that'll be great. Right? Let's say we get to November. And from June to November, you've only managed to write one more project.

November is when it all settles in, right. That's when the imposter syndrome comes back. "I don't even know why you would give yourself such a goal. Like you can't do that. Yada, yada, yada." And it's all of that like, Negative self talk that we fall prey to that just really end up.  Like you said, it ends up just honestly stymieing you more than anything else because you get caught up in what you haven't done as opposed to looking at Hey, but I did do all of this stuff and all of these things that I did amounted to this amount of success and be grateful that I was able to do X, Y, Z one two three, but ...

Andrea Martucci: I mean, and let's not forget that we're talking about 2020 goals here and who knows what's going to happen in the second half of 2020?

Nicole Falls: I mean, listen, it could be an alien invasion and we already got murder hornets . I just don't want article about flying snakes the other day,

Honestly. I think it's because, and it's so funny cause I have a running joke with one of my friends. So I just, I just turned my empire into an LLC. And so I was like, yeah, I'm part of LLC Twitter now. You sleep, we grind. But I think that that mentality, is so rampant that people lose sight of that is actually needed in order for somebody to be successful on all levels.

Because everyone is not meant to be an entrepreneur, particularly how our society is set up. We're a capitalist society, where everyone is not [00:27:30] meant to be necessarily on the same levels or equal. That might sound messed up to say, but it's just the honest to God truth, like you have people willing to play certain roles in order for things on a larger scale to be operationally functional, and also successful. And so I think  what people need to do is sort of assess where you fit in the ecosystem and have your goals reflect that because, I was thinking about myself, for example.

So right now I am writer, editor. 100% full time. This is what I do. Okay, cool. I know that there has to be a balance between the writer time and the editor time . In a perfect world. There would be 50 50 balance, but we all know how life works and, plans are merely foolish things that we implemented.

But I say that to say that, I can't set an outrageous goal on either side of the fence of the things that I do. And then when I don't get to that outrageous thing, then turn on myself because it's counterproductive.  It does not propel me forward.

The only thing it will do is just send me spiraling. And then you're thinking more about the things that you haven't done versus things that you have done. It's very hard to navigate and to keep your head on straight. Particularly when you're in an industry where your peers are sort of like, parts of their journeys are transparent to you so you can see what other people around you, who you know or perceive to be on the same level as you are, doing and then you base how you feel about your trajectory on that.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Well, and I wonder if part of the conversation then kind of gets to privilege of various kinds, like the privilege to not need to take editing jobs that take up 50% of your writing time, or,  like the privilege

Nicole Falls: The privilege to be a full time writer.

Like everyone does not have that option. Hell it wasn't an option that I necessarily knew that I had before I actually took it. But you definitely have to call into play like how your time is divvied up. What your life looks like, you know, regarding whether or not this is your full time job, or if it's something that you do in addition to a full time job, whether you're single or [00:30:00] partnered, whether you have children and you don't have kids, like all of these different sort of levels of things, sort of the impact the output, you know?

And so, yeah, when you talk about privilege, like I know people don't like to necessarily label certain things as privileges, but they are. Like, if you are partnered and your partner makes it allowable for you to be able to write full time and not have to have an additional job outside the home. That is a privilege.

Andrea Martucci: It's a huuuuuge privilege.

Nicole Falls: And if you and your partner don't have children.

That is a privilege. Like, so I just think, that privilege absolutely comes into play for sure.

Andrea Martucci: yeah. So as a podcaster,  I do have a full time job, which unfortunately limits how much time I can spend on my podcast, but you know, even within having a partner like, so, so I have a five-year-old so, you know, my husband and I divvy up  household stuff and child rearing. I am incredibly privileged that I have a partner, a male partner who actually does housework.

Like, and can watch his own child without me pleading with him to do so, you know, and so even within these situations where it seems like, you take two people who look very similar, when it gets into  the nuts and bolts of the specifics of those situations, they're not always equal  in a way that -  it very much impacts like if I did as much housework, as I know some of my mom friends with kids, obviously they have kids cause they're mom friends, but, you know.

And part of this is that I also. This isn't a privilege. I also am not a clean freak. So, so there's also just a lot of things where I'm like wiping down the tub? What's that task like? And have I a mom friend who's like, you know, and then after I give him the bath, I have to wipe down the tub and I'm like, what are you talking about?

Like, I legitimately don't even know what you're talking about.

But I would rather have a kind of dirty house and be able to podcast than you know, not,

Nicole Falls: And that's the thing. Like, we all have our  give and take, we have our concessions that we make, right?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Nicole Falls: I'm just looking at my desk right now. And if I showed this to you'd be, like, Oh,  Nicole girl, what is that, that is a hot ass mess right now.  But I am productive at this desk with it being a hot mess. And so,  could I take an hour or so to go ahead and clean this up and get things organized, everything? Sure. And I will at [00:32:30] some point in time, but it's not necessarily always top of the to do list, so to speak or whatever.

Andrea Martucci: And it's an hour that you're not spent writing or creating or

Nicole Falls: Yeah. Or, or doing something that I feel is more productive. You know, productivity is key.

Yeah, I know. That

Andrea Martucci: actually gets a kind of like the question about creative endeavors, where they're not always super financially productive. Sometimes they can be somewhat financially productive or lucrative to the point where  you can do it full time, even though maybe you're not, you know, at -  I'm trying to think of a rich  writer who's not completely offensive. And I literally can't think of anybody else.

Nicole Falls: Danielle Steele. Is she offensive?

Andrea Martucci: Oh, who knows? She was kind of pre-social media. So if she was offensive, we didn't know.

Nicole Falls: She had that big, ostentatious writing desk that is like goals for me. It's like a stack of her own books. Have you ever seen them?

Andrea Martucci: No, I need to look it up now.

Nicole Falls: Oh my gosh.

I need to send you a picture of that. It's amazing. It's like a literal, like stack of  three of her books and it's her writing desk. It is completely ridiculous and amazing. And I looked it up and she is a Leo and I was like, this tracks

Andrea Martucci: That is such power move. Right. Like I created the thing I created. We're not all going to be Danielle Steel or reached Danielle Steel levels of success. Right. And so if you're like, how do I want to spend  40 hours a week of my time or 20 hours a week of my time, if that's all you have. And you think, well, the best use of this time would be to do XYZ where I can make $50 an hour.

And that is the most lucrative thing I can do as opposed to writing or podcasting. And I can calculate how much money I make doing that, and it's, for me, podcasting is $0 an hour. And you know, you know what I mean? Like you could do that, but there's obviously this other part of the calculation, right.

Which is the satisfaction. It brings you and making any money from it at all, almost then complicates your joy -

Nicole Falls: Mmmmhmmm.

Andrea Martucci: Doing it because then you're like, well, I have to make money doing this. I have to like maximize my income potential. And then maybe you kind of start to move a little bit farther away, farther and farther away from the reasons you started doing it and the joy that you take in it.

Nicole Falls: Absolutely.  I can just speak to that now with having, Oh, I'm coming up on almost a year of being full time and it hasn't taken the joy from it thankfully. I really, really, really, really enjoy what I do and I do wake up everyday, like, really this is my life?

12 year [00:35:00] olds me would be like really bitch yasss, but, it complicates my relationship with it and my output and my quote, unquote productivity levels, because I'm like, okay, if this is my full time gig then there's no reason why I shouldn't be releasing a book every eight weeks. There is a reason why. I'm not a freaking robot despite having the time, like I'm not a robot.

My brain cannot always be functioning in this mode, 24/7. Which again, imposter syndrome rears her ugly head. Cause she's like, well, what's wrong with you because you let go of your full time job for this to be your full time job. So now you're not putting in all your effort. What are you doing over here?

What is your life about? So when you take into account, because obviously writing was a hobby for me before and now it's my vocation. It's like, okay. Yes, I still derive the joy, but at what point will I take the joy away from myself? You know, at what point will I let my need for productivity sort of supersede everything else about this job that made the it thing that I wanted to be.

And I honestly hope that it never gets to that point. I'm nowhere near that point at this point, I do have some quibbles with myself about my productivity at times. But I also am consistently practicing giving myself grace, particularly this year, because it's just been a heap of mess, from outside sources that we are not in control of.

But like, even outside of that, because I have to be like, okay, well girl, if you are able to  productively create during a pandemic while governmental officials are systemically killing people who look like you, you are amazing. However, if you cannot, it is okay for you to create on your own schedule.

And that's the thing that I struggled with mightily, and I go back and forth with myself with mightily because I'm like, it affects you, but how does it affect you? And I say that being like, you know, to bring privilege back up again, I'm very privileged to not have to deal with [00:37:30] the bullshit if I don't want to, like, if I just want to become a hermit and stay at my house and lock myself in a room for 24 hours a day, like I could do that. There's no way in hell I'd be able to do that cause as an extrovert, I'd be losing my mind, like shelter in place orders were not placed for me. Cause I was just like, shit, what am I gonna do now?

I'm just in the house? Oh no.

Andrea Martucci: I'm the opposite. I'm like I could do this forever.

Nicole Falls: Oh, man. I honestly wish that I could.  I mean, maybe that would drive my productivity, but I'm just like, I used to go to the coffee shop and write every day. I can't go to the coffee shop anymore. And I wasn't necessarily inspired by the things I saw in the coffee shop.

However. If I ran into like a tough point during  my manuscript or if I couldn't figure something out and none of my friends were available for me to talk the thing through, I could just sit back and observe the people in the coffee shop and make up a random story about the people in the coffee shop.

And then one small thing that I make up in that random story makes whatever my block was in my main story click. And then I'm like, Oh, okay. And I'm back on. I don't have that sort of like reset valve at home because I look out the window and I see a manmade lake and some ugly trees. I'm like, there's nothing for me to like, have that reset valve, you know?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And there were two things you said in there. So first I want to ask you for posterity so that you can play this for yourself when you hit a wall, why do you write, like, what is the joy that you find in the creativity?

Nicole Falls: Honestly, it's making new friends. So this is a realization that I came to very recently.

So in my brain, all of these people are real, which every writer will tell you, but all of these people are also my friends, even if I don't like them,

Andrea Martucci: I like that.

Nicole Falls: Which is a weird thing to say, but they are, because with each project that I write, I feel like I learned something. Whether it's learning something about the world and the way it works, learning something about myself, learning something about the writing process.

Like there's always a lesson for me in the book. It may or may not actually be in the book, but then the creation of it, I experienced that lesson. So that's probably my greatest joy, like just meeting new people and befriended them.

Andrea Martucci: Hmm. Right. And so it sounds like the creation of the book is an [00:40:00] experience that you enjoy the process of.

Nicole Falls: Absolutely Yeah. The creative evolution, for sure. Because it almost certainly is not - I just actually had this conversation with my same friend I was talking to baseball about. She said, every time you tell me what a book is going to be about when I read it, it's nothing like what you said.

And I was like, well, yes, I feel that same way. And I don't know why that happens, but I think it's because the idea gets germinated. And then I think that I know where it's going. And then my characters are like, actually girl, we're going to take a different path, but thank you for shepherding us along the way.

Andrea Martucci: You just needed something to  get it started.

Nicole Falls: Spark it.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Isn't that? I don't know anything about plants, but isn't that what germination is? You just, you used the word germinate.

Nicole Falls: Oh, Maybe. Yeah. Maybe, you know, I don't know anything about planting. I got a Brown thumb.

Andrea Martucci: Well, this is maybe your next book and then find somebody who knows about plants and then you can ask them a bunch of questions.

Nicole Falls: Well listen. What's so crazy is that, earlier today, someone had posted a thread on Facebook and she's like tagged all these writers and she's like, which one are you guys are gonna give me a plant bae? And I was like, that's funny that you say that because that's actually on my list. Because one of my friends, she is super into plants.

Like she, does landscape design, and she's currently going for her masters in something planty, the very technical terms here, you know, she's plantalicious. And so I reached out to her maybe a couple months at this point and I was like, I have an idea for a guy who's a horticulturalist. Can you help me  development?

And she's like, absolutely. So plant bae is on my list.

Andrea Martucci: I'm super excited because  Oh, I'm just, I've got ideas now. Don't, I mean, you don't care about my ideas, but I'm like, Ooh, okay. I don't know what you're going to do with this, but

Nicole Falls: Yeah, it's very on the fringes, but I'm hoping that it comes together before the end of the year.

Andrea Martucci: Are you hoping that it grafts together?

Nicole Falls: I see what you did there.

Andrea Martucci: Thank you. Thank you for laughing.

Nicole Falls: Maybe something will blossom.

Andrea Martucci: That was, Oh, that was even better. I can't can't even come up. I have imposter syndrome about this now. Thanks. I can't say clever things anymore

Nicole Falls: I riff off of people. You got it started see?

Oh, okay. You germinated

Andrea Martucci: I germinated it. And then you fertilized it

Nicole Falls: and I allowed, there you go. See right there, you just took it to a new level.


  Marker [00:42:26]Andrea Martucci: Did you know that Shelf Love has an email newsletter [00:42:30] get episode extras, like book recommendations from guests, additional editorializing on topics discussed on the podcast, automatic entry into giveaways, heads up on opportunities to participate in the podcast.

Plus, I share links that further the discourse. You can sign up on or via the link in the show notes.

Marker [00:42:49]

  Love it. Okay. So the second thing I was going to ask about was you were talking about creating during a pandemic. And so the obvious question is, you wrote a story I believe a novella called Love in the Time of Quarantine is that what's called?

Nicole Falls: So mine is Love Under Quarantine. It's a short story. And it was a collaborative effort seven additional authors. We all wrote shorts based on a cruise ship that was quarantined for 14 days during the very beginning stages of the pandemic. So like early March

Andrea Martucci: Right. And I remember those days, none of us really knew what was - what we were in store for.  It seemed very much like, okay, well everyone's going to be like locked down for two weeks and then we'll go about our business. It was a weird time. So, various romance authors have come out with stories that have the coronavirus pandemic as part of the story.

And there has been some discussion about like, is this a thing that people quote unquote should do? And the reason I'm framing, I think that tends to be the way the discussion is, like "it's too soon, people are dying." Like, should you do this. To which I guess I would say. Like okay. To the people are dying, like, okay, the nobody's ever allowed to write about a war story or, any of the other apocalyptic stories, none of them -Oh, off the table.

Okay. But obviously nobody would agree with that. But then there's the "it's too soon." And I'm curious what you think. I'm definitely of the mind that, as I said to you earlier, you don't have to read it if it's too soon for you, like, do you need to tell somebody else what they can or can't do within certain boundaries, I have to say, like, you're talking about consenting people, right in a real life situation that people experience. So, you know, with, within those boundaries, why does it bother you that somebody did this? You don't have to read it if you don't want to. Yeah. Yeah. What are your thoughts on, I mean, obviously you did it, so you don't hate it.

Nicole Falls: Obviously I did it, so I don't hate it.

What I do hate and, did hate, however, was the way that, people decided that, [00:45:00] it was wrong automatically and that anyone who crafted a book that included, COVID or quarantine or anything was some big, bad person. I actually have two projects in which the pandemic appears. And I just think that if we are contemporary romance writers and we are not writing about the times in which we are living, then what are we doing?

And it's not like it's being leveraged in a way to be salacious or titalizing or whatever, like titillating, I said titializing, I'm thinking of tantalizing.

Andrea Martucci: I like it. Why don't you go to the copyright offices and trademark that?

Nicole Falls: Yes. Titalizing. But it's very interesting to me, for people to think that they have the right to tell another creative, what they can do and what they can't do. And I just don't think that it's fair for them to condemn a book based on the title. I'm thinking of one book in particular, I will not say the name of the book or the author, just so it's not like, you know, cause I really enjoy the author.

I think that she's a dope writer. I haven't read her book that was about the virus. Cause I've just, I haven't been on as much reading as I normally do. However I saw there was, and I hate to use this terminology, but there was like a Twitter Lynch mob behind just the name of her book without them even knowing what the story was about, which I think is bullshit part one.

And then part two, I just did not like that it was led by "authors of color." Y'all can't see my air quotes if you're listening to this, but I hope you heard them. And they were basically putting a Black woman out to pasture. I'm not a fan of that. I did not think that that was right. I didn't think that was cool.

Particularly if you go and search the the words, Corona or quarantine on  Amazon or whatever, like you'll find a ton of stuff that's popping up. Some of it is tasteless and  I absolutely think that when it comes to things that are completely tasteless, you know, the right is reserved for those people to write those things.

I might not personally like it, but I mean, it is what it is, but I don't think that it's fair for me to say that no one should write about this thing that is avidly affecting every one of our lives in various stages at this point. And to [00:47:30] think that they're sort of making light of it or, you know, acting like it's not a big deal.

I just, I don't think that that's fair to any creatives. And that goes for any incorporation of any  major event that's happening as we're living through it. I just don't think that it's fair to tell people that they  can't spin it and use it in their art. If they feel that it's a necessary thing.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, there's obviously an execution question, and you, you spoke to that a bit. I mean, how is this event used? Right?  Is it completely, gratuitous, like it did not at all need to be there. It was just thrown in to make it timely or whatever. There's the, this was used really not tastefully. It was used to further the plot in a way that is icky. I think those are probably  the two main pitfalls, but then everything else where it's like, okay, well, these characters happen to be living through this. I'm going to convey the experience of people living through this and maybe make the statement that people can still fall in love during a stressful time like this, or "as an artist I'm exploring the human condition during this time,"  or processing it myself in some way. Right?

Nicole Falls: Yeah. And like my whole thing with the whole "it's too soon thing" is, is okay. So tell me the allowable period then. Right. Since it's too soon, you give me the parameters. You tell me how far past the pandemic do we have. And then also when we write about it outside of your, you know, alotted time period, how much of it are we allowed to be truthful about, right. Because you have to think about like historicals and things like that.

Like they talk about the unsavory past of this country, they talk about, you know, the hell pandemics that have happened before this, or, you know, the bubonic plague, the Spanish flu, all that shit or whatever. And do we have to be centuries away from a thing in order for one to be able to adequately speak to it.

Like I don't. That just doesn't feel right to me.

Andrea Martucci: I think that some people feel much more comfortable with the idea that bad things happened in the past, and very much not comfortable that bad things continue to happen.

Nicole Falls: That's probably very true.

Andrea Martucci: And it ruins the fantasy of everything's better now, especially with love.

It's like, Oh my God, like we are still in the pandemic. You know, we are still experiencing this. I don't know. I think that there's definitely something there. And I think there's also an [00:50:00] element of a lot of times when bad things in history or things that are inspired by traumatic historical events, the distance allows for inaccuracies that.

I don't know. I think like

Nicole Falls: It's like revisionist history.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Well, and distancing, just like, Oh, well these are people in the 18 hundreds. So they're not like real people, right?  Like, they're just cardboard cut out. You know,  you can't see my hands, but

Nicole Falls: To me, it's just amazing how people think they can tell other people how to create. Like, it's not something I can personally ascribe to. It's not my job. Right. My job is to consume the art and either like it or not like it, but that's it . You consume it, you interact with it.

However you process it and then you move forward. But the problem that I had with people, quote, unquote, policing was that they hadn't even consumed the damn art. So you're just like making assumptions based on something you see and dragging people. Like I'm so tired of drag culture, like, and not like, you know, drag culture, this thing that happens so often on Twitter where people - Someone can ask him an innocuous question.

Right? I'll give a great example. The other day, there was a young woman on Twitter, before I got banned, like by myself, not by Twitter. And her thing said like, she wanted to see you more, people with natural hair or head wraps and yada yada yada on book covers. Right? So she's swings at this thing and probably within her purview, there were very little of what she was saying that she craved. I saw, instead of people being like, Oh girl, actually here, these things are off, you know, here, here, here, promoting, it's just like (scoffs) this already exists. Look.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Nicole Falls: Like that's not the way to do it. And that is so pervasive in like every facet of Twitter now that it's really like. It harshes my buss so much. Cause I'm like, you don't have to be antagonistic to people when they're asking things or you don't have to,  talk down to people. Or, you know, make assumptions in the case of, you know, the quarantine or Corona books or whatever. Like it's just people are so much in a rush to like drag the next person and to show how much they know and how smart they are and how worldly they are.

And I'm just like, can you take [00:52:30] into account the simple fact that not everyone has your worldview? Like not everyone has the reach that you have, they don't see the things that you see. So why would you automatically think that just because you see this thing happen way often that they would have that same access, you know.

Andrea Martucci: I was nodding so hard during this, what you were just saying because yes, yes, yes.

I have thought about this a lot . Because I'm a citizen of Twitter. I see this all the time and I think you hit the nail on the head. There's a, "it makes me feel better if I can be the expert in this and I know everything and it makes me feel good if you know nothing and I can, push your face in the fact that you know nothing, because it establishes me as an expert."

So I think there's this gatekeeping, like "I liked the band first. Like I knew about book covers with this on it before you did dummy" and so part of it is like, "I'm the expert I knew it first." And then I think the effect of that is that people are like, well fuck it. (sound of disgust) like why, why couldn't you just say. Oh, Hey, me with my vast experience can surface these things for you or, Hey, you may not be aware of it, but there's like a lot out there. What you should search for is blank.  People do not know what they do not know. And I think that people who do know, Twitter brings this out in particular, but, I don't know what this phenomenon is more generally in our culture, but this like: somebody didn't know something once. So they are dead to me for life. And they're an idiot.

And I think that's related to : are you the kind of person who believes that people can grow? And I think a lot of these, self-professed experts, I am sad for them because their attitude is so much like I've learned everything and I also don't need to learn anything.

I've learned it all. I know everything and therefore I am a closed loop. Nothing's getting in and also nothing's getting out.

Nicole Falls: Yep.

Andrea Martucci: Right. It's super weird. But then  the people on the other side, and it sounds like the example you gave was somebody like, just completely, had no idea what they were stepping into.

There are some times where people say things where I'm like, You know, maybe you could have just had a debate with that person and given them information that might have changed their mind about it in a way that would have helped them grow. And instead you chose [00:55:00] to shame them or attack them in such a way that all that happened was they further became entrenched in this position.

Nicole Falls: Yeah. So I think it's that thing of being the gatekeeper of knowledge. Right. And not. Realizing that - and this is the thing that I struggle with, that everyone doesn't know everything that I know.

Right. So things that I think are common knowledge or things that I think are basic, that folks should know. Sometimes they just don't know it. And instead of always rebutting that with antagonistic energy, I have to take a step back and think before I reply a lot of the time, because I'm not perfect.

So I, I definitely have my moments where I have reflexive reactions to things, but I will step back sometimes and be like, okay, is this person like willfully obtuse or are they genuinely just ignorant? And when I say ignorant, I don't mean it in like, you know, a pejorative, whatever. I mean, like they just literally have no knowledge.

And so, I just think that most often it helps to lead with a more positive energy than not. Because antagonistic energy is almost always met with the more antagonistic energy and then you get into a back and forth about some dumb shit where it's just like, Why are you even arguing when you could've just said, Hey, these things exist. And let me show you where they are.

Andrea Martucci: We're totally on the same page. And,  I mean, I'm also not perfect. There are probably times where I could react in a better way to things, but yeah I feel like it's usually pretty easy to tell the difference between somebody

who cannot grow and somebody who's just kind of like a child wandering into the room on a topic, you know, or you can get there within one or two back and-, you know,  if you kind of approach it, like, do you really not know this?

Nicole Falls: Usually pretty, pretty easy to suss out.

Andrea Martucci: Right. Well, I think let's get down off our soap boxes. I love our soap boxes.

Nicole Falls: It makes me taller. I'm a fan.

Marker [00:57:07]

 Andrea Martucci: Thanks for listening to episode 55. And thanks to Nicole, for joining me. All the links to find Nicole online are in the show notes, which are also available on, along with a transcript for this episode.

Speaking of transcripts. I created a page on my website that collects all 16 episodes with transcripts currently available. I also explain a bit more [00:57:30] about the process of creating transcripts in case you're curious. If you know of someone who loves romance, but can't do podcast audio, consider sharing the link with them.

Next episode, Nicole will be back to discuss I think I Might Love You by Christina C. Jones. Thanks for joining me today.

If you have any thoughts on the show, I'd love for you to reach out to me. You can send an email to [email protected]. Black lives matter. Stay safe, stay mad and keep reading romance.