Shelf Love

059. A Sordid Journey into Romance Podcasting

Short Description

Jhen (host Monogamish Podcast) joins the podcast to interview ME in this retrospective on season 1 of Shelf Love. I tell my sordid journey into romance and romance podcasting, plus, I prepare you for season 2, and give you a look under the hood of this podcast and how and why I do it.

Questions answered: why I'm no longer a member of RWA, why sometimes you just have to do the thing, and my correspondence with Jayne Ann Krentz.


genre discussions

Show Notes

Jhen (host Monogamish Podcast) joins the podcast to interview ME in this retrospective on season 1 of Shelf Love. I tell my sordid journey into romance and romance podcasting, plus, I prepare you for season 2, and give you a look under the hood of this podcast and how and why I do it.

Questions answered: why I'm no longer a member of RWA, why sometimes you just have to do the thing, and my correspondence with Jayne Ann Krentz.


Show Notes:

Shelf Love:

Guest: Jhen from Monogamish

Jhen is a host of Monogamish, a podcast about consensual non-monogamy through the lens of a Black Carribbean lens.

Jhen on Twitter | Jhen on Instagram | Listen to Monogamish



[00:00:00]  Andrea Martucci: Hello. And welcome to episode 59 of Shelf Love, the podcast where we have thought-provoking, critical discussions about literature's most polarizing genre: romance novels. I'm Andrea Martucci host of Shelf love. And today I am joined by Jhen, my friend and fellow podcaster. Jhen is the host of Monogamish, a podcast about consensual non-monogamy.

She also happens to be an avid romance reader, fellow Katrina Jackson stan,  and basically live tweeted, listening to the entire first year of Shelf Love episodes.

Normally on this podcast, I interview other people, which means that my own journey into the genre has been revealed in bits and pieces over the course of my first season, if at all. Between seasons, I had a little recording break, which allowed me to pause and reflect a bit. Jhen generously joined the podcast, that's alliteration, to interview me, to help me do a retrospective on season one and tell my sordid journey into romance and romance podcasting.

Plus, I prepare you for season two and give you a look under the hood of this podcast and how and why I do it.

  Marker [00:01:15]

Jhen: Here we are, talking to you. On your own podcast.

Andrea Martucci: I want to say thank you for doing this with me, given that I basically invited you, somebody who's never been on the podcast to come onto my podcast and interview me. And  I was like, Oh, by the way, here's an outline like five minutes before we started recording. Sorry.

Jhen: Hey, that's fine. I work best under pressure or something. They tell me. We'll see how it turns out. Let's put it that way. I think we'll be okay.

Andrea Martucci: . (whispers) that's what the editing's for.

Jhen: That is what the editing's for. So you have a podcast it's called Shelf Love. You've been doing this for almost a year now, officially. You have a million episodes, which I've listened to.w All of them. Duh because I am the Shelf Love super fan. I don't care what anyone else says. You heard it here: I am the top Shelf Lovely.


Andrea Martucci: I'll have to send you a t-shirt. I will make you a single t-shirt. It's just for you and I will send it to you.

Jhen: See, that's what we like. As a top Shelf Lovely I feel as if I'm uniquely qualified to ask these important questions of you in this time. So we know you've been reading romance for about 20 years, right?

So tell me a bit more about this journey for you into being a romance reader.  Did you just happen to find a book somewhere and then realized there was [00:02:30] naughty stuff in it?

Andrea Martucci: A likely story? Yeah. And I think it's actually closer to 21 years now since I used the number 20 at the beginning of the podcast, but that was like a year ago.

So now I have to keep adding numbers on.

Jhen: I don't agree. I think we can be 20 forever.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. Yeah. So just 20 years forever. I discovered romance novels probably on my cousin's bookshelf and, or my aunt's bookshelf. Cause my mom didn't read them. So I believe I stole a romance novel, one of those Zebr  pirates.

Jhen: I remember those okay. Keep going.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. One of, definitely one of those romance novels and, took it home with me and was just totally enamored with it. And then I would go to the library and I would take them out and the librarians would always be suspiciously looking at me like, should I let this girl take these books out? And then I would smuggle them into my house because my mom did not entirely approve and I knew she would not approve. Were you going to say something, sorry - you look like you were going to say something.

Jhen: Does any parent really approve of children learning about things like this, unless you are a different style of parent, but I mean,

Andrea Martucci: I hope to be that kind of parent who is like here, read this romance novel.

So I started reading mostly what was in the library. And then eventually I would go to Borders and smuggle books home from Borders. And I also worked at the library book sale, like sorting through books and pricing them as a volunteer thing. And so I would be alone in this book room, like putting dollar or $2 stickers on these old paperbacks.

And sometimes I would just sit down and read them. And I would take them home cause I was allowed to take whatever I wanted. I would take books home and definitely got an education in the early 1970s era, true bodice ripper-type romances, so I definitely read all of the Kathleen Woodiwiss stuff.

And, then I discovered, so this would have been, the late, mid to late nineties, early two thousands. And, discovered Jennifer Crusie and really fell in love with that sort of brand of contemporary romance author, and eventually made my way to, admittedly the white catalog of romance  novelists. This is something I've mentioned before on the podcast where, you know, like obviously at a certain point, the onus and responsibility is on me, but there's also incredibly flawed means of curation. So like what was at the library book sale? All [00:05:00] books with white characters? What was in my library? All books with white characters. What's on the shelves of Borders? and

Jhen: yeah.

Andrea Martucci: By the time I got to college, I was studying writing literature and publishing. And, basically if I could write a paper about romance novels, I would. The first big paper I had to write in college was a 20-page research paper.

And I have pulled this paper out to reread it like recently, and I - there are parts of it where I'm like, wow, that's a great argument. And then there are parts of it where I'm like, Ooh, wow. That is an incredibly flawed argument there, Andrea. But  I was really trying to dig into  if romance novels were feminist, which is -

Jhen: Well. (we both laugh uproariously)

Andrea Martucci: Guess what I did not successfully really answer that question but I was reading, my text was Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas  and of course I read Reading the Romance and did not really understand what the heck it was doing, because what I really was looking for at that time was somebody to explain to me why I loved romance novels so much and what they were about and how to take a lot of the regressive stuff that I was reading and jive it with my understanding of love and romance as an 18, 19 year old.

And I think that there are a lot of things I read prior to that point, that actually now as a mature older woman, I look back on it and I'm like, I really wish that was not my introduction to romance and sex and that that did not color so much my understanding of relationships. It is what it is.

Right. And I, I think that romance as a genre is moving in a much more positive direction, but now I'm like fascinated by what it all means.  But like one of the things that really bothered me when I was trying to understand romance from the lens of a very young immature researcher was that, it didn't seem like there were any basic texts that took romance seriously, that could answer some of the basic questions and help me find my way to more advanced topics. Like it felt like I was just in this black hole where there was no research on this.  I know now, there was research, it was a different time in terms of research technology. It wasn't always easy to find what did exist and what I did find I didn't really have great guides to understand.

One book that I read at the time was Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, which is, was written in like [00:07:30] 1985 I think. It's this collection of essays by various romance authors, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz. And Oh, by the way, I read a lot of Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle, like all of her pseudonyms.

Jhen: okay you were reading everything.

Andrea Martucci: I was reading everything. That's what the library had, right? The library loved, like there's like just like shelves of her stuff. But, so I remember I wrote to Jayne Ann Krentz and, because  there was a reference to some essay that she wrote. And I couldn't find it anywhere. And I like wrote her a letter, like a paper letter,

Jhen: look at you and taking it retro.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. And I was like, Hey, I'm really trying to find this. Do you know where I can find it or something? And she mailed me a paper photocopy of this article, which was extremely helpful for me.

I still have it somewhere. I wish I had the letter that she sent me, but, you know, she was like, Oh, I'm so glad, young academic studying this. And I'm like, I'm an academic? What? I'm so glad, like you're studying this and taking it seriously. And I was like, cool, awesome.

And sorry, I'm like writing this off - like it was actually really meaningful for me.

Jhen: Yeah. No - I can tell that was meaningful for you. You guys cannot see her beautiful face, but I can see the emotions.

Andrea Martucci: My eyes are glimmering with unspent emotion. And. you know, I wrote this paper when I was like 19 and, I was going into magazine publishing, but, adjacent to writing and all of that stuff - I took plenty of fiction courses and stuff in college.

And, when I came out of college, I, you know, I had a job and I'm working in publishing and I got married and I was like, I've always wanted to write a romance novel. I'm going to join RWA. And that'll make me get serious about this thing that I want to do.

Jhen: Of course it will. (we both laugh ruefully) That's absolutely. I could see that happening.

Andrea Martucci: You join an organization that makes you do the thing, right? That's how it works. And, so I joined RWA the local, well, you know, you had to join the national chapter. And  I went to local chapter meetings here, the New England Chapter. And this was right around the time where digital publishing was getting really big. Indie publishing was breaking out.

So this is  2010, 11, 12 ish, let's say. And

Jhen: That sounds about right.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And the chapter leadership at the time, because I'm trying to like think how I want to tell the story. So I joined this organization, like I diligently go to the meetings and I'm like absorbing all this knowledge about writing [00:10:00] romance, not doing a lot of romance writing in the meantime, because I'm really fascinated by the ideas. But spoiler alert, I don't know if I actually want to write a romance novel, but I think it seemed like the obvious thing. I want to talk about romance. I'm interested in romance. I must want to write a romance novel.

And so I was in this organization and,  you know, doing the conferences, whatever. And then after being in the organization for less than a year, I was asked to like, run for secretary because basically, they're always looking for like somebody who will do the work. And, so like I showed up enough that they were like, let's get her on the ticket. And so I became the secretary and I eventually became the conference chair for the local chapter conference.

And, and I'm like, 24, 25 at the time,

Jhen: This is a big position for a well, based on what we know about romance authors, right? So we're thinking of romance authors. Especially, nowadays not so much, but back then, Quote, unquote back then -

Andrea Martucci: seven years ago,

Jhen: like seven years ago. I still feel as if a lot of people who would go to these meetings were on the older end of the spectrum.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. And then I think what I kind of saw happening in my time there was more of the younger crowd starting to filter in. I think that what I saw was a real tension between these upstart indie people who, it was assumed were writing crap, trying to wiggle their way into this esteemed organization. (this is all very sarcastic)

And there was a huge tension between kind of the old guard and the new people coming in and I'm fresh off my publishing degree, where of course I learned about digital publishing and, and I'm, doing this in my day job and stuff and like I didn't understand why it was so threatening. Where I was like, if it's crap, then what do you have to worry about? And if it's good then

Jhen: yay you have good people working with you. That's amazing.

Andrea Martucci: is it a zero sum game? Like readers read a ton of shit. What does it matter? Now there's just you know, more authors, whatever, but it was obviously extremely threatening and I didn't have much to do with the national organization, but it definitely felt like the national organization was way behind in terms of addressing this and - and I don't know exactly the timetable, but you know, like indie published, wasn't part of the big contests. And there was a lot of questions over like, are you a romance writer if you're writing indie [00:12:30] stuff? Do you qualify as like a published author? Things like that. So yeah, it was an interesting time to kind of part of the organization.

And, so Meredith Wild, I don't know if you're familiar with her. She lived in the area at the time, came to a few meetings and like, and she had just published her first - not just the first book, but like that first series that she had like Hard Wired or so- I, I don't know, Hard something and self published it.

And it was like a huge breakout success, like life-altering successful. And, I also, at the time, talked to Julia Kent who had recently started self publishing, and also like was a huge breakout success, like life-altering success.

And like, you know, I would talk to them. I pulled Julia aside at the conference, I was like, tell me like everything, what are you doing? And, you know, I talked to Meredith a little bit back then. And I had a really hard time, like reconciling, like what the problem was. So wait a second. They're incredibly smart marketers. They're finding a niche. They're writing these books that people enjoy. They've found this channel to distribute on . I cannot imagine a traditionally-published author finding this kind of success in  the space of six months.

Jhen: Oh, it would not happen at all.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And so  I was like why is everybody fighting? This sounds amazing. Isn't this what we want? Romance getting into reader's hands and authors being successful. Like, Isn't that what we want? Why are these people not speaking at this organization? And what started happening was, early on, in my time on that board, I would be like, what about this new idea? What about that new idea? What if we have this person speak about this topic?

And I would get shot down a lot because it's like, Oh, we don't do that. Or we have to have this person for this reason. And, that's just not how it's done here. And at first I was like, okay, like, sure, what do I know?

I'm, 25, what do I know? I haven't been part of yet the organization very long, and I will trust people that have been around longer, but the more I kind of saw what was going on, I was like, Oh, no, you're just protecting the old way of doing things and you're just threatened by this.

And, there's a story about a really spectacular flame out that I had with the local chapter, that basically involved some election shenanigans that I was like, what the hell are you doing? And then, because - I don't know if I'll leave this part in - then because I was calling this out, as retribution, the person who was doing the [00:15:00] shenanigans tried to get me kicked out of the entire organization, but this is all to say that it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

And once I basically realized I was like, fuck writing anyways, because I don't want to do this. I'm interested in romance, but this obviously isn't the path for me. I've written like two words since I joined here.

Jhen: I mean, that's two more than most people have written. So you should just celebrate your accomplishments.

You wrote two words of a romance novel. Cheers.

Andrea Martucci: No, I think, No, I think honestly it was a good journey for me to realize what do I really want to do with this? I was like, I love talking about this, but I actually have zero interest in writing. So it was, it was good and bad, but also it, at the point at which things got, I was like, I don't need this, this absolutely does not have to be part of my journey, wherever this is going.

Jhen: I just want to say, not that you are, psychic or anything, but we saw what happened with the RWA flame out and what is still happening with the RWA flame out. That's still continues to this day. I swear to God, they should get their shit together.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I mean,

And I want to say, even, in the chapter I was in, there were lots of amazing people who were really trying and not just well-meaning, but actually trying to do good things.

And know that there was like a massive overhaul of leadership at the chapter I was at, I've heard good things happened. And I know that in lots of chapters and across the organization and nationals, there's plenty of people who want to move things in a positive direction.

There's just also this really big force of wanting to never change and there is a lot of like, Nope, this is the way it's done. It has to be done this way. And Oh look, this here's a rule. It has to be done this way. And, no ability to really throw things out and start fresh when needed.

So I got a brush of that and I admire people who are, who see something worth saving and are trying to save it.  I certainly don't want this to be like a condemnation of people who are trying to make it work.

It's just like the organization just, yeah. I don't need to rehash what we all know.

Jhen: No, we don't need to rehash that. I, we salute the people who were genuinely trying to make things better and hope that the people who are not trying to make things better and keep things the same status quo.

(chanting) Andrea Martucci: status quo, got to go status quo, got to go,

Jhen: We'll start a chat. We'll post some placards. We'll do the thing. We want justice and all that. But I do hope that we are able [00:17:30] to cut out the rotting parts of this organization that has been so instrumental to so many other people's success. Probably the best way of putting that right?

Andrea Martucci: Well some people's success. Yeah.

Jhen: yeah, for some people, like we can get into how, Kennedy Ryan winning a RITA was like an amazing thing for her. And she has gotten a lot from that, but we can also look at all the other people who have not even come close to getting any kind of recognition or acceptance of the different ways in which they write romance.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I think it's important to separate the systemic issues with RWA from individuals and some individuals are upholding the systemic problems and fighting keeping them.

And, unfortunately it really will take the majority of people being invested in that change happening for it to actually happen. And the problem is that a few people pushing for change doesn't necessarily change the organization. I think that what happens is we get into a bubble of like, "obviously everybody agrees that things need to change, and this is the path forward. And this is where we want to go." And I think unfortunately with RWA, it's not clear that everybody wants that. There's a large population of people who are probably not on Twitter and who probably are not speaking publicly about stuff, but are really invested in upholding the current system. And it's, unfortunately I think a much bigger number than seems visible, particularly to like romance Twitter.

And I think that that's what explains why things are so hard to change and, I don't have answers for it, but (groans) .


Marker [00:19:25]

  So anyways, so after that,

Jhen: yeah, after that we left RWA.

Andrea Martucci: So after that I was a bit burned out on romance and I got pregnant and, I went through some sort of like stressful years in terms of  my mental health with having a new baby and just like work type stress and life stress generally. And, it's not that I didn't read romance during those years, but I did it lethargicly. Like I would go through a phase where I'd go to the library and read a bunch of books, or I'd [00:20:00] download a bunch of books on my Kindle or whatever, but I wasn't doing it very purposefully and I was having a hard time  finding authors that I really liked. And there were kind of like black years in terms of romance for me. I went to therapy and I got a better job situation  and I emerged from the fog of having  an infant and  actually got some sleep and stuff like that.

And I kind of emerged out of that and  I really needed like a creative project. And I had been like sewing avidly  for the previous year, literally sewing, like everything I wore and I was like, this is a great creative outlet. I think I need to like channel my creativity into something else that is also something I'm passionate about, but I don't need to keep making clothes for myself.  Okay, like this is maybe a little obsessive, I need a new creative outlet.

And, I was like, I'm gonna start a podcast.

I've always kind of like worked in the content space and marketing.  I've never done a podcast before, but I've done blogs. I've done websites. I've done magazines and journals and all sorts of different content. Yeah, I can figure out a podcast, right?

I can package up ideas in this way.  What should my podcast be about? And I was like, obviously romance novels. Like, what else can I talk about endlessly, but romance novels. And so I kind of emerged back into the world of romance and like reconnected with it.

And I feel like romance changed a lot in those like fiveish years that I had disconnected.

Jhen: Absolutely romance is a totally different ball game. Even when you look at it from like a year to year standpoint, the kinds of books that are coming out, the kinds of topics that we're covering in romance, it is different.

And so going from a couple of years of not really reading it to, Hey, I'm going to start a podcast about romance novels. And these books are not the same books I left behind.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I've started things before, like when I was in college, I started a magazine, that is still being published today. I started this magazine and ran this magazine for two years as a college student. And so I kind of had this  experience creating these content vehicles. And I think the number one thing I've learned from the experience is sometimes you just have to jump in and not overthink it.

And that's exactly what I did with this podcast where I probably could have spent a year trying to catch up on where things were, but I was like, no, I'm just going to start. And of course I had this idea for a tightly [00:22:30] segmented, 30 minute podcast that didn't happen.

Jhen: Does that ever really happen though. I think anyone who was ever started - as someone who has their own podcast. I can tell you my idea was a 30 to 45 minute long podcast episode, I did not want anything longer than 45 minutes. The episode that comes out pretty regularly is generally between an hour and 40 minutes to know exactly that I understand what you were talking about.

This is, it just turns out how it turns out.

Andrea Martucci: How much can you really know before you actually just start doing it? Unless you have a really good guide, which I didn't - a combination of not really knowing who to reach out to, or like really even understanding what the field was already.  The only romance podcast I  listened to was Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. And then. When I was like, Oh, I'm going to do this. Like over the course of a week, I listened to like, at least one episode of every other romance podcast, just to get a feel. And I went into it trying to figure out like, what's going to make my podcast different?

And I knew I didn't, I wasn't going to do book reviews. I will say more at some point about like explicitly why I do not review books. I knew I wanted to talk about books and I knew like the number one thing was we are going to take romance novels seriously. We weren't going to ever make fun of romance novels although we would have fun. But I didn't have any idea what I was doing. Okay. Like I just didn't know. And I fully admit that.

Jhen: Thank you for telling us.  It did not come off like you didn't know what you were doing. Cause I remember listening to, I remember I got on to you guys a bit later, so I think you had already had like maybe what, 20 or 30 episodes up by the time I started listening to you.

Andrea Martucci: I think, wait did you come in on Katrina's first episode?

Jhen: So here's the thing I've listened to the episodes individually that had Katrina on them, but I did not listen to all of them from the beginning forward until I think you were probably about 20 something episodes in.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. All right. Yeah. So let's pause because I want to talk about you listening to it from the beginning. So as the person who created this podcast, I have my concept of how and why it evolved into whatever it evolved into. But I'm super curious. So Katrina was your entree into the podcast. You were like, I like Katrina, let me listen to this podcast. You listened to the ones with her in it, but then you decided to go back to the beginning [00:25:00] and start with episode one. And

Jhen: Yep, I did that.

Andrea Martucci: And you could you could binge it, because most of them were already out.

Jhen: Yeah. I could binge it. I've only gotten into problems in the past couple of months where I was kind of like, wow, you're really not going to put out the episode when I want it out? Not like every single day until I've? Oh, okay, cool. Cool. Noted.

Andrea Martucci: So my question for you, and the reason that I asked you to do this with me is mostly because of this experience, is I know we talked via chat one time about what it looked like from the outside, that evolution. But I'm curious, like, how would you describe what happened between episode one and episode 56?

Jhen: So I want to let you guys know I do listen to other romance podcasts ocasionally, not like regularly. This is the only podcast about romance I actually listen to regularly now. But, before I had tried a couple of other ones and there were things that I liked or didn't like, and I'm really bad at podcasts in general, even though I have my own.

So yeah. So I love Katrina so I listened to Katrina's episodes first. And then I was like, you know what? These episodes are pretty good. I think I like this Andrea person, let's start at episode one and see what's happening. And I felt that it was definitely about books and serious about books, but also presented in a more lighthearted way.

It was okay, like how would you rate this book on heat? Ways in which to make the books accessible to people who may not have been as avid of a romance reader as we are. So I was like, okay, I appreciate this. I have feelings about that, that holiday boo novel. I that's a whole other thing, but I could see that you were trying to make it accessible while still being able to express your opinion in a certain way.

And you know, bringing on people of different levels of romance readers. Like either you don't read romance at all, or you're a writer or you're an avid reader, or you're all somewhere in the middle of there. I thought it was interesting how you did that. And then I could see the conversations evolving from being, you know, this super light-hearted, accessible to everyone thing into more, great. Now that I've hooked you. And I know that you read romance, this is where we're at. Now we're now we're getting to the nitty gritty. Now we're talking about these feelings are trying to portray, what these authors are trying to discuss and the history surrounding certain things. And I really appreciated the, I wouldn't say the academic, but the [00:27:30] more academic critical thinking way that you started talking about books.

So I liked some of the lighthearted stuff, but then I also was like, Oh, you're bringing up a really good point. I never thought about that reading this particular book and I appreciated your insight and the insight of your guests that you'd brought on to talk about these things. As I continued listening, I was like, okay, this is just getting better and better.

All right, here we are. I'm into it. So now that I am the most up to date that anyone could ever be on the podcast, I can definitely see that you probably started out thinking that you were going to put out one thing and then as it got on, you're like, nah, that's not it. And even, I think every episode you can see that slight shift, like the first couple of 'em, I think it would have all been recorded around a similar time and which is how we all do podcasting things.

So you can see that they were very similar in terms of what you were thinking. And then as you grew, it was like, nah, I'm going to talk about this thing. I'm going to add this thing. We're going to do this thing. And I could just see the podcast blossoming and then the trust in the listenership also blossoming that they would understand these things.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, interesting. Okay. And I think that probably along with that was the trust in my own opinions about romance and, speaking of Katrina, sometimes like, I will say things to her in DMs where I'm like, this is how I really feel. And she's like, why didn't you just say that? And I'm like, I don't know!

Jhen: I can understand that. I too, I'm in Katrina's DMs saying things that I should've said out loud to other people, but I get it. You have to become more confident in yourself as a podcaster and what you're trying to say. So I noticed that a lot of these other romance podcasts in general have a writer component to them or someone who is active in Romancelandia and different job romancey ways.

You know what I mean? So I think that starting this thing, also it was like, cause you were like, yeah, you were always into romance. You did RWA, you stepped back from that. And then you came back to romance. I feel as if. Yeah. You, maybe you weren't as confident in what you knew, especially considering, like we said, romance has changed so much since the last time you even really read it.

So it was like, shit, where am I at right now? And I could just, yeah, I felt it. I felt that connection with you as a host and the things that you were trying to convey to us. I don't know if that makes sense, but here we are.

Andrea Martucci: I think that makes sense exactly. And I think that, sometimes [00:30:00] it's really easy to feel paralyzed by the need to have known everything that happened.

Like every academic who has written about something, every book, every romance novel that has discussed this topic, every romance author who wrote a blog post about this.  And I think it's very easy to not say something for fear that you are repeating something that has been said before.

And mean, I'm not going to say, like, I don't still have that concern sometimes. I think probably what I've tried to do is change how I phrase things. So it's clear that I'm not - like I've never said it like this, but it may have sounded like what I was saying was like, " I had this idea first!" where I'm just like I have this idea. I don't know. What do you guys think?

And just being a little bit clearer where I'm like, sure, let me know if somebody has something I want to read about related to this, but like sometimes Google isn't actually good at helping you find what you're looking for.

Like either because you don't know what to search for, or that's probably the biggest thing is unless you search for something very specific, it may not actually answer your question or find you what you're looking for. I've gone down some deep rabbit holes looking for information. And I mean, sometimes really it's like in somebody else's brain.

And and sometimes I think we just have to acknowledge that knowledge is always cycling, like

Jhen: absolutely.

Andrea Martucci: I don't necessarily think that any thought I have is original. Like I live in the world that lots of other people live in and lots of other people have similar experiences to me. So it is totally logical to assume that the way we think about something or the, the conclusions we come to, or the questions we have are the same questions, the same conclusions, And, I think with the podcast, I don't ever seek to make the statement that like I'm breaking new ground doing anything.

It's more just like  answering the questions I have and taking everybody along for the ride.

Jhen: So I absolutely understand that. You sat down, you decided people want to hear what I have to say. These are things that I want to talk about. And so it's that sort of thing where yeah, no idea is truly original once you're operating from the same set of experiences as someone else, because someone has probably already thought of it.

And that's fine. You're just one of the people who said it out loud. And I do feel as if you are sharing your thoughts and your ideas and your knowledge with us and the knowledge of your guests with us as well, because, but that episode that you did [00:32:30] about Wattpad. I only vaguely knew about Wattpad, cause that's not where I got my fan fiction. I got my fan fiction on So I vaguely knew about Wattpad, but even just like listening to that guests, talk about

Andrea Martucci: Tamara Lush.

Jhen: Publishing, publishing on Wattpad and what that's like for her and stuff. I was like, Oh wow, this is really interesting. This is amazing. And obviously there are tons of other people who know about these sort of things, but that's okay.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that, my philosophy when it comes to production is like the reason I put a lot of effort into the production of the podcast and really tightly editing it - and, part of it is me just being creative and having fun. And part of it is what takes this from being just a conversation I have with somebody else where I'm learning about it and turns it into something that is helpful and useful for other people and entertaining hopefully, is that I have crafted it into something like, it's not just bloop hit record. Here you go. Like I have, I've really crafted it.

And I've been really thoughtful, pre production and postproduction, and it's created something unique, whether the ideas within it are completely unique or not like maybe you could go read a blog post about it, but I created a podcast about it and here is this particular conversation.

And hopefully I have added some creative flourishes that make it enjoyable for somebody and because of the, what I hope is high production value, maybe that helps more people find it. Or, once I started doing the transcripts, makes it more accessible for people - and some people just don't like audio or they don't have life situations where listening to audio makes sense.

Whereas reading something is much more convenient and also vice versa, some people don't like reading things so audio and podcasts are really great. So like, yes, I take pride in the audio component and the audio production, but also I think that the ideas are worth sharing kind of in different mediums.

And, and I think I take pride in - so I work professionally in marketing and if there's one thing I'm good at and know how to do.

Jhen: We know what's up. Trust me you're good. As a fellow podcaster, I admire your production value.

So let's just put that out there.

Andrea Martucci: Thanks, babe.  And so, and I kind of wanted to talk a little bit about like -  in case you're wondering, editing an hour long episode, even just like the production usually takes 10 hours, and that's then also I probably talked to somebody for like three [00:35:00] hours because I don't know when to shut up and, probably had to read a book at some point prior to that. So like, each episode conservatively is 25 hours of work.

So I have a full time job. I have a five-year-old. So as anyone with small children knows, they are a joy and also work.

And, I do occasionally clean my house, although, as I have said before, not often, and you know, people are kind of like, Oh, how do you have time for that? And I'm like, okay, well, I don't watch TV. Basically this is like all I do.

Jhen: Yeah. You cut down on a lot of things by not watching TV, let me tell you that.

Andrea Martucci: Yep. I have a husband who cooks. I let go of certain other things that other people might say are non negotiable parts of their life, where I'm just like, no, you know, I'm happy to not do that and do this other stuff. I think most people would probably be surprised how much free time they actually have if they cut out doom scrolling and I do plenty of doom scrolling too.

Jhen: That's how I found you scrolling on the internet, so really we should be thankful for it sometimes

Andrea Martucci: Just this once I will give it just this once doom scrolling worked out. So when I first started podcasting, I was part of the Frolic Podcast Network and, at a certain point, for a variety of reasons, I no longer felt like being part of the podcast network made sense for me.

It didn't feel like it was really like serving what I needed and what I wanted the podcast to be. In case anyone is curious, in my podcasting journey, I have earned a total of $115, from ads that ran on the podcast. But given the costs of running the podcast, I would say that this podcast is firmly in the red.

Now that I understand what I want my podcast to be, I don't actually ever see this as being something that is going to have like a massive, massive audience. I recognize that even within romance, it's a bit of a niche interest.

And,  I understand what it is I'm trying to do. And I'm happy with what I'm trying to do and it wasn't worth it to me to spend like 45 minutes writing and producing an ad for like $15. I was like, you know what? I could spend my time doing something much better.  I'm incredibly privileged to have the disposable income to do a project like this and be in the red on it. I'm fairly scrappy. Like I don't pay anybody to do anything.

I don't pay someone to edit. I don't pay someone to make my transcripts. I do the work myself. I pay for some software basically. And the reason why I do [00:37:30] it is because I enjoy it. And I think that it was really important for me to get to the point of understanding that I'm doing it because I enjoy it. Not because I'm expecting this to become my job or I'm expecting to make a ton of money or expecting to have some huge audience   on the receiving end of this. And like, that doesn't mean that I don't care about growing my audience. It doesn't mean that I don't care about the production of it. Like it's not, I don't ever want it to be a vanity project, the why of why I do it has to come from what am I taking away from this is, this is basically my PhD in romance, and if I do it for everybody else, then I can talk to really smart people who will talk to me because it's for a podcast. And if I create interesting content, then people will listen to it and sort of become part of the conversation and I'll learn from them too.

And, it kind of becomes this, this community that I think is really valuable. So like, I feel like everything is worth it. But I have to remind myself constantly, like, why are you doing this? Why instead of just reading romances, are you forcing yourself to do all of this work around reading a romance novel?

And, it's, I find it valuable. I enjoy it. And I have to, I have to remind myself that's why I'm doing it because I think it's very easy to get distracted by things that I think like my brain tells me, Oh, you should, try to do this. Like you should go after this thing.

And there are the distractions really from what I'm trying to do. Which actually, I think brings me to where's the podcast going?

Marker [00:39:08]

  Did you know that Shelf Love runs on positive energy? Fill up the tank by rating and reviewing on Apple Podcasts or share the podcast with a friend, casual acquaintance, or all the people who follow you on Twitter by telling them why you hit subscribe. You're subscribed. Right? Thank you so much for coming on this journey with me.

Marker [00:39:28]

Jhen: Yeah, you've definitely drilled down into what is it like, why you do it? And now I was just going to ask you where it's going. I have an idea of where it's going based off of how the later episodes have turned out.

So I can see it. I could see a direction here.  I want you to tell me so I can pat myself on the back and say, I'm right.

Andrea Martucci: So I mean like where do you think it's going? cause then it'll be more impressive if you actually guess and I'll cut it out if you're wrong.

Jhen: If I actually guess

Andrea Martucci: no, I'll leave it in if you get it right.

[00:40:00] Jhen: Oh, okay. All right. So I think we're going more analytical, more critical, more academic, like before we were in high school, maybe we started some college courses. Now we're getting our master's and doctorate in romance. I feel like that's where you're taking us.

Andrea Martucci: You're very intuitive and you're a true student of this podcast, Jhen, for guessing that, because that's exactly where it's going. I think at first when I started the podcast, it was intentionally trying to be fluffy. And then I was like, I'm not actually that interested in being fluffy.

I really want to like dig in and I want to talk about things and want to answer the questions that I have, or at least try to understand them better. There's a lot of questions that I have that I don't think there is an answer, there's no one answer, but I just want to understand it better.

I did feel like I was working up to reading more of the scholarly work that does exist or is being created on romance, popular romance fiction. I've done a fair amount of reading at this point of various books and articles and stuff.

And I think there's still a lot of it that I don't feel like I have enough of a foundation to truly understand. And I am trying to go to people now who can really explain some of that stuff, but I,  I'm trying to like, hold this position is somewhere between a scholarly take and a what's the word I want,

Jhen: So you're looking at it from a more academic standpoint in terms of learning more about popular romance fiction and how we present things and why things are the way they are, as opposed to just being a consumer and reading it and just for entertainment.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. Thank you. Yes. Okay. So I think I'm trying to create something that's accessible to consumers of romance. I don't exactly expect people who listen to the conversations that are coming on the podcast to read the source material even though I have read the source material. As I talk to people, I hope that I can take the position as a sort of educated lay person where I know enough to be able to ask the right questions and untangle it and take the place of the audience and being like, that doesn't make any sense. Can you explain that to me? Or what am I missing here? Because like, this is the part that doesn't make sense to me.

I think it takes a certain amount of knowledge of the scholarly side to do that. I'm doing so much reading that is really just trying to like, build that [00:42:30] foundational knowledge, where I, I can figure out like what the right questions to ask are or like what the interesting questions are.

I'm trying to be gentle with myself and be like, yeah, these people have spent like decades or at least a decade studying this. Like you're not going to do it in your free time in a month,

Jhen: If you could, I'd applaud you because I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast in the morning.

And you're trying to cram a decade of scholarly education into a weekend.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And let's be honest. This is like my fatal flaw, like, Achilles had a heel and I have my unquenchable thirst for knowledge, as I said to Katrina Jackson - if I ever get through an episode without mentioning Katrina Jackson, please send me an email and I will send you a tee shirt (Jhen laughs) to the first person who, who calls me on it.

I have to be gentle with myself and like, be reasonable and realistic about how much I can possibly know. And allow myself to grow and allow the podcast to continue to grow. Because I think that having seen it grow over season one,  I'm like, Oh wow, what a journey that was cool.

I have to continue to acknowledge that if I want to keep growing and I want the podcast to keep going in interesting new directions that like, I'm not always gonna know at the beginning, like where exactly it's going to go. Okay, I know what I know now.

I am going to have the conversation I can have now. And maybe I will listen to this conversation a year from now and be like, Oh, here are the five things you should have said then, or that now you would have contributed to this conversation and just be like, okay, I know that now. And that's going to inform episodes a year from now. Like I truly hope to continue to be doing this into the future. I don't know exactly how long, but I think that I have plenty more questions and topics.

Like I literally have like 20 topics that I want to explore. And I think maybe if anything, I'm figuring out the granularity of topics that I want to explore, where enemies to lovers, there's a million things you can really drill down to in that.

And so I think that I'm getting more specific in terms of like what question I'm really trying to answer. And I think also understanding that I'm not going to have the answer. Every episode, doesn't have to end with us reaching a conclusion. It's really that idea that we've sort of like, well, what about this? what about this? Oh, do you ever think about this before? Like I think that's the fun of it is not necessarily being right or figuring it out. It's trying to figure it out.

Jhen: Yeah. And being able to think critically about what you're reading. And what the things are trying to be conveyed as, I can [00:45:00] see that. As a reader, as a romance reader and not a writer, trust me, I do not have the patience to write anything. So I praise anyone who does.

  I write blog posts. That's what I write. I write blog posts and I write show notes. That's my writing ability for right now.

But I can say that as a reader of romance. So you've been reading romance for about 20 years. I have been reading romance for about the same length of time. I would say maybe a little bit longer because I've been reading romance since I was a kid. My mom read romance when I was growing up. And so as a result, I read romance when I was growing up. Cause it's what was available to me, aside from boring kids books, who wants that?

So I have for the most part, just consumed media without thinking critically about it, because this is what was available to me. And obviously child me is not thinking about why certain things are happening the way they are in books.

But, what I will say is that as I've gotten older and been able to critique myself more probably, and critique the world around me, I, it has, I have also chosen to escape into romance novels and not have to think about it. But then that does, that kind of puts me in a weird  spot, because if you're thinking critically about everything else then why aren't you thinking critically about the thing that brings you joy?

I don't know and I stopped reading romance for a long time and only started back in about 2015, I think. Is that science and math. I don't know,

Andrea Martucci: That was five years ago.

Jhen: Yeah. Five years ago. Yeah. We're in 2020. See, we're smart. We can do this, but I did not read romance for a really long time because I was told that it was stupid and growing up in a smaller country, that's not things that you really did, past a certain point. You did it when you were a kid and then you did it when you were married, but not really much in between. So I, I was reading all these super serious books F Scott Fitzgerald's and all of that. The only romance book I read in that time period Yeah. was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice cause I had to read that for school and I loved it. And do we consider Shakespeare to have written any romance? I mean like he's written romantic tragedies, romantic comedies. What not

Andrea Martucci: I think maybe some of his comedies, but was the love story the central...?

I know that Jane Austen, like Pride and Prejudice technically fulfills the criteria to be a romance novel. I truly do not feel like for the purposes of discussing popular romance [00:47:30] fiction, it counts.

Jhen: It's one of those things where people have made a lot of great romance novels about Pride and Prejudice. I think it's probably one of the most adapted romance-y books are out there. Cause when you look at the movies, the TV shows, the other books,

So Jane Austen sort of romance, not really, but like I said, that's what I was reading in my academic youth and going from reading Mills and Boon and Harlequin as a child into, reading this more, acceptable romance. Cause it's literary gold or whatever.

Andrea Martucci: The canon.

Jhen: The canon, you spend a lot of time talking about the canon that does or does not exist. Who knows, but, yeah, so we move forward and then I think it must've been 2015, but was it really because I started reading romance on Kindle Unlimited when I came back into it.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, Boy, has it been around that long actually?


Jhen: Yeah. So that's when I, that's where I really started into it. I got like a free trial because I think it was like just really being a thing, but there wasn't much on there, but I started it in that way. Yeah. And then not really keeping up with it somehow, still paying for it. Thank you auto pay.

That's what that does for you.  Then progressing into 2016 and 2017 is where I really feel like I've hit the stride. So I was reading Talia Hibbert, and I found  her in Kindle Unlimited. I was reading with Theodora Taylor, 50 Loving States. And then I decided, you know what, I want to read a lot about the Black romance authors, who are they? What are they doing out there? And so that's how I found Rebekah Weatherspoon and her vampire sorority series. And going through all of these things to get to where I am in romance now as a reader and going from just reading fun books, cause even then it was just considered a fun book to me, to now where I am trying to encourage myself to think more critically about this sort of thing and what it is doing and what it's not doing for me as a reader and who the books are really written for has been an interesting thing. And I think that also listening to your podcast and, talking to Katrina and, following,

Andrea Martucci: other people too.

Jhen: Yeah. The other romance author people who are on Twitter and stuff, you know, seeing how they talk about romance and realizing Oh, I did have that thought, but I didn't really sit down and like germinate on it and figure out like, what that really meant in the context of what's happening.

[00:50:00] Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Jhen: I'm saying all of this to say that I think your podcast is doing important work for people like me who are not thinking as critically about these things and having someone who is discussing this in a way that is accessible as a, mindless quote, unquote reader is important. And I like what you're doing and I'm interested in seeing how the academic and more scholarly side of things presents to other people. I know I'll be into it cause I like to read stuff and listen to stuff, but other people, I wonder how they will receive it.

Andrea Martucci: It's interesting - everything you just said.

first of all, talking about your journey through romance and how your reading evolved and that's a topic I want to talk about, which actually, again, inspired by Katrina. We've talked about this and I know this is like an exercise she encourages people to do to think about.

And, I talked about this, but I also didn't really go as in depth as I want to go into sort of talking about the books that were part of my early romance reading that I look back on now that I'm like, Ooh, like that was problematic and I didn't realize it, and now I do, and I truly can see how that was not a good thing for me to experience.

And I want to dig more into that - I love romance as a genre. Like I love it. I cannot say that every romance novel is - first of all, there are a lot of books that are just like forgettable. Like they are flash in the pans and if somebody enjoys them, if many people enjoy them, that's fantastic.

Like I'm not going to yuck anybody's yum. There are some books that I think are actively harmful and I'm not going to say they shouldn't exist, but I think that we need to really have the tools as readers to spot those things and think about them. And there's also some things that are  treats -  it's like the difference between poison and candy.

There are some things where a lot of people call these like problematic faves, where you kind of know  there's something going on. And I want to get into so many problematic faves and be like, why do we like this? What is this serving for us? And not saying, "you can't read this," just what is it that really makes us like this? Even though we know intellectually it's really problematic?

Jhen: Yeah. I feel that, we talked about this a little bit [00:52:30] privately, we can bring it up for the podcast, I suppose like your favorite, trope as a young reader, like you wanted that, blossoming into a butterfly under the careful tutelage of a loving partner, that was your thing.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, I am the heroine in the romance novel who like has this make-over right? I don't even want the loving partner to be the one to do the cocooning. I want this third party to come in and literally wave a wand and do the work of transforming me into a beautiful butterfly so that I can self-actualize into my true self -  and become my true self effortlessly. That's the fantasy. And I think that the way make-overs happen in romance novels tend to be really problematic. I don't know if there's actually a way to do it in a way that's not problematic.

I feel like the closest you can get to it is  where the make-over quote unquote is not purely physical and superficial. There may be a physical component to it.

I think there probably is a way to get the hit of makeover in a way that isn't: she walked into the beauty salon with bushy eyebrows and she walked out and doesn't have bushy eyebrows and now looks like a supermodel walking the runway. There's somewhere in between there that I think is satisfying without that. But I think when people read a book where the Miss Congeniality thing happens, they're getting that hit and they're satisfied by it. And even though they're kind of like, Oh, I don't know what the message here. Like it's a little problematic. They're getting that satisfying hit - so anyways, I want to kind of get into like, let's parse that, let's pull that apart and really figure out what it is that's working for us.

But you were also talking about like , how do you critically engage in things, and in writing that a lot of people think is fairly superficial, let's say, and this is something I talked about with Eric Selinger in an upcoming episode.

And he was talking about, when he talks about books in class, and how he asks students, the way he asks them to approach the text. And basically, as he was explaining it, I was like, Oh, that's what I'm doing. There's basically a way that you can approach the text where if you approach it assuming that it's going to be interesting and that there's going to be interesting things to talk about, there are interesting things to talk about.

And I think that a lot of people, [00:55:00] when they read romance and they don't understand what's going on and they have no history in it, they are not, a lot of times, trying to find something interesting.

They're trying to find something to make fun of. And I literally have learned in the experience of doing this podcast that even like Halloween Boo,

Jhen: that book was special.

Andrea Martucci: It's not a good book. Okay. But even that book, you could talk about a lot of things with that novella, it's literally just how you approach it and how open you are to saying that this text has something interesting to say. And sometimes things are interesting because of their failures and sometimes things are interesting just because of the nature of a topic they're talking about.

And sometimes things are interesting because they're executed particularly well. Or they're problematic but they speak to something that's like happening in the world. And so I think there's just like always different ways that you can make something interesting. And it doesn't always have to be that it is a great work of art, because as much as I think that some romance novels are works of art, not every romance novel is.

Jhen: And that's okay. I think that people get caught up in the idea that either all romance novels are trash or all of them have to be amazing. And like I said, it's not a zero sum game. You are allowed to have some mediocre books in there. You're allowed to have some not so great books. You're allowed to have great books.

I think we have to also give romance the freedom that we give other genres.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Jhen: Cause I think romance is the genre that's probably the most shit on like romance and, erotica, et cetera, they're shit on the most it's Oh, this is silly. This is stupid. This is whatever.

Or, I love romance and romance is amazing and all romance novels are amazing. We have to give romance that same leeway that we give to science fiction where, listen some of those books are not good, but for some reason, they're at the pinnacle of the science fiction lists, as like, Oh, well this is the most important text ever to exist in the world. No. This book is horrible. Why do you guys like it?

Andrea Martucci: And it's the same thing with like people, like not every person is all good or all bad. And if you either put somebody on a pedestal and don't see them as a human, this is classic romance trope here, Oh, character one put character two on a pedestal and never really saw them for who they are. As well as character one demonized character too, and never really saw them for who they are. They're all symptoms of the same thing. In order to truly understand something, you have to accept that it's not all [00:57:30] good or all bad, and there is a nuance and, a dynamic like, romance is dynamic. It is constantly changing. You have to take each book as it is,  and you can change how you feel about it based on like when you read it. It is dynamic and I feel like that is a higher level of respect to come to the genre in a way that doesn't flatten it into being one thing.

I want to allow romance to be a fully human character, Like I want it to be a fully fleshed out character as opposed to  two cardboard cutouts that we make kiss.

I don't want it to be flattened into that. I want it to be fleshed out.

Marker [00:58:10]

  Jhen, thank you so much for joining me today. I would love to have you back in the future. We've talked about this sort of before. I hope this isn't new to you. You'll come back to actually talk about you and stuff, but in the meantime, thank you so much for coming. How can people find you online and, tell us about your podcast.

Jhen: You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @haveyoumetjhen? That is J H E N cause I'm special.

Andrea Martucci: We're all special Jhen.

Jhen: We're all special snowflakes. Thank you, G and T for that, but, yeah, so I have a podcast about non-monogamy and polyamory, spoken about it through like a black Caribbean lens. My partner and I are both polyamorous Jamaicans, and this is awesome.

And you can find us there on Instagram and Twitter @monogamishpod. And we also have a website for that, cause we're super famous

Andrea Martucci: . (singing)

Jhen: We're going to have you record the, the music like the singing for a new intro music next season. I promise you like season three is going to be Andrea's voice singing the Monogamish pod song.

Andrea Martucci: . (to the tune of Mana Mana - Muppets) Monogamish doot doot doo doo doot. Monogamish doot doo, doot, doo. I'm pretty sure that Jim Henson company owned by Disney will come after me for that.

Jhen: They might, but don't worry. I will write the music. I will put the music together. All you have to do is sing.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. I like it. Oh yeah. Okay. People will hear more from you soon.

Jhen: Yeah, maybe. Okay.

Marker [00:59:37]

  Andrea Martucci: In this episode, you heard about how I had no idea what I was doing when I started this podcast and that's okay. But I did know that one of my goals was to do what I could to change how romance is perceived, both by romance readers and non romance readers. Romance should not be a guilty pleasure.

I want everyone who reads romance to revel in the pleasure guilt-free and [01:00:00] maybe through the same magic, together we can reduce the stigma that keeps others from joining in the fun.

In order to do that. Part of my education on this podcast has been a process of figuring out how to explain or make coherent the parts that are incoherent for me. And the only way I can do that is being unflinchingly honest about what's going on and be critical of this thing that I love. I don't want to be a romance apologist. I want to understand it and to understand it is to accept that there are some warts.

Another thing I'll be doing in this season is digging into favorite problematic tropes and figuring out why we love them and what can or does make them problematic? No yums will be yucked.

I am also very committed in season two to zooming out to the larger ecosystem of romance publishing. I want to talk about how romance publishing has been siloed within publishing and media at large. And I want to talk about how powerful forces influence the genre. And I want to discuss with knowledgeable guests what actionable steps we can take to influence the systemic issues that prevent true equality within romance and publishing. So buckle up and thanks for listening to episode 59.

Thank you to Jhen for joining me all the links to find Jhen and Monogamish online are in the show notes. You can always find all episode information on along with transcripts.

What's in the show notes? Corrections for one thing. For example, dangerous men and adventurous women did not actually come out in 1985. It came out in 1992.

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]. Every episode is produced by me, Andrea Martucci and I want to thank Hannah Hearts Romance for giving this episode a beta listen. Plus as always thanks to my newly-minted editorial advisory board, Katrina Jackson and Tasha L. Harrison, who have been advising on content in the background, but now they're website official. That's kind of like Facebook relationship official for us millennials.

Also as always a reminder that Black lives matter. Stay safe, stay mad, and keep reading romance.