What’s the best kiss you’ve ever *read*?

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I asked the authors in the Writers Who Read series, What’s the best kiss you’ve ever read? Here are their choices for favorite lip-locks in the world of literature.

PrincessLisa Barr, author of FUGITIVE COLORS:

“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Sorry, Millennials —I’m envisioning Robert Redford, not Leonardo DiCaprio. I read this exceptional novel for the first time my junior year in high school, and I felt an immediate sensual literary rush course though my body. It was the kiss that launched a thousand books for me. The romance, the passion, the otherwordly intensity—I would pursue this kiss in my own life, my own imagination. Ahh, the handsome, debonair, mysterious Jay Gatsby whose carefully constructed facade fell away when his lips met Daisy’s. There are other memorable kisses that came close —a Judy Blume “Age of Innocence” kiss, an Erica Jong “reckless abandonment” kiss, a Gustav Klimt entwined gilded “kiss”—but the eternally binding Gatsby/Daisy kiss is the one that has lingered for four decades in my soul.

Emma Barry, author of PARTY LINES:

“I stood miserably, holding my room key. If I’d been less of a coward, I thought, I’d have asked him to stay. Another man might have stayed anyway, whether I’d asked him or not. But not Rob.

Rob was always a gentleman.

Five paces off, he stopped dead in the corridor, still with his back to me.

Then, as it had on that first night in Eyemouth, when I’d seen him coming to shore on the lifeboat, his dark head turned slightly, as though he’d just heard something. I heard the heavy exhale of his breath.

And in one sudden motion he turned and came back, and the force of his forward momentum swept me up along with it, bringing me up hard against the closed door of the room at my back. With his hands on my shoulders, his face filling all of my vision, his eyes locked with mine, Rob said softly, ‘Not always.’

And lowered his mouth to my own.

He was right. He didn’t kiss me like a gentleman. He kissed me like a man who had been taken to his limit and beyond it, with a wordless, urgent passion that made anything but breathing seem impossible; and even breathing wasn’t all that easy.”
― Susanna Kearsley, The Firebird

My vote is for Nicola and Rob’s kiss in Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird. It’s a bloody brilliant kiss because before they’ve even touched, they’ve shared this incredibly intimate thing. The entire book, Nic is so afraid of using her powers, so afraid of appearing weird, and Rob respects that boundary. But here, she doesn’t want him to and he doesn’t, and it’s the perfect culmination of all the tension that’s been simmering between them for hundreds of pages. And can we take a moment and enjoy the amazing paragraphing? The writing itself understated and beautiful, with the very punctuation enacting the restraint giving way to desire. I want to sit at the foot of the master and soak up Kearsley’s amazingness–and maybe kiss some handsome Scotsman while I’m at it.

Jason Hough, author of ZERO WORLD:

“Well, this one left them all behind.”
―William Goldman,
The Princess Bride

The answer that came to me immediately is William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, when Westley kisses Buttercup before leaving to seek his fortune.  Like the rest of the book, the kiss (and the lead up to it) brims with charm and heart and just the right touch of humor. Wonderful stuff.

Tellulah Darling, author of GET REAL:
I’m a sucker for the “brainy overlooked female gets noticed by hot rake” trope in historical romances. And one of my favourite kisses comes from just such a book: A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare. The main character Minerva is feisty and fabulously coming into her own. This kiss is but a milestone on that journey, but what great milestone it is. Yay for women taking what they want!

‘”‘Honestly? When I look at you …’ His thumb stroked her lower back. ‘I think to myself something like this: God only knows what trials lie down that path.’ She twisted in his embrace, pushing against his arm. ‘Let me go.’


‘So I can hit you.’

‘You asked for honesty.’ He chuckled, but kept her close. ‘This … this struggle is precisely my point. No, you don’t fit the beautiful, elegant, predictable mold. But take heart, Marissa. Some men like to be surprised.’


She stared at him, horrified. And thrilled. And horrified at being thrilled. ‘You. Are. The most–’

A bell jangled. The Bull and Blossom’s door swung open, and a handful of giggling village girls tumbled forth, riding a wave of music and warmth. Minerva’s breath caught. If the girls turned this way, she and Payne would be seen. Together.

‘Surprise,’ she whispered.

Then she pressed her lips to his.”
―Tessa Dare, A Week to be Wicked

Maureen O’Leary Wanket, author of HOW TO BE MANLY, THE ARROW, & THE GHOST DAUGHTER (Coffeetown Press, July 2016):EC
My literary love moment comes from Elizabeth Rosner’s literary novel Electric City (Counterpoint Press 2014). This is one of my favorites because the relationship builds over a tremendous amount of time. When the characters finally unite there is a feeling of divine rightness about it. It’s a deeply satisfying moment in the novel, and so beautifully written that it bears reading and re-reading.

“Time bending. Sophie felt utterly calm and crazily jangled, her breath caught by the edge of release. Moths at an illuminated window. Leaves in the wind. Every promise returning to the truth.”
―Elizabeth Rosner,
Electric City

Really, that’s just how love is supposed to feel.

Writers Who Read: Emma Barry

emma barryThe Writers Who Read series continues this week with the lovely Emma Barry. Welcome, Emma!

Who are you?
I’m Emma. I have a couple of graduate degrees in humanities field; I wrote a dissertation on nineteenth-century popular literature and business history. By day, I teach college composition. By night I read mass quantities of genre and general fiction and nonfiction and I write romance, all while wrangling my preschool-aged twins, trying to become a better cook, and drinking tea–lots and lots of tea.

I wrote a series of contemporary romances called The Easy Part, which are about young staffers in Washington, DC, who find love and struggle with the balance between cynicism and idealism (and each is a tiny bit autobiographical). I also write historical space-race romances with my critique partner Genevieve Turner. They’re about astronauts and engineers and housewives and cocktails.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
Definitely the Anne of Green Gables and Emily series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. In my fact my author name last name is an LMM reference! I’ve read all eleven of those books about thirty-seven times a piece, and I think the writing and characterization are wonderful. When I went back to those books as an adult, I realize that the romances drove my reading of them, and they predict a lot about my taste and career path.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
Well, I do love movies and television, and I am grateful to live in the peak TV era, but I still spend time reading every day, largely because reading refreshes and relaxes me in a way that nothing else does. I think it has to do with the focused distraction of reading. You’re deep in the head of the author and narrator, and books reflect a singular point of view in a way that film and television don’t because they’re collaborative efforts. Reading is intimate, but it’s also distanced, and something about that contradiction soothes my inner introvert (if that makes sense).

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
In terms of romance, I’ll read anything by Cecilia Grant, Joanna Bourne, Susanna Kearsley, Alexis Hall, Molly O’Keefe, and Jeannie Lin. They’re all amazing observers of human behavior and psychology. I’m impressed by how subtle and true their characterizations are. I’m not a reader who needs plot to make me turn the pages. I want to not be able to look away from the characters, and these writers deliver. Their work feels fresh to me even when they’re playing with tropes, and they can all be funny and heart-breaking in the same book.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
My favorite romance tropes are second chance at love and enemies to lovers. In nonfiction, I’m a sucker for an argument that accounts for something happening for reasons that aren’t biographical. (A good example of the latter is in Matt Bai’s All the Truth Is Out when he argues that something like the Gary Hart scandal was bound to happen in that moment because of technological innovations like the rise of twenty-four hour news networks, satellite TV trucks and light-weight cameras.)

What is your ideal time and place to read?
I read in the evening after the kids have gone to sleep, either on the couch or in bed, with something warm or boozy to drink. I hate reading outside, either because you get glare on the Kindle or the page or because of the distractions. But I always have a book or my Kindle with me, and I’ll pick it up whenever I have a break.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
I am a DEDICATED re-reader. I have books I revisit almost every year at certain times (eg, Pride and Prejudice at Christmas, Northanger Abbey and A Room with a View in the spring). There are different versions of myself in those books, and there’s always something new to learn about prose and craft that I don’t seem to get on the first reading–or twenty.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing? MidnightClear copy
Emily’s Quest by LM Montgomery, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, Anyone but You by Julie James, Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie, The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
The books I like the most are either immensely satisfying or immensely different. A book has to do something I’ve never seen before, teach me something, or it has to be the best possible version of what whatever it’s trying to do. Or both, of course.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished Molly O’Keefe’s New Adult duology Everything I Left Unsaid and The Truth About Him, and it was predictably wonderful. Now I’m reading Barton Swain’s The Speechwriter, and it’s making me want to write more political romance, but darker. Like All the King’s Men. (And it’s really making me want to re-read every word Robert Penn Warren wrote.)


Emma Barry is a novelist, full-time mama, and recovering academic. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hugs from her preschooler twins, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea. Her most recent release (with Genevieve Turner) is A Midnight Clear.

You can find out more about Emma and connect with her on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.


I’m thrilled to announce my novel GRAFFITI IN LOVE is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. What’s more, I’m offering the book at a special preorder price of .99 before it releases on Feb. 11th. (The regular price will be $2.99, so it’ll save you a nice chunk of change.) G.G. Andrew

What’s it about?

KaveMan is a London graffiti artist–world famous, wealthy, brilliantly creative. And Laurel Xavier hates him.

Laurel, a laid-off city planner, is bitter from compromising her dreams and still losing her sensible job. So when she gets a glimpse of the mysterious KaveMan, whose dream is apparently painting others’ property in her hometown of New Haven, she’s determined to find him, unmask him, and ruin his so-called career–even if it means losing some shoes and self-respect in the process.

But why does chasing KaveMan make her feel more alive than she’s felt in years?

KaveMan isn’t used to sharing his real self, let alone his real name. But when he’s caught by Laurel Xavier, he starts to realize the one woman he yearns to whisper his secrets to is someone who would scream his identity from the highest rooftop. That would mean the end of his work, his passion. It can’t ever happen.

Unfortunately, he bloody well can’t seem to stay away from her.

Want to learn more? Go here to read an excerpt of the first few pages of the novel, to see if it’s your thing…

…or just check it out at one of these fine stores:
Barnes & Noble

Writers Who Read: Kristina Marie Darling

Author Photo (1)The Writers Who Read series continues this week with Kristina Marie Darling. Welcome, Kristina!

Who are you?
I’m a poet, fiction writer, and critic. My most recent books are Women and Ghosts and Failure Lyric, both available from BlazeVOX Books. I also serve as Associate Editor at Tupelo Quarterly, Founding Editor of Noctuary Press, and an editor at Handsome, the magazine publication of Black Ocean Books.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I loved C.S. Lewis when I was younger, but it wasn’t long before I became interested in nineteenth century Russian literature. Honestly, it’s like I went straight from sipping on a beer to guzzling scotch. Once I read War and Peace, there was no stopping me from reading Crime and Punishment, Dead Souls, all of Turgenev’s fiction, and all of Chekhov’s plays.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
I’ve been traveling to various artist residencies for the past year, so usually, Netflix isn’t an option. Or if it is, there’s a tremendous amount of shame and guilt involved when you’re surrounded by smart, talented, creative people and you’re trying to find out who won on The Voice. And who would want Netflix anyway when these smart, talented artists are offering you book recommendations?

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
If I could hit a button and pre-order everything by Joshua Clover, I would. I admire the ways that he uses the resources of poetry to make compelling interventions into contemporary literary theory. He suggests that poets can make necessary contribution to complex academic and philosophical conversations, ultimately democratizing the act of literary criticism.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
I just read Sarah Gehrard’s Binary Star (thank you to Diana Spechler for the recommendation!). For me, this book was everything a book should be. Not only did it make use of extended metaphor in a subtle, artful way (something that’s difficult for even the most experienced poets!) but the novel was filled with luminous, incandescent, and lyrical fragments, more beautiful than most of contemporary poetry. I love books like this, which blur the boundaries between poetry and fiction, plot and wild dream-like associations, and between reality and imagination.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
I know that this is going to sound crazy, but I actually don’t mind airports. I travel a lot, and when I’m in transit, I get to read as much as I want with no one to interrupt me. So yes, I’m that girl who almost missed her flight because she was lugging Infinite Jest and a bag of Twizzlers through the Baltimore Washington International Airport.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Absolutely! I love to read a collection of poems and then read it again immediately. This is because on the first read, I’m usually fixated on the individual pieces, their music, and their cadences. On the second read, it becomes clearer to me how the collection works on the level of a book-length sequence. In other words, the larger structure reveals itself in a way that it usually doesn’t on the first time through.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing? Failure Lyric Front Cover
It was Jenny Boully’s The Body: An Essay that showed me it’s possible for poetic language to exist in forms that are not germane to poetry: footnotes, glossaries, endnotes, appendices, and so on. Kristy Bowen, Simone Muench, and Elizabeth Willis also showed me early on how multifarious and diverse the subgenre of prose poetry can be.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
As long as there’s some element of surprise, I’m usually happy. This unexpectedness can take many forms, though: a tension between form and content, an unexpected metaphor, beautiful language in a place where I wouldn’t necessarily expect to find it. I don’t like to be made comfortable within a text, but rather, I love to have my expectation of literature challenged and interrogated.

What are you reading right now?
I’m working on an essay about collaborations, which a terrific journal invited me to send. So right now, as I’m working on the essay, I’m reading Carol Guess and Kelly Magee’s With Animal, Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney’s new chapbook, and G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher’s Your Father on the Train of Ghosts. I’m looking forward to checking out Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation in the near future, too.


Kristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty collections of poetry and hybrid prose. Her awards include two Yaddo residencies, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Ora Lerman Trust, and the Rockefeller Archive Center. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University.

Order Women and Ghosts

Order Failure Lyric

Writers Who Read: Michelle Falkoff

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with Michelle Falkoff. author photo (2) (1)

Who are you?
Michelle Falkoff, author of PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD. I live in Chicago and teach legal writing at Northwestern (most of the time) and creative writing at the University of Chicago (once in a while).

What are three beloved books you first read before the age of 12?
Ellen Raskin’s THE WESTING GAME, Susan Cooper’s THE DARK IS RISING, and Katherine Patterson’s JACOB HAVE I LOVED. Of course, as soon as I send this I’ll remember a whole bunch more that I’m mad about not including.

What is one book you are always recommending to friends and family (and maybe the local barista) as an adult?

What is your book kryptonite–those unique elements in a book, beyond just great writing and three-dimensional characters, that make you unable to resist reading?
Don’t think less of me, but I love me a good sociopath. More broadly, I love unreliable narrators and mysteries. GONE GIRL was a trip, and I loved E. Lockhart’s WE WERE LIARS.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Ideal=on a beach, all day. Realistically, my favorite two places to read are in bed before I go to sleep and in the corner of my couch on a weekend afternoon.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
That question is just too hard. Everything I read has some influence, no matter how small, and that influence is really difficult to quantify. There are books that have helped on the technical level–Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD and Stephen King’s ON WRITING come to mind, though John Gardner’s books are also in there. There are books that make me want to be more innovative and creative–Nabokov’s PALE FIRE, Kevin Brockmeier’s THINGS THAT FALL FROM THE SKY, Kelly Link’s STRANGER THINGS HAPPEN–and books that are such accomplishments that they make me think I’ll never be good enough–Marilynne Robinson’s HOUSEKEEPING, David Foster Wallace’s INFINITE JEST.

How do you balance reading and writing in your life?
I make reading a priority–I have to read something every day in order to feel human.

Choose your penned poison: ebook, physical book, or audio book?
My heart belongs to physical books, but I’m growing increasingly dependent on my e-reader. I like to carry lots of books around with me, so it’s really saved my back.

Do you consciously plan your future reading–i.e., set book goals, keep a TBR list, participate in book challenges or book clubs? Why or why not?
I do! I started keeping lists of what I read about ten years ago–I read pretty fast and my brain is a sieve, so it was a good way to keep track. I ended up getting really competitive with myself, trying to match or exceed my reading from the year before. I’ve started participating in the Goodreads challenge just to keep myself motivated.

What are you reading now?
I used to be all about reading one book at a time, but now I have a book-in-progress in just about every room of my house. I’m reading Aleksandar Hemon’s THE BOOK OF MY LIVES, Edan Lepucki’s CALIFORNIA, John Darnielle’s WOLF IN WHITE VAN, and Marcy Paul Beller’s UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING at the moment. All fabulous.


You can find out more about Michelle on Facebook or Twitter (@michellefalkoff), and check out PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

6 Best Podcasts for Romance Writers

table writeI’m a big fan of podcasts. They’re not only a great way to keep entertained, but allow you to absorb information while commuting, cleaning, or driving your kid to school. Podcasts have made a huge impact in my journey as a writer: teaching me about the book world, inspiring me to self-publish, helping me craft better sentences.

Here are six of my favorites as a romance writer. (Though this is by no means an exhaustive list!)

The Creative Penn
Hosted by UK-based fiction and nonfiction writer Joanna Penn–the audio is worth it for her cheery British voice alone–this podcast is a wealth of writing and publishing interviews and advice, particularly for those interested in self-publishing and becoming saavy about the business of selling books and related products. Joanna interviews big names in publishing, as well as shares what she’s learned, and the entire podcast is inspiring for those of us romance authors wanting to up our game.

Dear Bitches, Smart Authors (DBSA)
No list of romance podcasts would be complete without the DBSA podcast hosted by Sarah Wendell of romance supersite Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. It has interviews with authors, editors, and other experts in the romance field–plus many, many, MANY recommendations for your next romance to read. If you’re new to the romance genre, or want to hear what subgenres and authors you’ve missed, check it out.

Magic Lessons
While not strictly a writing podcast, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, a continuation of the thoughts and ideas in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, is a great way to remind yourself of the beauty, wonder, and courage involved in making art in any form. Gilbert interviews artists of all stripes as they struggle with their creativity, and the wisdom she offers them is usually fun, helpful, and inspiring. As I’ve mentioned before, Gilbert often uses sexy imagery in her descriptions of the relationship we have to creativity, which many romance writers can appreciate.

Pop Culture Happy Hour
This NPR podcast focuses mostly on pop culture as it relates to television and movies, but it’s a great listen for any fiction writer because of its focus on story in many mediums: what makes a plot work, what’s trending, which motifs have changed throughout the years. The crew and guests have a fantastic camaraderie, and host Linda Holmes is herself a romance reader. Bonus: in 2015 they dedicated an entire episode to romance novels.

The Self-Publishing Podcast
Like The Creative Penn, this is another biggie in the world of indie publishing, but romance authors on any path to publication can learn from writer-hosts Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright about the writing and selling of books. Though they can tend to be NSFW and go on long tangents during some episodes, they’re fun to listen to and they know their stuff: they’re down in the trenches and sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t for them as writers in multiple genres.

Writing Excuses
Probably my current favorite, maybe because it’s short (their tagline is, “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”) and so jam-packed with great information on how to structure your story, write complex characters, revise…and much, much more. Hosted by writers Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells, the show is full of not only wisdom, but a heap of humor and warmth. They also host a writing workshop and retreat. On a cruise. If that’s not a romantic way to learn about writing, I don’t know what is.

Writers Who Read: Jessica Goodfellow

The Writers Who Read interview series continues this week with Jessica Goodfellow. Welcome, Jessica!Janne1small

Who are you?
I’m a poet living in Japan who misses being enveloped in the English language. Books and podcasts are what I use to ease that longing. I’m the mother of two bilingual bicultural teenagers, wife to a super-busy yet supportive guy, and a lecturer at a Japanese university. I’m also a walker and an aspiring weaver and an essayist and a lucid dreamer. I’m a big fan of Thai food and Turkish food.

My first book, the chapbook A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland, is about the cross section of science and belief. Next I wrote about how married partners are a mystery, are even alien, to each other, in The Insomniac’s Weather Report. Then, in Mendeleev’s Mandala, I revisit how the historic developments of language, science, and religion shape the world we live in. Recently I finished a manuscript WHITEOUT about my uncle’s death on Denali, in what was, at the time, the worst climbing accident in US history. It is currently seeking a publisher.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
When I was a child, I read a book about a girl growing up in the Soviet Union who had her heart broken and then cut off her hair. And a poem in a Scholastic anthology about a child who drank Drano. After that, I was always looking for more of the same, and not finding it, but the looking took my reading many different ways. But unfortunately I don’t remember the titles (or authors) of either piece.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
I am not interested in television or movies generally, and watch less than an hour a week (often no TV at all). This could be because I live in Japan, and I’m not interested in local TV shows or movies. I can get US TV fairly easily, but don’t bother, as nothing I’m aware of is as interesting as a book. For me, the biggest competitor for my reading time is my podcast-listening time. I listen to a ton of poetry- and book-related podcasts, as well as science podcasts, and sometimes I overdo on those and end up not having enough reading time.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Poets Anne Carson, Cole Swensen, and Sarah Vap because they make me want to be a better poet, by their innovation. Poet Charles Wright because of the way he approaches his obsessions without becoming sentimental. Novelist Haruki Murakami because of the flatness of his voice while still being fantastical. Writers Lydia Davis and Jeanette Winterson because their voices are so compelling, their edges are so flexible.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
I have a thing for bank robbers, and bank robberies. I like poetry that uses mathematical and/or scientific imagery well, or that references technical tools. And books which have the following words in their titles will get a second look from me: zero, salt, gravity, crow, roof, box, paper, north, hunger.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
I especially like to read in bed in the evening. But like most serious readers, I’ll read any time and any place that I can.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
For prose, not really. Because there’s still so much to read that I haven’t gotten to. And because I can be disappointed by a book that was important to me in the past, when my needs were different. But for poetry, I do reread the ones that inspired and delighted me the first time around, and am rarely disappointed.

MendeleevCoversmallerWhich books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. Mark Strand’s Blizzard of One. Carole Maso’s The Art Lover. David Bayles & Ted Orland in Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. Anne Carson’s Plainwater and Glass, Irony and God. Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris. Thom Satterlee’s Burning Wyclif.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
In the last decade, I’ve stopped reading everything till the finish because I get bored. I’ve read thousands of books in my life, and if there isn’t something interesting in a book for me, something completely new, I don’t want to read it. I’m just getting too old for that. I’m particularly interested in formal and spatial innovation, as in Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, for example, or David Markson’s experimental erasing of the boundaries between genres, his making of lists and borrowed text into novels. But there’s also that line when experimentation exists for its own sake (which is okay by me, but not by everybody) but then fails to support the integrity of the piece (which is not okay by anyone, me included). I’m also interested in new subjects, but those are harder to come by.

What are you reading right now?
Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, and Laura Kasischke’s The Infinitesimals.


Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Mendeleev’s Mandala (Mayapple Press, 2015) and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (Isobar Press, 2014)Her chapbook, A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland, won the 2006 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, and NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. Jessica received the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from the Beloit Poetry Journal, as well as the Linda Julian Essay Award and the Sue Lile Inman Fiction Prize, both from the Emrys Foundation. Her work was made into a short film by Motionpoems (May 2015) and screened at the Minneapolis/St Paul International Film Festival and AWP 2015. Jessica has graduate degrees from Caltech and the University of New England. She lives and works in Japan.

You can find out more on her website and blog.

Writers Who Read: Kaira Rouda

Rouda-Headshot-2014The first Writers Who Read interview of 2016 begins with author Kaira Rouda. Welcome, Kaira!

Who are you?
Hi! I’m Kaira Rouda, and I write sexy modern romance and women’s fiction novels sparkling with humor and heart. New to the romance world, I’ve been a published author since 2009. My family and I live in Laguna Beach, California – the setting for my most recent romance contemporary romance series.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. Second grade. I knew I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
Same thing. I’ve always been a reader. I have a pile of TBR books beside my bed, and on my eReader. Reading is life…that said, you do have to socialize in the real world sometimes!

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Jane Porter, because she’s my mentor. Melissa Foster, same reason. Beyond those two, I read widely and at different heat levels in the contemporary romance world. I’m also a women’s fiction or mainstream fiction writer, whatever that means, so I read a lot in the women’s fiction world. Recently, I’ve been reading stories with a little edge, like The Dinner by Herman Koch, and all of Gillian Flynn’s books. I go through phases, because I’ve also had my murder-mystery phase. See, there is no end to the fun in books.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
For me, setting has been the key. My books, no matter the genre, typically start with place. My Indigo Island series of contemporary romance are set on a fictive South Carolina Sea Island, called Indigo Island, based on the real life island called Daufuskie. Laguna Beach Series is, obviously, set in my hometown of Laguna Beach. When I start with place, it gives me grounding and the setting becomes a very important part of the story. My women’s fiction novels to date have been set in a Midwestern Ohio suburb called Grandville, a place very similar to the suburb of Upper Arlington where we lived for many years. Lately, with my romance stories, I’ve been writing about billionaires, tycoons and celebrities – and these folks tend to hang out at the beach, and in LA and New York City. It has been a blast. All three of my Kindle Worlds novellas are set in New York.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
At night. In my bed, with my puppies cuddled close.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Nope. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve re-read a book.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing? LL Amazon
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
A book is satisfying to me if it lingers on the brain after the last page. When I’m thinking about the story, its characters, long after I’ve finished, that’s a good book. Years later, well, that’s a great book.

What are you reading right now?
Tenth of December by George Saunders. My book club read it, but I was on deadline so I couldn’t read it, didn’t even buy it, before we met. I know, a slacker. But I still went to the meeting and was mesmerized. (We have a fabulous book club leader who speaks with a South African accent and makes literature sparkle and shine.) After book club I knew I had to get the book – a collection of short stories – and read it. It’s fabulous. And yes, memorable.


Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women’s fiction titles include HERE, HOME, HOPE, ALL THE DIFFERENCE and IN THE MIRROR. Her bestselling short story is titled, A MOTHER’S DAY. Kaira’s work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines.

Her sexy contemporary romance series set on INDIGO ISLAND includes: WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON, Book 1; HER FORBIDDEN LOVE, Book 2; THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS, Book 3; and THE BILLIONAIRE’S BID, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in LAGUNA BEACH and includes: LAGUNA NIGHTS, Book 1; LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Book 2; and LAGUNA LIGHTS, Book 3 coming winter 2015. She also helped launch Melissa Foster’s The Remington’s Kindle World with her bestselling novella, SPOTLIGHT ON LOVE, and is part of Carly Phillips Dare to Love Kindle World with THE CELEBRITY DARE.

Her nonfiction titles, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and REAL YOU FOR AUTHORS: 8 Essentials for Women Writers (available for free download on her website) continue to inspire.

She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter @KairaRouda, Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books and on her website, http://www.KairaRouda.com.

Check out Laguna Lights on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, or Google Play.

Ten Best Search Terms in 2015

heartsunIs there anything weirder and more wonderful than the stuff people type into their search bars? If random search terms are a measure of a blog’s success, this little site had a very good 2015. In no particular order, here are my ten favorite searches that brought people here.

1. “movies on netflix with a lot of romantic fainting”: Guys, this is a legit SWOON SEARCH.

2. “how heavy are ice castles”: Because science. (And #sorrynotsorry you had to read about the movie instead.)

3. “corporate creativity bullshit”: Bad day at the office, Mary?

4. “erotic ghostbusters”: It warms my heart to know I’ve got kindred spirits out there.

5. “manual for herless 1987 latte”: I can’t even begin to unpack this.

6. “frenchlover 2015″: Because the 2014 model just wasn’t cutting it.

7. “valerie”: Oh, Valerie. I’m sorry your ex found my site while cyberstalking you. I hope he enjoyed my book nerdery and also bought one of my books.

8. “www,hotangrysex.com”: For the person who’s too hot and angry to punctuate their urls correctly.

9. “free stories hardcore sex horror disturbing evil”: That’s a lot of info. A LOT. Some may say too much.

10. “spoil rich boy forced married to poor sweet girl love lust story”: This is about 81,000 stories in one. And I would like to read them all.

Happy New Year!


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