My guest this week is Olivia Dade! We had such a good time talking about fan supercuts, watching shows through gifsets, Game of Thrones spoilers, writing characters with ADHD and learning disabilities.
Highlight: we discover a vintage ship we have in common and we exclaim at each other.
Thank you to Rachel, Alanna, and Kelly from the Patreon community!
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
You can find Olivia Dade and complete book lists and a newsletter at OliviaDade.com.
And if you’re thinking, Oh, wait, what is this about a complete list of Grissom/Sidle moments? Here’s a message from Olivia:
If you look under “gsr shipper’s guides to the galaxy” on this page, the creator broke things down by season, so just choose one to see their analysis of the Sara Sidle-Gil Grissom content in every episode: https://addictedtostorytelling.tumblr.com/c.s.i._meta.”
Super fans are the greatest fans.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there and welcome to episode number 492 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.
Sarah: I am Sarah Wendell. Happy New Year! My guest this week is Olivia Dade. We had such a good time. We are going to talk about fan super cuts, watching shows through GIF sets, Game of Thrones spoilers, writing characters with ADHD and with learning disabilities, and we’re going to discover a very vintage ship that we have in common, and we’re going to squee at each other, and I had such a good time.
I want to thank Rachel, Alanna, and Kelly from our Patreon community for contributing questions to this episode.
If you would like to join the Patreon, it would be so great to have you! Have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Members of the community help me make sure that every episode has a transcript and also help me with questions for future guests. I also want to say hello and Happy New Year to Lonneke, Kara, Maureen, and Amanda. Welcome aboard, and thank you for joining the Patreon!
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Okay, shipping fans, grab your life vests. It’s time for my conversation with Olivia Dade, where we are going to squee at each other about lots and lots of fandoms. On with the podcast!
Olivia Dade: My name is Olivia Dade. I’m an author of contemporary romantic comedies, including most recently Spoiler Alert and All the Feels.
Sarah: Congrats on the release of All the Feels! What will readers find in this book?
Olivia: So the premise of the book is that there is a blockbuster fantasy television show that is not Game of Thrones, but it’s not not Game of Thrones – [laughs] – which I think may come up later – and in the final season it’s sort of going over a cliff, and the cast is not thrilled about it –
Olivia: – and so the first two books in my series involve two of the cast members who are frustrated and sort of express their frustration in different ways. In this case, the cast member is Alex, who is a huge-hearted chaos demon – [laughs] – and he is frustrated, and he has other personal issues that he’s dealing with that the final season has sort of exacerbated, and so he gets into a bar fight? The production feels like he’s spiraling downward, and they assign him a minder, which is something that does happen? Robert Downey, Jr., for instance, was assigned a minder at least a couple times, including one that he married? So I’m trying to tell you All the Feels is essentially nonfiction.
Olivia: No. But, and his, his minder is Lauren Clegg, who is sort of a burnt-out ER therapist who figures this should be a relatively easy task, babysitting a grown man for a few months –
Sarah: Ha-ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha.
Olivia: [Laughs] Yes! Yeah, living in a guest house in the Hollywood Hills. But it turns out that he’s not exactly what she expected, and they become friends, and then eventually they become more, but then he sort of blows up his career, and she needs to figure out what to do about that.
Sarah: I love how you incorporated some real, very specific details about what celebrity life is like, especially the parts that are utterly unglamorous? We don’t trust you to have your life together, so we’re going to assign you a person to be your babysitter and pay them. Like, seriously? That really happens? That totally happens!
Olivia: [Laughs] It does! I will tell you that most of my information about Hollywood comes from either Sir Google or – [laughs] – or more importantly and more usefully, Susannah Erwin, who writes Harlequin Desire books, who’s lovely and a dear friend. She used to live in LA, and she was part of the film and TV industry, and so when I was researching this book, particularly since it was summer of last year – it was the first several months of the pandemic; it’s not like I was going to LA to do any of this, and I’ve never been to LA – I basically picked poor Susannah’s brain –
Olivia: – but she, she was so helpful! She’s been on a red carpet before. I mean, I did research too, but it sort of supplemented what it’s actually like to be on a red carpet for an event like the charity auction event that I have in here? She showed me – [laughs] – Moby used to have, in Beachwood Canyon, used to have a, a castle. Like, there is a castle in Beachwood Canyon, so she, she sent me the link to that and then found this, like, dilapidated little duplex with a turret in North Hollywood, and I was like, clearly, and she, and it’s like, clearly Lauren is going to be living in this little duplex. So she was wonderful. A lot of the book, sort of the, if it feels authentic to LA and celebrity culture, that’s entirely due to her. She’s fantastic.
Sarah: That’s so cool! Now, let, let’s tackle the Game of Thrones part here. So I have questions from my Patreon community, who are all very excited about this interview, by the way, and Rachel asks:
“I’m sure this is just me not doing a deep dive about things for the book, just loving them, but how much of the snark about the final season of The Gates is a parallel to the fan reaction to the final season of Game of Thrones?”
And if it’s not not Game of Thrones, I must ask you, how cathartic was it to write a whole book series about how crap the last season was?
Olivia: [Laughs] I, I’ve said that the alternate name for my series should have been Saltiness Is Coming.
Olivia: Now, I have to admit, my fandom for Game of Thrones was somewhat limited –
Olivia: – in the sense that I am, I did not actually have HBO because I’m cheap. Also because – [laughs] – I have trouble watching violence, especially sexual violence?
Sarah: Oh, oh yeah, me too. Not, cannot put that in my eyeballs. But it’s, it’s everywhere, right? You can still pick up the story, even through GIF sets on Tumblr.
Olivia: Mm-hmm! That’s, I mean, GIF sets on Twitter is where I first sort of became intrigued, because the final season was airing, and some of my friends on Twitter, I think Suleikha Snyder and some others, had posted GIF sets of Jaime and Brienne, and I had not run across – again, I hadn’t seen the show ‘cause I was like, I’d heard things and I’m like, I do not need to see – [laughs] – I knew –
Olivia: – there were things that were going to happen that I was not going to want to watch. But she’s, you know, what I saw was that, you know, the character Brienne was not sort of Hollywood traditionally attractive, even though Gwendoline Christie’s gorgeous? You know, that she’s at least portrayed as not being sort of typically what you would expect to find on a blockbuster television show.
Olivia: And then I went from there and sort of, I’m kind of a GIF whore? I – [laughs] – they’re like, it is often my entrée to shipping? I did the same thing with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
Sarah: Yep! Ohhh! Good GIF sets! Good GIF sets! The two of them can just look at each other and it’s like, whoa, my clothing is on fire now!
Olivia: Yeah, years ago Rose Lerner put GIF sets all over Twitter, and that was, I was – [laughs]
Sarah: That was the end. Oh yeah. I also love looking at ships that are absolutely not text, that are very much subtext? In a movie that there is no way I’m going to watch. Like, for example, no violence for Sarahs means I’m not going to watch Kingsman, right? As far as I am concerned, that is a romance between Mr. Darcy and a dude in a track suit, and they do some stunts.
Olivia: [Laughs] You’ll be glad to hear that Game of Thrones, for me, based on the YouTube super cut of Jaime and Brienne scenes, is essentially a romance?
Sarah: Oh, absolutely! Absolutely.
Olivia: Other than a little mild amputation, it actually –
Sarah: It happens.
Olivia: – gets rid of a lot of the objectionable stuff, because if you only include their scenes together, there’s very little, for instance, twincest? [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: It reads very much like a romance –
Olivia: – if you take out the other scenes. As long as you stop after the kiss. [Laughs]
Olivia: Stop there!
Olivia: And it, then, then it reads very much like a romance, which is delightful, and I loved it! But I think the reason I did love it so much was because I didn’t see anything else – [laughs] –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Olivia: – around it!
Sarah: If you’re only watching the smooching and you’re not watching any of the violence, sexual or otherwise, it’s like a twenty-five-minute show. Like the whole thing!
Olivia: [Laughs] I just couldn’t, and I, and I –
Sarah: Oh, I get it!
Olivia: – don’t, so I was very grateful to that fan who decided to sit down and put all those scenes together and allow me to ignore the vast majority of what actually happened. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: But I, by the time the finale came out, I was pretty firmly immersed in at least that aspect of the story, and, and, and so I did actually watch the final few episodes. And it was frustrating to me, and it wasn’t even just frustrating as a romance author, where, as someone who believes that happy endings can be just as realistic, that somehow it’s not more clever or meaningful to have these grimdark endings, so, I mean, there was my frustration in the sense that obviously I would have preferred a happy ending, but I think most fans of the Jaime/Brienne relationship kind of expected him to die? So that wasn’t so much the issue; it was more that the way they did it was so damaging: the reversal of character arc, the sort of –
Olivia: – building up this relationship over years, and then suddenly just, like, tossing it out without a second thought and without really referring to it ever again? And it was just, it was so weird! [Laughs] And it, it sort of undid, I think, a really lovely progression throughout the, the show. It was, I think, one of the, sort of a part of the heart of the show in some ways, and ‘course I would think that because it’s the only part I really watched, so fair enough. [Laughs] But it was bizarre, and I think that was more the, not necessarily that I wanted, like, he and Brienne to, like, move to Tarth and have, like, tall, blond children together.
Olivia: It was more – I mean, I did, but – [laughs] –
Sarah: I mean, yeah! So –
Olivia: – but it was very satisfying, I will say that.
Sarah: I imagine! I imagine. Do you know the joke about why Lannisters have such big beds?
Sarah: ‘Cause they just push two twins together to make a king.
Olivia: [Laughs] Terrible, but very funny.
Sarah: It is, right? Alanna wanted me to ask you, first:
“I have to say, I just did a happy dance hearing that this episode is coming up. Spoiler Alert was an absolute revelation for me as a fat, geeky woman. April’s determination to set boundaries with people, especially her family, was so validating.
“Second, after having read so much of your back catalogue, I’ve noticed that Olivia puts much more focus on characters with learning disorders. Both Marcus in Spoiler Alert and Alex in All the Feels are pretty detailed about the accommodations that need to continue to be successful in their careers. What inspired you to add those pieces to these stories?”
And side note: she says, “As someone with ADHD who works with special ed kids, reading Alex had me cackling and tearing up in turns with the accuracy.”
Olivia: Some of it, my sort of choice to include dyslexia and ADHD is because I have people I love in my life who have had those, and without sort of violating their privacy, but, so it’s, it’s – which of course is not the same thing as having it myself, and I try to, even though I have, you know, gone to classes and done other things, I also ran the book by sensitivity readers, two authors who are very open about having ADHD, Meryl Wilsner and Brina Starler both read it, and actually Avon paid for a sensitivity reader, which I really appreciated, to make sure that it wasn’t harmful.
I think some, so some of it is my desire to sort of, it’s sort of a loving tribute to people I care about? But some of it too, when you come up with a premise for a book –
Olivia: – you have to explain it believably. [Laughs] Originally, when I plotted Spoiler Alert and then I, I – I am more of a plotter – I sent my stor-, what I call my story arc, which is sort of like a freeform outline to my editor, Elle Keck, and originally Marcus was going to be the one who, everyone found out that he was writing fanfic –
Olivia: – about his character, and she said, she just, she was not thrilled about that, and she said, you know, that’d really blow up his career. What would it mean for him? And truthfully, for him, it would be much more devastating, I think, than for Alex, because for Marcus, there’s so much of his worth wrapped up in his career in a way that’s not quite the same with, with Alex. So I was like, oh, I’ll just have it do, I’ll have it happen to his best friend, and then it actually works, I, I thought it worked pretty well, and she agreed, so that’s what we did! And when I wrote Spoiler Alert, Alex was not meant to be the second book. I mean, there was no planned book with him in it, so I was theoretically not going to have to have a greater explanation of what happened afterward or, you know – I didn’t, I had to explain why he would do it, which is part of the reason I have this stuff with Lauren in the background, but I did not actually think I was going to have to revisit that moment. So I wrote it in, and he explodes his career, and then it turns out I really fell in love with him and Lauren, and, and so I was, I – that ended up being the book that I wrote next, even though it was not my contracted book. But then I had to figure out, why did he do that? I mean, you can say, you know, he’s offended on her behalf, and rightfully so, right? But sort of exploding your career in that way is a decision that, there has to be a lot behind it if you’re going to explain in their, in his point of view?
Olivia: So then you get into, well, what is his backstory? Similar to Marcus. What is his backstory that would cause him to, to sort of reach that point? And then part of it is his history with his family, but then if you sort of look at his character as, like, he sort of grew on the page in Spoiler Alert, to me he had a lot of the markers of ADHD, and so then it became, well, there’s also issues of impulsivity, because ADHD of course, as you know, is not just about attention; it’s about – what’s the word I’m thinking of?
Sarah: Impulse control?
Olivia: Impulse control, but it’s – not thinking – sorry, my brain just went dead there, so this part will be edited out, probably – [laughs] – but there’s, not higher-order thinking; it’s –
Sarah: Executive function.
Olivia: Executive function, thank you; that was what I was looking for. So executive function –
Olivia: – so impulsivity, time management, and also rejection sensitivity dysphoria, things like that. And so I wanted to sort of incorporate a lot of that into what would explain that, because I love, in romances, when main characters are willing to blow up their lives to defend their love interests, right?
Sarah: It is, it is really sort of astonishingly cathartic, right?
Olivia: Right. It’s wonderful, but then I was like – and I, and I genuinely love that; you know I’m a, I’m a lifelong romance reader – but then I was like, but I actually had to look at the real-life sort of consequences of that? [Laughs]
Olivia: Like, as much as you may love that person, like, what does it mean to, like, blow up your life –
Olivia: – for that other person? And so for me, it was a little bit of a conversation, without anyone else knowing it was in conversation, with that sort of idea within romance of sort of self-sacrifice? Because Lauren is extremely self-sacrificing too, in a different way and for different reasons, which is also something that’s sort of glorified sometimes.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: And so for me, in book, the part was an exploration of that idea of self-sacrifice and what, what it entails and what it means. Like, at what point is this, like, deeply romantic, and at what point is it self-destructive?
Olivia: And, and so sort of trying to thread the needle where it is both –
Sarah: Mm-hmm. Yep!
Olivia: – [laughs] – is sort of what I was, part of what I was attempting to do.
Sarah: Do you have a, a favorite scene in this book that you’re really proud of, that you really like?
Olivia: One of the things I wanted to accomplish in this book was to turn the banter up to eleven? [Laughs]
Sarah: Always a good decision!
Olivia: And so there’s a scene where they’re having breakfast on his property, and, like, you first find out, like, that his, his Pretty Woman, like, obsession – [laughs] – and, like, I just really loved that the conversation made me laugh? And so I really love that because I, I was proud of, I was proud to banter. But I would say for readers the, the, the favorite scene seems to be the Only One Bed scene, which I did have a lot of fun with?
Olivia: But I think the one that’s actually closest to my heart in some ways, as much as I love the romance, is the scene toward the end with him and his mom. I just found it just such a pleasure to write, like envisioning the two of them in, like, early ‘90s Florida, like, mulleted, both of them, you know, in a Chevette, going up and down the Florida coast in the Chevette, staying at cheap, cheap motels near the seaside, like, and, like, singing along badly together to, like, Mötley Crüe and – [laughs] – and all these things. I just, I loved the idea that they were sort of a team from the beginning and how loving it was without, with acknowledging that, like, he was a lot and that, you know, she’s a single mom and she’s got a lot of really crappy jobs –
Olivia: – sort of to make ends meet. But I just love, I love the idea of them with a locket with, like, the two of them in there together with, like, matching mullets. I just, I really, I, I really love that scene, and my editor – we had to cut a lot of this book; it was way too long – and she’s like, well, could this scene happen in a phone call? And I, my, my editor is fantastic and ninety-five percent of the time, whatever she says I’m like, yep, you’re right.
Olivia: In this case, I was like, no. [Laughs]
Sarah: No. Nonono, we need to keep this.
Olivia: I’m going to cut it back, but, like, I really want to see this scene with his mom, because this is sort of the crux –
Olivia: – of a lot of the reason why he’s reacting the way he is, and he needs to sort of – you know, this is sort of his emotional, sort of one of his emotional growth moments, where he needs to let go of the guilt and needs to let his mom be his mom again –
Olivia: – instead of someone he’s failed in his life, and – so yes.
Sarah: That’s one of your favorites.
Olivia: That’s one of my favorites.
Sarah: That fades really well into my question from Kelly, which reads:
“Ms. Dade is a newly discovered favorite of mine for many reasons, including how nuanced and fully formed her characters are. They’re grownups with whole lives, including parents and friends and work and hobbies and love and lovers. How does she invent, write, and organize such complexities into a single volume? While I realize that –“
And she also says they’re amazing. Now, I imagine part of it is that, well, a lot of it is cut because you write all of it in. What’s left does, does some of that character development, but also these scenes where they’re in the car and you get a, you share a memory with the characters that is foundational to who they are as people. That, that makes sense into how Kelly is going to see these characters as such, you know, nuanced grownups with stuff. What are other ways that you incorporate the stuff into making a character that shows up already having had a life?
Olivia: Like I said, before I start –
Olivia: – I do what I call my story arc.
Olivia: One of the things I do is, for each character, sort of think through what their personal history is.
Olivia: And that personal history is going to include, obviously, family, sort of growing up. It’s going to include work, because – and work is especially important. Often in my stories, they’re, the characters are in a sort of transitional period –
Olivia: – as far as work, and I know that this is a story that I keep sort of coming back to, in part because I am someone who, I know that’s personal, a lot of it? I was in graduate school, a Ph.D. program, for American History. I wanted to be a professor from seventh grade on, and then I decided, much to my shock, that I did not actually want to be in academia, so I left a little bit after my Master’s, but then that left me completely lost! Because –
Sarah: I know all the words to this song. I know every verse, the chorus; I know every word to that song, yep.
Olivia: But, like, there I was, you know, at twenty-four, whatever I was, having thought this since, you know, seventh grade, this was what I was going to do, and now I’m sort of like, well, what do I do now?
Olivia: And it turns out, a Master’s in History, there’s a limited – [laughs] – selection of things.
Sarah: Can you imagine? It’s so frustrating.
Olivia: You know, I, I did a lot of those things and then found myself sort of, after several years, for whatever reason, sort of not, they weren’t the right fit, so instead of jumping from work to work –
Olivia: – and then questioning sort of myself until I found myself writing romance. This has been the thing I’ve done the longest, you know, in my adult life, and I don’t see an end to it, but the idea of sort of the world as you’ve conceived of it, your future as you’ve conceived of it sort of disappearing beneath your feet and having to sort of look around yourself and, and reconstruct that world –
Olivia: – I think is something that comes pretty, that’s a story that – [laughs] – comes up pretty frequently in my books. You know, some of this stuff is I’m conceiving, all of those things are going to come into play. Exes, if the exes have any relevance to the story – in the case of Alex they didn’t really, and Lauren, they didn’t really – but in some, some of my books, exes have some relevance, and then I never, I never want my characters to be isolated.
Olivia: And, and then, you know, as far as having friends, unless the progression of the story is in part a progression of them moving from isolation to community –
Olivia: – and the idea of a found family, like, I would say the third book in the series, which I finished writing a couple months ago, I would argue that Peter, who is the male main character, is actually quite isolated at the beginning of the book, but part of the, what happens that I think is really lovely for him over the course of the story is him creating a community around himself with Maria’s help.
Olivia: And, and his revelation toward the end of the book that he does have people who love him surrounding him. So I, because romance – again, lifelong romance reader – love swoony romance, but, like, you need other people in your life.
Olivia: You, you do, because what if something happens? Like, you need other people in your life, and so it’s important to me that there are friendships involved, and particularly since friendships are crucial to my own life.
Olivia: If I manage to incorporate all of that in a way that feels like well-rounded human beings, then I’m very glad, because that’s totally my intent. I want to make sure that they feel, as much as they can, even if the premise is banana-pants –
Olivia: – which I understand! You know, for instance, a star of a TV show writing fanfic about their own character, again, the premise is a little out there, but I want to play it straight.
Olivia: Once I’m in the premise, if these were real people actually doing this –
Olivia: – why would they do it, and how would it play out? And so take the, you know, the premise and then play it straight from there, which means they have to have all these things in their life if they’re going to be realistic about it.
Sarah: Yeah. And I’m sure there’s an actor out there writing fanfic. I would nominate Tom Holland; I bet he writes loads and loads of fanfic.
Olivia: [Laughs] Well, I mean, I have to assume Chris Pine – I’m sure you read the whole thing about how he was in the erotica writing class?
Sarah: Oh yeah! Oh yeah.
Olivia: Mm-hmm. I am sure that somewhere out there – [laughs] – there is –
Sarah: Is Chris Pine fanfic by Chris Pine.
Sarah: Not about Chris Pine.
Olivia: There is fanfic rated E for Explicit, and it’ll be beautifully written.
Olivia: Beautifully written porn without plot by – [laughs] –
Sarah: And you know, you know that he opens up his email, and if there’s a kudos or a comment he is just like, day is made! I am the greatest! Like, he just walks around floating above the pavement because he got a good comment on his fanfic; makes his day.
Olivia: You know, after he filmed Wonder Woman, like, he did a bunch of fix-it fics – [laughs] – for Steve Trevor and –
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Olivia: – and Diana.
Sarah: There was none of that Casablanca crap with the plane! None of that, uh-uh, no! He had a good parachute, and he got the hell out of that – oh yeah!
Olivia: Please. Yep.
Sarah: You know he wrote parachute sex, by the way.
Olivia: [Laughs] Well, why wouldn’t he, really?
Sarah: Well, I mean, why not, right? It’s Chris Pine! Wow, he’s rocketing to the top of my favorite Chris list, which is not a list I maintain on the regular, but yeah. Oh yeah. Totally. [Laughs]
So I want to ask – if you don’t mind! You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to – what, what are your fandoms online? I will tell you mine if you’re interested, ‘cause, I mean –
Olivia: Yes, please!
Sarah: – it’s only fair. So obviously, there’s the romance, but, which I can’t call it a fandom, ‘cause it’s also my job! So it’s this weird overlap between – and, and that’s what I think what people don’t quite consider when they, you know, you talk about find a hobby, find something you love to do and then monetize it. I don’t always recommend that! Sometimes it’s cool for something to be a hobby.
And so I have the fandom that is my job, which is romance, and then I’m also like, I love How to Train Your Dragon so much. I could, I could give you a whole dissertation on all three movies, the television shows, all of it. I love it, I love it, I love it so much. So that is my other fandom, which then spins into other things dragon-related, because there’s no shortage of good things about dragons and fanfic?
Sarah: Except for Game of Thrones. None of that, no-no, mm-mm-mm, no.
Sarah: So those are my two main fandoms, with side trips into little areas like Miss Fisher and – [laughs] – I have a deep love of the really, really, really old seasons of Bake Off? Like the really old ones that you can barely find? I love those.
But I’m curious: what are your fandoms?
Olivia: First of all, I would like to say that Alex and you could have long chats about all the seasons of Bake Off, like ranking them. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: He would enthusiastically discuss this with you for long periods of time.
Sarah: I have, I have thoughts about the dynamics of the hosts and how they changed and the erasure of caretaking in the – like, I have another dissertation. I will keep it to myself for now, but yes! I would, I wish that were possible. [Laughs]
Olivia: Yes. And I would also note to – it’s not answering your question right away, but I will also note that I completely know what you mean about monetizing your hobby?
Sarah: Yeah! Oh! Oh yeah.
Olivia: I’m a lifelong romance reader; it was the main way that, like, if I didn’t want to – I mean, I loved reading, but if I didn’t want to feel my feelings – [laughs] – I would read –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: – and then, turns out if you make that your living? Like, romance, it, I went through a long chunk of time where it became really hard for me to read –
Olivia: – read romance, which was devastating for me, because it was my main sort of love – [laughs] –
Olivia: – outside of work, you know, other than my family, and then to suddenly find myself unable to immerse myself in a story ‘cause my brain was too busy –
Olivia: – looking at, well, what’s working for me in this story? What’s not working for me in this story? Why do I think this story was successful? Do I feel like the premise –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: – like, was it the premise? Was it the writing? Was – and then how will I –
Sarah: Holding my lighter. Yep, mm-hmm.
Olivia: And then you have personal – and this is true for you too – when you have personal relationships with some of the authors? So you – which adds a different – it’s hard to sort of disconnect that from the story –
Olivia: – and immerse yourself in it, which is part of the reason I read nothing but Jaime/Brienne fanfiction for a year and a half, because I didn’t know any of those people.
Olivia: They’re not on sale –
Olivia: – a lot of those aspects were just erased –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: – so that it became something where I was just coming at it from a reader who didn’t know any of these people –
Olivia: – and just could enjoy the story. Yes! So now I, I just want to say that I a thousand percent understand – [laughs] – what you’re saying.
Sarah: It’s hard, right? It’s really hard.
Olivia: And I, I found myself reading romance-adjacent subgenres like urban fantasy and mysteries with a romantic arc, because –
Olivia: – it gets me most of what I need, but it’s not as full-on what I do, which makes it easier for me sometimes.
Sarah: Yep. There’s danger in there, ‘cause sometimes, you know, if they’re not actually romances, sometimes they kill the characters?
Sarah: ‘Cause they’re murder mysteries and it’s, murder is in the, it’s part of the ge-, I understand, but, like, could you not murder the ones I like? That would be great! You’re leaving the safe, the safe confines when you do that.
Olivia: I am a big fan of spoilers?
Sarah: Ohhh! Oh yeah!
Olivia: So I’ll look in Goodreads and see, like, what’s happening, and occasionally some of those urban fantasy series, like, there’s a fake-out boyfriend?
Olivia: Like, he’s usually a boyfriend or like a vampire friend or whatever. [Laughs]
Olivia: There’s, there’s often, like, a fake-out love interest –
Olivia: – who dies –
Olivia: – and I’m like, I don’t think so!
Olivia: Like, I’m coming in after that. [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s a hard no! Oh yeah.
Olivia: But yes, my main fandom is, was, was the Jaime/Brienne fandom. I am someone who goes through, like, stages where I get particularly obsessed about some topic or, you know, a ship –
Olivia: – that I get very obsessed with for like several years, and then eventually I will find myself with a different one. Not that the first one is no longer good anymore; it’s just that my brain moves on to fertile new territory. And this is true from the time I was little, before I even understood, really, you know, before shipping was even a word.
Olivia: X-Files was not out yet, and – and The X-Files were one of my, my ships. If I had known fanfiction existed in college, I would not have graduated, because I would have – [laughs] – been too busy reading fanfic to do work.
Sarah: I used to have a website bookmarked that was nothing but the romantic moments in every X-Files episode, so if I was like, oh, this is too much, wah, monster gore, guy, why are they, why are they doing that? I could just find that one scene, get the little dopamine hit and move on! I, it was an entire list of nothing but the romance moments. Oh my God, I loved it so much!
Olivia: I, I have literally done that for series that –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Olivia: – like the romance is like a secondary thing?
Olivia: Where, like, I’ve made myself a list: episode four, 33:02, like, and just watched those, because, no, I’ve done that! And –
Sarah: I did that with CSI, of all things!
Olivia: Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle?
Sarah: Yes! Oh my God, the one with the buns –
Olivia: Oh yes!
Sarah: – where they mirror each other, and he has to do the autopsy, and they can’t prove that it’s the dude, and she sees him make this big confessional? Oh my God! Yes!
Olivia: Oh, there’s like one, one stalwart woman, I think, no, I think she’s used she/her, in that, in, on AO3 who is still writing like really good – it’s like this one woman’s holding down the fandom for all of us. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh! Oh, the Gil and Sara was, like, what, three, four seasons, easily? It was looong!
Olivia: It was a long, drawn-out process. I never expected to find anyone else – [laughs] – who was into that too!
Sarah: Well, it ain’t like I’m watching it for the murder! I’m not here for the death; I’m here for the romance! Skip, yeah, yeah, okay – and I can watch surgery and eat spaghetti. Like, I don’t, I’m not grossed out by body things? I just, it’s the, the murder, the horror, the violence, and the harm that is what gets to me? So, like, autopsies are fine, I don’t care, but romance over autopsies, hello!
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Sarah: Oh yeah. I was totally into that one!
Olivia: Actually, that makes me very happy!
Olivia: I have literally revisited that earlier this year –
Sarah: No way!
Olivia: – ‘cause I was like, I remember being really into that, like, dynamic? I was, I was into it! So I went back and, like, got on, you know, bought a bunch of the episodes, and then I found the woman who I talked about as holding down the fandom?
Olivia: She has a guide to all the different, like, episodes that have the most GSR content –
Olivia: – and I was like, this is amazing! [Laughs] So I really focused on those episodes! So if I can, if you remind me, if I can find that, I will try to do my best to send that to you, if I can find the link again for you.
Sarah: Yes, please! Someone who will be listening to this will be like, oh my God, please put that link in the show notes! Please, please, please! We, we cannot be alone; it’s the rule of the internet; there cannot just be two of us.
Olivia: Right. I mean, I’ve always been like that! Before I understood what it meant, I was super into Days of Our Lives, and for whatever reason I was super into Jack and Jennifer, which apparently, as it turns out, before I started watching, was, like, lot of, like, non-con ick, but, like, I didn’t see that –
Olivia: – and so I set up two VCRs, and I did a fan super cut with VCRs, which took –
Olivia: – when I was in middle school! Like, it took untold hours with all their scenes together –
Olivia: – because I wanted to have like a, a compilation of all their scenes.
Sarah: That’s amazing!
Olivia: And I, I could not have named to you that that was shipping at the time.
Olivia: It clearly was!
Olivia: And then, yeah, X-Files and, like, on Star Trek: Voyager, there was B’Elanna Torres and the bl-, Tom Paris.
Olivia: So, like, I would have these little, you know, ships that were not the point of the show, but, like, I really, they’re the reason I was watching the show?
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: So – and of course, like, more recently, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries with the Jack and Phryne, but then, yeah, Jaime/Brienne.
Sarah: Yeah, these are good fandoms.
Olivia: They are – I, I think so! [Laughs]
Sarah: I mean, I love when you’re re-, when you’re experiencing a piece of media too, where you get this sense, like, oh, they, they get it! They know what they’re doing! I trust these people! ‘Cause that’s what you have when you read romance, right? You trust that the person who says, “I wrote a romance!” knows the rules of the romance, so you’re like, all right, I trust you with all of my tender, squishy feelings. I trust you that this is what’s going, you said, what it was and why it’s dangerous to step out of the genre, so when you encounter that in a, in a medium that isn’t the one that says “we are a romance,” like, wait, wait, you, you know what you’re doing? You’re not going to, you’re not going to kill one of them. You actually understand what’s happening. You’ve put them in a room with only one bed; you do know what you’re doing!
Olivia: [Laughs] I remember my outrage – I was reading romance from the time I was six or seven, but I remember briefly, I, I did use to read more non-romance stuff until my anxiety got higher, and then I really needed happy endings?
Olivia: Like, guaranteed? But one of my forays in middle school into non-romance was a Philip Pullman series.
Olivia: Which I did not know much about him, and the first book is, like, a slow burn between, you know, the female main character and her love interest. I’m like, this is, this is, you know, it’s – and it didn’t go, and I was like, oh, so second book! I was like, it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen! And they got together, like slept together halfway through the second book, and then literally, later that night, he dies in a fire. [Laughs] And I was just devastated! Like, sobbing – and it turns out ‘course she, then she’s pregnant, which I hate accidental pregnancy plot lines, and I was just like – and then, like, the rest of the series, like, I think it was a trilogy, like, it was her, like, deep in grief and, like, he’s gone, and I was like, never –
Sarah: What even is the point?
Olivia: – never again, Sarah! [Laughs]
Sarah: Never! No! I will, I will not leave this garden; you may not take me out of here. Oh yeah, uh-uh.
Olivia: I’m going to make sure that whatever else I read, either I know from the beginning that, like, it’s not going to end well –
Olivia: – and I accept that –
Olivia: – or I’ve just got to stick to –
Olivia: – stick to romance! [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh yeah.
So what are you working on right now?
Olivia: Well, I just finished, a couple months ago, the third book in the Spoiler Alert universe.
Sarah: Oooh! Congratulations! Finishing a book in this crap is, is quite an accomplishment!
Sarah: Well played!
Olivia: I – [laughs] – I’m thrilled because I actually really love the story, which, it was hard to write, I’ll be frank, because it was different writing in the early months of the pandemic versus writing in the, you know, more recent months? Like, I reread it and I’m like – [laughs] – this sounds like, this reads like the work is someone much better adjusted than I am!
Sarah: This looks like I have my shit together! How’d that happen?
Olivia: So I’m waiting on –
Sarah: I have moments like that!
Olivia: – I’m waiting on my editor’s notes on that, and hopefully she loves it too. I’m still waiting – I always say this – I’m still waiting for the day where she gets back to me and she’s like, Olivia, like, this is perfection.
Olivia: Nothing here needs to be changed.
Sarah: No, no notes.
Olivia: Anything you change will make it worse.
Olivia: Let’s just send this off to copyedit –
Sarah: That’s fine! I’ll just slap a cover on, and off it goes!
Olivia: [Laughs] But maybe this is the time, Sarah! Maybe this is it! This is that moment!
Sarah: Speak it into being. Speak it into reality.
Olivia: [Laughs] So that is my hope, and I, I mean, I can tell you more about it if you want, but I don’t have to.
Sarah: No, please do!
Olivia: So the main characters are Maria and Peter, who are sort of tertiary characters in the first couple books because their characters, Cyprian and Cassia, have been shipwrecked on an island, a desolate island off the coast of Ireland for years, and so they, while they communicate with the cast for the cast chats and conventions, they are not going to be there for filming, and they’re not going to be on the page as much. And they were originally supposed to be the second book –
Olivia: – in the series, but then Alex sort of elbowed his way – [laughs] – Alex and Lauren elbowed their way into the second book. So the, the premise is, is that she is Swedish, and she’s doing final auditions for this role on Gods of the Gates, so it goes back to sort of years before the other two books start, and she’s in the final auditions. They’re doing chemistry auditions, so the final few actors for her role, the final few actors for the role of Cyprian, and she meets this thick-thighed Viking whom she finds extremely appealing. This is my – I have written a story before where both main characters are fat, but this is the first one for Avon where both main characters are fat. And she has a one-night stand, but she’s very much of the opinion that there’s no point to really pursuing this at all, because if she gets the role she’ll be on a desolate Irish island for years.
Olivia: If she doesn’t get the role she’s going back to Sweden, so, like, why would she bother –
Olivia: – to give contact information or really even her last name to – [laughs] – the man that she just had a one-night stand with. So she leaves before he wakes up, and then of course, because this is romance, they arrive, she arrives to auditions, and he’s one of the final actors in contention for the other role, and they both get cast, and now they’re going to be on, the only two actors on this desolate island for five years of filming with a small crew, which is why my, the name of the book, right now at least, is Ship Wrecked, two, two words –
Olivia: – because it’s shipping, and then my alternate title is Only One Island?
Olivia: Forced proximity is my jam? [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, I love forced proximity. It’s my fave.
Olivia: I mean, this is my thing with, when I read these mysteries with the romantic arc, like, I don’t care who, who got killed and why –
Olivia: – I just flip till they’re on the page together. Like, I really love seeing love interests on a page together as much as possible.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Olivia: So, so yeah, I love forced proximity. I love reading it; I love writing it. And so it traces through their first – and he’s not thrilled with what happened – so it traces sort of their first year together, and then it picks up again – there’s a time jump – it picks up again at the end of filming and the final press junket together and ‘course the convention where everything happens. And I really love the story, so I hope – he’s sort of a surly loner? And she is completely, she’s, she’s cheerful, but she’s not, like, sunshine in the sense that, like, she’s completely confident of her own talent, her own worth, her body. She thinks she’s hot – she is hot. ‘Cause one of the things I wanted to do in a series was also show different relationships?
Olivia: The fat characters having different relationships to their fatness and to their bodies?
Olivia: And for her, like, it’s not an issue. It might be an issue for other people, but, like, she’s like, fuck you, I’m amazing! [Laughs]
Olivia: And I just, I love this story! I hope that readers will too, and I hope my editor does.
Olivia: Crossing my fingers, Elle! [Laughs]
Sarah: So I always ask this question: what books are you reading that you want to tell people about?
Olivia: So one of the books that I, I want to, I would love for more people, as many people as possible to be reading, I am biased because she’s a dear friend, but, but Therese Beharrie’s And They Lived Happily Ever After? Very close to my heart, in part because she is, but also because the book is – you know I’ve dealt with anxiety before, as well as depression, and the female main character has undiagnosed anxiety through most of the book. It affects her in pretty significant ways, and I think that it’s, I think it’s a very thoughtful and telling sort of depiction of what it means to be struggling with pretty severe anxiety, and part of the reason, you know, part of the message of the book is that you can be loved without having to have everything in your life solved, that you can be, have, being mentally ill –
Olivia: – and still be loved and find love and deserve love. And it’s, you know, it’s a warm, very warm book, it’s a witty book, but it, I think it, at its heart there’re going to be a lot of readers who I hope will find it and find it meaningful to see part of their experience sort of captured on the page in a way that it isn’t always?
Olivia: And so my hope is that, you know, people will find that. Just like I hope there are certain parts of my books that hopefully people pick up and it’s meaningful to them, I think that, I think that Therese’s work – you know, it’s also wonderful because, you know, it’s set in South Africa. I think, you know, the romance industry is really, you know, America, UK, like, are their big – you know, I’m glad to just see something set outside of sort of the typical hubs.
Olivia: And so I just think it’s, it’s really lovely.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this episode. Thank you to Olivia Dade for hanging out with me. Did I google Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle super cuts while I was editing this? Yes. Did I lose like forty-five minutes to an hour of working time because I fell down that rabbit hole? Oh, oh yes. Yes, I did.
And I would love to know – I know this is a topic we’ve discussed before, but what are your ships? Do you have vintage ships? Do you have one of those big ol’ ships that’s like a galleon with five masts and lots of sails, and it’s, you know, no one’s ever sailed it in thirty years? Do you have one of those ships? I would really love to hear about it. Can you tell this is one of my favorite topics? You can email me at [email protected] or Sarah with an H at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books dot com [[email protected]]. Either way, I love hearing from you.
As always, I end with a bad joke. I love ending with bad jokes. Are you ready? Here we go:
Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees?
Give up? Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees?
‘Cause they’re really good at it!
[Laughs] So now when I’m going to go walk the dog, I’m going to look for elephants in the trees, and my entire family will be like, what are you doing?
Thank you again to our Patreon community for making the transcript possible, and thank you to everyone who was so enthusiastic about this episode. Elephants in trees!
We wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
[music slowly ends]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.