My guest today is Kate Spencer, author and host of the podcast Forever 35. Her new book, In a New York Minute, is out this week, and y’all, this book was so charming and fun.

In this conversation, we talk about:

  • Vulnerability
  • Projecting narratives onto strangers
  • Vintage rom-coms

She’s a romance fan, and a rom-com fan, and we had a lot of fun.

What about you?

What is your favorite vintage rom com? Or not vintage!
What stories have your very favorite portrayal of friendship?
What city is your favorite?

Read the transcript

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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:

You can find Kate Spencer at her website, and on her podcast Forever 35.

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Transcript

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[music]

Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 502 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and my guest today is Kate Spencer, who is an author and the host of the podcast Forever35, which you may have listened to. Her new book, In a New York Minute, is out this week, and y’all, this book is so charming and fun, and in our conversation, we are going to talk about vulnerability and projecting narratives onto strangers, especially on social media, and we’re going to talk about vintage rom-coms. She is a romance fan and a rom-com fan, and it’s a pleasure to talk to somebody who is so affectionate towards the genre, just like we are.

I will have links to all of the books and the movies we talk about in the show notes. You can find everything at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.

Hello and thank you to our Patreon community for making this episode possible and for making sure that every episode has a transcript! Hi, garlicknitter! [Hi, Sarah! Hi, dear readers! – gk]

I have a compliment this week!

To Kirstie: You are the personification of bottomless perfect cocktails at a brunch where the coffee is flawless, food is just right, and the company is exquisite.

If you would like to have a compliment of your very own, have a look at our Patreon community: patreon.com/SmartBitches.

This episode is brought to you in part by Stamps.com! I feel like such a real podcaster when I say that. Even though I am a small business owner who works mostly on the internet, I do still have things to mail for my business. I have giveaways to run, I have prizes to ship, I send books in the mail all the time, and as much as I like the people who work at my local post office, without fail when I go there are always fifty people who have arrived just before me. With Stamps.com, you skip the trip and focus on other things! Stamps.com lets you print official postage right from your computer and saves you money in the process. And you get discounts you can’t find anywhere else, like up to forty percent off USPS rates and seventy-six percent off UPS. All you need is a computer and a standard printer; there’s no special equipment, no special supplies. Stop overpaying for shipping with Stamps.com. Sign up with promo code SARAH for a special offer that includes a four-week free trial, free postage, and a digital scale. No long-term commitments or contracts. Just go to Stamps.com, click the microphone at the top of the page, and enter code SARAH.

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Are you ready to start this episode? Let’s do the thing. On with my conversation with Kate Spencer!

[music]

Kate Spencer: My name is Kate Spencer, and I am a writer and a podcaster, and previously I wrote a memoir that came out in 2017 called The Dead Moms Club, which I, you know, sure you can guess from the title what is, it is about – it’s about grief and losing my mom – and I have a new book coming out on March 15th called In a New York Minute that is the complete opposite of my first book.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: It is a fiction romantic comedy set in New York, inspired by so many rom-coms that I have loved throughout my life, and so that is very exciting, and I get to talk to you about that today. And then I’m also a podcaster, and I co-host a podcast that is very loosely about self-care in all the many ways it can manifest in our lives, and that is called Forever35.

Sarah: Awesome! Congratulations on all of these things.

Kate: Thank you! Thank you so much!

Sarah: I am so excited to talk to you about In a New York Minute. I know you have to describe it a lot as an author – I’m also an author; I’ve done this many times. How do you describe this book for people?

Kate: You know, at its heart this book is, is a romantic comedy. It is –

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: – I think in the end, a light read that will hopefully be a comfortable escape from the world. It, it’s a dual point of view; we have our heroine Franny, who is having the, really, really, one of the worst days of her life after getting laid off, walking home sweating, lugging her bag. She gets onto the New York City subway –

Sarah: Ugh!

Kate: – it’s still rush hour –

Sarah: Ugh!

Kate: – and it’s so packed, she’s pressed up against the door, and when she goes to kind of move once the train starts rumbling, you know, into the, on the tracks, she realizes that her dress has been stuck in the subway doors and has just ripped, and of course a kind of grumpy, handsome gentleman steps in to offer her his suit jacket, and they have this meet-cute that from the outside looks very romantic and is captured by people around them and goes viral on Instagram, when in reality it was very awkward and uncomfortable, and they did not hit it off at all. And, you know, through the magic of New York and circumstance, they keep getting brought together, and when they first meet again they think they’re, you know completely wrong for each other, but of course by the end of the book – spoiler alert, there’s a happy ending!

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: This is a romance, and, you know, through the, through getting to know each other, they really realize that they have a lot more in common than they thought, and, you know, the, the, the story really involves obviously them, they’re at the heart of the story, but it also explores friendship and family and friends who feel like family, and it’s all set in New York City, which was my, my former home and still my favorite place in the world, so I got to really kind of also celebrate that love you feel, you know, falling in love with a place, which can feel very romantic in a lot of ways.

Sarah: It absolutely can. I used to live in Montclair and commuted a lot into Manhattan.

Kate: Mm-hmm!

Sarah: Reading this book, it was like visiting a lot of pieces of New York.

Kate: Thank you!

Sarah: There’s a quote that I highlighted about how when you’re really familiar with a place like New York, a corner coffee shop that looks completely nothing from the outside is a whole universe to you because of how much that little space means to you, and I love the part –

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: – that even though they have no reason to cross paths, once they do, they do again and again and again and again, accidentally and on purpose, and I’m like, yep, this all sounds very true! It must have been tremendous fun to write those parts.

Kate: It was! It was really fun because there is, you know, obviously it’s fiction, and so we get to, I get to, you know, create this world where these two characters keep meeting coincidentally, but there is a real kernel of truth to that –

Sarah: Oh yeah!

Kate: – if you’ve lived, I think, in any large city where it starts to feel extremely small. You know, there are millions of people around you, and you’re going about your life, and somehow you keep running into the same person or you see the same people or you end up at the same place, and it does begin to kind of have that small-town feel, so it was very satisfying to get to, you know, celebrate the things I love and loved about living in New York, with, of course, like, the magic fairy dust of getting to write fiction, so making it just a little more sparkly than the real thing, but trying to keep it very authentic. I wanted people who live in New York or who have lived in New York to feel like this was an authentic send-up of the city and also an authentic story about two people, because these things can happen in New York!

Sarah: Oh!

Kate: I’ve had some very wild run-ins that turned into friendships or relationships, and I wanted to try to capture that.

Sarah: I, I definitely think you did, because I know I’ve had the experience of almost meeting somebody and your, and your gravity changes, your center of gravity changes, and suddenly more people are in your orbit that you didn’t –

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: – necessarily see all the time, or now you recognize them ‘cause they are in your, in your orbit? The, the two characters introduce each other to their, to their respective neighborhoods.

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: It, it’s their –

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: – tiny little orbits!

Kate: Yeah! And, and, and then also the neighborhood where you work; like –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – all these little worlds begin to kind of open up to you, and I think that’s what’s so magical about when you start dating someone in a city like, you know – you, you might live in the same city, but their world is, could be so different from yours –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Kate: – and all the sudden you’re opened up to this whole new thing, which kind of happens in the book. Like, Franny has lived in New York, you know, for eleven or twelve years, but has never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Like, you don’t do the kind of touristy magical things in the city where you live.

Sarah: And, and going, doing the touristy things almost reintroduces you to the place where you live, where you see it as –

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: – a newcomer might see it.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, and I, you know, I, I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the last ten and a half years? So I moved –

Sarah: Only slightly different from New York; just a little!

Kate: Yeah, very different.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: Very different. I, I love getting to live in California, but this was a really kind of nice way for me to torment my homesickness for New York City, and also, like –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: – and also make it feel better, you know? Just get to, get to imagine what it’d be like to live there again, and that felt really good.

Sarah: Yeah. I know that experience. I wrote a Hanukkah novella set at a Jewish summer camp –

Kate: Oh! [Gasps]

Sarah: – and so I got to be at camp when I was writing it, even though it was –

Kate: Sarah!

Sarah: – November, I was like – [gasps] – I get to be at camp when I go – ‘kay, got to go write; got to go to camp, bye! Yep, made me so happy.

Kate: Oh my gosh! So my next book is set at a summer camp –

Sarah: [Gasps]

Kate: – so we need –

Together: We need to talk!

Kate: – and I need to read your novella tonight!

Sarah: We need to talk! I will send it to you! Oh my gosh!

Kate: I would, I would absolutely love that. Camp is another one of those magical places that I –

Sarah: Yes!

Kate: – I want to transport everybody to.

Sarah: That was exactly what I wanted. It’s exactly what I wanted. So I have to say thank you for teaching me –

Kate: Aw!

Sarah: – some of the intricacies of Instagram, because I am not –

Kate: Oh gosh!

Sarah: – fluent in Instagram, and the way that your characters talk about it was so funny, but one of the things –

Kate: [Laughs]

Sarah: – and this is not a spoiler, ‘cause it’s in the first chapter; the first chapter does a lot – she goes viral, Franny goes viral, and all of her –

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: – immediate friends recognize, this is not a good thing.

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: I have, I have a, a close friend who I host another podcast with. Her name is Alisha Rai, and she went viral about a tweet about cake pops, and it was on Good Morning America, and it was on the Today show –

Kate: [Laughs]

Sarah: – and it was on Hoda & Kathie Lee, and she was like, I am underground now? I’ll come out in a month. Like, it was like, my first question for her was like, oh my God, are you okay? And –

Kate: Yeah!

Sarah: – it’s a vulnerability, going viral, and the thing I love about the setup of this book, if I could just compliment you to your face, ‘cause that’s not awkward –

Kate: Oh, thank you! This is so satisfying! Thank you!

Sarah: – that it’s almost a double – triple! – vulnerability. She gets laid off, her dress rips in the subway, her ass is literally showing –

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: – she’s crying, a stranger helps her out, and then their moment on the subway becomes a viral narrative that they can’t control. And it is so much vulnerability all in one chapter. What was it like exploring so much feelings of just self-consciousness in different directions in the first chapter? Was there a point where you were like, is this too much? Nah, this isn’t too much!

Kate: [Laughs]

Sarah: Just keep going!

Kate: Just keep throwing, like, spaghetti at this poor character.

Sarah: Yeah!

Kate: I, you know – [sighs] – it, it tapped on a lot of things that interest me –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: – as a, as a, as a person.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: Like, for me, Kate Spencer, I have a hard time asking for help. I have a hard time being vulnerable in public, and I’m very self-conscious, and so exploring what that would be like, even just kind of thinking about how as a, a, like, how can we still celebrate the human body and being accepting and loving towards our bodies while also admitting that, like, even, showing our butt in our underwear on the subway would still be embarrassing and make us feel self-conscious? I had kind of been playing around with this meet-cute idea just after watching in kind of the, you know, from like 2014, ‘15 to two thousand and like ’18, ’19, there were so many instances of other people kind of narrating viral moments and putting stories upon people as if, like, they were casting them in a, you know, creating a story –

Sarah: Right!

Kate: – around a situation that might, was not always true!

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: And as an observer of just pop culture and the internet, that really blew – and also a lover of romance –

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Kate: – and romantic comedies? – like, that was interesting for me, ‘cause I, there was a, the biggest one was Plane Baes, where two people, a couple switched seats with two people on a plane and sat directly behind them and then kind of narrated this story of these two strangers who had taken their seats, connecting and falling in love, and –

Sarah: I wanted to die just reading that. I had so much secondhand embarrassment for that couple. I was like, I cannot!

Kate: Ugh!

Sarah: I cannot.

Kate: So much, but also –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: – you know, the way my brain works, any story anybody tells me, I’m looking for the romance in the story. Like, I lo- –

Sarah: Always.

Kate: – I love, I love romance so much that I’m just always trying to find it. So it was hard for me to, like, want the romance to be real while also recognizing that it was, like, really inappropriate to be documenting this without these people’s permission and, and then, you know, realizing, of course there was no romantic connection. It was completely just a, a fabric, you know, it was fiction!

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: And so all of these things were kind of in my mind, and wondering what it would be like to experience all of them at once, and then, you know, in a big city like New York, people process big things and big emotions publicly all the time –

Sarah: Oh yes.

Kate: – and – yeah, like, I have we-, I have gotten awful news in the middle of Broadway and just sat there and wept in public, and so that was another element of it, this kind of like –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: – how do we handle and help strangers who are going through something really challenging –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – in public, who may or may not want to receive support?

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: It’s a lot of stuff –

Sarah: It is a lot.

Kate: – a lot of stuff in the first chapter.

Sarah: Now, one of my favorite parts of the book is how Lola and Cleo, who are Franny’s best friends –

Kate: Hmm.

Sarah: – show up for her, literally show up.

Kate: Yeah, yeah.

Sarah: Like, drop everything to provide support. What were some of your favorite moments writing their friendship?

Kate: I, I truly loved every second of it, and it’s so interesting as a writer, when you write a first draft, you know, you don’t – like, they were still very underdeveloped as characters in the first draft, and –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – you know, it, it’s, this, this book has gone through so many revisions and drafts that now they feel really fully realized and a real part of her life, but for me, it’s really based on my own friendships, and I, I just have friends who, they will show up, they will, they will call you in is, as needed if you are not pulling your weight as a person, but they will show up and –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – to, to get to write women friends as kind and supportive and respectful and funny and, and smart was just, like, it was just a blast, and it’s completely based on people I know and the way we, we get to treat each other and hopefully how I am as a friend. I mean –

Sarah: Yeah!

Kate: – let’s be honest, you know, I always want to try to improve as a friend, but –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – they just made me laugh! You know, like, they, nicknaming every person they hook up with? That is something that I think many friend groups do. You know, nobody calls an actual hookup by their real name. I don’t know, like, half the people my friends have hooked up with; I know them by their, like, character names that we give them.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: So, and, and just, you know, especially in my twenties, when I was especially broke, we did a lot of, like, sitting around on steps and on fire escapes and on rooves, hanging out and drinking cheap beer and eating, like, you know, falafel from the, you know, place down the street.

Sarah: Mm, now I want falafel.

Kate: And so I wanted to really, I wanted to really capture that! Also, that makes me really want a falafel –

Sarah: I want falafel like right now.

Kate: Doesn’t that sound good?

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: I know, oh!

Sarah: One of the other things that I love about Lola and Cleo is that they have fully realized lives? They aren’t accessories to Franny?

Kate: Hmm.

Sarah: They are independent people. Wait, wait, wait. Wait, is one of them going to camp in the next book?

Kate: No.

Sarah: Okay –

Kate: I, I haven’t, I haven’t figured out –

Sarah: – just making sure, ‘cause, like, I was going to say, what, wait, one of them ha-, one of them’s okay! You can’t send them to camp! [Laughs]

Kate: There’s no, there’s no tie-in to the – they’re both standalones –

Sarah: Okay.

Kate: – but I’m trying to – maybe there’ll be some little Easter eggs that connect everybody, ‘cause I always love that as a reader.

Sarah: I love that too, yes! But I, I love how they have their own lives! There’s multiple stories.

Kate: Hmm.

Sarah: I can see how much work went into revising them and making them into, into people!

Kate: Oh, thank you!

Sarah: Oh, it’s, it’s really, really lovely to read friendships between women where they’re like, okay, I will drop everything and find you, ‘cause clearly you need someone with you.

Kate: Yeah! I mean, I, I love getting to kind of create these humans who are, sometimes they’re figuring out who they are, and other times they, they feel very secure in who they are –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – and, you know, there were also moments where it was like, like I can’t be there right now; I’m working. Like, I have other things going on –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: – but, but how can I support you in this moment?

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: Which is, to me, I, I was also hoping to kind of give them healthy boundaries.

[Laughter]

Sarah: Yes! Was it, was it a hard decision, or is this pre-dating COVID enough that –

Kate: Oh.

Sarah: – there’s no COVID in the book, and I feel like we’re at one of those weird fiction dividing lines, like with 9/11 as well. You know, does, did, does that exist in this book world or not?

Kate: I wrote this all pre-COVID, so CO-, I was, I was basically, like, putting the finishing touches on the draft with my agent to send out on submission like in, right when COVID was kind of hitting –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – so, like, so this world, yeah, it’s very, this was really interesting: there’s, there’s, you know, this was all written before; there is no –

Sarah: No!

Kate: – COVID yet, and, you know, this book was going out on submission when COVID not only just hit the United States and the world, but was peaking in New York so intensely and –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – it was a little surreal then, being like, here’s this book about New York where this awful thing – [laughs] – doesn’t exist! I mean, for me, romance is self-care, and I read it to have that good feeling, to have that – to just get a, to get a break, especially right now when –

Sarah: Yeah!

Kate: – things just feel very heavy, and so –

Sarah: Oh yes.

Kate: – I feel, I feel o-, I feel okay about there not –

Sarah: No, it’s totally fine!

Kate: – being COVID yet in this world. Yeah, because I’m like, well, this, this is a mental break from –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – even the reality that has faced New York in the last two years, but I am very curious as to how that’s all going to play out in fiction. I’m very, very curious, and, and –

Sarah: It’s a big question! It’s a very big question –

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: – and we’ve been here before! We will be here again.

Kate: We will! We will be here again.

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: That’s a good point.

Sarah: Now, your publicist Estelle – who I adore; she’s fabulous – told me that you love When Harry Met Sally, and in your –

Kate: I do; I love it so much.

Sarah: – book, there is some very excellent, high-grade love for Moonstruck, which is among –

Kate: Moonstruck!

Sarah: – my very favorite movies, which proves that you have absolutely exquisite taste in vintage rom-coms, and I’m curious if you have a top three of the vintage rom-coms, because I once –

Kate: Wow.

Sarah: – wrote down my rom-coms from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s, and my ‘80s list, I think I need to go back and watch all of them, but I’m curious what your vintage faves are.

Kate: I, you know, this is such a great question, and it’s one I’ve kind of been rehashing. I watch When Harry Met Sally probably two times a year. It is, it is everything to me. And it’s been interesting rewatching it, you know, as, when you go back and watch these films, especially the ones made in the ‘80s –

Sarah: Ohhh!

Kate: – the level of problematic content –

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Kate: – racism, homophobia, misogyny, just –

Sarah: The gay panic is tangible in some of these.

Kate: Oh, unreal! And, like, and way, it’s way more recent than I would like to, would like to imagine.

Sarah: Yeah!

Kate: So I, I feel that, like, I’m a little hesitant to go, like, I haven’t watched – you know what I used to love? I used to love Can’t Buy Me Love.

Sarah: Yep!

Kate: I, I love a fake dating; I love a –

Sarah: Yep!

Kate: – fake dating trope.

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: That’s a classic fake dating movie. I haven’t seen that movie in probably like twenty years.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: I am guessing, I am guessing I would not recommend it, based on –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: – what I imagine is very problematic content. But I do think –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – I went back and I read, like, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, which has some kind of dated stuff, but she’s interesting to me as a writer because I do feel like her rom-coms have really, have held up –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – and I think Nancy Meyers’s have, I think hers have as well?

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: And so obviously When Harry Met Sally; I love Moonstruck. I prefer Sleepless in Seattle over You’ve Got Mail. I’ve never been a big You’ve Got Mail person, but I did give Sleepless in Seattle a rewatch, and that’s a little o-, it’s a little odd. So – [laughs] – so I’m not quite sure if they totally hold up.

Sarah: It’s, it’s only a little stalking. It’s not a lot of stalking –

Kate: Yes!

Sarah: – it’s only just like sixty percent stalking –

Kate: Just a little!

Sarah: – which is fi- –

Kate: Just a little!

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: I don’t know if I feel comfortable actually going in and being like, these are the ones! I will say one movie that I think you could argue is a romantic comedy is Pride & Prejudice, and the 2005 Pride & Prejudice movie starring Keira Knightley, I’ve probably watched over a hundred times.

Sarah: Oh, me too! It’s, I have it saved on my phone; it’s my plane movie –

Kate: Same.

Sarah: – it’s my, I-need-to- –

Kate: Same.

Sarah: – turn-my-brain-off movie. If I need to instantly relax, I put on the soundtrack?

Kate: Yes! Oh, same!

Sarah: I love it!

Kate: I can sing that – that, to me, I mean, obviously, any Austen holds up for, you know, centuries –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – but that, to me, is just the perfect romantic comedy, and, and –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Kate: – I love the two thousand, I, I’ve watched the BBC six-hour, but I’m a, I’m a Matthew Macfadyen Darcy fan, so.

Sarah: I get it!

Kate: That would, that would be my recommendation.

Sarah: My vintage rom-com that I need to go back and rewatch, because I’m not entirely sure it holds up, although my memories of the feelings in which, which it inspired in me are, are crystalline and gorgeous and wonderful –

Kate: Mmm!

Sarah: – is Roxanne from 1987.

Kate: [Gasps] Ohhh! That was like my mom’s favorite movie. I wonder if Roxanne still holds up.

Sarah: I don’t know! And it’s interesting because there’s another Cyrano remake coming up with Peter Dinklage! But the thing about Roxanne

Kate: That’s right!

Sarah: – is – I didn’t know this – it was adapted and written, the screenplay was by Steve Martin! He wrote the screenplay for that, which I did not know. And I –

Kate: I don’t think I knew that either!

Sarah: I love that movie because of Steve Martin, but I really love it because of Shelley Duvall as the best friend?

Kate: Oh, I know!

Sarah: It’s such a good friendship movie, that one!

Kate: So good! I think, you know what, that friendship is so – like, a great rom-com always has a great friendship.

Sarah: Yes!

Kate: A great, a great romantic comedy always passes the Bechdel test.

Sarah: Yes!

Kate: It, like, it’s not just about, you know, heterosexual swooning over a man. It is –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: – there’s always something, there’s always so much more depth to it, and they never get credit for that.

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: I, I think that’s such a great, it’s such a great friendship. I, I, now I need to go back and rewatch Roxanne; I haven’t seen that in years.

Sarah: It is so interesting to me how the foundational elements of romance stories reappear in different formats every five to ten years, and I love it!

Kate: Yeah.

Sarah: Like, I’m never going to run out! [Laughs]

Kate: I love it too! No, I, I don’t, I don’t find it, it’s never repetitive –

Sarah: No!

Kate: – because there are so many people creating such interesting work that the spins that are getting, and, and the, just the, the work that’s being done is so inventive and interesting, it never gets boring, and there’s a comfort to it for me –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – like, I’m always like, mm! I love an Enemies to Lovers. I know what’s going to happen here. Like, hate each other all you want, ‘cause –

Sarah: It’s fine; I know where we’re going.

Kate: – this is going to turn out well. Yeah! Yeah, this is a safe space for you to hate each other.

Sarah: And like you said with your, your world in In a New York Minute, so many people have turned to romance right now, in the past two years, just because it is a wonderful place, as one of my writers, Carrie, says, it’s, it’s a wonderful place to put your anxiety, because you know –

Kate: Yes!

Sarah: – in this world, you know what the end goal is. You know where you’re going to end up, and so it’s okay to entrust your emotions to this particular story, because the beats are familiar, you know what’s going to happen, and you know where you’re going.

Kate: I, I think that is so vital –

Sarah: Yes!

Kate: – about this genre and so im- – I mean, look, romance gets trivialized in so many ways –

Sarah: Yes!

Kate: – and it drives me crazy because it’s such an important genre of writing, but –

Sarah: Can confirm!

Kate: Yes! I real- –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: – I really feel that strongly; I feel that as a reader. Like, for example, when my mom passed away many years ago, the first, the, the thing that got me kind of reading again was, was contemporary YA romance –

Sarah: Yep!

Kate: – and, you know, just recently, through Omicron, I was so overwhelmed, and I got really into Ice Planet Barbarians. I’m still read- – I, I’ve read like thirty of them.

Sarah: My, my biggest email request now is, I like this; I need to find more; can you please help?

Kate: Yes!

Sarah: Like, I –

Kate: Yes!

Sarah: – okay, first of all, I’m a very expensive person to email. I’m a very expensive person to know, but yes, I can help you find more.

Now, speaking of podcasting, I adore your podcast. Thank you for teaching me ways to make –

Kate: Yes!

Sarah: – my skin calm down – oh my God.

Kate: It is an honor. Thank you very much for giving it a listen; I appreciate that.

Sarah: Oh, I’ve been a subscriber for a very long time.

Kate: Aw!

Sarah: Yeah!

Kate: Thank you!

Sarah: When you started it, did you think it would end up being what it is?

Kate: No.

[Laughter]

Kate: No.

Sarah: No?

Kate: No, no, like a hundred times no. I, we started working on it – my, my memoir was coming out, and so I was overwhelmed with this very personal book coming into the world, and it was 2017 –

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: – so I was also overwhelmed by the American political system, and –

Sarah: Just a bit, yeah.

Kate: – just really, like, curled up into a ball of despair half the time. I just was like, it would be nice to talk about just, like, you know, how we’re taking care of ourselves, and sometimes those things can feel very mundane and, like, silly, but I still want to talk to you, to people about them –

Sarah: Absolutely!

Kate: – and I, I want to feel like, like it’s okay. So, no, we started it really for fun, and it really took on a life of its own very quickly –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: – and it was very unexpected, and now it’s my job! And I’m so grateful – I actually said to a friend yesterday, I was like, I can’t believe that I, I am so lucky that I get, like, half my job is podcasting, and the other half is writing books, and these are things I’ve al-, like, I’ve always wanted to write –

Sarah: Yep.

Kate: – fiction, and podcasting is so much fun, and it’s such a privilege that that’s what I’m doing, and I’m, I’m paid to do it. So long answer, but, yeah, no, we didn’t, and I’m, I’m so honored that there was a community of listeners eager for, like, listening to us talk about creams, and also, like, therapy.

Sarah: Yep. It’s a gift, right, to keep people company? It’s lovely! It is such a lovely thing. What are, what are your favorite parts of podcasting? Is it getting voicemail from people? Is it getting recommendations from people? Like, what, what are your favorite parts of it?

Kate: I mean, at the end of the day, it has been incredibly moving to hear from listeners who have been going through whatever hard time in their life and have gotten something out of our, our podcast.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: That is like, that is so beyond my imagination and not something I ever really thought about when we started, to know that we get to keep, not just keep people company, but have kept people company through a pandemic –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: – or through some really hard times? That means, like, the world to me. And the community of listeners that our show is, has, they’re just fun, generous, kind people. This is great! I feel like you’re all my friends. I hope that’s okay, but I –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: – think of you strangers as my friends.

Sarah: So I always ask this question: what books are you reading that you would like to tell people about?

Kate: Okay, so I’ve been asked this a lot lately. The honest answer is that I truly have been reading mostly Ice Planet Barbarian books since late November. But I am, I’m happy to report a few others have broken in.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: So, so I do love Ice Planet Barbarians – recommend!

I just finished Farah Heron’s new book, Kamila Knows Best. She writes just really delightful romantic, like, pure-hearted romantic comedies. This book, this book is a, a send-up of Emma

Sarah: Yep!

Kate: – Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s just so sweet and romantic and also, she just writes really fun, feminist women, and I really enjoy that about her work, so I just finished that. I’m doing an event with her; I’m very excited, ‘cause I’m like, I’ve sent her, like, fangirl-y DMs for the last year, so.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Kate: I really, I loved her, the book before that that she wrote, Accidentally Engaged? She also writes cooking really well?

Friend of mine, Elissa Sussman, has a romance coming out called Funny You Should Ask that is based on a relationship between a, an entertainment writer and a celebrity that she interviews, where it, their story kind of, also kind of goes viral and is very, it’s the story that makes her famous as a writer because it, it kind of alludes to the fact that something more might have happened between them, and then ten years later she’s asked to interview him again, and it’s told through, you know, dual timelines, and it’s, she’s just a great writer.

I recently read and blurbed the book The Mutual Friend by Carter Bays, who is one of the creators of How I Met Your Mother. This book is another book set in New York City, and it, like, ripped my heart open.

Sarah: Oh no!

Kate: It’s just, it was so good, and the end, at the end, it was one of those books where it was like, I’m just going to fini-, like, it’s 1 a.m.; I have to keep going; and then I couldn’t sleep ‘cause I was, like, blubbering in my bed for thirty minutes, but it was, it was just beautifully written.

And not a romance book, but Marisa Renee Lee has a new book coming out called Grief Is Love, and as a person who has written about grief, I’m always really interested in other books about grief and –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: – and specifically losing her mom, and she just writes really beautifully about grief. I’ve been reading that in small bites, and it’s just, it’s just lovely, and I think anytime anyone has gone through a big, traumatic loss of a person in their life, it can feel so isolating, and –

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: – books really, books really got me through, and that’s what inspired me to write one, and so – her book is coming out later this year, and it’s really great.

Sarah: Yay! Well, thank you so much for doing this interview. I really –

Kate: Oh!

Sarah: – really appreciate your time.

Kate: This was such a pleasure. I’ve been reading your site for many years, so –

Sarah: Oh gosh, thank you!

Kate: Yeah, so this was – [laughs] – this was like, I feel like, I don’t know, like I’m very excited to be here, I have to say.

Sarah: Oh, thank you! I’m, I’m really honored!

Kate: Yeah, and, and you know what, you’re –

Sarah: Turning red.

Kate: – there have been some, some reviews on your site that have really, like, opened my eyes to things I wasn’t seeing in certain books that were very impactful.

Sarah: Yeah.

Kate: So I really appreciate the, the work that you guys are doing.

[music]

Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Kate Spencer for hanging out with me and talking about romantic comedies, and thank you to Estelle, her publicist, who helped set this interview up.

If you would like to find a copy of the book or any of the other books and movies we mentioned, everything’s in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com.

I do have some questions I would love to know the answers to, though. What is your favorite vintage rom-com? Or not vintage if there’s a new one you love most. What rom-com should I be watching next? Email me at [email protected] or leave a voice message at 201-371-3272. I love hearing from you, and I would love to know what’s your favorite vintage rom-com? What stories have your very favorite portrayals of friendship, and, you know, what city is your favorite? I would love to hear from you.

And as always, I end with a terrible joke. This joke comes from Maggie, who, in our 501st episode showed me pictures, and I shared with you, of an entire door of bad jokes, and this is another one of Maggie’s door of bad jokes.

Why don’t you see penguins in Britain?

Why don’t you see penguins in Britain?

They’re afraid of Wales.

[Laughs] You know what’s great? When you learn Welsh in Duolingo, one of the first things it teaches you is to say good morning, Dragon, and I am a dragon, and if you know how much I love dragons you now know how much I want to go to Wales, ‘cause apparently you can just walk up and say, good morning, Dragon! This is a thing I need to know in lesson one of learning Welsh. [Laughs] They’re afraid of Wales. Thank you, Maggie!

On behalf of everyone here, including the dog, who is staring at me ‘cause he wants treats, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you here next week!

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.

[last chord]

This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at Frolic.media/podcasts!
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