My guest today is Jane Buehler, author of The Forest Bride and The Village Maid. I have several favorite parts of this conversation, including our discussion of cozy fantasy, addressing and undoing misconceptions about sex in romance, and sourdough starters and bread making.
So fantasy, writing, sex, and bread. Several excellent topics!
What about you?
What have you learned or unlearned from sex in romance?
Do you have a sourdough starter? What’s its name?
Do you like cozy fantasy?
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You can find Jane Buehler on her website.
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This episode is brought to you by Kensington books, publisher of the new anthology Afraid featuring stories by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs.
All three authors are powerhouse writers of suspense, and all three novellas are brand new. And heads up Dark Academia fans, the stories are all set at the extremely elite St. Cecilia’s School for Girls in Salzburg, Austria.
For three former students, evil is about to resurface. Each story features a different American student from the school, their history tied together by their former boarding school populated by daughters of the rich and famous. It’s a place where scandals are buried and secrets hidden.
Lucy, Rayne, and Erin will each face dangers past and present, with a thread of romance for each one, in Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs.
Available now wherever books are sold. Find out more at KensingtonBooks.com.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 503 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and my guest today is Jane Buehler, author of The Forest Bride. I have several favorite parts of this conversation, including our discussion of cozy fantasy, addressing and undoing misconceptions about sex in romance, and sourdough starters in bread making. So basically this episode is about fantasy, writing, sex, and bread, which sounds like several of my favorite topics.
I will have links to all of the books we talk about in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
And I have a compliment for this episode, which is among my favorite things.
To Meg E.: If someone says, “That is incredible; they are so talented!” there is a 97.6 percent chance that they are talking about you.
If you would like a compliment of your very own, please have a look at our Patreon at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Pledges start at one whole dollar a month, and every pledge helps me keep the show going and makes sure that every episode has a transcript. Thank you, garlicknitter, for the transcript, and thank you to our Patreon community for being fabulous!
This episode is brought to you by Kensington Books, publisher of the new anthology Afraid, featuring stories by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs. All three authors are powerhouse writers of suspense, and all three novellas are brand-new! And heads up, Dark Academia fans, the stories are all set at the extremely elite St. Cecilia’s School for Girls in Salzburg, Austria. For three former students, evil is about to resurface. Each story features a different American student from the school, their history tied together by their former boarding school populated by the daughters of the rich and famous. It’s a place where scandals are buried and secrets are hidden. Lucy, Rayne, and Erin will each face dangers past and present, with a thread of romance for each one, in Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs. Available now wherever books are sold; find out more at kensingtonbooks.com.
The episode is brought to you in part by Prose. One of the ways I’ve taken more gentle care of myself in the past few years has been caring for my hair, and you may have heard me talking about Prose, the world’s most personalized hair care. First there is a quiz, an in-depth hair quiz, and you know I love a quiz. Prose has given over one million consultations, and my results created a custom blend that has made my hair softer and this weird amount of curls more defined, and because I get to choose my own scent, it smells incredible, and I love using it. All of their ingredients are sustainably sourced, ethically gathered, and cruelty-free. And if you’re not a hundred percent positive that Prose is the best hair care you’ve ever had, they will take the products back, no questions asked. Prose is the healthy hair regimen with your name all over it. Take your free in-depth hair consultation and get fifteen percent off your first order today! Go to prose.com/TRASHYBOOKS – that’s P-R-O-S-E dot com slash TRASHYBOOKS – for your free in-depth hair consultation and fifteen percent off.
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This episode is brought to you in part by Lumineux. Science time! Here is something I didn’t know: ninety-eight percent of the oral bacteria in your mouth are good for you! They’re actually essential for your oral health. It turns out the fact that all bacteria is bad is just a myth, and Lumineux is busting this myth wide open. Lumineux makes toothpaste, mouthwash, and whitening products that are totally new and a different approach for improving your oral health. They use purposeful and uncompromising ingredients like sea salt, aloe, and coconut oils to clean and brighten your smile, plus everything they make is certified nontoxic. I really like the toothpaste ‘cause it leaves my mouth feeling extremely clean, and I look forward to using it, and I never get those weird sores on the inside of my lip, either. I hate those! Everything is dentist-formulated, backed by over fifty studies, and proven to protect the good bacteria, also known as the microbiome. Find Lumineux on amazon.com and get seven dollars off today. That’s L-U-M-I-N-E-U-X. Remember, it’s spelled with an X so you can X out the harm. Lumineux: dedicated to illuminating better ideas in oral care.
This podcast episode is brought to you in part by PrettyLitter. Having a cat is wonderful: the purring, the pets, the thing where they flop over and commence relaxation. The cat litter box? Not my favorite part, especially because most cat litters can make a giant, dusty mess. My cat and I deserve a litter that works for us, not against us. That’s why I use PrettyLitter! PrettyLitter’s crystal formula is lightweight, ultra-absorbent, and long-lasting, and it is virtually dust-free and minimizes mess. Here’s the smartest part about PrettyLitter, though: the crystals change color to help detect early signs of potential illness in my cat, including urinary tract infections and kidney issues. And I learned this week that Elyse uses PrettyLitter for her four cats. PrettyLitter works for me: trapping odors, not clumping, and gives me peace of mind. That’s why I love it. You and your cat will love it too. Go to prettylitter.com and use code TRASHY to save twenty percent on your first order. That’s prettylitter.com, code TRASHY, to save twenty percent – prettylittter.com, code TRASHY.
This episode is brought to you in part by Jenni Kayne Home. Creating a warm, cozy, welcoming home is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Jenni Kayne Home has everything you need for every room, every style, and every sensibility. From furniture to accessories like candles, pillows, and soft throws, there is something for everyone seeking to make a room feel complete. Finding the perfect chair, for example, can be a challenge. You want it to be stylish but comfortable, to fit in the room and fit into your reading plans. The Brentwood Boucle chair in ivory or natural is perfect for the bedroom, the living room, the den, or wherever you need effortless style and comfortable reading. Jenni Kayne Home creates California-inspired classics for any room or mood. Grounded in natural textures and inviting neutrals, these are the pieces you will love coming home to. Create the space you’ll never want to leave at jennikayne.com. Get fifteen percent off your first order when you use code SPTB at checkout. That’s fifteen percent off your first order at J-E-N-N-I-K-A-Y-N-E dot com, promo code SPTB.
All right, are you ready for this conversation? We’re going to talk about sex and bread and fantasy and writing, and I really enjoyed this, and I hope you do too! On with the podcast.
Emily Jane Buehler: I am Emily Jane Buehler, and I’m currently focused on writing cozy fantasy romance as Jane Buehler, and my second book, The Village Maid, will be out this spring.
Sarah: Congratulations! That’s awesome! I have so many questions. I want to start with The Village Maid: congratulations! It’s, it’s a –
Emily Jane: Thank you!
Sarah: – it’s a big deal to release a book! I hope that, I hope that you’re sort of giving yourself a lot of virtual pats on the back and literal pats on the back there.
Emily Jane: When I remember to.
Emily Jane: There’s always so much to, you know, so much other stuff going on, like the day-to-day work and such, so, yeah, it’s good to take time and, and notice it and be proud of it, so.
Sarah: I, I struggle with that too; I have to remind myself to turn around and be like, look what you did! See the thing you did? That’s pretty cool!
Emily Jane: [Laughs]
Sarah: So what will readers find inside The Village Maid?
Emily Jane: So The Village Maid is a super lighthearted friends-to-lovers romance. It is set in a fantasy world with just a little bit of magic, and it follows a misguided heroine named Avianna. She used to be a castle courtier, and then there, the peasants had an uprising and overthrew the monarchy, and now she’s a laundry maid, and she’s not very happy about it. She’s kind of just bitter about it and really doesn’t like her life very much, so she thinks that her only way to get out of her situation is to find a, a man to marry, to take care of her. And she has a friend named Thorn. He’s a fairy, and he runs the print shop in the village. She really likes hanging out with him, but she always overlooks him, and she’s, she starts to be attracted to him, but she’s so convinced that he is not her type and he’s not what she’s looking for that she convinces herself that he has used a fairy love spell on her, and that must be why she’s attracted to him. So that’s kind of the setup, and then pirates attack, and she and Thorn have to escape together, and it goes from there. It’s super low-angst, there is very little violence in it, and I kind of think of it as like a beach read that just happens to be set in a fantasy world.
Sarah: One of the things I really liked about Thorn is that he is very consistent in his gentleness. You wrote a very gentle hero, which is one of my favorite flavors. Is that one of yours as well?
Emily Jane: I think so. I mean, I do read a wide range of romance novels and I can be okay with the alpha hero too, but I just, I think, would prefer the beta hero, and that’s probably always going to be what I’m writing. I think I kind of recognize that in real life that an alpha hero would just super annoy me? So –
Emily Jane: – make it hard to write one and feel authentic about it.
Sarah: Now I’m just imagining like a, like a real-life sit-com with an alpha hero where the, where the protagonist pair, the other person is always just like, oh my God, you’re so exhausting. Could you just calm down? [Laughs]
Emily Jane: Yeah. [Laughs] That would actually probably be a pretty funny sit-com.
Sarah: Yeah, I would, I would watch that, and I don’t watch a lot of television!
With Thorn, one of the things he does is that he teaches her how to read. He runs a printing press and one of the things I really like is that you’ve sort of folded in, to use a bread metaphor, you’ve laminated in a lot of very subtle ways of discussing caretaking. You know, she wants a dude who will be able to just take care of things for her, because she went from a position of having some power to a position of having no power and no money, and she’s really stuck. Thorn very subtly introduces a lot of different ways of caretaking, and one of them is teaching her how to read. What were some of the challenges in creating these characters for you? Did you have a particular moment that was your favorite for each of them?
Emily Jane: I think for Avianna, I had kind of given myself the challenge of writing a character who was different than me? I had drafted three or four novels at the time I wrote this, and I kind of recognized that all my protagonists were just different versions of me –
Emily Jane: – and so I wanted sort of to explore something a little bit different. So she’s a little bit of a mean girl and has always kind of used that aggressive attitude to stay in control. She’s really experienced and kind of world-wise in some ways, and so I think she was a little bit challenging to write ‘cause I was always having to let go of all the, like, nice things I wanted to do? So Thorn was more easy for me to write because he’s more of the quiet person who’s in the background taking care of things, so. I don’t know if I have a favorite scene, but it is always just nice to get to spend time with them as the novel was progressing.
Sarah: I love, love, love the idea of cozy fantasy romance. First of all, I love it as a descriptor. Second, you are not the first person who has reached out or mentioned it to me. I have an email from someone saying, I really like this kind of book but I don’t know what to call it, and I don’t know how to find more of it, and I’m like, well, coincidentally, I’m speaking with somebody who has this great name for it!
Emily Jane: [Laughs]
Sarah: What do you think are the hallmarks of cozy fantasy? Which I call No Swords, Just Tea.
Emily Jane: Yes, I love that. So I guess traditional fantasy often seems to involve, like, super high-stakes conflict, like the Dark Elves are taking over the world, or the Evil Kingdom is coming, and that often results in battles and violence and, you know, protagonists who are traumatized throughout the whole book, and so to me cozy fantasy is kind of the opposite of that.
Emily Jane: So it’s lighthearted and fun; there’s little to no violence; the characters are not constantly in peril, so you can just enjoy reading; you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen them. And also, the protagonist might just be an ordinary person, and their conflict is just everyday, you know, dealing with jobs and family and friends and then a love interest, rather than needing to save the world. So I don’t want to say low stakes because it’s high stakes personally –
Emily Jane: – but not on the level of saving the entire world. And I, I do think it’s important to have books with violence in them because, you know, that’s how our world is, but I just kind of wanted an alternative.
Sarah: And it can be hard when you have something as big and full of different types of books as The Fantasy Genre –
Emily Jane: Right. [Laughs]
Sarah: – to be like, I, okay, so here’s what I’m looking for: I’m looking for fantasy, no entrails, no trauma, no sexual violence. There’s room for that; there’s absolutely room for that. There’s cozy mystery, and then there’s super creepy thrillers that I cannot read because, again, entrails. It’s very interesting to me, especially in romance, to watch readers and writers specifically define how to name the books that they’re writing.
What draws you to cozy fantasy? When you’re thinking, this is what I want to read, what are you looking for?
Emily Jane: I mean, the past few years, you know –
Sarah: Oh! Can’t imagine why!
Emily Jane: I’m not the first person to say this! We’ve just wanted escape? It started as a focus on violence, and then it kind of developed in my head to, to be other things, but the truth is I’ve been trying to find cozy fantasies for like the past two years, and I’ve, I’ve come up with three I can tell you about?
Sarah: Please do?
Emily Jane: And if, if listeners have more, I would love more suggestions.
Sarah: Yes, we want all the cozy fantasy recs; bring it on.
Emily Jane: So I think the one that to me is like the epitome is called Deven and the Dragon by Eliot Grayson, and it’s just this really sweet story. It’s kind of this generic fairytale kingdom. There is a dragon in the castle. He, like, doesn’t cause any damage, and actually he patronizes all the local village shops just to be nice. The villagers, one of them needs a dragon scale for some, something they want to do, and they’re like, oh, we’ll send Deven up to seduce the dragon, ‘cause he can seduce anyone, ‘cause Deven’s just like this guy in the village who just kind of has fun and hangs out, and, and he’s like, okay, whatever. And so he goes and of course falls in love with the dragon, who is a shifter. But it’s just like, I mean there’s conflict and there’s stuff happening, but it’s, you’re never feeling, like, super anxious while reading it? It’s just this really sweet love story.
Another one is Red Heir by Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey? It’s like a buddy road trip comedy –
Emily Jane: – where – [laughs] – and it’s, it’s actually, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, but there’s a prince who has red hair; he’s been kidnapped, and this team of people come to rescue him, and then the protagonist, who also has red hair, is in the same prison cell, and he’s like, I want to be rescued! So he’s like, no, I’m the prince! And they don’t know which one’s the prince, so they take both of them. And there’s, there’s like one fight scene in it that lasts for one page, and it kind of feels like a, like a Three Stooges fight scene? You know, like –
Emily Jane: It’s like it’s not really about the worldbuilding, which is another thing that people often expect with fantasy is that there’s going to be all this dramatic worldbuilding and entire new languages, and this just isn’t, but it’s more about like the character growth and the plot being amusing, so.
That’s the second one, and then the third one I’m kind of torn about is How to Love Your Elf by Kerrelyn Sparks, which I would say it’s, it’s fun, and there’s not graphic violence in it. There are battles, but they’re always kind of shown from a distance?
Sarah: It sounds like part of what you’re describing is a lot of internal conflict, where a lot of the tension of the book rests on contrary motivations of character, and it’s, it’s, it’s just as hard to write that, I think, as it is to write a really complicated fight scene – or a complicated sex scene! Internal conflict that rests on complicated motivations is really challenging to write. Did you find that to be the case when you were writing?
Emily Jane: Yeah. I always have to do book maps, and I just use –
Emily Jane: – an Excel spreadsheet. I took a class on them from Heidi Fiedler, which I highly recommend.
Emily Jane: And there’s all different ways you can do ‘em, but for me, just a simple spreadsheet and each row is a chapter of the book, and then each column is something I need to track. And it’ll change over time, but usually in the beginning I’m tracking, like, the protagonist, the first protagonist and what their internal, what, what’s going on with them and how they’re changing, and then the second protagonist, the relationship between them, and then sometimes things like, like with the next book I’m working on, there’s this history that’s been lied about, and so as the protagonist uncovers new truths I have to keep track of, like, all the lies she’s been told and what she has discovered. And so basically you go through your book chapter by chapter, fill in what happens in each chapter, and then you can look at a column and scroll down it and see how something develops?
Sarah: Oh wow!
Emily Jane: It’s also very helpful for tracking, like, the weather and the phases of the moon, because I’m like, I always want the moon to make sense and not have a full moon rising, like, night after night?
Emily Jane: So I’ll be like, okay, it was a new moon here, and now it’s two weeks later, so it can be a full moon. So it’s, it’s useful in many different ways.
Sarah: Wow! Oh, that is such a cool method!
Emily Jane: Yeah, it is –
Sarah: I did not know about this, I, and I, I love a spreadsheet. My love of spreadsheets is, is, is its own cozy fantasy. I love –
Emily Jane: Yes.
Sarah: – spreadsheets a lot! [Laughs]
So when you learned this method, did your mind just go – [exploding noise] – explode?
Emily Jane: The way she taught it, she showed you kind of a bunch of different methods, and there were, like, color-coded Post-it notes, and so it was kind of a lot to take in, and then figuring out how to make it work for me, and I, I did sort of try some other things, ‘cause you know, some of them were so artistic and beautiful, and of course I want to do that! And then I was like, no, just keep it simple. Spreadsheet.
Sarah: [Laughs] Kind of like looking at bullet journal layouts? Oh, that’s gorgeous! That is not a thing I can do.
Emily Jane: Right, not every day.
Sarah: Now, you also mentioned when we were emailing about setting up this interview that one of the things you wanted to address in your writing was misconceptions about sex in romance and how these misconceptions are very important to you. How did you approach this as a writer and as a reader? What, what was the genesis of this particular focus for you?
Emily Jane: Yeah, so I think that addressing misconceptions was really important to me because over time I had absorbed a lot of them, and this just, through the years, had led to me often having thoughts like, you know, what’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t my body work right? And so it was something –
Sarah: Where are the waves? Why am I not cresting?
Emily Jane: Right! [Laughs]
Sarah: Why am I not seeing the stars on my eyelids? It never happens!
Emily Jane: Right!
Emily Jane: And so it was, it was important to me, but basically a friend at some point gave me this book called I Love Female Orgasm by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller, and this book was just life-changing to me. It’s all full of facts and data; also lots of quotes from people about their experiences. The two authors would run workshops to, to help people out, and so they just gathered all this data, and it was, it was just great reading. But after reading it, I started noticing more like the, the mechanics of the love scenes I was reading, and so for example, one number that really stuck out to me was the book said, only thirty percent of women will have an orgasm from penis-in-vagina intercourse alone –
Emily Jane: – and that just kind of shocked me, because, you know, so often in the love scene, I mean in a male/female romance, there’s –
Emily Jane: – always the, that kind of intercourse, and it always leads to an orgasm.
Emily Jane: So, like, that was one example. Another was, they said some women have a very sensitive clitoris, so much so that she doesn’t even want it to be touched directly, ‘cause it’s just, like, uncomfortable, and that, again, was like, oh! Like, ‘cause there are times like in, in the love scenes, the man’s always, like, peeling back her folds and –
Emily Jane: – I’m just, like, cringing at that, ‘cause it seems so uncomfortable to me!
Emily Jane: But, you know, I loved it! I also noticed how, I started noticing how nothing ever goes wrong in a love scene? Like his penis never slips out and bonks her in the wrong place, and he never –
Sarah: [Laughs] It’s so true!
Emily Jane: – like, he never does anything that she doesn’t like –
Emily Jane: – and that, that really bugged me ‘cause in, if you think about it, it’s kind of insulting. It’s like, he’s such a great lover, but she’s basically the same as every other woman he’s been with, ‘cause he knows exactly how to touch her without communicating anything.
Emily Jane: So I kind of had all these, all these things, you know, that I didn’t want to do. As a writer, I think I maybe approached it a little bit tentatively ‘cause it felt, it felt really, made me nervous, like, to try something different, ‘cause what if it doesn’t work, and what if –
Emily Jane: – the love scene, like, you lose the mood and it’s just no good? But I, I did start just trying to write, like, sex that seemed more realistic to me, and then in this new book it was like, okay, I’m going to make something go wrong, and I’m just going to write it and see what happens! And so I picked french kissing and just decided that Avianna’s not going to like french kissing, and so I wrote a love scene where she and Thorn are kissing, and he sticks his tongue in her mouth and she kind of freezes up, and he’s perceptive, so he notices –
Emily Jane: – and he stops and says, oh, you don’t like that, and she’s, you know, embarrassed, I don’t want to disappoint you, but he assures her, like, it’s okay. And what I found was, you know, I had expected to sort of lose the mood, but it felt so intimate to have them talking in this moment, and so to me it seemed like having that verbal communication actually made it a better scene? So that’s something I was glad to discover, and I’m just, I’m hoping to do more in the future with this kind of thing.
I have been really excited, since I’ve started paying attention to all this, I have noticed it in some other books? So, like, recently I read Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall, and in the final love scene in that book, it’s kind of the same thing: they’re kissing and he, he touches her boob and she doesn’t respond, and it’s not even that she doesn’t like it, but just doesn’t respond, and he says, oh, that’s not your favorite thing! And then they talk about, but it’s this amazing conversation because it kind of brings up all the real-life things we might worry about, like, well, it’s uncomfortable to talk about or, you know, and he has them talk about all that and say that, so I was just super excited to come to that scene, and I’m, I’m really hoping more authors will start kind of battling misconceptions and having communic-, verbal communication.
Sarah: I love that so much, and I particularly love your point about the idea that it, it’s insulting to treat all women as a sexual monolith, that the same thing that you do is going to work on every single woman? That is, that is absolutely a message that you get, and I had not thought of it that way until you said so. My personal favorite is the acrobatic, double-jointed man –
Emily Jane: [Laughs]
Sarah: – who can somehow reach his arm between two people, and you know, if you are actually engaged in coitus, I mean, you, you’re pretty close together, you know? Spatially?
Emily Jane: Right. Right.
Sarah: So how is he bending his arm in between them to reach down if they’re facing – like, is – and then I start thinking, all right, so is his arm double-jointed? Is his shoulder really flexible? How do you do that? And is she like, are – I, my reaction would be like, are you scratching an itch? Where, what are you, does your stomach itch? Like, what are you – oh! Wait, no! Nonononono. Like, that, that particular one always makes me like, oh yeah, right! Double-jointed elbow guy! I’ve met you before!
Emily Jane: Right! I’m the same. Like, if it doesn’t work in real life, I’m always noticing. One that gets me is how he’ll be, like, down there doing something, and then suddenly he’s kissing her on the lips, and it’s like, did he just fly up her? You know, like, how is he moving so fast?
Sarah: I can’t even jump to the top of my yoga mat without kneeing myself in the nose. How did he just, like, hop two feet northward? How did that happen? Yep! Yep! I completely agree with you.
I also love what you said about the idea that talking about how an individual person’s body works is a form of intimacy, that when two people are talking about what does it for them, what is arousing for them, that is deeply emotionally intimate and vulnerable conversation, which, which particularly in The Village Maid because Avianna does not want to be vulnerable. She knows that she is, but she does not want to be, and there are a lot of people conspiring against her to make her more vulnerable without her consent. And so for her to be vulnerable and say, yeah, I don’t actually like this, is very scary for her, but it’s also deeply intimate. And it, when you, when you’re presenting the presence of vulnerability about an individual person’s, you know, unique physicality and what, what does it for them, that makes them an individual and not this monolith, like you said.
Emily Jane: Yes. Yes. I often think about your, I think it was in your book, the, the Mighty Wang of Loving –
Emily Jane: – is that what you called it?
Emily Jane: And I –
Sarah: The Wang of Mighty Loving, yep!
Emily Jane: It has a mind of its own –
Emily Jane: – and it doesn’t matter who she is.
Sarah: Dick like a divining rod: he can find water in the desert; he can sense a – there are so many books that I have read over the years where the hero can just sense she’s a virgin, and I’m like, fricking how?
Emily Jane: [Laughs]
Sarah: Like, come on! What, like, like there’s a pheromone? Like, she’s got a little signal? Like, what, is, your dick has a bat signal? Like, ooh, I can tell! No! That’s not how – and it’s also, it’s insulting to people who have penises, too.
Emily Jane: Yes. Yeah.
Sarah: Like, to, to treat humanity as a sexual monolith is definitely not, not helpful. It’s, it’s actively harmful! So I love the idea of undoing that harm by portraying the specifics, and especially the ways that it goes wrong! ‘Cause I mean sex is weird! Sex is really weird sometimes, and I think it’s, you’re right, it’s important to portray that sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with characters who are struggling with vulnerability!
Emily Jane: Yeah, and it, you know, it goes wrong, and you can just laugh it off, and it –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Emily Jane: – doesn’t have to be a big deal, so.
Sarah: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be like, in-, intense, magical, double-jointed thrusting.
Sarah: I love that! One thing you also told me about was bread baking. You teach bread baking classes, which I can imagine now, in the past two, three years of pandemic land, is something that’s a very popular hobby. I mean, I, I have inherited a piece of my neighbor’s sourdough starter, and wow, it is very beefy. This, this, this –
Emily Jane: [Laughs]
Sarah: – this sourdough starter has a Wang of Mighty Loving, let me tell you. It rises. And I was calling it Stinky Pete 2.0, because I originally had a sourdough starter that got moldy, and that was Stinky Pete? But then I learned that someone, people online give their sourdough starters great names? Did you know this?
Emily Jane: I did, and I have not, I have not come up with a good one. I heard a good one recently from – so there’s a whole team of people at NC State University who are doing sourdough research, and I, I went to a talk by one of them, and her, her name’s Erin. Her starter is named Bavid Doughy, which –
Emily Jane: – like, I just thought was amazing. So it’s like, I have to come up with something that good, so, but I have not yet.
Sarah: I caused my poor husband to have to sit down from laughing so hard when I learned about Steve Glutenberg.
Emily Jane: Oh!
Sarah: Isn’t that great? So I need to, like, up my, my starter game here. But you teach bread baking classes! This is, this is so cool.
Emily Jane: Yeah.
Sarah: And you’ve written a book about bread science. Like this is your –
Emily Jane: Yeah.
Sarah: – this is your, your bread nerdery House of Wheels, basically. And you teach at something called the Campbell Folk School. I would just love to hear about all of this; tell me everything.
Emily Jane: Okay. So the Campbell Folk School, it is in western North Carolina, and it was founded in 1925 by Olive Campbell. She named it after her husband, who had already passed away, and it is modeled after a Danish model of schooling that is non-competitive, so there’s no grades, there’s no rankings or tests, but you just go there for a week at a time, and they have, so they have dorms you can sleep in. They have about maybe fifteen different studios –
Emily Jane: – so blacksmithing, wood turning, basket making, cooking, writing, paper arts, spinning and weaving, quilting, all kinds of stuff. And they have different teachers come in every week, and so you go and just spend all day working on your craft. They feed you three meals, and it’s just absolutely wonderful, ‘cause you can just kind of be there. They, they actually, they used to not have Wi-Fi, which I loved –
Emily Jane: – ‘cause I could just tell everyone, sorry, I won’t have a phone signal! I won’t have email. Now they do have Wi-Fi, so I can’t really get away with that, but it’s just this wonderful, wonderful place to go, and I feel so lucky that I get to teach there.
My background is in chemistry, so my class tends to be a little bit science-based, and I usually start, I have all the students make the same basic dough, which is just a French dough with flour, salt, water, and yeast, and we all, everyone makes their own, but we all do it together, and we do the whole process together so that we can stop and talk about each step of the way and talk about what’s going on in the dough and also what they can do kind of improve their results.
Emily Jane: But what they learn will apply to every other bread they make –
Emily Jane: – so after that they kind of branch out and, you know, some of them will just stick with simple recipes ‘cause they really want to practice their kneading and practice the process. Other times they bring all these recipes they want to make that are super complicated, and that’s fine too.
Part of the pay for us teachers is we get to take a free class?
Sarah: I love this.
Emily Jane: And that’s really wonderful. So sometimes I just want a vacation, and I’ll, so I’ll take either drawing or printmaking, which are, like, my two activities that I’ve already done some of, and so there’s not that, like, stress of learning something new. And also I have found that doing that kind of artwork is the only time my brain shuts off. Like, literally, you know, meditating doesn’t work, but if I just start drawing, I stop thinking. I can’t even listen to, like, podcasts while drawing ‘cause I just completely zone out. So that, to me, is like the perfect vacation, to just sit there and make art all week and get fed three times a day.
But I have also wanted to try new things, so I have welded a scrap metal rooster.
Sarah: As you do. Wow!
Emily Jane: He’s gigantic; I can barely lift him. Like, I actually, when it came time to put him in the car and take him home, I was like, he’s not going to fit in the door!
Emily Jane: ‘Cause I have this little, you know, economy rental car, but, like, with clever angling we got, we got him into the back seat. And then last fall I made a punched tin lantern –
Emily Jane: – which was very, it was very hard to do, but I finished it, and yeah, I, I gave it to a friend for Christmas, and I kind of miss it, and I was thinking maybe I’ll go back and make another one for me!
Emily Jane: I, I learned – so these are often called Paul Revere lanterns? – but I learned that they’re actually not for illuminating? They are for carrying a flame from one place to another, and so the little punches on them, they actually, the rough side is out, which you wouldn’t really expect, and that’s because that roughness acts like a baffle for wind and rain to keep them away so the flame stays lit, and my teacher claims that he had one outside in thirty-mile-per-hour winds once and that it stayed lit –
Emily Jane: – so we did a test. We took it outside and were kind of spinning it around, and it did stay lit until he tried to do like the over his head gravity spin –
Emily Jane: – and that did put it out.
But anyway, Folk School, it’s just a lovely place, and if you’re going on a vacation to just go and do a craft is so wonderful.
Sarah: Oh yes. I know exactly what you mean by getting into that sort of state of flow where your brain just shuts off? It is so meditative and so calming. That space is so precious. I can understand being disappointed that there’s Wi-Fi now, because that space of being able to just shut off is so precious.
What books are you reading that you would like to tell people about? You’ve given us quite a wonderful list of cozy fantasy. Are there any other books that you want to tell people about?
Emily Jane: Yeah, so I have two authors who are new to me who I’m really excited about.
Emily Jane: The first one is Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, and she had three books translated to English – I think in December they came out – and I just stumbled across them. The first one I read is The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System. There’s, the hero finishes reading this novel, and the novel is so bad he’s, like, cursing it and cursing the author ‘cause he hated it so much, and then he dies and wakes up as the villain in the novel. And so he is –
Emily Jane: – and he has been tasked with making the novel better by changing what happens in it, and then also, though, he knows that the villain suffers this, like, painful, horrible death in the novel that he read, and he doesn’t want that to happen, so he starts, like, cozying up to the hero, like, trying to make him like him so that he won’t kill him, and so it’s a very, like, slow-building love story between the two of them.
I read this article that said her books, like, they don’t follow anything we’re told to do as authors, but they just work because they’re such good storytelling? Once I kind of got the hang of how it was going, I just couldn’t put it down, and I, I will add, though, that it has a cliffhanger ending. There are, are apparently several volumes in each, in each story, so if you cannot handle a cliffhanger, you might want to wait until they are all out.
The second one is The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation –
Emily Jane: – and it is –
Sarah: I’ve heard of that one!
Emily Jane: Heard of that one? [Laughs] Yeah, that one’s a little more famous, I think, but again, it was just, like, wonderful story and couldn’t put it down.
And then the other author is, I recently read Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, which I know is all over the place, and it just was the first book in such a long time that completely hooked me, like, from the first page and, you know, as soon as I finished it I wanted more, so I read Glitterland and then Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, and I, I’ve been trying and trying to figure out, like, what is it about these books that just pull me in so much? I think it’s because the characters are just having these deep struggles, like, to believe in themselves or struggles with mental illness, and there’s never just a quick fix?
Emily Jane: It, it’s always like, they have to work at it to find a solution, and, but it’s so fulfilling to watch that happen over the course of the story, and then they’re also funny. Like, they’re, they’re just so funny, so it’s like this deep stuff that’s happening, but balanced off with how funny they are.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you again to Jane Buehler for hanging out with me, and I’m really curious about your reaction to this episode. What have you learned or unlearned from sex scenes in romance, and do you have a sourdough starter, and what is its name? Mine is either Stinky Pete 2.0 or Steve Glutenberg when I want to make Adam laugh.
But I’m curious: please let me know, what do you call your sourdough starter, and what have you learned or unlearned from sex, and do you like cozy fantasy? You can email me at [email protected], or you can call and leave me a voicemail at 201-371-3272. We’re going to do a mailbag episode very soon! And I would love to have you as part of it!
As always, I end every episode with a terrible joke, and I love this joke so much because it fits the episode; I love when that happens. Are you ready?
Why are there Pop Tarts but not Mom Tarts?
Give up? Why are there Pop Tarts but not Mom Tarts?
[Laughs] That joke is from /clarenceworley42 on Reddit, and I love it so much! The pastry-archy! All right, so go out, bake, read romance, and fight the pastry-archy!
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and thank you, as always, for listening.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.