~ Interviewing One Smart B*tch ~ Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books ~

Image credit to James Leynse.

First of all, I have to say how honored I am to have Sarah Wendell on my site today. For any of you outside of the romance industry who are unfamiliar with her name, Sarah is one of the co-founders of the review site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of the top review sites on the web. I am also convinced that she may be a vampire and never sleep because she’s written two books and co-authored a third, Everything I Know about Love I’ve Learned from Romance Novels, Lighting the Flames, A Hanukkah Story and Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide To Romance Novels. She’s a mother and has appeared on Good Morning, America and The Today Show, among other TV appearances. She’s been quoted in People Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly. That’s a whole lot of italics, people! In addition, she’s attended and spoken at every major romance convention conceivable. She was also, at the age of five, in the feature film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, which my husband just informed me also starred Dr. J. Wow! But I’m going to stop fangirling over her now and ask her a few questions.

So, Sarah, I have to say that while researching for this interview, I was surprised by how young you look in your picture. With all that you’ve accomplished, I expected you to be older. Do you get that a lot?

Thank you! I don’t get that often, actually, but I am really bad with numbers and regularly forget how old I am in general. I have to think about it if someone asks me. I’ll be 40 this year (I just counted, heh heh) but I’m having more fun now than I did in my 20s, so whatever my age is, I’m happy.

I have that same problem remembering my age, but I don't think it started until I was over 40, so you've got me beat there. And you look far from 40! I want to just touch on your appearance in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. I know that it doesn’t have much to do with what you are doing now, but most of us will never get the opportunity to be in a movie and are perpetually curious about such things. How did this opportunity come about to begin with? And, since you were so young, how much do you remember about it? Is there a particular actor or actress that impressed you? (The movie starred Flip Wilson, Stockard Channing, Debbie Allen, Jonathan Winters, Meadowlark Lemon, among others.)

LOL, I barely remember any of it. I was about 5 years old, and I’m an extra in the final scene. There was a call for people to come downtown to film a crowd scene. There was a face Coke stand, and my mother told me that I’m the only one who’s looking in the wrong direction because dangnabbit I wanted a Coke, and didn’t understand that it wasn’t real. So there’s a crowd scene where a small girl is looking the opposite way as everyone else, and that’s me. I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning in there somewhere.

I’m so glad I asked that question. That’s really
SBTB has smart 50s-style women decorating its pages.
funny. After this auspicious start, what led you to start up your site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books in 2005?

An email conversation, really. Candy, who co-founded the site with me, was a regular commenter on my personal blog. Eventually we started one of those email conversations that goes on for pages, and ended up talking about how much we both liked romances, how few people understood how truly great they really are, and how tired we were for taking crap from people because we liked to read them. One of us, and I don’t remember who, said, “We should start a blog about romances.” And the other said, “Ok!” I bought the domain and installed the software, she did the first design, aiming to be as screamingly pink and NSFW as possible, and off we went.

And for those of you who are as ignorant as me, all four of you, NSFW means Not Suitable For Work. What is the most challenging part of your role on SBTB?

I’m enormously blessed and adore my job, and I love being self employed. Often the challenges are the fun parts, like thinking of a really funny idea to share or a new way to connect readers to the books they love. That’s our goal, really: connecting romance readers with one another, and with the books they want to read. So the challenging part is making sure we do that as best we can every day. And that’s also the fun part, too!

Can you think of any points in your career where you felt rewarded for having faced the above challenges?

Every time I hear back from a reader that a recommendation worked, that they loved a book that was suggested for them on the site, it’s a lovely feeling. Romance readers are often very isolated and unwilling to talk about their love of romance fiction, so when I receive an email messages that says, “I just found your site and where have you BEEN all my life?” I feel so happy. Knowing that we’ve created an enthusiastic and welcoming community is the best reward.

What would be your best piece of advice you would give to an up and coming romance writer? I saw your answer to this question on a video on Amazon, but I wonder if you’d share it here as well. What about a novice blogger?

This past December I self-published a Hanukkah novella, Lighting the Flames, inspired by my rule that I’m not allowed to complain about something more than twice without doing something about it. I wanted more Hanukkah romances, so I wrote one, and to my absolute joy, it was well received. I got fan mail! Fan mail from happy readers is the BEST. I don’t know if I’ll self-publish again, but the process has taught me a lot, both as a reviewer and as an author. In both cases, it reaffirmed my belief that speaking up about what you want to read, and what you want to find in the books you read is powerful stuff indeed.

There is so much opportunity, too. It may seem really intimidating to have so many options for publication, but if you’re an aspiring romance writer, don’t give up. I know there are readers looking for new books to read every day. They email me! So don’t stop writing, please!

For bloggers, whatever it is that you’re passionate about when writing and reading will be the most interesting to read about. One of the greatest aspects of interacting with readers online is that there’s always an opportunity to connect with someone who loves what you love just as much as you do. I love reading about what makes another reader excited and passionate about a book, even if I disagree with that reader about that particular story. We haven’t run out of room on the internet yet, and there is always room for more voices talking about the books they read, so please keep talking about books.

And, finally, would you like to let us in on any future projects in the works?

I have a lot of projects I’m working currently. Some, like the Dear Bitches Smart Authors Podcast with Jane from DearAuthor, are weekly projects that keep growing and evolving with each new episode. Others, like the Book Blogger Convention at Romantic Times, are annual instead of weekly, but we plan the discussions and panels in order to respond to what bloggers are looking to learn about, and that’s always changing, too.

Elyse, Carrie, Amanda, RedHeadedGirl and I are discussing, recapping and reviewing more television shows and movies at Smart Bitches now that there are more stories that feature women so prominently and so excellently, like Agent Carter, Outlander, and Jane the Virgin. And as always, we’re reading and reviewing the romances we’re excited and curious about, and talking about all things romance with the lovely people who hang out with us each day.

Thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions. As busy as you are, it says a lot that you were willing to do so for an author you’ve never heard of. I appreciate you sharing your time, talent, and intellect with us today.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you readers Sarah’s blurb for Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels. This is a classic!

Take a dashing hero with a heart of gold and a mullet of awesome. Add a heroine with a bustle and the will to kick major butt. Then include enough contrivances to keep them fighting while getting them alone and possibly without key pieces of clothing, and what do you have? A romance novel. What else? Enough lessons about life, love, and everything in between to help you with your own happily-ever-after.

Lessons like...

•Romance means believing you are worthy of a happy ending

•Learning to tell the prince from the frog

•Real-life romance is still alive and kicking

•No matter how bad it is, at least you haven't been kidnapped by a Scottish duke (probably)

Isn’t that great?

You can find Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels here:


I also recommend watching Sarah’s videos, found about halfway down the page. Her description of a romance novel cover is hysterical (found in second video).

And here’s a smidgen from the blurb
Cover image copyright Simon & Schuster, 2009.
for Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels

With insider advice for writing romances, fun games to discover your inner Viking warrior, and interviews with famous romance authors, Beyond Heaving Bosoms shows that while some romance novels are silly -- maybe even tawdry -- they can also be intelligent, savvy, feminist, and fabulous, just like their readers!

Buy it here: 

And check out this blurb for Lighting the Flames: A Hanukkah Story:

Genevieve and Jeremy have known each other since they were seven, and have been summertime best friends at Camp Meira, a Jewish overnight camp in the mountains. As campers, and then as staff, their friendship was a constant, something neither wanted to change, no matter how tempting those changes might be.

Then, last year, with little warning, Jeremy left camp early. After that summer, Gen left the country on a graduate fellowship.

Now, a little over a year since they were last at Meira, Gen and Jeremy are back together to help run a special Winter Camp during Hanukkah. Any water under the bridge is frozen this time of year, and with so much left unspoken and unexplained, this week may be their chance to rekindle their friendship, or turn it into something new.

It's free on Amazon right now! 


Thank you again, Sarah, and here’s wishing you the best with SBTB and all of your future endeavors.

Thank you for having me! This has been a LOT of fun!