Cat Ladies, Sex Kittens, and Romance for the Rest of Us: An Interview with Sarah MacLean

Jenn Northington

Director, Editorial Operations

Jenn Northington has worked in the publishing industry wearing various hats since 2004, including bookseller and events director, and is currently Director of Editorial Operations at Riot New Media Group. You can hear her on the SFF Yeah! podcast nerding out about sci-fi and fantasy. When she’s not working, she’s most likely gardening, running, or (obviously) reading. Find her on Tumblr at jennIRL and Instagram at iamjennIRL.

JN: Why do you think the media was so obsessed with 50 Shades of Grey’s success?

SM: This is a tough question — it’s the same as Twilight or Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code. Sometimes books just… take off. That said, there was such snickering about 50 Shades. It was so salacious and so fun to laugh at women who found meaning and power in that book. And it was, frankly, insulting. I heard so many women apologize for reading it and liking it, and that makes me crazy. Because however you feel about the quality of the writing or the story or whatever it is you take issue with with 50 Shades — there was something really powerful about that book. It struck at the core of what women were looking for in a place and time. And that’s not to be laughed at.

JN: That’s one of the things that drives me craziest as a bookseller, is book-shaming. We see it with parents (“read something with words, not pictures!”), with grown-ups (“Oh, you’re reading a book from a BLOG?”), really everywhere. I like to tell this story about my cousin — she wasn’t much of a reader until she found Twilight. And then, before you knew it, she was going after all kinds of books including classics like The Catcher in the Rye. She got something out of that reading experience that made her want to read more, which is more than enough reason to call Twilight a “good book” for me!

SM: That’s awesome! I always talk about the fact that historical romances got me a perfect score on my SATs — so many big old words that I wouldn’t have known if not for tearing through Judith McNaught books! We too often forget that reading should be fun. It’s ok to put down the Jonathan Franzen and pick up the Lee Child.

JN: I like to compare it to food. You don’t want to live on ice cream, but you also don’t want to live on kale salad. Balance is key!


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