Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonAs part of Big Gay Fiction Podcast’s Sixth Anniversary celebration week, Jeff & Will have a mega crossover event with Sarah and Amanda from Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. Together they talk about a wide rage of topics as they answer questions from their Patreon communities, and of course there’s lots of book talk too!

You can find the second part of the crossover on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books episode 482, which comes out on Friday, November 5.

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Show Notes

Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.


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Will: Coming up on this episode, our podcast anniversary week continues with part one of our mega crossover event with Sarah and Amanda.

Jeff: Welcome to episode 344 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff and with me as always is my cohost, husband, and it’s a birthday boy. It’s Will.

Happy birthday.

Will: Awww, thank you so much. I’m not sure turning 49 is worth celebrating, but I’ll take the well-wishes anyway.

Jeff: We’ll do something extra, super big on the podcast next year, when you hit that big Five-O mark.

All right. Rainbow romance readers, it is time for the big crossover that we’ve been talking about for a few episodes now. It was so incredibly fun to hang out with Sarah and Amanda from “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.” In the past, we’ve been on each other’s shows. But those were more traditional interviews, usually about specific topics.

In this case, it was all about getting together to talk and answer some questions from both of our Patreon communities. You may remember when we talked about getting ready for this crossover, that this really happened because we love the ask me anything episodes, Sarah and Amanda were doing on “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books” over the summer and we actually invited ourselves over to see if we could hang out with them to get in on that fun. I’m so happy they said yes, because it was really the best time.

We ended up talking for so long that what we thought would be an episode that we would both share on each of our shows turned into a two-part crossover. Now, in this part of our chat, we talk about the years of podcasting that we’ve all done, vintage YA romances, TV theme songs and some of our favorite TV shows, first dates, and of course we talk about lots of books too.

So let’s get this party started as Sarah and Amanda introduced themselves.

Jeff & Will and Sarah & Amanda

Sarah: I’m Sarah, I do a lot of stuff, but I’m the host of “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.” I run Smart Bitches, Trashy Books with Amanda and I am part of Jeff and Will’s Patreon. So I knew in advance that this was coming. I saw the post about it after we emailed about it. So I have known about this podcast for a while.

Hey, who are you?

Amanda: I’m Amanda. I do a lot of book-related things. Namely, I work for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I’m on the podcast frequently, and I do other books stuff. I review romance novels. I work at a bookstore I talk about books all the time.

Sarah: Can I start with a question?

Jeff: Sure

Sarah: Jeff and Will six years? Holy crap.

Amanda: That’s so exciting.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s crazy. The week that this crossover airs, we are having our sixth birthday.

Sarah: That’s amazing!!!

Amanda: That’s so cool.

Jeff: It feels like forever ago, and yesterday that we had the idea to start the show. And yeah, six years on here, we are 340 something episodes, down the line and still having a good time with it, which is all important to still be having a good time with it.

Amanda: But what is that an internet years? You have dog years to human years. Like what is six internet years?

Jeff: I think in terms of think about it in terms of podcast years, it’s probably 20.

Sarah: You’re like, OG podcasters.

Jeff: Right? When you think about how many shows can, start fast and then go, oh, we’re done.

Sarah: I remember very clearly listening to Linda Holmes on “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” and I want to say this was probably 2017, saying that 2017 was going to be peak. Oh, hey, remember that podcast I started, it turns out that’s a lot of work. Nevermind. I was like it’s been 2017, 2018, 2019. We still have new podcasts. Now we have exclusive podcast hosting, like we have exclusives with Luminary. We have exclusives with Spotify. Like it’s changed a lot in six years.

Amanda: And there’s always like the podcasting trend, right? A couple of years ago it was like true crime. Now, what is it? I feel, maybe still true crime. But there are a lot of like limited series now, like topical limited series about like news stories that are happening, like MLM stuff.

Jeff: I like the rise of podcast fiction that’s happened.

Amanda: Oh, there’s some really good ones.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Jeff: Moving fiction and telling stories in a different way than you would tell it in an audio book. It’s kinda same, but different because it’s a little more like radio play, like podcast fiction. And I find that really exciting and the ways that people are pushing the storytelling in a different way, in that medium.

Amanda: And it’s also interesting to see what happens. Some of them just stay like podcast fiction, but some of them get turned into like graphic novels, actual like books. Like it’s really interesting.

Sarah: “The Bright Sessions.”

Amanda: Well, There’s like “Homecoming,” I think that was turned into like Julia Roberts limited Amazon Prime series. Like it was turned into like a TV show. So it’s really interesting to see like what happens to those pieces of fiction.

Jeff: Yeah it’s nice to see adaptations. You mentioned the “Bright Sessions” that I’ve been obsessed with. I listened to the podcast when the first novel came out and then the novels are just really great. How Lauren Shippen’s expanded that into other mediums, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it, turn into TV or a movie at some point.

Sarah: Oh no question. And it’s, they all sort of revolve around a secret theme. What happens between you and your therapist is a secret.

All of these shows that are evolving, they become very specific and topical and you guys were smart enough to do seasons. I was not that smart. I podcast in perpetuity and I look at my schedule and go, wow, seasons would be fun.

Jeff: But you know, we don’t really do a season. We declare our birthday to be the start of a new season. But, we’ve never had a season break.

Sarah: We should take a break.

Will: We’ve tried. We’ve thought about it. Never quite seems to work out.

Sarah: It never quite works out for me either.

Jeff: The only time I couldn’t remember you taking a break, it was when you did that mini series around the RWA stuff that went down. And you did so many shows so fast, you’re like I am taking a Friday off.

Amanda: Four, yeah.

Sarah: Yes. I took off one Friday, just one.

Jeff: I’m going to ask Sarah question.

As we’re recording this, you’ve just done the first recap of “Sweet Dreams.”

Sarah: I did.

Jeff: Which I totally dug your recap of. I can’t believe there was death in that book. What the hell is up with that?

Sarah: It was formative for me, first of all. Wait the romance and then he dies at the end and it’s like super sad.

Okay. First of all, can I just back up and say, thank you. That compliment means so much to me because I am still nervous about being the only one talking. I’m having the best time because vintage YA is some weird business.

The one I’m reading next is about a girl who’s very scared to talk to boys. And so her friends get together and come up with a plan for her to flirt with a different guy every day of the school week. And then they have to come up with scripts and contrived circumstances for her to talk because otherwise she freezes. There is some heteronormative dating weirdness and this, oh my Lord because this was 1981. They might as well go to a sock hop.

Amanda: Some other future episodes you’ll have guests and stuff.

Sarah: Amanda’s going to recap one with me. I asked you guys to recap one with me. I’m trying to convince my sister.

Amanda: Shana.

Sarah: Shana. I’m trying to give it to my younger sister. She’s a French teacher in a middle school. So she’ll have a lot of opinions about YA dating.

Jeff: That was one of the things I wanted to ask you, what’s it like to just do it yourself? Like when we recap for Book Club, we have each other to play off of. We was like where did you think of that? Or I could say, I hated that. He was like, you’re wrong. I love that. You’re flying solo there which would freak me out.

Sarah: It’s so weird.

It is weird. What I actually did was put a doll, like a stuffed animal on my desk and I’m talking to it.

Amanda: Oh boy.

Sarah: And I imagine this is the person who’s listening. if you remember when I did the episode, I think I said two or three times. All right, you got your blanket, you got your tea, you ready?

Cause I’m really trying to talk to someone because you ever listened to sports talk radio, and it’s a guy in a room yelling at himself.

Jeff: I try not to listen to that, but I know of what you speak.

Sarah: You know what I’m talking about, right? Like the format of sports radio, where there’s just a dude alone in a room, yelling at himself. I don’t want to be the woman alone in my room yelling about a book.

Amanda: I can just picture your kids like walking by the office. She’s been talking for straight forty minutes.

Sarah: Yelling about this dating. My gosh. Do we need to go talk to dad?

It is very strange to fly solo. It really is.

Jeff: But, yeah, I love that first recap

Sarah: I was nervous to look at my stats for that one. I was like, watch like seven whole people are going to be like listening to this episode because it’s just me. But no, people were really into it and I’m so happy. So thank you. That really means a lot. Like my inner 13 year old is really not cool right now.

Will: I’m curious about what made you take the dive into a different kind of format. Other than you obviously love this series of books and you want to share that love with people.

Sarah: Right.

Will: But what made you decide to use the podcast in order to talk about those books?

Sarah: Part of it was to give myself a bit of a break because sometimes finding guests that I can create a whole episode out of the conversation can be a lot of work. When you host and you do an interview, you read the book, you develop the questions, you work out in advanced what you’re going to talk about. That’s a lot of prep and I thought, all right, I wonder if me just reading a book and then talking about it would be faster.

Surprise. It’s not.

Jeff: No, it’s not.

Will: No, it’s not.

Sarah: Even if it’s 187 pages, I’m still like I’m taking notes and I’m identifying themes. Like all the things I do when I review a book, I’m still doing it. So it’s not so much of a time-saver, but it is…

All right, this is going to sound super ego maniacal, but I know how to work with me. I’m pretty consistent in how I work with me. But when I have a guest, sometimes it’s very different energy and I don’t always know how it’s going to turn out. And, when I record a good interview, like it’s the best feeling. Sometimes I don’t have that feeling. But it with me, I know how I work with me.

Amanda: And there’s only so many times Sarah can DM me, Hey, you want to talk about your weird food opinions? Or do you want to talk about your video games that you’re playing?

Sarah: For the record I never get tired of Amanda’s weird food opinions. Not ever. Never.

Jeff: That’s part of why we invited ourselves over cause we love those Q and A episode you two did.

Amanda: I remember we did TV theme songs and one of you commented and I’m like, we should do like a March madness bracket style, TV themes song competition.

Sarah: We absolutely should.

Jeff: For sure. Cause I mean the eighties where the sweet spot of TV…

Sarah: good themes.

Jeff: …theme songs, “Different Strokes” and “Facts of Life” and “Family Ties.” Almost all of them written by Alan Thicke.

Sarah: Which is like super weird.

Amanda: Pervasive Canadian just coming through.

Sarah: That was the era when the TV theme song was like the back cover copy of the book, like it just told you the whole setup. That’s all you needed to know. This song is everything that’s in the tin, bye bye. It’s a good era, now there’s five notes and then the just show just starts.

Jeff: If that, cause sometimes it can just be like…

Sarah: Cold open. Boom. Hello, we are talking now.

Jeff: Here’s your title card, and off you go.

Sarah: You know what show has really good theme that doesn’t have a, like a singy song that tells you the story? But the music and the score for “Only Murders in the Building” is so good.

Amanda: Such good things about that show. I haven’t watched it yet.

Sarah: It is incredible how much I noticed the music and the thematic elements of the music repeating. Like the music is practically a character and I don’t always notice that, but the theme is just, mwah. So good.

Jeff: Yeah. And just the way that piano can plink through an episode.

Sarah: Oh my gosh. It’s so good.

Jeff: We just watched episode nine last night and our mouths we’re left hanging open.

Will: it’s like oh my God.

Sarah: The weekly drops of it, and then the fact that there a podcast coming out and there’s a podcast in the show and this podcast about the show, and then there’s a podcast about the show in the show. The thing about how meta it is. Like, it knows what it’s doing. And, it is both mocking and participating in exactly the things that it’s doing. I love it so much.

Jeff: And Amanda, you have to watch that show.

Amanda: Okay, I’m adding it. Sarah knows that I’m bad at watching television I just have a lizard brain. I can’t sit and focus on one thing I’m like, I should add these books to the website. I should be working on this stuff. I’m going to play Candy Crush on my phone. Like I’m all over the place. It’s terrible

Jeff: Lately for us it’s been like, are we done with our day? Yes. Let’s go flop in front of the TV and watch some Netflix or whatever, streaming, whatever we’re going to watch in this moment. And we’re just done.

Sarah: I get it.

Will: Oh my God. Recently, we decided to join the rest of the planet and finally sit down and watch “The Great British Baking Show…”

Amanda: Oh, such a sweet show. …

Will: Bingeing successive seasons of that. Call me basic. I really, really love it. It’s really, really good.

Amanda: It’s just cozy. It’s just so cozy. Nobody’s mean or toxic or terrible.

Jeff: It has turned me off of American baking competitions. Like I used to watch Food Network baking competitions all the time and I can’t do that anymore because of the way the Brits do it it’s just so. You’ve got the accents. Nobody’s being mean. There’s a lot of stress. I have more stress on “British Bake Off” than I ever did on an American competition. And I ship people on this show.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: It was like the one scandal. They had two people put like their cakes in like the ice box or whatever. And one person accidentally took the other person.

Jeff: Custard yes.

Amanda: Yeah. And they felt so bad. They felt so bad.

Sarah: Bingate. It has a name.

Amanda: BinGate was another one.

Sarah: Chucked his custard in the bin.

Amanda: Was it Ian? I think it was Ian.

Jeff: I think so. He’s just this is just wrong, and he chucked it. It’s like don’t do that. Then you’ve got nothing.

Sarah: Which is pretty much what the judges said to him. Like you have to present something like you’ll see finished bakes where like the stuff running out the side and they’re like that’s what happened. Here you go. It’s a raw thing.

Amanda: It’s a raw thing, but it’s a thing.

Jeff: We should actually get, since we’re talking a little bit about food, we should actually take a question from one of the listeners who did submit otherwise we’re just going to ask each other questions all along.

Sarah: I love all of the questions. We have questions from our Patreon. We have questions from your Patreon, which is great. Cause we’re in each other’s Patreon. It’s like a spoiler we knew it was coming.

Jeff: This is from RegencyFan93.

Sarah: Yes.

Jeff: Which book are you careful about reading because it will make you hungry/thirsty?

Sarah: That’s such a good question.

Amanda: I’m a masochist. So there is no book that I will avoid. If food is involved, probably I will gravitate more towards it if food is involved. This year in particular, there have been so many baking competition books too. Like you have ” Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake.” You have “Accidentally Engaged.” You have “Battle Royal,” like so many baking books. I’m all for it.

One of my favorite series is food focus, which is the “Hudson Valley” series by Alice Clayton. There’s “Nuts,” “Cream of the Crop” and “Buns.” All of the covers, very strategically arranged. Yeah, no, if there’s food in it, I’m there and probably with snacks.

Jeff: For me, I had a couple that fit this. There’s Adriana Herrera’s “Dreamer” series and in particular “American Dreamer,” which has Nesto coming, bringing his…

Sarah: whole ass taco truck in that book.

Jeff: He brought his Afro Caribbean taco truck to Ithaca. And then we get to find out about all of this food that he’s making. And it’s a recurring theme through all of the books.

Amanda: Yep.

Jeff: The food truck and the food of the Afro Latinx culture. And it’s just oh my goodness.

Amanda: Did you read the holiday novella, which is also another baking competition?

Jeff: Yeah “Mangos And Mistletoe” that she did separate from the “Dreamer” series, but still they’re at this castle having a baking competition and it’s all this amazing patisserie.

And then there’s a book called “Roommate” from Sarina Bowen. And one of the guys in that book is a baker. He revitalizes this coffee shop, bakery because of the breads and everything that he’s making. And he teaches the guy that he ends up rooming with, who of course becomes his love interest, teaches him how to cook. So there’s food all over that book. Oh, so good.

Amanda: Sarina Bowen has some really good foodie ones like her. Was it “Bittersweet?” The “True North” series set in Vermont?

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: Very food focused as well.

Jeff: I wanted to go to visit her Vermont because it sounds lovely.

Sarah: I know you guys are in California and I go to Vermont every year to go snowboarding and we go to Northern Vermont. Vermont is there’s the bottom part, which is cold. And then there’s the top part, which just is so cold you want to die? So we’re in the Northern part of Vermont, maybe 45 minutes from the Canadian border.

And when we went this past year the high was -10 fahrenheit. They closed through the mountains. They’re like, if you go up there, it’s so cold, you’ll die. You’re not allowed to go up there.

Amanda: Please don’t.

Sarah: Just don’t. You’re not allowed if ski patrol sees you over there. If you’re not dead, you’re in trouble. Like it was so cold, they couldn’t do the thing that we were there to do. So be prepared for that. The cold will want to kill you.

Actually go right now. It’s leaf season. There’s a bazillion people there, but it’s gorgeous.

Amanda: Leaf peeping season. That’s right.

Sarah: That’s right, you’re about to have leaf peep aren’t you

Amanda: We’re semi-leaf peeping right now. Yeah. In New England. I came back from Texas to some leaves on the ground. But, it’s been very warm.

Sarah: Oh yeah. We just got fall today. It was like 85 yesterday and today it’s 63 and the leaves are going to start changing here and it’s going to be gorgeous.

Amanda: I’m begging for fall. I look cuter in my fall attire, then my summer attire.

Sarah: Fewer allergies.

Amanda: Not as much sweat of crevices of my body.

Sarah: What about you? What’s your foodie book?

Will: Well, specifically, I want to say RegencyFan93, when you asked about what makes us hungry or thirsty. My mind went to a totally different place. But…

Sarah: Oh, really?

Will: But okay. About books, I have a contrarian opinion about food and books, and it’s tied closely to my dislike of music journalism.

Amanda: Okay, we’re going to go on a journey here I feel.

Will: It’s a personal thing for me. I find music journalism really frustrating because I think it’s genuinely impossible for a person to use words to describe the kind of transcendent feelings and emotions you get from listening to a really great song.

Now I understand music journalism is about the fighting the uphill battle in order to do something like that. But…

Sarah: I can see that.

Will: …instead of reading about it, I’d rather just listen to the damn song. I feel that way when it comes to food in books

Amanda: You’d rather just eat the damn food.

Will: I’d rather, yeah, because descriptions about what it tastes or what it smells like. It doesn’t really do that much for me. I don’t think that translates and I don’t generally get hungry when I come to those sorts of descriptions. So food in books, I can take it or leave it. It’s not really, my favorite thing.

Sarah: That’s really interesting.

Jeff: So basically we need Adriana feed us sometimes.

Will: She can come on over.

Sarah: For me I am much more susceptible to any writing about food that is like baking, pastry. If it’s a savory food, I’m like, okay, I’m more like you. Okay, yeah, that things are sizzling. Got it. Okay. Because every time I cook something, that’s not a dessert, the smells are very different. Like today we’re having tandoori hens for dinner. Adam is in charge of dinner and he was toasting spices this morning. And I was like, you suck. The whole house smells amazing. And I’m not going to get to eat any of the smells that I’m enjoying until the end of the day. And that’s not fair.

But every time I cook dinner, it’s a different smell. But baking is a consistent sort of range of smells. So when there’s baking or bakery or pastry in a book that turns on the, I would like to eat that right now brain, which is really not good. So anything by Jackie Lau because she writes about pastry, she writes about donuts.

Amanda: Yeah she got the one new one with the donuts.

Sarah: Donut. Yep. And then there is one whole book about ice cream doesn’t have a smell, but I was there for that. I was entirely on board for that one.

Amanda: And the hero in that one, doesn’t like ice cream, if I remember actually it’s called “Ice Cream Lover.”

Sarah: Yeah, “Ice Cream Lover.” And the one that I read recently was, I’m going to screw this up, “Grumpy Professor Next Door.” There is a grumpy professor and he is next door. I’m pretty sure those are the words that are on the title. In that one, the heroine is really trying to break out of her former life with her family in a small town where her whole life revolved around her family. And so she just goes to every restaurant and keeps going back to this one tea shop for different pastries.

And I’m like, you have got to stop going on that tea shop, because I can’t read about you eating pastry unless I go get some right now. When she goes back to the pastry shop, like I could not, the pastry was so tempting. So that book particularly, but anything byJackie Lau is going to make me hungry or thirsty.

That’s a really good question, RegencyFan93. Thank you

Jeff: Since we’re on RegencyFan, we could also pick up and I think this might only be for us and for Sarah, maybe. Where did you go on your first date?

Sarah: All right. I want to know the answer cause you’re actually like both of you were there. Cause I tried to talk about this with Adam last night and we never went on a first date. We never went on a date. I’ve never gone on a date. We liked each other in high school. So first, okay. So we met in high school.

Will: I totally get where you’re coming from.

Sarah: I never went on a date. We met when we were 17 and we’ve been together since we were 19. And now we’re both 46. And so I’ve never been on a date. Like I dated him, but we were already together. So first he tries to say maybe it was prom except senior prom we went with other people. So we weren’t on a date.

Amanda: I woudn’t count prom as a date either.

Sarah: He was with his girlfriend and I was with my crappy ass ex-boyfriend, hope he doesn’t listen to the show, highly unlikely. And so that doesn’t count.

Amanda: No, you said what you said. Stand by it.

Sarah: We could not agree on a thing that we had done together early on our relationship that would count as a date. Maybe it was a Chinese restaurant where I went up to see him in college and we were already together. Cause once you invest airfare, you’re in a relationship, right? Once there’s a round trip airline ticket that’s serious business. But we went out to a Chinese restaurant and his fortune was “Stop searching forever. The future is right next to you.” But we were already together, but maybe that’s the closest we could agree to.

Jeff: I think it’s a fortune puts the bow on that though.

Sarah: Yeah, like bing! What about you guys?

Jeff: For us, what we consider the official first date is going to the movies to see “Village of the Damned” starring Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley, the really crappy 1995 remake. That is essentially our first date because it was actually after that movie, cause I didn’t know it was a date.

Sarah: Right?

Jeff: After the movie, while we’re chattering for hours, standing by my car, parked on the street that he actually asks me out.

Sarah: Oh?

Jeff: Here’s the kicker. I don’t know if you remember this, if you know this, answer to this cause I was thinking about this a couple of days ago. I don’t know what the actual date was that we did after that. It might’ve been as simple as going to dinner, but

Will: possibly I don’t remember the specifics

Jeff: “Village of the Damned” is like the thing.

Will: That was the moment.

Sarah: That’s super adorable. I love how there’s the official date. There’s the official PR approved story and then like behind that, where we’re not actually very sure. I don’t know.

Jeff: We’ve told the “Village of the Damned” story before, but I got to thinking a little deeper on it. Like he asked me if I would date him and I said, yes. What was the very next thing after that we did, because while we were doing. When we went to the movie, we’re in the middle of doing a show.

Will: We met doing a community theater and I kept dropping the biggest hints possible. Nothing was happening and I was super frustrated. So I just called him up one day and I said, Hey, you want to go to a movie? And that’s how that happened.

Sarah: So the approach then for Jeff is to be very clear and direct.

Jeff: Use the words “I want to go on a date. Let’s go to the movie.” Cause otherwise I’m just going to the movie.

Will: Exactly.

Sarah: I’m really glad you were persistent, Will.

Jeff: Me too.

Sarah: Really glad you worked that out.

Jeff: Clearly it was the right choice. A zillion years later here we are.

Sarah: Amanda, do you have a first date?

Amanda: I’m in a weird, like in-between scenario here. My boyfriend of five years moved to another state in August I’m fully supportive of his decision. But we agreed we’re not doing long distance stuff, but we’re as we say, keeping the door open.

Sarah: Right.

Amanda: And I just went and saw him this past week in Austin, Texas. We met on Tinder And I had a whole episode with Sarah dedicated to my Tinder adventures.

Sarah: She had names for her…

Amanda: Everyone got a nickname.

Sarah: As someone who met her partner in high school and never dated, this was just mind blowing to me. Like I was like, just tell me everything. Just tell me.

Jeff: We got to make sure that this episode ends up in the show notes so people can find it.

Amanda: That’s totally fine. But I was a very, let’s say open woman. My, my dance card was very full. I remember we went out on a Wednesday to like this bar. I thought the date, I thought I would never speak to him again. Not because it was horrible, but because he’s a very quiet person at first, but then after dating him for five years, he will not shut up.

There’s only so much, like I can take like 20 minutes of him talking about “Star Wars” theories. And I’m like, rein it in, come on. Let’s go. But we went to a bar. I feel like I did most of the talking. And then the rest of the time was spent looking at the dog agility competition they were broadcasting on the bar TVs. And then…

Sarah: That is perfect first date television.

Amanda: And then in Boston, the subways stop running around 12:45-ish. So I made my last subway. He did not. He lived outside of the city. So he had to take a 20 minute Uber ride back to where he lived outside of Boston. And so I felt bad. And we had a very like awkward first kiss on the escalators going down to the subway station.

Thought I would never see him again. But then we went out that Friday and then the following Tuesday. And I remember in my Tinder profile because I’m a Floridian by nature. I’m a recovering Florida woman. I like put in was like, please, someone teach me how to ice skate. And on Tuesday he took me to an ice skating rink. He tried his best to teach me how to ice skate.

And this was like, I think we started dating in January. But after the third date, I remember texting all of my other Tinder dates that I had lined up. And I’m like, yeah, I think I’ve met someone that I really liked. So I’m going to have to cancel our date this week. And they were all very respectful about it.

Sarah: I love a happy ending Tinder story, not in the gross way.

Amanda: You know That story is still in a state of flux.

But we dated for five years.

Jeff: I think all three of those could make good first dates in romance novels.

Amanda: They could.

Jeff: They each have a thing that works.

Sarah: And Will totally identifed with you one of my favorite low key tropes. I don’t want the whole story based on this. It’s not enough of a conflict, but I love when one of the characters is just completely oblivious. Like what are you flirting? What? No, that, he’s just really nice to me. That, that plus pining. Oh yes. Oh yes.

Amanda: Sarah and I have very different tastes.

Sarah: Oh yeah. We not like any of she’s oh my God, friends to lovers zzzzzz,

Amanda: Snooze.

Sarah: Yawn.

Jeff: Aw. Friends to lovers, and second chance are two of my very favorite things.

Sarah: Those are for me, Amanda likes, if we don’t bone, the planet will explode.

Amanda: Yeah. The world will end, but we also hate each other.

Sarah: Yes, that too.

Amanda: I’m an enemies to lovers, like high stakes sort of romance reader.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Jeff: We just crossed into some of Gigi’s questions there because Gigi wanted to know about absolute favorite romance trope.

Sarah: We are just, we’re just really good at this. Should do this all the time.

So my absolute favorite romance trope is anything that involves pining. I love pining. I love the tension of pining or the, is this the right time? No, it’s just not the right time. Okay. I have to wait, but it hurts to wait. Like I love pining. I love pining fresh characters. Pine trees. I just want pine trees and love. That’s what I want.

Jeff: Yeah. See, I loved the second chance for the do-over.

Sarah: We figured our business out.

Jeff: Either because you both knew it wasn’t the right moment or because you had like crushes that neither of you admitted to, or whatever the do over is. Getting the do-over I love it because then you’ve also got whatever the history is that you carry as friends, as colleagues, whatever that was.

You come back to it with all that history, you can go through that. You can do what you’ve been doing since I just love a good second chance.

Sarah: And that foundational language of having had a shared history. It’s funny. One of the things that we were talking about recently in the Smart Bitches Slack, which is our internal Slack for organizing all the reviewers I don’t like when the conflict is boundaries, someone should get some. That is not my favorite conflict. And there are a lot of books that have that, which you know, which I really struggle with.

The thing about having that second chance is that this is somebody who already got to know you a little bit. And so you’re already on a next level of not necessarily physical intimacy, but emotional intimacy. And that is so good.

Amanda: Yeah. There was like a, please go to therapy, like plot line. That’s what you need is a therapist. I don’t know what it is.

I love a fantasy or sci-fi romance, which I know is not like predominantly what is published in romance, but like in my brain is like there’s no therapy in space can be as toxic as they want.

Jeff: There is therapy in space. What do you think Counselor Troi was doing all the time.

Amanda: I would love to see a space therapist, but I haven’t encountered one in any of the books that I’ve read.

Sarah: I wouldn’t really like to think that by the time we manage as humans to establish space transit, that we have also figured out how to have basic medical, dental, and mental health care coverage. As there should be therapy in space.

Maybe the thing is that because we have, this is totally my own projection of wishful thinking here, but we’re in the future we have space travel. Everyone has had therapy except that really toxic person. And that person needs some help.

Amanda: And they get ejected out of the airlock.

Sarah: They get spaced. Oh my God.

Jeff: Write that book, Sarah.

Amanda: Sarah could never.

Sarah: I’m never good at killing things.

Jeff: So what’s your favorite trope? I have ideas on what it’s going to be simply because we review each other.

Sarah: You talk about books all the time.

Will: I prefer classic contemporary, sweet romance tropes. Like Jeff, I really enjoy second chances. I also enjoy situational things such as snowed in, forced proximity, only one bed. I also, I haven’t encountered this much lately primary because I’ve been looking and searching out for much more feel good, fuzzy, cozy romances.

I also really enjoy where the characters hookup at moment one and then spend the rest of the book, figuring out what that means and what are these feelings I’m having and there are permutations of understanding those feelings and the hang ups they have about those feelings. There’s a lot of stuff that you can explore in that particular situation, but that one never gets old for me.

Sarah: I would call that trope. Oh no. We went to bone town.

Amanda: We took a wrong turn at bone town.

Sarah: Yup. Oh, darn. And that’s and that sort of ties our likes together because with Jeff and with you, with me, it’s emotional intimacy and emotional fluency that we’re after. The sort of cozy sweet. I trust you. You are the person who I feel at home with. That sort of emotional intimacy is one of my favorite things, which is part of why I love pining because you are aware of your own emotional landscape that you’re like, oh my gosh, this person is so cute and adorable. And it’s just not the right time right now, no!

But oh no, we went to bone town is also a really good.

Jeff: What we’ve been looking at so much during the pandemic. We really shifted, for both of us, into nice guys doing nice things.

Sarah: Yes.

Jeff: Like our trope of choice overall.

Sarah: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s like the same with British baking competitions, cozy, supportive, and delicious environments. We all deserve them.

Jeff: There’s a tagline right there.

Sarah: Yeah. I support that call. I support that call.

All right. I want to know the answer to one of the questions from your Patreon, from Maartje. I think I’m saying that correctly and if I’m not, I apologize. I did look it up, but I don’t know if my phonetic guidance was correct. Why do you guys move so much? I counted three moves so far since you started the podcast. Why do you guys move so much?

Jeff: Technically, we’ve only moved twice. It’s really weird. Okay, when we lived in New York, we stayed in one place for 12 years.

Sarah: That’s what happens. You find the place and you’re like, that’s it.

Jeff: Exactly. There’s a lot of people who move a lot of New York for various reasons, but we found the place. We kept the place and there we were.

So when we bailed out in New York, which was in 2014, we came back to California. We came back to the place in Northern California, practically in Oregon, where we met in the first place.

Sarah: Are you both from California?

Jeff: No, I’m actually from Michigan. He is.

Will: I’m from California. Yeah.

Jeff: I’d come out here for work in the early nineties, which is how I ended up out here.

So we came back and we stayed there for three and a half-ish years. When we moved back to that place, which was very rural. It was mostly to get our foot in the door, back on the west coast. We were pretty sure we weren’t going to stay there. We might, but we knew it wasn’t New York and this place was good to start.

And we stayed there. And then we decided, because Will didn’t like the fact that we could hear chickens and roosters in the morning from our house.

Sarah: They’re loud, little bastards.

Will: Oh, nothing pisses me off than rooster crowing in the middle of the afternoon.

Jeff: He was a little confused.

Will: Dude. What is your problem?

Sarah: I can tell you what his problem is, but I don’t know what your podcast is rated.

Jeff: I was enchanted by the rooster.

Will: No it’s not cute or funny.

Jeff: And I have to tell you, going back to the baking show, all those little B-roll shots they have of the sheep and the ducks and the, this and that. We need sheep, we need pheasants and stuff.

Anyway. So we started looking for places to move closer to a bigger city. Like we didn’t want the Bay Area. We didn’t want LA. We didn’t want big, but closer to goods and services and people and things.

Sarah: I can understand that.

Jeff: And so we settled to the north of Sacramento, near a bigger town, nice suburb. That was move number one, during the podcast. Move number two happened because the apartment we were living in, which again was mostly to be just a foothold until we decided where in this town we might want to live. In the pandemic times, that apartment complex became just… got to go. Too much noise. Management not trying to maintain noise. Had to go. So we actually broke that lease.

Sarah: Did someone get a chicken, is that what happened? Someone got a rooster. Someone got a rooster, someone got two roosters, two roosters. You got to be kidding me. No.

Jeff: And so we found a house that we liked and we moved really quickly.

Sarah: Oh yeah. And you were like, boom done.

Will: Yeah. Moving during the pandemic was not on our wishlist, but we ended up doing it and I think it has worked up for the best. We’re really happy where we are right now. I mean, I hate to say it and it’s a really tired, lazy cliche, but sometimes things happen for a reason.

Sarah: I have only moved once since starting the podcast. I started the site and the podcast in New Jersey where we lived and we lived there for 10 years. But no, actually I moved a couple of times within Jersey, we bought a house. Then we bought another house. When we had children. We moved here to, to Maryland because Adam got a job with the federal government, which for the most part I highly recommend.

Y’all he’s in a union. I’ve never, I grew up in Pittsburgh. I’m very familiar with unions. Like all of the things that are on strike right now, I’m like, wow. I feel like my childhood where things are on strike. But wow. People have hobbies. Do you remember in New York, the culture in New York. And I know this is somewhat true in Boston, too. The culture in New York is it had better be raining and actual form of livestock for you to consider maybe you won’t go to work today. Like you’re going to work, get on the train. You’re going to work. Like it’s a very work focused culture. Here, a lot of the people work for the federal government and the government has a start time and an end time. You have a shift.

People have hobbies. They do things like they ride bikes and they build stuff. I’m really lucky my neighbor’s not using the table saw right now. It is weird when you move, like from, I’m sure you experienced this too, when you moved from New York to California, it’s wow, culturally, this is a very different place. People do things here that aren’t work.

Jeff: Or just not on the move all the time. Like when we moved to New York, initially we were living in Brooklyn and I was working, we were both working in Manhattan, for a part of that time. The first six months we lived there, we were exhausted all the time. All the buzz. And then we finally figured out how to filter it, but still it was like ZZZZZ.

Sarah: And the thing I think is really hard for a lot of people that I have a lot of empathy for in the pandemic is the New York apartments are not meant to be lived in 24/7. They are not meant to be a place where you are all the time. And I cannot imagine what that was like for people like, whoa, my apartment is a box and I’m here all the time. Like that would be really hard.

Jeff: I was never able to work from home in that apartment. I did it a couple of times over the years, but the amount that I’m on the phone during the day, he would have nowhere to go to get away from that. Because I do have my phone voice, which is close to my podcast voice where it’s like, on, slightly louder than, indoor voice and it wouldn’t have worked.

Sarah: I also have a phone voice. I used to be a high-level administrative assistant for a CEO. And the first time my children heard that voice, when they were little, they were like, oh my God, mom, who’s that.

Amanda: My voice has been called my stranger voice. It’s like how I talk to like people, I don’t know, like customers at the bookstore, like when.

Sarah: I was just going to say, it’s this way, when you used to do it, you use at the book store.

Amanda: Yeah, my stranger voice. I feel like my friend voice is feel like much more deflated.

You can tell I’ve given up.

Sarah: The other thing I noticed is after I’ve been recording and I’m really warmed up, my voice is much lower and it’s more relaxed cause I’ve been using it. So I’ll go outside or go talk to my kids. And they’re like, mom, if you’ve been podcasting today? Yes, yes I have. How do you know?

Amanda: It’s 10:00 PM, is your mom been podcasting?

Sarah: Yep.

Jeff: Over the years that I’ve worked from home because it’s been the entire time we’ve been back to California that I’ve been remote. So it hasn’t just been pandemic times. Will’s devised the way to know how my day’s going, because there’s my, I’m talking to a coworker. The I’m talking to a client I like. I’m talking to a client that I put up with. And, I’ve had to be stern because somebody is doing something wrong and I’m diplomatic, but firm. And then there’s the teaching voice, this pattern of things that go on through the day.

I find what I’m podcasting. I eventually run out of words.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Jeff: Especially when we’ve sat down and recorded a whole bunch of stuff in the morning.

Amanda: You’ve reached your quota.

Jeff: Like I have no more words today.

Sarah: One of my children is an extrovert. You’ve met him. You was on your show. Max was on their show. And he’s a little bit more extroverted than I am. And there have been times where I’m like, I’m out of words, buddy. I’m sorry. I want to hear what you’re saying and I’m going to nod, but I don’t have any more words. And he’s that’s fine, mom.

Jeff: How long before Max has a podcast?

Sarah: Oh, my God.

Amanda: What will his podcast be about? Probably like video games. Minecraft? What do you think?

Sarah: Probably fanfic.

Amanda: That’s a good idea.

Sarah: Oh yeah. He is a very fortunate young dude in that, on one hand, the part where you spend the pandemic as a teenager, without other teenagers is very hard, especially when you are at the age where you’re figuring out a lot of things about yourself and not being around other people makes that more difficult.

But he’s also very fortunate that he is a coming of age and coming out in an era where there are lots of different representations of how to be a queer teenager. And I’m not outing him by the way. He was very frank about being queer on the podcast. When Jeff and Will and Max and I sat that down, that’s what we were talking about. So I’m not outing my son on my show.

He gets to have this incredible collection of things to read. I think he probably has read like four to 5 million words of fanfic in the pandemic because he’s just finding all the stories that he wants. So if he was going to do a podcast, it would be about that.

Jeff: Encourage him to start that please. I would tune in.

Sarah: Oh my gosh.

Amanda: He could have guests about what other people’s favorite like fanfics are, and they’re like, fandoms.

Sarah: His reaction is either going to be like “let’s” or “oh my God, mom, noooo.”

Amanda: You have all the equipment already.

Sarah: It’s really a low stakes investment for him. Cause it’s all set. Like we’re slowly working on making my office into more of a sounding studio. So he’ll just have his like studio down the hall.

Amanda: Add it to the Frolic Network. We’re good.

Sarah: Oh my gosh, poor kid.

There’s a lot of times where I’ll see people like, oh, don’t you worry about your children and the literature that you read. And I’m like, my kids look at my books and they are not interested. Like they are not interested in romance.

So I wonder if it’s the same thing oh, that’s my mom’s thing. That’s the thing my mom does. That’s not what I want to do. I’m super uncool. Like I’m the most uncool. I have two teenagers. I am the most uncool.

Jeff: So Amanda, we brought up the bookstore voice.

Amanda: Yes.

Jeff: And I’m just curious. Like I’m super envious that you work at a bookstore because it just sounds like the best thing. Should I be as envious as I am?

Sarah: There’s people there, Jeff.

Amanda: There’s people. Yeah. I do get a 40% discount at the book store

Jeff: I could spend my entire salary at the book store.

Amanda: I know that’s a problem. My roommate who works in publishing, she will send me to work with a list. And she’s can you order these books for me? And she uses my discount and then I send her a Venmo invoice for her books.

I just want to like, get everyone’s bookstore fantasy out of the way. The rolling shelf ladder is a death trap and it’s terrible. It is not romantic or fun. You feel like you were going to die anytime you step on it.

But other than that, like it’s still retail. So you have those people that’s what do you mean you can’t get my favorite children’s book that was published in the seventies and has been out of print for 20 years? Why aren’t you carrying it?

And I don’t like, I try to explain, but people don’t understand, like the supply chain for books is all sorts of borked right now. So getting any sort of book is a struggle and I’m like, I would love to sit you down and talk to you about the logistics of this. But, you are not going to understand a word I’m saying

But it’s also a lot of fun. Like when someone comes in and it’s like a scavenger hunt, they’re like, I heard about this book on NPR and here’s what I remember. It’s like a, an in-person Help a Bitch Out. If you’re unfamiliar with Smart Bitches, we have a feature where you can submit here’s what I remember about this book, but I don’t remember the title or the author. Can you help us?

So that’s really fun. Like a little scavenger hunt of I remember this book. There are more pros than cons and I love doing events. We just had a really cool, like women in horror panel that I put together. Our second annual. So that was really fun. But it’s also still retail and I have gotten yelled at, so keep that in mind.

But if you’re a book lover who wants to continue your habit you can’t argue with 40% off of books. And it’s not just books. If we have a candle or a pair of socks or a journal. Still counts and counseling in our cafe too. So 40% off of coffee and pastries and bagels. And

Sarah: Now you’re just being mean.

Amanda: I know. And then like when the pastries for each like expiration, we like descend like locusts or like pastries are going to get thrown in the trash. They’ll take whatever you want. And then we take home bags of croissants and cookies and it’s terrible is what I’m saying. Awful.

Jeff: I’m glad the pros at least outweigh the cons because it keeps that romantic notion of the bookstore alive. Please don’t get killed on the ladder though cause that would suck.

Amanda: I avoided at all costs. But there’s there’s such a great feeling when someone comes in. I will be nosy and I’ll see someone picking up a book or two books. I’m like, I’m noticing a theme here. Do you want more queer scifi? They’re like, yes, please. Got you. And I’m like this one. And they like walk out with a handful of books that you recommended, or someone comes back in. I loved X, Y, and Z that you suggested last time. What do you have? Getting that positive feedback of finding the perfect book for a person is so rewarding and so good.

Sarah: I think universal that when one of us recommends a book and someone loves it, it’s like a very specific, lovely feeling. But my absolutely favorite bookstore stories from Amanda are when someone has come back and said, Amanda, I love this thing, can you get me more?

Amanda: We have this one mom who comes in. She always calls to make sure I’m at the store because her child wants pretty much like sad, queer, scary books about dying.

Like horror and like sci-fi, and the mom’s like I don’t read any of that and I don’t want to, but I don’t know where to start. And I remember I recommended her child the anthology, “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado. Her kid loved it so much that they wound up doing their high school senior paper on the anthology.

And so any, like I’ve gotten phone calls from like booksellers, who are on shift. They’re like, so-and-so is here and I know you’re not, and I hope it’s okay that I call you, but she needs more recommendations for her kid. I’ll talk on the phone with her and give her and without fail she’ll buy at least two of the books I suggest for her kid. So it’s very sweet and I really enjoy doing it.

Sarah: And I think for some, the way you talk about it, those customers make up for the ones who get mad cause they have to wear a mask or what you to buy their book they have copies in the trunk, just come out to the car. Both of those are real things, by the way.

Amanda: Yeah. I love books. I love talking books with book people. Sarah even suggested we start a new column, which we’ve started called Get Rec’d where it’s here are books that I’m recommending outside of Smart Bitches. Here’s like books that I recommended at the store to my friends, or, my work with like Book Riot or whatever. And that’s been really fun. I think a lot of people have been enjoying seeing, like outside romance, because romance readers read a lot of other stuff, not just romance.

Sarah: Yes.

I want to go Ronda’s question cause it fits with what Amanda was talking about. What were your first romance reads?

Do you want to go first, Amanda?


Jeff: Oh my gosh. Whatever do you think Amanda’s going to say next? Well, yeah, we’re leaving you on a cliffhanger here. To hear the rest of the conversation with Amanda and Sarah, you’ll have to go to “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books,” episode 482. Now, if you’re listening to this episode, the day it drops, you only have to wait a day since the “Smart Podcast” episode premieres on Friday, November 5th. We hope you had as much fun listening as we did recording all of this. And thanks so much to Sarah and Amanda for being into the idea of this crossover.

Will: Now, this episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at, and, as always, the show notes page has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

All right. I think that’ll do it for right now coming up next on Monday in episode 345, author Penny Aimes and Verity Lowell will be joining us.

Jeff: Back on August 21st for Romance Bookstore Day, I hosted an event for Buffalo Street Books in Ithica, New York and got to talk with Penny and Verity. It’s the perfect time to bring you this conversation, because Verity’s book “Meet Me in Madrid” just came out last week. We had a great discussion about Penny and Verity’s books, which happened to be for both of them, their debuts. And we talk about representation in romance as well. You’re not going to want to miss this fun and insightful conversation.

Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then keep turning those pages and keep reading.

Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.