Author Cat Sebastian discusses her latest book, You Should Be So Lucky, which features the romance between baseball player Eddie and newspaper reporter Mark and is set in 1960 New York. Cat talks about why she decided to write a historical baseball romance and the author whose books inspired her to do it. She also shares details on her favorite scenes and side characters, and she’s got book recommendations too.

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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’re going off to the ballpark with Cat Sebastian.

Hello, Rainbow Romance Reader. Welcome to episode 453 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and it’s great to have you here for another episode of the show.

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So as you already heard, Cat Sebastian is here and we’re gonna talk about her latest, which is called “You Should Be So Lucky,” which is set in the same universe as last year’s “We Could Be So Good.” And just a couple weeks ago, “We Could Be So Good” became a finalist for the 2024 Lambda Literary Awards in the gay romance category.

There’s some other great books up for this award too, including “The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen” by KJ Charles, “Dionysus in Wisconsin” by E.H. Lupton, “Mistletoe & Mishigas” by M.A. Wardell, and “The Art of Husbandry” by Jay Hogan. Congratulations to all of these finalists. The 36th Annual Lambda Literary Awards will be presented on June 11th, so we’ll find out who wins that evening. And besides Cat, you can also hear from two other Lammy finalists who were previously on this show. We talked to M.A. Wardell back in episode 441, all about “Mistletoe & Mishigas.” And if you want to go deeper into our archive, you can check out our interview with KJ Charles back in episode 323.

Book Review: “You Should Be So Lucky” by Cat Sebastian

Jeff: Now let’s talk for a moment about “You Should Be So Lucky.” I’ve been a Cat Sebastian fan since her first book, but this ranks among my favorites. As you’ll hear Cat talk about in a moment, this story is about baseball player Eddie, who plays for New York and is in the midst of a serious batting slump after having a great season the previous year. He also hated being traded to New York. It pulled him out of the environment that he was so comfortable in. And then there’s Mark, who’s a reporter who usually covers the arts, but is now tasked with ghost writing diary entries from Eddie to appear in the paper. He has no interest in doing this, but he’s got very little choice. He’s also still grieving his boyfriend who died a year ago. Suffice to say these two are going through some crap times.

But as they start hanging out together more, Eddie becomes more of a ray of sunshine, at least around Mark. And this is sunshine that Mark does his best to keep away from, but he can’t. These two end up being such grumpy, sunshine goodness. Watching their relationship grow as it does through the baseball season just touched me so much and they’ve definitely become a favorite romance couple of mine. The story is also a great look at pre-Stonewall New York and you get the feel of that desire for change, not only for Mark and Eddie, but from the people around them too. And just some of the vibe that’s going on in the city.

Now, as I mentioned a moment ago, Cat’s among the finalists for a Lammy award for the first book in the series, and I would not be surprised if she’s a finalist again next year for “You Should Be So Lucky.” I really can’t recommend this book enough, and you’re gonna hear more of what I loved about it in the interview too.

So why don’t we get to hear from Cat right now? I had a great time talking to her about why she decided to write about baseball, including the books that turned her on to baseball romance. We also hear about her inspiration for the characters of Mark and Eddie, and discuss what she enjoys writing about the 1960s. We also chat a little bit about the journalism of the time and dogs. Plus, Cat’s got a couple of book recommendations too.

Cat Sebastian Interview

Jeff: Cat, welcome back to the podcast. I’m so excited to have you here.

Cat: Thank you so much for having me.

Jeff: It’s springtime and we get to talk about some baseball, which is totally not my sport, but you kind of made me love it too, as we’ll kind of get into as we talk about this book. I love “You Should Be So Lucky” so, so much. Tell everybody about this story and this romance that sparks between Eddie and Mark.

Cat: So the idea is that it’s 1960 in New York and this is the period in between when the Dodgers and the Giants have already left New York, but it’s before the Mets have come. Okay. But in this universe there’s a new expansion team and there’s a player on the team named Eddie, and he is in his second year.

Last year he had a really promising rookie season, but now he’s slumping really hard. And Mark is usually an arts writer, but he really hasn’t been doing much of anything since his partner died the previous year. And he’s assigned to basically ghost write some diary entries that Eddie’s supposed to do for the paper.

And neither of them really wants to be doing this. Mark doesn’t wanna be covering baseball. Eddie doesn’t wanna be doing anything. And they’re both going through like a garbage time and they don’t wanna be outside their comfort zone for very good reasons. And they wind up being like a bright spot in one another’s lives.

Jeff: I think bright, a little bit of an understatement, but we’ll talk more about that as we go through this.

Cat: Well, it’s like I kept thinking like, you know how when you are when you’re going through it. Like everything is bad, right? Like good weather is bad. Good food is bad. You know what I mean? Everything is already bad. So when you’re doing something that you’re expecting to be just as bad as everything else, and it turns out to be good, that’s like a gift. It’s like the universe decided to give you one. That’s the book in a nutshell.

Jeff: They certainly find each other in the moment that they probably needed it the most.

What were your inspirations for Eddie and Mark and the very opposite-ness that they are to each other?

Cat: So I had been watching a lot of “Ted Lasso.”

Jeff: That’s good source material.

Cat: Yeah. Right? As I’m watching it, I’m not thinking to myself like, I’m gonna do anything with this. However, when my next idea was like a well-dressed and kind of cranky and cynical sports reporter, I know that’s because I imprinted hard on Trent Crimm. I know that. It’s not like that’s my fan casting for Mark in this book at all. Like physically they’re not the same, but the energy is similar.

And for Eddie, he is like every baseball player or athlete or whoever has been given too much attention and is made to be like a role model, is idealized, and therefore doesn’t have any space at all. So, the most obvious inspiration is Mickey Mantle, right? Because it’s roughly the same era. But other than that, there isn’t really any specific player.

Jeff: Why baseball? This is your very first sports book and you dove in for baseball.

Cat: So first, baseball is the only sport I really know anything about, and that’s because I grew up in a household where there was always baseball on either the radio or the television for the whole season. And so I learned about it through osmosis, which is the same way that Mark knows about it in the book. He’s not a baseball fan, but his father and then later on his partner were baseball fans. And so he knows about it secondhand.

So baseball’s the only sport I know about. It’s the only sport I have any feelings about, although I’ve read 10 billion words of hockey romance. So I might need to revise that. But when your only experience of a sport is through romance novels, I’m not totally… it’s not the same as baseball. I actually do know something about it as like a real life entity, you know?

But then what happened was, somebody recommended to me one of KD Casey’s books. And at that point I was like, I can’t possibly read a baseball romance. The only sports romances I read are hockey romances because hockey is, in my mind, a fully make believe sport. And I read it and this book was wonderful. This was their first book. It was “Unwritten Rules” and I loved it.

And then I binge read their second book. And then I started to complain about there not being any historical baseball romances. And there should be so many historical baseball romances because the only way we talk about baseball is like nostalgia, you know? It’s like the entire baseball industrial complex is fueled by nostalgia. It always has been. All the baseball movies are nostalgic. People were nostalgic about baseball in the fifties. It’s always been this way. There’s people who were nostalgic about baseball in the 1910s. There has always been this… we imagine it’s tied to like our feelings about what the country is, you know what I mean?

There’s just a lot going on. There’s a lot of like cultural baggage in baseball. So there should be a whole shelf full of baseball romances, historical baseball romances. But, actually there really are very few historical sports romances. Anyway, I complained about it enough where I was like, clearly the solution is that I’ll have to write one.

Which, by the way, is how… whenever I start complaining about a lack of something, I wind up writing it. At this point I should just speed run through that whole process and just write the book. Instead of spending six months moaning about it to everybody.

So what happened was I wrote a novella, a little short snack of a book about two baseball players thinking I will get this out of my system. And that went exactly as well as it goes when a character in a romance novel thinks they’re gonna get something out of their system, which is not at all.

And so, like literally the minute I finished writing the novella, I started writing this book and I think I started writing it before I even had the go ahead to do this book from my publisher and agent. I think I was just that committed to a questionable idea. And it wound up being super fun to write.

The first book in this series, “We Could Be So Good,” was a total delight to write. And this book was also a total delight, but in a different way. And now I never have to think about baseball again… is like really the gift that I’ve given myself, you know?

Jeff: Careful what you say. Some of these characters could come back and say, “Hey, Cat, what about me over here?”

Cat: Because it is a sport I like to read about. I like to read nonfiction about it. I actually like to read sports writing about baseball a whole lot. But do I ever wanna watch a game again? Actually I don’t want to. I’m good. I’m all set.

Jeff: I love that KD Casey was the inspiration because I’ve read those books and they were amazing. Although I didn’t feel after I’d read those that I needed to go maybe try baseball again as I have in reading this one. There’s something about the way that Mark’s perception of the game changes as he’s hanging out with the team and hanging out with Eddie. Maybe this game isn’t as boring as I think it is.

Maybe there’s something more there as they talk about like the statistics and it’s one of the only things where if you’re batting less than half, that might be okay, cause half might be great, and all those numbers.

Cat: That is also like how people, sports writers, everybody has talked about baseball since basically its inception. Like that idea that there’s like failures built into it. There was an article that came out this week in “Baseball Prospectus,” I think. And a friend sent it to me and the gist is baseball is a sport that reminds us that hard work doesn’t necessarily get you there.

And I was like, oh, we’re still doing it. It’s a century. We’re still writing it. I love it. I love it. And it’s true. Like the idea that whenever we tell a story about baseball, it’s a metaphor for something is absolutely correct. But it’s also always a metaphor for the fact that hard work doesn’t always get you anywhere, you know?

Jeff: So you had some baseball in your head already? What was your research like for this? Because obviously the game has changed to some degree since 1960, but you’re also very specifically digging in on how to fix a batting a slump through a lot of this too.

Cat: And the good news is that you can’t fix a batting slump. So that wound up being an easy thing for me to research. Unless there’s a physical injury, it is purely throwing herbs on the floor. You know what I mean? And trying to discern some kind of meaning. It is just like anything else. When something is going wrong, you try to fix it. Even if it’s… I get migraines. I have been trying for three decades now to figure out what causes my migraines. I’m never gonna know, okay? Still, when I get more than two in a month, I go like full on superstition, you know? Like where I’m analyzing patterns that simply do not exist. So, yeah, when something’s going wrong, you’re gonna try all kinds of things to fix it. But like in this situation, there is simply no reason.

There’s, a throwaway line in the book about a statistician, some professor who says that statistically slumps don’t exist. And that idea hadn’t come out by 1960. I think it’s a few years later, that if one player is simply not hitting the ball and there’s no injury, there’s no reason for it. That is the coin landing heads down 50 times in a row. Do you know what I mean? It’s going to happen if you throw the coin enough. It has nothing to do with that player. It has nothing to do with the coin. It’s just that’s it’s happening. It’s just something that’s happening. There’s no meaning to it. And I enjoyed that. As I came across that bit of research, I was like, yes, that is the relationship to like bad things happening that I want this book to express.

As far as actual research in baseball, it turns out that baseball in the early sixties has 10 gazillion words written about it. In particular, when the Mets came to New York that first year, every single writer weighed in on it. So we have some of the best sports writing ever about that first year of the Mets. There’s Roger Angell. There’s Jimmy Breslin. There’s people who were writing like Roger Angell writing for the “New Yorker,” like really highbrow, really lyrical. Jimmy Breslin’s writing for the “Daily News” or the “Post” or something. And it’s very down to earth. There’s just an abundance of writing about that and people are coming at it from all these different angles. Why are fans rooting for a terrible team? What does it mean to have a team in the city that’s not the Yankees? All the ground is covered, repeatedly, and beautifully. So that aspect of the research was a total joy.

In terms of baseball then being different from it is now, it’s also different now than it was when I was a kid and paying attention to it. I was so baffled looking at the schedule of games and there was something about it that wasn’t making any sense to me whatsoever. And I realized it’s because there’s like all of this interleague play and I couldn’t make it compute in my mind. That’s a thing that exists now and simply did not exist the last time I seriously paid attention to baseball.

So that made it a little easier whereas I’m already one step removed from how things actually are. So I had to verify every single thing that I thought I knew about the game. I was already fact checking all of my assumptions. So it turns out there was not a designated hitter, I don’t think, when the story takes place. But again, I checked that like 17 times cause it all felt so weird to me.

Jeff: And of course, as you noted, you’ve kind of come back to the newspaper that we got to know in “We Could Be So Good.” What is it about mid-century journalism that you’re building your universe there now, or one of your universes there?

Cat: So, okay, so the, like, dark and sad reason is that like journalism as it existed in the middle of the 1900s is very much a historical artifact, right? You have, even in small cities, there’s more than one thriving daily paper. You have newspapers in a city that has many immigrant populations, you’ll have newspapers with different languages. Reporters have a union job that’s not gonna go anywhere. That era is starting to come to an end, around when this book takes place. We’re a few years out from this big newspaper strike that really dealt a blow to the industry. So I love that… I feel nostalgic about this, about a universe where you have such a robust… that you have all of these newspapers and that journalism is really strong and important. So there’s that. And also I think as a writer, writing about writers is always going to be a really easy thing to do. It is not just easy to research, but it’s very easy for me to get into the mindset of somebody who writes words for a living.

Jeff: Yeah, I can see that. And I just love the look at how, even though we’re really looking at sports journalism here, there’s the whole build across it. How just journalism is not what it was. Even if you take out the unions and everything else, journalism is no longer what it was in the sixties. It’s not even what it was when I went to college in journalism in the early nineties. Talk about something that changed drastically.

Cat: Yep. Yep. One of the things that historical fiction does really well is addressing when there is… you can wallow like in something that is. lost. That is something that is lost to us for the foreseeable future. And you can sort of just roll around in it when you’re in another time period.

Jeff: Kind of the same thing with the queer history here too, in terms of you’re almost a decade away from Stonewall. You’re inside the decade, but you’re at the earliest point in the decade, that’s from when Stonewall happens. But you could start to just feel the vibe in Mark and in Eddie that they want the change to happen.

And one of them is a little more willing to kind of go for it than the other one is, at least in the beginning. But it’s interesting to feel that vibe and to get the feel of the city itself in some ways that you kind of look at as, Eddie kind of explores the Village a little bit. And then because of the grief that Mark is going through and who knows about it, who doesn’t, but who maybe has guessed what happened. It’s a very interesting look at that piece of history and how even in grief you had to be very much closed off.

Cat: I kept thinking about how 1960 is very much like we’re at the beginning of being on the cusp of something happening, you know, civil rights wise. Mark is, I think, 28 in this book. And he had been in a relationship where they had to be like super duper closeted for many years starting in, I think, 1952. So Mark has been an adult the whole fifties basically. And he saw the worst of it, right? Like the fifties are about as bad… just really a bad time. And he is rightfully traumatized by the fear of all of that he felt. But the experience of not having a relationship that he can talk about. So those two things are interrelated, but they’re not totally the same. He has a lot that he needs to unpack and then about that.

And Eddie is younger, he’s 22. He is a generation who will still be young when Stonewall happens. So he has a different sensibility and also he’s a trusting person and… you know what I mean? There are always gonna be people who trust everyone around them. And whether or not they should just depends a lot about who is around them. And Eddie does. And he happens to have been lucky with the people who are on his team, and the people he makes friends with, and Mark. So he can say to himself, I’m gonna hope that everybody wants to keep a secret. And if it goes wrong, then it goes wrong and I will figure out the next chapter. And that’s an attitude that it takes Mark a while to become comfortable with.

Jeff: I’m actually not sure he’ll ever be totally comfortable with it. Just because of what’s ingrained in him. Eddie certainly helps him kind of obviously move in that direction.

Cat: And there’s a whole thing where it’s you’re not comfortable, but you’re gonna do it anyway, right? Like the older I get, the more clear it is that’s just what you do, you know? Just in general, I think being totally okay with something is like a rare event and some people just don’t have the personality to ever be okay with something. I think that, might be me, you know? And so just pushing forward anyway is just part of life.

Jeff: It was interesting thinking about Eddie too, in that he came from somewhere where he felt more comfortable to be out. He doesn’t so much say this in the book, but it really felt ,you know, ripping him away when the trade happened and bringing him to New York. And I mean, today we think of New York as like this vastly liberal place and yet he felt almost he had to reset everything and what his expectations could be here because it had been so good where he was.

And it’s… I would’ve never… you know, these days, and even in the seventies and eighties, people are like, I’m going to New York. cause it’s better there. But the sixties read differently, at least here.

Cat: I mean like his main problem is that if he’s in New York, that’s a huge media market and he is gonna be afraid of being recognized. He knew how to find the queer community when he was playing in Kansas City or when he was growing up in Omaha. These were much smaller cities. He knew where to go. There was much less of a chance of him being outed basically. Or at least in his calculus, right? Like in his mind he was safer than when he moved to New York. Where he feels like he’s constantly being watched.

And one of the reasons he feels like he’s constantly being watched is because there were like seven newspapers at the time in New York, and they’re all covering his team, and they’re all saying bad things about him. And so he feels justifiably paranoid, right? So for him, it feels like moving to New York is a very scary and dangerous thing. And also he’s moving away from… he grew up in a loving family, you know, which is not something all romance novel characters get. He, loves his mom, and now he can’t see her as often. This is all really bad for him.

Jeff: One of many differences that sit there between Mark and Eddie. Eddie is in some ways cavalier, but in some ways like, I’m just gonna do this thing cause it’s what I feel compelled to do. And Mark wants to do the thing, as he puts it, he doesn’t wanna be a secret, but yet he’s scared about going forward.

How did you manifest these characters? Did they just kind of spring this way? Cause that happens where it’s just like fully formed. Or, you know, was there a lot of tinkering as you went through? It’s almost like a masterclass in bringing opposites together.

Cat: Thank you. Yeah, there was tinkering, like, big time. This was a book where like I knew the general trajectory. I knew what was going to happen in terms of they were gonna do this ,and then they were gonna do this, and then. But what they were gonna be feeling while they were doing it took a little bit of fixing it on revision.

Like basically it’s they’re opposites, but from almost the beginning they like one another, you know? And so they view one another through, for the most part, through the most favorable lens. And it is about having that kind of… how, when you like someone for reasons that you may not even know, right?

Not necessarily even attraction, where you’re just like vibing, you know, where you are prepared to be really generous in your dealings with them. And so when I say it like that, it’s the least romantic thing I’ve ever said in my life. But that is the process of two people falling in love. They decide to think the best of one another.

Jeff: There’s a book in and of itself there somewhere for authors.

There’s a passage in there too where I think it’s Eddie thinking about Mark and how, you know, Mark gets really prickly when he wants something, but if Eddie needs something, then he is a hundred percent like, we gotta do this, we gotta make that happen. And I like how you even capture that piece of it. Cause that’s such a thing becoming a couple. It’s like just how you react to the various things that each other do. And being able to read that, it was just one of those things that’s like, awww. It just kind of warmed my heart that they kinda had that thinking about each other.

Cat: Mark is a very prickly character. He doesn’t think of himself as a nice person. He is whatever… he is not entirely correct, right? But he is not a very nice person. He doesn’t like a lot of people. He doesn’t have the time or the patience to deal with most people. He is an introvert. And he is kind of bitchy. I think he would be okay with that terminology.

And yet we all know people who are like fully caustic. And yet when it’s someone they like, they turn it around 180 degrees. And I think that urge when you see yourself as being like a difficult person. When all of a sudden you’re seized by the urge to be good to somebody else, right? That is itself, not just for the person, receiving that goodness but for you when it happens to you that is a lot because that comes out of the blue and so that is something that Mark experiences.

Jeff: It’s all part of his wonderful growth through the book.

You’ve got amazing support characters in this story. You mentioned Eddie’s mom a little bit. Their relationship could be a book on its own. I don’t know what it would be exactly, but just watching their interactions, it’d be pretty amazing. There’s Ardolino, who’s the team manager who’s got his own arc alongside the team. Mark’s friends, Lillian and Maureen, are right there to kind of nudge him in the right direction a little bit, but also a good outlet for him with everything else. And then Lula, the dog. Lula, has very strong opinions of her own.

Cat: Lula is based on a rat terrier who I used to have.

Jeff: Aw.

Cat: Yeah. If you go on… most of my social media profile pictures are me holding that dog. And he died in 2020 at the age of 17, at which point he was held together by nothing but like venom and bad attitude. He is like Lulu’s future self.

I was home with this dog for years and if I did something wrong, this dog would find an object of mine and pee on it. Once there was nothing bad enough for him to do, so he figured out how to jump onto the kitchen counter and like pee on my coffee pot.

This dog was, genuinely a bad dog. And I’ve never loved an animal like that. And so I wanted to write about the experience of loving an animal who gives you nothing, you know? And because this was Mark’s partner’s dog, right? This was never Mark’s dog. And, Lula knows it, right? All Lula knows is that her person is gone. And instead she’s left with this inferior person. When Mark goes away on a trip, Mark comes back and like all of a sudden Lula decides to be affectionate. Cause Lula’s like, oh no. they could all go. And so she decides to be affectionate to Mark, which of course, Mark loves. I think that often in fiction, dogs have dog energy, right? They’re good and affectionate. I wanted to write about a little nightmare who had nothing but spite to give.

Jeff: Lula softens too, cause Eddie’s exactly what she needed.

Cat: Yes. And, she’s going to be nice to Eddie because… my old dog used to do this thing where anyone who came over to the house, the dog would put on this sad little orphan Annie act. I’ve never been loved. I’ve never been fed. No one’s ever pet me. Every single person who came over to the house. That’s what’s happening with Eddie. I’m gonna show you what affection looks like by doing it not to you. I enjoyed writing Lula. I highly recommend that if you have lost a dog, putting it in the book is like a very good experience.

But, yeah, since this book is two characters who are having a hard time, surrounding them with people, or dogs, who were overall net positive makes the reading experience and the writing experience better. Because it’s a character who has a bad thing in the context of a life full of good things.

Jeff: The trajectory of some of these characters, cause I’m not gonna go into spoilers, also evolves so amazingly over the book that people, you’re like, I don’t know if I like you. It’s like, oh, now I see. Back to net good because of what goes on.

Cat: Since it’s a book… it’s not a second chance romance, obviously, but it’s a book about second chances. Everybody in the book, basically, everybody gets a second chance. And so there’s a lot of characters who are turning it around in various ways. Who are trying to make changes, who are trying to be better. Or who, like a lot of the baseball players who are in the book, would’ve retired if they weren’t on this team. They’re too old to be playing baseball, which is how they got picked for the expansion draft basically. And so the reason they’re on the team is because this is another year of them being able to do the job they love. They get a second chance, you know. The team itself is a second chance for New York to have another team.

There’s an elderly sports reporter who didn’t want to retire with a desk job, basically. He wanted to travel with the team and be a beat reporter. And so he gets his second chance to do that.

Jeff: I love George. I forgot to put George in that list of characters, but George is wonderful.

Cat: He’s a very old school sports reporter. He’s, I think, almost 80 in the book. He winds up being… Mark, who had a horrendous family of origin. At no point does Mark ever think to himself, I’m looking for a father figure or anything like that. He wouldn’t let himself have that thought. He winds up having a relationship with George that is like paternal. He really appreciates George’s acceptance. It means something to him because he didn’t have that and he didn’t even know he wanted it. And now he has it and that’s a good thing.

Jeff: I know it’s hard to pick from your darlings, but other than Lula, who we’ve already talked about, was there a favorite character amongst all these side characters who were your favorite to get to have a moment with?

Cat: Every scene I wrote with George I loved. I feel like we’ve all known a George. Some of us have had grandparents who were George. And I really enjoyed that.

Jeff: And speaking of favorites, what’s a favorite scene from the book?

Cat: I think my favorite scene is one that came as an afterthought. My editor said, you know, there’s not enough Nick in this book. Nick isn’t in your book. Nick is one of the main characters from the first book in this series, “We Could Be So Good.” And I was like, that is a major problem like that is… that’s absolutely right. I often don’t like to go back to previous characters because first of all, I feel like I’m guaranteed to make a continuity error. And secondly, they’re done. They’re happy. We don’t need to look at them. But that’s like me as a writer. As a reader, I love that. So my editor was absolutely right. Nick needed to be in this book, and he’s in the book. Nick needed to be appearing on the page, not just as a name who’s referenced. S there’s a scene where, towards the end of the book, where Nick and Mark, who know one another, cause people who at the same paper go out to a sports bar where Mark is basically looking for… he wants Nick to tell him that he needs to break up with Eddie, basically.

Nick’s the guy who’ll do it. He’s cynical. And instead, Nick is very much still Nick, and he is still very cynical and pretty negative, manages to discombobulate Mark pretty thoroughly about what his expectations ought to be in a relationship. So I really like that. Once I knew that scene had to exist, it was a blast to write and it was great revisiting Nick as a person and also knowing absolutely that is what Nick would say. And that is what Nick would do.

Jeff: I love that you picked that cause it’s one of the ultimate moments that Mark didn’t get told what he wanted to hear. Cause he kept looking for that person to be the one to tell him, don’t do this, and nobody was having that.

Cat: No. And ultimately Mark, I mean this is the first draft of the book, had… Often my first draft of books have like your traditional third act breakup. I don’t usually have that like in the finished book, at least not lately. But often as I’m drafting, that winds up being sort of like an easy way to say like, what would be the issue that took these guys apart? What would that look like? And then at that point I know it’s wrong for me or for this situation. And then I can go back and get those same exact issues on the page without the breakup. In this instance, that scene with Nick serves the goal. It makes Mark think. It makes Mark make at least one stupid choice. But it’s not a breakup choice. It’s just being dumb. Yeah, I enjoyed that a lot.

Jeff: I like watching him have to think a lot, which he does cause he is challenged so much in this book. I mean, they both have their challenges, but the way that Mark is challenged, I particularly enjoyed it.

Cat: He really just wants to be in his comfort zone and his comfort zone is mean and sad, and it is the size of a postage stamp. And the fact that he is being pushed out of his sad little comfort zone. He is bothered by it from beginning to end. That’s relatable, you know?

It’s very fun to take a character who is deliberately stuck, like heels dug in, you know? I’m fine like this. What are you talking about? And sort of dragged them, not far, but just like three inches to the side. And be like, nope, you can have nice things. Like the thing you’re fighting against is just nice things. That’s it. So you need to calm down to make that happen is… I feel like when I read it in a book, it always looks so easy cause the only change is in their mind. It’s not an external conflict, it’s purely internal. And so one of the truisms about writing is that you shouldn’t ever have the conflict be something that can just change with a conversation or like changing your mind. But in reality, changing your entire mindset isn’t just something you can just change.

I feel like we all have things where we know that even if we know something is a fact, believing it is different. There are all kinds of facts that I know, and yet I tell myself the opposite all day long. And it’s absolutely not a helpful thought process, but we all have them anyway. So when you’re reading it, it often looks super easy. But writing it and making it look like it isn’t something where they could have changed on page five… where they could have just made this decision on page five. That is like slight of hand. And I do that too. I like feeling like, oh, I pulled it off, you know?

Jeff: I like it when that third act breakup is not a cataclysm. It’s a little something. And then this conversation with Nick is, you know, one of those kind of things forcing him to think, come into the light.

Cat: That’s a good point. When we talk about third act breakups, we’re often talking about what you just said, a cataclysm where it’s like everyone’s crying. Like it’s over. It’s very final. We’ve laid the relationship to rest. Maybe we have a time jump forward of a year or whatever, you know, where it’s like totally like it is done. We’ve moved on. Or it can just be like we don’t talk for a week. Or things are weird. It can be that there’s some unresolved issue and everyone is gonna dance around it and just be weird about it. Or it can be one big fight that gets resolved immediately, but still leaves everybody feeling kind of traumatized.

Like these are all different ways that you can handle that type of thing and also dispatch it in that same moment, you know? Where you can even at the beginning have the characters know that it’s going to be over, but this isn’t permanent, right? It still provides some kind of narrative tension that gets the reader to actually turn the page rather than be like, oh, it’s 80% and I guess I’m done now, you know?

Jeff: Exactly.

Cat: I mean I’ve written my share of literal third act breakups, cataclysms for sure. And I don’t really do it anymore just because I’m the boss of me, et cetera. I can do what I wanna do. It is so much less stressful for me as a writer to write the kind of story where nothing terrible happens at that 80% mark or at that 70% mark, right? I have found that when I’m writing something that’s really stressful, I get stressed. I am internalizing the stress of this stuff that I made up, okay? Like these characters, I made them up in my head and now I’m stressed about it.

I wish I could figure out like what breathing exercises I could do to not have that happen. I get stressed about real things, and now I’m gonna go borrow trouble with this stuff. I made them up. And so if I can write a story where that doesn’t happen, my job becomes like 500% better because I don’t have that hanging over me. And that seems to appeal to, not all readers. Some readers are absolutely going to want bigger drama, you know? Totally valid. But it appeals to enough readers that I have a job, you know?

Jeff: I don’t mind having my heart stomped on periodically, but I’m also really happy to read something very low angst. And there’s gonna be tension, but it’s not gonna be the cataclysm either.

Cat: As a reader, like, absolutely, I want my heart stomped on sometimes, and also I want low angst sometimes. I want a varied diet as a reader, you know?

Jeff: So we’ve got a question from a member of our Patreon community. Mary asks, why the move from what is traditionally considered historical romance? Because she says, as an elder romance reader, and the fact that she lived through the sixties, makes me a bit more gray haired when my childhood is considered historical.

Cat: I totally feel this. But, by my standard of what makes a historical romance, like the nineties count. And I was fully an adult for half that decade. My definition of when something counts as a historical is basically, if it is before the memory of your average reader. Not most readers, but like your average reader, okay?

And so if we take the average reader as 35, which is like a big if, okay? But I still feel like that’s probably born out, then the nineties are before they remember. They’re babies. And so I feel like that’s historical. It’s also tangibly a different era because you have enough differences in technology that you can see it immediately on the page that it’s a different period. So yes. And also I have read many of these historical romances that made me feel 5,000 years old. Especially when they’re written by somebody who’s definitely younger than me, where I feel is if it’s written by someone who wasn’t there and they’re had to Google this. They had to Google.

Jeff: If they had to research it.

Cat: So, Mary, I absolutely feel this. I am sorry that I did that to you. What happened was I had written 13, 14 books that took place like in your standard horse and cravat era of romance. And I just needed to do something different. That’s really what it came down to.

You know how some writers can write 50 books that are set in the same little town? A lot of cozy mystery writers can do this. And that is a skill. I don’t have it. What happens to me is that if I feel like I hit a rut, I need to do a hard turn in another direction. And that’s what happened where I had written a certain number and I started to feel like I was gonna be recycling plot elements and characters. I don’t even know if that’s true, but that’s what it felt like.

A friend was putting together an anthology and I said, I’m gonna write a 1950s novella for this. And it was a blast. Then people liked it. And so I wrote another one, and this is all self-published. It was so much fun. It felt like a breath of fresh air. And so when I had written on my last regency, I just sat down and wrote “We Could Be So Good.” I knew that I wanted to write something in the sixties. I had no idea if my publisher would buy it. Not a clue. I wrote the book and then basically acted like I had tripped and fallen and come up with a full, complete manuscript. So now I’ve written two trad published books that are set in roughly the same era.

And it’s really fun. I like the era. I think that we have a lot of media set in the middle of the last century. There’s a lot of television, a lot of movies. The aesthetics are perfect. Not a lot of romance novels. And so I kind of just wanted to cause there wasn’t a lot.

But also because the fifties and the early sixties are like just a terrible and dangerous time for a lot of marginalized groups, including queer people obviously. I think that we are living through an era where the rights of a lot of groups are being curtailed again. I just wanted to write something about individuals and also community like thriving despite the danger of persecution, where that act of being happy, that act of thriving is itself kind of like a rebellion.

Jeff: Is there a historical period regardless of regency up through, you know, wherever we wanna leave the mark, which might be the nineties, kind of based on what you’ve mentioned, is there a period you wanna write about that you haven’t quite tackled yet?

Cat: So. I was thinking about this because I’m right now trying to pitch my next book, right? and the market for historical romance is just extremely weak at the moment. And so it’s like very, like the stakes feel extremely high. I think I’ve covered most of the 20th century that I’d want to. The twenties and thirties don’t interest me as much as a writer, as they do as a reader and a movie watcher, you know? But I have been toying with the idea of a like a “Gangs of New York” era like 1850s style, like just really low lives type of setting.

But again, that’s, now we’re back to horses and cravats, you know, and trains and crime. So I don’t know. I actually have no idea. I, there is no easy answer.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in this position before actually, of not really knowing what comes next. I like have a book on submission, but whether that actually goes anywhere is a different story, right? That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. And so we’ll see, like I have my fingers crossed. We’ll see.

Jeff: We’ve gotta get recommendations, of course. What are you reading or watching or both that our listeners should be checking out?

Cat: I just finished Emma Alban’s “Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend.” It is a “Parent Trap” retelling set in Victorian England, and it is so funny and it is, it’s the kind of historical that is has chosen not to… you’re never at any point in this book about to forget that it was written in 2024, right? Like it’s, that kind of book. And it works. Like many things, if an author delivers something with confidence, it just works. And that’s what happens here. So like you would not at any point be surprised if the characters were like, vibe check. Okay. Like, or, like, You know, something like that you’d just be like, yes this is all completely accurate. It’s a delight.

It is one of the most fun books I’ve read in a while. And the fact that it’s a “Parent Trap” retelling and the fact that I don’t think there are any other “Parent Trap” retellings, you know, is also super fun. Obviously they’re not sisters in the book. They’re like friends and they’re parents or were involved at some point and they’re like scheming to get their parents back together, but then they fall in love. It’s just very cute. I love that.

And I recently read “Lucky Bounce” by Cait Nary, which came out like a month ago, I think, two months ago. And I had an, early copy of it, which I read like last year, and then I reread it after it came out. And it was like, even better than I remember it being like such a fun book. Like, just a romp, you know, and just like light and airy and fun. So those two books are like, those are terrific.

Jeff: Nice. Awesome. And what is the best way to keep up with you to know, when you know, what’s coming, but all the fun stuff about you.

Cat: So my website and my newsletter are the best right now. I am, on Instagram, but like attempting to not be anywhere else. Okay. And like honestly, when I’m on Instagram, I’m watching people make pottery. Okay. I’m like, you know, like my inbox is pretty full. I’m like, it’s, an embarrassment.

My website is and there is a link there to sign up for my newsletter, which I, send out maximum once a month. At least once a year, I send out free stories. So, you know, in exchange for me arriving in your inbox approximately 11 times per year.

Jeff: We will link up to that, plus everything we talked about in our show notes. Wish you all of the success with “You Should Be So Lucky” cause it’s just amazing.

Cat: Thank you. Thank you.


This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, head on over to the show notes page for this episode at We’ve also got links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

I really hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did and that you’re gonna pick up “You Should Be So Lucky.” What better time to read it than right now while we’re in baseball season?

All right, I think that’s gonna do it for now. Coming up on Monday, May 20th, we’re gonna find out everything there is to know about the Rainbow Readers Cruise from its organizers, Joel Leslie, Joyfully Jay, and Rich Najuch.

I wanna thank you so much for listening, and I hope that you’ll join us back here again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then, keep turning those pages and keep reading.

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