Triumph and Taking Risks with Aubrey Gross

Welcome to Part Two of Calico In Conversation with Aubrey Gross. If you missed Part One: Hard to Swallow, feel free to click here to catch up!

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through August of 2016.

book signing

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I feel like over the years, genre fiction has gotten to be far more accepted by the mainstream, though sometimes you’ll still get a literary snob complaining about things like YA fiction or Game of Thrones. But thanks to the film and television industry, I feel like there’s a boom there that I hadn’t previously seen in my lifetime. EXCEPT: why is romance still the red-headed stepchild of the genre market?

I think it’s a combination of things. There’s the misconception that romance is “mommy porn” or “porn for desperate, single women,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Romance isn’t pornographic. Romance is about emotions, and a lot of people don’t “get” why anyone would want to read a book that’s primarily character-driven and chock full of all kinds of emotions (and, yes, often sex). My reason for reading romance is that it reaffirms my belief in love despite the odds, whether those odds be a psychotic killer on the loose, a mother determined to see her daughter married off to the duke rather than the earl, the complexity of a long-distance relationship, or a heroine who’s unable to trust after being left at the altar by her first love. Romance is about triumph and taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone and growing as a person — all in the name of love. A lot of critics say romance novels are unrealistic, to which I say: but are they really? In our relationships, we all have things we have to overcome in order to be happy. Distance. Past experiences. Wariness. Job dynamics. Our own internal fears. The list goes on and on.

And I’ll also be quite frank — I sometimes think part of the derisiveness is simple jealousy. In 2013, $1.08 billion in romance novels were sold according to BookStats. And according to Nielsen and BISAC, romance novels accounted for 13% of adult fiction novels sold (source: RWA). Because those numbers only reflect books with ISBNs, there are a lot of indie books NOT being reported on (the folks over at Author Earnings do an amazing job of explaining this). The July 2014 Author Earnings Report took a look at the genre breakdowns, and at the time 66% of romance novels in the Kindle Store were indie published (my guess is that it’s probably more than that now, just from anecdotal evidence). Basically, what it boils down to is that a lot of people read romance, which means more readers (and yes, more money) for romance authors as a whole. I might be off base with that one, but from personal experience and the experiences of other authors, I don’t think I’m too off the mark on that. 😉

I’ve often wondered, too, about the fact that romance tends to be the ONE genre that’s primarily driven by women, if there isn’t a little bit of institutionalized sexism happening here, intentional or not. And no, I’m not just blaming the men; women can and are just as bad when it comes to criticizing the genre, its tropes, and its readers. I admit to being guilty of it myself, once upon a time ago.

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Calico in Conversation: Getting My Name Out There with J.L. Gribble

Morgantown Poets SocietyWelcome to third and final installment of Calico In Conversation with J.L. Gribble. If you missed Parts One and Two, click below to catch up:

Part One: Boosting Confidence
Part Two: Monsters Are People

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through June of 2016.

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One thing I’ve admired about your writing career, to date, is how well you seem to manage all the things required of you in addition to writing. You go to lots of conventions (well, more than one to me is a LOT, since I’m lucky to manage one convention per year). Can you talk about your experiences as a small press author at conventions?

Going to multiple conventions and events per year depends on a few different variables for me, such as the reasonable traveling distance (where reasonable can refer to time driving and/or cost of plane ticket) and the price I’m willing to pay for lodging and other necessities. Money is a huge factor in both of these, because I always know going in that there’s no way I will sell enough books to cover the entire cost of the trip. Most authors I know, whether small or large press, are in a similar situation, since we are long past the days of book tours paid for by large publishing houses. In my case, I’m fortunate enough to have a day job that covers these types of expenses (again, reasonably), along with a husband who shrugs it off as the cost of what could be any other expensive hobby.

So because I know I’m going to lose money at every convention I attend, I have a pretty specific criterion about whether I will go. I just have to have the chance to get my name out there. That’s it! I’d like to be on a panel, have a reading slot, have a chance to sign books at a scheduled time, and/or participate in a workshop. Pretty simple, especially since I’m not even asking for free registration, much less lodging, meals, or travel assistance. The drawbacks to this are, of course, that I don’t go to all the conventions I could. Ironically, this means I don’t even go to the two of the conventions closest to where I live, because despite my repeated attempts to volunteer, neither have expressed an interest in including me on their schedule. However, I’ve now been a multi-year guest at a few conventions, and I’m excited to add a few more to the list this year!

My schedule for 2016:

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