What Happens When Your Mom Writes Romance Novels

Jul 7, 2019
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Romance fiction is a juggernaut that blows away other genres. It's a billion-dollar industry, and I'm one of its millions of fans. But what if your mom told you she was going to start writing romance novels?

KATIE MINGLE: I think I probably thought, like, pretty snobby stuff (laughter). Like, you're actually a really good writer, and this genre is sort of beneath you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Katie Mingle. She's a radio producer, and she is a big reader but not of romance. She was judging a whole genre by a couple of covers.

MINGLE: Basically, a shirtless, like, oiled-up man embracing a woman. And so I sort of assumed based on that that the storylines were probably kind of misogynistic. And, you know, that was based on, like, zero experience reading romances.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Katie's mom, Pamela, a former teacher and librarian, had a whole lot of experience with romance. And she loved it.

PAMELA MINGLE: I came to romance reading late in my life, and it was really the influence of my Jane Austen group. They're joyous. It's very uplifting, and it's exciting to read about two people falling in love. It made me want to write one, and so I did.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Pamela Mingle's first romance books are set in the early 19th century. Her latest book "Game Of Spies" is set in the court of Mary, Queen of Scots. There's intrigue. There are tricksters, liars and traitors. There's meticulous research, and there's the good stuff, too.

MINGLE: (Reading) After a moment, he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bedside. You're wearing far too many layers, Isabel. He spun her around to unfasten her gown and corset, then unhooked her petticoats. And they dropped to the floor with her other garments.

MINGLE: (Laughter) I told you I didn't want to talk about it.

MINGLE: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Katie says people always ask what it's like to read sex scenes that her mom wrote - a little embarrassing as you might imagine, but...

MINGLE: When you read a story that you are really involved in, you forget who wrote it, you know? And you're just, like, invested in the characters and you're, like, fully in that story.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Meanwhile, as Pam was finding an enthusiastic audience in her daughter, she was feeling kind of discouraged about finding other readers.

MINGLE: It's been a difficult year. Our industry is really, really competitive, so you don't really want to continue to write. I haven't wanted to if I can't find readers. It's just - you kind of ask yourself, what's the point?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Then Katie went on Twitter. She wrote a thread gushing about her mom's books and admitting to all her misconceptions about romance and what she discovered.

MINGLE: These are, basically, stories of women going out and getting what they want. And they are the heroes of their own stories. And, you know, like, I'm queer, and I probably thought they were sort of hetero in general. But there is totally queer romances, you know? There's, basically, like - any kind of person you are, there's probably a romance for you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Katie's Twitter thread went viral. Hundreds of retweets, a mention on the "Today Show" and one on NPR that's happening right now.

MINGLE: Mom, I haven't even asked you, like, if you're feeling any different about keeping going with writing.

MINGLE: Well, I am feeling different. I feel like I'm maybe gaining new readers and getting a new audience.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Speaking of audience, if you're a romance skeptic, it's summer - perfect timing for a new fling with your reading.

MINGLE: What more can you really want in a story besides, like, steamy sex and, like, accurate historical details?

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Katie Mingle and her mom Pamela Mingle, whose latest book is called "Game Of Spies." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.