Romance writers Jennie Jones, Lily Malone and Juanita Kees treated an appreciative audience of more than 50 to laughs, cheekiness and a tad of sauciness at Stories on Stage: Date Night last night.
Part of the Stories on Stage series held at Koorliny Arts Centre in Perth’s southern suburbs, Date Night celebrated the romance genre, with the writers put under the spotlight during a panel interview … with me! The stage was set for the date with atmospheric lighting, a candle and a bottle of champagne, and quiet jazz music in the background. And then, once the audience was settled, the “getting to know you” bit began.
It’s fair to say, there were a few nerves at this point. For me, this was a new experience – interviewing three writers in front of a crowd. Jennie’s no stranger to the stage with her theatre background, but Lily and Juanita had to take a few deep breaths and employ whatever tactic worked for them to speak in public. Since the audience was mostly female, I don’t think they imagined everyone in their underwear, but they might have pretended the room was full of firefighters.
Whatever they did, it worked. Lily, Juanita and Jennie had the audience captivated from the start, leading to laughs, red-faces and possibly even a few face-fans when things got a bit steamy. The panel interview was split into three sections: “Defining the romance genre”, “The art of writing romance” and “Just for fun”, with a reading in between each section. The authors talked about “bodice-rippers”, “escapism” and their inspirations; they shared how they felt when people made derogatory comments and assumptions about the romance genre. The audience heard about the importance of balancing conflict and romance, how the characters determine when and where a first kiss or love scene will take place, and the key elements of romance stories. And just for fun, Lily, Juanita and Jennie revealed their preferences for butts or biceps, strange things they have Googled as part of their research, what their husbands thought of their love scenes, and whether they’d choose Edward Cullen (Twilight), Mr Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), Jamie Fraser (Outlander) or Christian Grey (50 Shades of Grey). The last question prompted a witty response from one of the older audience members:
“You didn’t say if it was for romance or love. If it was for romance and so on (*naughty giggle here*), I’d say ALL of them! If it was love, none of them.”
In between each group of questions, Lily, Juanita and Jennie read excerpts from their novels – well, Lily read Jennie’s, Juanita read Lily’s and Jennie read Juanita’s. Cue red faces and embarrassed giggles as the authors heard their excerpts read aloud … especially when hands went under shirts, mouths opened, hips met, and “I want you” was breathed.
Audience members came up with some good questions after the panel concluded, but most saved their questions for the onstage meet and greet, which included book sales, signings, freebies and photos. Here’s one from romance reader Trudie: The evening concluded with a tasty home-made supper of Melting Moments (because romance is full of those); brownies (because they are soft and gooey … like the first stages of love); my special Choc Chunk Slice aka Choc Hunk Slice (because it’s yum); orange, date and walnut cake, and egg sandwiches.
I’d like to thank Juanita, Lily and Jennie for their time and effort in making Date Night such a fun evening. Romance readers, if you haven’t checked out their books, you must! They are all fantastic at what they do. Thanks also go to Escape Publishing and Harlequin Books Australia for providing 10 books, discount vouchers and USBs pre-loaded with the authors’ books to give away, and to Alex at Koorliny Arts Centre for his fab tech support (he’s been promised a role in all three authors’ books, as long as he understands that his shirt will come off). And finally, thanks to Jim at Rockingham Books for helping with book sales and supporting Stories on Stage. You’re a star.