Q&A with Penny Reid

Posted by Goodreads on July 23, 2018
Not enough ruggedly handsome men in your neck of the woods? If only you could move to Green Valley, Tennessee, the home of Penny Reid's fictional Winston family, a genetically blessed clan of bearded hunks looking for love.

In Dr. Strange Beard, the latest in the Winston Brothers series, it's Roscoe's turn to find his soul mate. Too bad he's still hung up on the woman who left town and broke his heart ten years ago. When the gorgeous, elusive Simone, his onetime best friend, returns to Green Valley, Roscoe is set on avoiding her. But Simone has other plans. She has one small favor to ask that could change everything.

Reid, who was the only romance author to be nominated for two Goodreads Choice Awards last year, talked to us about how she uses a little fantasy to bring those sexy beards to the page, what her love of crafts (sewing, soapmaking, sausage making, and more!) brings to her stories, and which Jane Austen novel she's willing to fight you over—with her knitting needles, if necessary.

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Goodreads: Our favorite bearded brothers are back! How would you introduce the whole Winston clan to readers?

Penny Reid: Trouble.

Everyone in Green Valley, Tennessee, knows that the six bearded Winston brothers have been imbued with an unfair share of charm and charisma—and are prone to mischief.

GR: From Truth or Beard to the upcoming Beard Necessities, we've been in love with your punny titles. What inspired the Dr. Strange Beard title?

PR: As with most decisions made at the beginning of my writing career (when writing was still very much a hobby), I chose the titles because they made me laugh. Early on, I'd been told by several traditional publishers that my books, as written, would never sell. Therefore, amusing myself tended to be my top priority.

GR: Let's talk about the beards. Does any research go into depicting such glorious beards on the page?

PR: Funny you should ask! It is my greatest shame that I've never known anyone with a beard who would let me touch their face—not that I asked because that would be weird—until my husband grew a beard for Movember in 2017. Therefore, all my beard descriptions came directly out of my brain. So, in a way, my books could be categorized as fantasy.

Budding writers out there can Google "What does a beard feel like?" But I challenge you to overcome this urge and write from your own experience with, say, hairy legs.

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GR: Readers adore you for your smart romances. What makes a love story "smart" in your mind?

PR: A love story is smart when the characters maintain their higher functioning and reasoning abilities and don't jump to the worst possible conclusion, even when faced with ridiculous situations. That is, they base their decisions in reality, so the romance is less "fantasy" or "escapism" for the reader as it is "Oh yeah, that could totally be me!"

Though beard descriptors, as mentioned above, are complete fantasy.

GR: You famously turned your love of knitting into an entire series. What other hobbies, quirks, and interests of yours have made it into your books?

PR: Oh, jeez. How long can this interview be?

I'm what is called a "deep crafter." Rather than buy the yarn from a store, I need to know how to shear the sheep, wash the fleece, card the wool, spin the roving, and then knit the sweater. I've done this with soapmaking as well. As such, any reference to any activity (sculpture, printmaking, soapmaking, sausage making, sewing, chemistry, etc. etc.) in my books draws from my personal—and highly alarming—inclination to deep craft.

However, I should mention here that I'm a terrible poet. I specifically point this out because I wrote all the poetry included within my 2014 novel, Beauty and the Mustache, but could only attempt it when writing poetry as the hero, Drew.

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GR: What were the first books that got you hooked on romance?

PR: Again, how long do you have?

Jane Austen's Persuasion is my favorite book of all time, and I'll fight (with a knitting needle) anyone who says it's not a romance. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is another favorite from my formative years.

Some novels I began reading in 2013 that made me fall in love with contemporary voices: L.H. Cosway's Painted Faces, Amy Harmon's Making Faces, Lisa Kleypas' Again the Magic, Julianne Donaldson's Edenbrooke.

More recently, I've discovered several new (or new to me) voices that have me excited about the future of romance, including Helen Hoang, Mariana Zapata, Kennedy Ryan, Lucy Parker, Sally Thorne, and Beverly Jenkins.

GR: You, your favorite fictional character, and your favorite restaurant—who are you with and what are you both eating?

PR: I'm with Captain Ahab. We're at a Japanese restaurant, eating whale and giving each other high fives—I'm kidding. It would be Ishmael. (Disclaimer: This is a Moby-Dick joke. I apologize in advance to any whales that were injured in this joke.)

GR: When did you first discover you wanted to be a writer?

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PR: I discovered that becoming a full-time author might be a possibility at my fourth signing event—when I was still working as a biomedical researcher. Someone told me most emphatically, "No one is writing books like your books. No publishers are publishing them. You owe it to romance readers to quit your day job and write full-time."

Writing up until that point (up until my fifth novel was published) was a hobby. After the conversation, which was echoed in emails I received from readers all over the world, I began to seriously consider making writing a career.

Prior to that, I thought writers were like mermaids and princesses. Like they might exist, but I'd never met one.

GR: In your opinion, what's the recipe for a perfect romance?

PR: Characters I can relate to, who have flaws that make sense and who are made better by knowing and loving each other.

GR: What books are on your summer reading list?

PR: I already mentioned Helen Hoang; her debut novel, The Kiss Quotient, was fantastic. I've also been wanting to read David Sedaris' new book, Calypso, Issa Rae's The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and Moby-Dick—if I'm going to have dinner with these people, I should reacquaint myself with their shenanigans.

Other than the above, we're in Italy this summer, so I've been reading books that focus on ancient Rome for my 11-year-old son. He's trying to convince me that Nero wasn't a bad guy…just misunderstood.

GR: What's next for you? While we know we can always expect clever, witty, and heartwarming storytelling from you, we want to know what you're excited to tackle in the future!

PR: Next up is the first book in my new cozy mystery series, Engagement and Espionage, and my second trilogy in the Hypothesis series, Laws of PhysicsMotion, Space, Time—which follows a girl genius physicist on her quest for a wholly pragmatic romance. Unsurprisingly, romance has other plans.

Thank you so much for the interview! Happy reading.

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee Great interview! Thank you.

message 2: by Malatina1 (new)

Malatina1 Enjoyed reading this 🤓 thanks😉

message 3: by Hope (new)

Hope Love Penny's voice-- in this interview and in her books.

message 4: by Brandi (new)

Brandi Love Penny Reid!

The poem thing really shocks me! Drew was sooooo good at it!

message 5: by Ashima (new)

Ashima I don't really believe that she is bad at poetry Drew was pretty amazing poet. So, I guess that makes her good at poetry too.

message 6: by Cyndi (new)

Cyndi Great review! Huge fan of Penny Reid! 😊💕📚

message 7: by Jaime (new)

Jaime Fiction Fangirls I love your definition of smart romance almost as much as I love how perfectly you represent it in your stories! 😍

message 8: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Patton Check out Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series for a does of Roman history that you and your 11 year old will LOVE!! Nero is also featured in his Trials of Apollo series 😊

message 9: by Katy (new)

Katy I had wondered that about the poems. They didn't "read" like Penny. So I figured she had to get into Drew's head to write them. This was a great interview. Thanks for sharing it.

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