Love Conquers All: Interview with Read-A-Romance Month Creator Bobbi Dumas

If you were living under a rock (or perhaps on a fabulous vacation) for the month of August, you may have missed Read-A-Romance Month, a project started by romance lover Bobbi Dumas, who sought out some of romance's biggest stars to post daily on why they fell in love with the genre. Read-A-Romance Month was a big success, and many of the authors' posts were inspiring, uplifting and even downright hilarious. We had to know more about what motivated the project and what Bobbi has planned for next year. Here's what she had to say ...


Read-A-Romance Month was inspired by your NPR article "In Defense of Romance." What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about romance?

I think there are two big misconceptions: that romance is poorly written and that the plots are simplistic. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but most romances have a lot more going on than a simple girl-meets-boy storyline. These characters have issues, internal conflicts that they have to work at and move beyond — individually and together — in order to earn their HEA. Really, there are as many minefields in many of these plots as there were in getting the Red October to safety. But since they have to do with emotions and relationships, and specifically love relationships, then somehow they are downgraded to fluff.

As for the writing quality, I would hold Susan Elizabeth Phillips up to any literary writer out there. (And I am using her as an example; she’s certainly not the only one.) I think if SEP or Jayne Ann Krentz (or a hundred other romance writers) decided they wanted to write a so-called literary book, they’d be successful at it. They have such good use of language, such a fundamental understanding of character and motivation, and they know how to wield the power of the grand and the small gesture. But they write about hope, and love and optimism, rather than destruction and the dismal state of human nature. So somehow romances are unrealistic. I love how Tessa Dare put it in her R-A-R essay: “Unrealistic? We’re talking commitment, not unicorns.”

Do you think society has become more accepting of romance novels and romance readers in recent years?

Yes and no. I think a lot of really smart writers have started being more upfront about their love of them — Maya Rodale, Sarah MacLean and of course the ever-eloquent and academically fierce Eloisa James come to mind. And efforts like the Popular Romance Project are making good points highlighting the genre’s value. So forward progress.

But often the people who would benefit most from reading these articles still don’t get it. When I wrote my NPR piece I sent the link to a huge list of personal friends and acquaintances (of course!). I asked a particular friend — a man I really admire, a champion for civil rights and liberal-mindedness in social matters — if he had read it.

“Yes.” (Period.)

“Oh, and what did you think?”

Pause. “I think you were really brave.” Another pause. “But I suppose that was sort of the point.”

As if I should somehow be embarrassed for writing about such things. Even for NPR. (Possibly especially for NPR.) Like Christina Dodd in her essay, I was so stunned I didn’t even know what to say. (Did you notice what was missing there, by the way? “Congratulations, Bobbi! You were published by NPR!” No matter the subject, isn’t that in itself a wonderful accomplishment?)

Read-A-Romance Month was a huge undertaking! How did you organize everything?

Well {ahem} let’s just say that I am very, very grateful for my MacBook Air, for an email inbox I can easily search, for my almost-16-year-old son who did a lot of pre-posting and for the best Super Tech Guru a girl could ask for (and his very forbearing and wonderful wife). The writers were amazing and delightful to work with, and the handful of them who received emails way too close to deadline — with final details that one of us had missed — were so gracious that I am even more convinced that romance novelists are truly the nicest writers and people on the planet. (And next year there will be an intern.)

Alternative answer: Oh, it was a breeze. No problem whatsoever! ;)

We know there were many outstanding posts, but what were your top 3 favorites?

You’re going to get me in trouble, aren’t you? I would like to say sincerely and honestly that all of the essays are wonderful. I am still breathless that I created something that offered writers a way to spotlight their talent and passion, yet from a different perspective than they are generally known for. I like the fact that the posts are so different and offer a broad spectrum of viewpoints and emotions. I can’t pick favorites and I can’t stick to three recommendations. But I will say that Kristan Higgins’ post was a perfect mix of humor and emotion; Christina Dodd made the best case for not caring what anyone thought about what we read, and Jayne Ann Krentz for why romance writers are the true mavericks of the publishing industry; Lucy March wrote a wonderful essay that was both hysterical and defiantly angry; Maya Rodale and Susan Mallery both made good arguments for romance as feminism; Suzanne Brockmann gave a fascinating birds’ eye history of romance publishing and diversity; Lorraine Heath’s parents’ story and their wedding picture was adorable; and Molly O’Keefe and Shana Galen broke my heart and healed it again by sharing their emotional journeys with me, and how romance saved them.

But really, read them all. They’ll be there at least until next August.

Was there anything you learned from hosting Read-A-Romance month?

Yes, so much. This is truly the most fulfilling thing I have ever done professionally. I learned that sometimes a good idea has magical properties, and people are willing to help you build something extraordinary when you are passionate, sincere and humble. I had an idea and created a platform, but it was the authors’ words and their draw that made Read-A-Romance Month such a success. I am so grateful for their enthusiasm and support, and that my love of romance was the creative spark that set this amazing event in motion. So I always tried to keep that in mind. R-A-R M is so much bigger than I am. The project is about a shared love and respect for the genre, and the bonds created by the (mostly) women who read and write romance.

Do you have plans for doing Read-A-Romance Month next year?

Absolutely! In fact, over time I hope it becomes “a thing” that everyone in the romance industry looks forward to and rallies around.

And finally, what fall releases are you looking forward to?

So many great writers with titles about to come about! Julia Quinn’s Sum of All Kisses, Molly O’Keefe’s Wild Child, Sarah MacLean’s No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot By the Sand, Kristan Higgins’ The Perfect Match, Jennifer Ashley’s The Wicked Deeds of Daniel MacKenzie. (You can tell I’m a big historical and contemp fan … ). Oh, and the Mirror, Mirror anthology with JD Robb, Mary Blayney, Mary Kay McComas, Elaine Fox and RC Ryan sounds intriguing. Magical retellings of fairy tales by five great writers, with a Roarke & Eve story — what’s not to love?!

Thank you so much, RT, for highlighting Read-A-Romance Month, and for being a bright light for romance fans everywhere.


Did you have a favorite Read-A-Romance Month post? Let us know in the comments. You can catch up on Read-A-Romance Month by reading all 93 posts here. And for more romance news you can use, be sure to visit our Everything Romance page.