Please join me in welcoming Kate Cuthbert to the Down Under Divas.

For those of you who don’t know her, Kate is an integral part of the romance reading and writing community Down Under. She has a passion for all things related to books and reading,  and to quote her, she has a “strong and abiding love for a genre about—well, love.”

I like to think of Kate as a crusader amongst romance readers. She is one among us who is proud to stand up and say, “I read romance.” She’s proud to write about it too. (Look out for more info about this further on in the interview.) And with the bad rap romance readers and writers are continually getting, having someone so vocal about their love for all things romance, well, I can’t help but admire – and thank – her. (And stand behind her cheering!)

Kate has a multitude of talents, ranging from writing to reviewing to editing to mothering. I’d love to tell you loads more about it, but lets face facts. I’m a bore. Kate on the other hand is a delight. A funny, eloquent, warm and charming delight. And when you read through her answers to the questions I posed, I promise, you’ll be just as delighted by her as I am.

So, here she is…

KATE CUTHBERT

Kate, the first time I met you, you’d just reviewed my very first book.  (And a lovely review it was, thank you.) How did you get into book reviewing?

I always liked talking about books, dissecting them, offering up my opinion. Reviewing was just an extension of that. I started simultaneously reviewing for All About Romance and writing a romance column for the Brisbane Courier-Mail. I’ve been reviewing ever since.

Are you still reviewing?

Absolutely. It’s an addiction!

For whom?

I review for the New York Journal of Books (www.nyjournalofbooks.com), Bookseller & Publisher Magazine, and I write the Booktopia Romance Buzz, for Booktopia.

(Note from Jess: Here’s a link to the June Newsletter from Booktopia: http://newsletters.booktopia.com.au/2011/06-june-romance-buzz.html )

Do you have a preference as to what you review?

I definitely prefer to review romance, mainly because I’m really comfortable talking about it. But I get to review a wider range of books with B&P and sometimes it’s fun to explore new books and new worlds.

Do you get to choose what books you review?

Most of the time, yes, though it’s often a choice between the books available.

What makes the difference between an A review and a B one? (ie, what qualities in a book need to stand out to make it amazing in your opinion.)

I think the book needs to become more than a sum of its parts: it has to move beyond great characters, an exciting plot, strong writing (though those things need to be present as well). Everyone knows what a good book feels like – it’s that delight, the surprise, the joy that comes from reading it. That’s your A book.

There’s a world of fiction out there. Why romance?

I answered this earlier this year for NYJB!  I think it says it all: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/news/why-i-read-romance-ny-journal-books-reviewer-kate-cuthbert-0

(Note from Jess – I LOVED this article. Go, read it. Then show it to everyone who has ever questioned why you read romance.)

(Another note from Jess: Miss Too-shy-to-mention-it Cuthbert has been short listed for a ROMA award for this article!)

Do you have any thoughts on romance cover art? What kind of covers grab your attention?

I have to admit, I love romance covers. I love how they work so well as branding. No other genre has created such a strong look and feel right from the start.  When you see a romance cover, you know exactly what you’re getting. Although, I do have to admit some of the early e-book covers (you’ve all seen the scary dead eyes) and the cover for Big Spankable Asses (http://www.booktopia.com.au/big-spankable-asses/prod9780758221810.html) are immediate exceptions that come to mind!

A little birdie (Cough – Lila – cough – Dubois) mentioned you were an editor once. Are you still? Tell us a little about your experiences as an editor.

I am! That’s my day job – I work for a not-for-profit running their publishing program and that includes acting as Editor-in-Chief for their monthly magazine. It’s been a great way to gain a lot of insight into the publishing world, and to gain experience across a number of different mediums.

Publishing is a really hard industry to get into – one of those ‘you must have experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience’ dichotomies. So in order to get some experience, I hopped online and started my editorial career with some of the smaller e-book presses. It was great experience, I got to read books I might not otherwise have read, and, yes, I met lots of great people.

Reviewing, reading and editing are not your only talents. Is it true you write as well?

Who have you been talking to??? It’s true! I worked for two years for a mass market children’s publisher, and some of that work included writing kid’s stories. It was great fun, and I really wish I still had opportunities to write about monsters and dinosaurs and fairies! http://www.booktopia.com.au/max-the-monster/prod9781741854046.html

(Note from Jess: Wow, I am blown away.)

I also participate in NaNoWriMo every year, and I generally write a romance novel. I find practising different styles keeps me engaged and interested in writing, and helps make all my writing better. Well – I hope it makes all my writing better! Writing fiction is a great way to learn about building a narrative, and that all important ‘show, don’t tell’.

(Note from Jess: Anyone else wondering where these romance novels are???)

You’re very actively involved with the romance writing and reading communities in Australia. Tell us a little more about your involvement.

I’m very lucky to be so involved! As one of the few people outside the industry who was willing to admit in public that they loved romance, I got my hands on the opportunities that were there – like covering the conference for All About Romance, or interviewing authors and guests, or hosting book launches and panels. I just love taking part, so I keep leaping at every chance I can get.

I’ve also been lucky enough to meet other readers who love talking about romance, so I’ve been involved with a few of the readers groups around the country. BRRAddicts, in Brisbane, sprang out of the focus groups I put together for my Master’s thesis, for example, and I was invited to moderate HEART in Melbourne by the lovely Louise McNally at Dymocks who recognised the importance of romance and wanted to start up a group.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you? Or about the romance genre? Or maybe how you’ve had not one, not two but three concussions…?

Eek! How did you hear about that?! I’ll just say that I’ve always been a rush into things kind of girl, and that sometimes includes going head first 😉

You have a baby now. (CONGRATS!) How do you juggle being a mommy with being a reviewer/writer/editor/wife?

Thank you! She’s nine months old now, and charming the pants off everyone. Look, it’s hard. A lot harder than I expected it to be. I think I had this vision of myself sitting serenely at my laptop during naptimes, typing away at my latest review, or sipping a cup of tea while catching up on my blog roundup. No one told me I’d spend naptimes running around like a mad woman trying to get everything I needed two hands to do done! But, I think, as with all things, if it’s important to you, you figure it out. It’s late nights sometimes, and (okay, I’ll admit it) baby-on-the-floor-of-the-study-while-I-meet-a-deadline sometimes, and there has been more than one occasion where I wondered why I just didn’t stop already. But I never could. I’d miss it too much. It’s a really good way of remembering who I am, outside of my (much-loved) Mummy role.

(Yep, this is Kate’s baby. Go on. Admit it. She is ADORABLE!)

Okay, now let’s have some fun… 

😉

 So, you took a cruise on a luxury boat. (Yeah, I know. Very nice!) Unfortunately, the darn boat sprung a leak and is sinking. (Hmmm, maybe not so nice after all.) There are over a hundred passengers on board – and only one lifeboat. Why should the captain choose you to be one of the lucky ten who gets a seat on that lifeboat.

Surely my natural good looks, inimitable charisma, biting intelligence, and overwhelming charm would get me through? No? Are you sure?

Well okay, I may or may not be willing to trade sexual favours. Depending on the captain. Picard? Oh definitely. Ahab? Not so much.

(Comment from Jess: See, I told you she’s charming. And funny. Hilarious actually.)

You had to get out of your cabin in a hurry to get on the lifeboat. What are you wearing, and what did you manage to shove into your pockets?

Heh. If I were in a cabin by myself, with no intention of going anywhere, I’m probably in my favourite pair of pjs, and this horrible old ratty sweatshirt I’ve had since university that is more holes than fabric but that I love much too much to ever throw away. It’s a bone of contention in my marriage, because I made my husband throw away his holey underwear, but I’d never give up this sweatshirt 🙂

 My pockets – definitely my mobile. I’m addicted to it. My Kindle, or whatever book I had on the bed stand (lifeboat trips can be dull), and my favourite picture of my husband and daughter.

What is the last thing you say to the captain?

Thanks for nothing, chump! …. No, you know what, I’d think that, but never say it. I’m too well-mannered, and my wonderful grandmother who drilled those manners into me would roll over in her grave. To be honest, I’m not the most eloquent person in stressful situations, so I’d probably say something inane like ‘Thanks so much’, or ‘Have a good day!’

You don’t know anyone else on the boat. Well, not personally anyway. But there sure are a lot of familiar faces. Just before the captain lowers the lifeboat, he tells you that you can choose one other passenger to climb in with you. It could be ANYONE. Who do you choose, and why?

I can be philosophical here. 🙂

I’d want someone to talk to, someone with good conversation. One person I’ve always had a lot of respect for, and someone I’ve always wanted to meet, is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. So let’s go with him. I’m sure he’d be endlessly interesting, which is helpful when waiting for rescue to come.

Also on an entirely less selfish note, I really respect the work he’s done, and I think his kind of attitude and teachings are the kind the world needs more of.

Your heart is now pounding a mile a minute. You know why? Because on board that lifeboat with you are two people you’ve always wanted to have a ménage with. (Told you there were lots of familiar faces on the big ship.) Who are they? (Yep, this is an erotic romance writers’ blog. You HAVE to answer.)

I have passes for two men from my husband – if they ever knock on the door and say, ‘Kate, I’ve come to take you away for a night of wild, indulgent passion’, I have free rein to say, ‘Awesome. Just let me grab my negligee’. (In case you’re wondering, my husband has no passes – he says he’ll never need anyone else. How romantic is that? I’m more practical. Or maybe just more into wishful thinking :))

  • Neil Gaiman: I find his absent-minded writer look incredibly sexy, and I love love love his books. That dark side? Passion just waiting to be explored!
  • Benicio Del Toro: I’ve had a crush on him since that horrible movie Excess Baggage (did you see it? It’s terrible. But he is so swoon-worthy!). That penetrating stare? So intense. sigh

—————————————

Thank you, Kate. For joining us, for your open and honest answers, and for choosing two men I would never consider for a menage. You and me can share the same lifeboat anytime.

😉

Jess

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