I think one of the greatest influences on the creation of Romance: B(u)y the Blog was the tone set by those classy chicks of Squawk Radio. They may have closed shop June 1, but Squawk Radio will long be remembered by those of us who love romance. When they asked me to join them on an all-expenses paid spa weekend to unwind after the festivities of last week, I was flattered. Then I arrived at the joint, and I was, well, hell -- just give em a buongiorno, and make it the Bella kind...
(Michelle Buonfiglio steps into the huge steam room at the Siberian Magnificent Muskox Spa and Fat Farm and finds her quarries — Lisa Kleypas, Teresa Medeiros, Connie Brockway, Elizabeth Bevarly, Eloisa James and Christina Dodd, the six elusive Squawk Radio authors, dressed in towels and dripping sweat. Amid cries of delight and air kisses, Michelle settles down on the hot wooden bench and begins the interview.)
Michelle: First — what are you doing in Siberia?
Connie: We needed a rest after the spectacular two-year run of Squawk Radio, and this is the only place we figured we’d be safe from Kitty Kuttlestone, our part-time reporter and full-time nemesis.
Michelle gets a peculiar expression on her face: You wanted to get away from Kitty?
Teresa: Yes, she wanted more money and she kept threatening to move in with us. Finally we told her we were going on the tequila tour of Mexico and then slipped away here. (The Squawk Radio authors exchange high fives.)
Michelle (watching as the door opens and a shadowy figure steps in and makes her way across the steam room): What if she got it mixed up with the vodka tour of Russia?
Lisa adjusts her tiara: Don’t be silly, Michelle, not even Kitty could screw up that badly.
Michelle: Right. Of course, you’re right. Let me get right to these questions. We all know Squawk Radio was the first group author blog on the internet. How did it get started?
Christina: We're six published writers of various genres with well over a hundred and fifty books published between us. We’re New York Times bestsellers, collectively we own five RITA awards and we’ve been published for almost a hundred years. We’ve been emailing each other every day since 2001, amusing ourselves and each other. Or at least amusing ourselves. We share our woes and our triumphs, give unsolicited advice, say “I told you so” way too much, and whine a lot. One day, Connie said, “Why don’t we make these emails blogs and get our names out on the Internet?” Thus Squawk Radio was born. Or rather, after weeks of fighting about what to name our blog, Squawk Radio was born.
Michelle: Yeah, well, rumors are flying that after two highly successful years, you guys are closing the doors of Squawk Radio because you can’t stand each other anymore. You're supposed to be friends — are you fighting?
Liz: That’s ridiculous. Who told you that?
Michelle: (looking guilty) I don’t remember.
Liz: We're friends forever. Hey, stop pinching my fabulous abs!
Connie: Yeah, we're totally fond of each other. Stop passing around the picture of me water skiing!
Teresa: We would never fight. We’re too sweet, too loving, too — ARE YOU SHOVING ME?
Eloisa: Knock it off. You ripped my dissertation!
Lisa: Ow! You pulled my hair extensions.
Christina (smiling weakly): We're friends. Good friends. Really.
(A snort sounds from across the steam room.)
Michelle (loudly): What do you think was the secret of Squawk's incredible success?
Teresa: We were the first author-driven blog to target readers as our desired audience. We never took ourselves seriously but we took our responsibility to our readers very seriously. We tried to be more of a magazine than a diary and discuss universal topics that related to their daily lives, not just ours. And I think our chemistry and the fact that we were already friends before we started the blog made us unique. The internet can be a very cold and unfriendly place at times and from the beginning, we tried to make Squawk Radio a "soft place to land".
Christina: Also we were very stern about no fighting and no flaming — it was our blog, and we weren’t going to put up with the snottiness you see on other internet sites.
Michelle: Some people claim all the success was due to Kitty Kuttlestone.
Eloisa: Only Kitty claims that. I mean, how good could one drunk, cigar-smoking old windbag reporter be? (A fit of coughing occurs across the steam room.)
Lisa: (Frowning) Speaking of cigars, does anyone else smell a cigar?
Michelle: Not me! How will you six Squawkers manage to keep in touch with each other now that Squawk Radio has closed its doors?
Teresa: Probably the same way we did before we started Squawk Radio. A wild flurry of daily e-mails peppered with insults, in-jokes and one-liners and a lot of juicy phone calls where one Squawker calls another and begins with..."Can you believe what (Insert Your Squawker of Choice) said in that e-mail?" And we always try to get together at RWA National and the regional conferences for hours of conversation and a really fine meal. (But don't tell Kitty because she hasn't managed to find us yet!) Occasionally one might even open one's front door and find a Squawker standing on the stoop, suitcase in hand. (The only obvious response being to slam the door and dial 911.)
Eloisa: The truth is that before Squawk Radio, there were days when 75% of my email was Squawker-generated -- and I don't think that's going to change! Plus we have each other on speed dial... Yesterday I was at a booksigning and a fan had told me she was going to be there. My phone rang in the middle of the signing. It was Teresa, calling from Kentucky to New York City to tell me that the fan (in New Jersey) had missed her train, then had called a friend of hers (in Georgia) to tell me she'd be late, who had emailed Teresa... Come to any of our booksignings and we can give you a head's up on all the rest of the Squawkers!
Michelle: What was your favorite thing about the entire Squawk Radio experience?
Liz: It was discovering there are so many smart, funny, articulate, interesting women out there in the world. And making friends with all of them. And discovering how very much we all have in common, in spite of being completely individual. It's hokey to say, but enjoying the company of everyone on Squawk Radio went a long way to restore my faith in humanity.
Michelle: What’s going to happen to the Squawk Radio blog site?
Connie: It’s not going to be a blank screen and despite Terri's pleas, we are not turning it into a never-ending loop of Russell Crowe sweating it up in Gladiator. Nor are we going to let it lie on the shoals of cyber-space like the derelict hulk of an abandoned ship. Squawk Radio is no longer going to be a daily blog, but it’s going to be here and we are going to be popping in regularly. Right now, the plan is to use Squawk as a sort of Squawker’s Hub--- a place to post what’s happening on our individual websites, to stick links to any new stuff we add on our sites or list appearances we’ll be making, as well as announce book pub dates. And if any of the Squawkers who don’t maintain a personal blog want to, they can always write a blog just for grins. Additionally, we’re exploring the idea of opening the blog up to friends and acquaintances of ours to post what amounts to drive-by blogs. We love it too much to let it become a black hole. Besides, the site’s paid for until next April.
(From across the steam room) Cheapest bunch of broads in the known universe.
Lisa (suspiciously): Who said that?
Michelle: Probably one of the people who work here. Haven't you been tipping them?
Eloisa: Free books!
Michelle: What do you consider the greatest legacy of Squawk Radio?
Christina: We built a great community of readers and watched them chat together in the comments, then start emailing each other and calling each other, and we developed such a lot of affection for them all. So for us, Squawk Radio’s legacy is that out of our friendships — Lisa, Connie, Liz, Terri, Eloisa and me — so many other friendships have formed.
Michelle: Where can we find you guest blogging in the future? Feel free to self-promote shamelessly.
Teresa: I'll be blogging with the Goddesses at http://www.thegoddessblogs.com on June 12th plus I'll be posting the occasional blog on my own site at: http://www.teresamedeiros.blogspot.com
Liz: Wherever the blogging tides take me. I'll also be at my own blog, which you can find here: http://bevarly.blogspot.com/
Christina: I’ll be blogging about SCENT OF DARKNESS on July 9 at http://www.runningwithquills.com , about TOUCH OF DARKNESS on August 7 at http://www.thegoddessblogs.com.
Michelle: And Christina, don't forget you'll be blogging with me at LifetimeTV.com on July 12, Live! from RWA in Dallas. Thank God Kitty's not here, or she'd wanna horn in on it.
Eloisa: I’ll blog here and there — and at Michelle's blog at LifetimeTV.com June 27. It's easiest to find me at my Bulletin Board http://eloisajames.net/board/ . Please don't be shy and do stop by!
Connie: I’ll be popping up here and there. And since I have my brand new graphic-licious MAC, I’ll be attempting to make my own video-blogs, or is that video-trailer?, whatever, I’ll be making them and let’s face it, that oughta be good for at least a couple of laughs. Plus Kitty has threatened to hack my site at www.conniebrockway.com, so…
Michelle: What's in the future for each one of you?
Teresa: Liz is going to be writing more touching and hilarious romantic comedies for Berkley. The first, FAST AND LOOSE will be out in April '08 and the last OPUS book, OVERNIGHT MALE will be out in July '08. All this while following a Clash tribute band around the country as a groupie in her spare time.
Liz: Teresa's next historical for Avon will be out in the Spring of 2008. In her spare time, she'll be scouring the internet for that infamous "Russell Crowe in his tighty-whiteys" pic and posting it on her website http://www.teresamedeiros.com .
Lisa: Christina will be launching her paranormal series DARKNESS CHOSEN this summer with back-to-back releases, SCENT OF DARKNESS in July and TOUCH OF DARKNESS in August — you can read excerpts in the paranormal section of her website at http://www.christinadodd.com . She’s also continuing work on her contemporary series, the Fortune Hunters. And who are we kidding? LaDodd doesn't have any spare time.
Christina: Lisa will be publishing Cam Rohan's story MINE TILL MIDNIGHT this fall and her next big contemporary will be out in early 2008. When she's not giving us research tips and polishing her tiara, you can find her playing mummy to her two little darlings.
Connie: Eloisa just launched her four- (and possibly five-!) book DESPERATE DUCHESSES series this month. She'll continue to terrorize the students in her classroom after being voted "Shakespearean Scholar You'd Most Like To...Um...Date."
Michelle: Um, if you don't mind my taking back the mic for a sec, I wanna mention that Eloisa's DESPERATE DUCHESSES will be one of the premiere Feature Reviews at Romance: B(u)y the Book when it moves to LifetimeTV.com June 25. OK, return to the love fest.
Eloisa: Connie's next big contemporary SKINNY-DIPPING will be out in early 2008. You can read an excerpt from it on her website at www.conniebrockway.com. In her spare time she'll be rescuing small (possibly rabid) animals and trying to rehabilitate (the possibly rabid) Kitty Kuttlestone.
(Unable to contain herself any longer, a skinny, saggy-boobed, cigar-smoking, vodka-swilling old woman skids across the room.)
The Squawkers (in unison and in horror): Kitty!
Kitty: Who gives a hoot what the other Squawkers are doing? Let's face it--without me, they're nothing!