Keira: I know from talking with you that you used to be a self proclaimed bookworm but got out of the habit. What made you decide to pick up reading again?
MJ: I guess I missed it. After college I sort of took a break from books, I didn’t want to read anything, not even the paper! Don’t get me wrong I still read a book here and there but it was not like back in the day when I was always reading something be it fiction, romance, horror, etc.
I missed the feeling of traveling in space and time to places I could only get through my imagination and the writings of creative amazing people.
Sometimes you get caught up with life, or better said the daily routine gets to you, and it’s great to take some time to make changes and take back old habits that brought you pleasure and enjoyment. For me one of those things was reading so I have been trying to bring that habit back into my life. For some reason I thought that if I got hooked on romance stories it would lift off and reading would be back in my life easily. And it sort of has!
Keira: If you could rename your top 5 favorite books, what would you call them?
MJ: Oh wow, I don’t think I could top the authors or even dare change their work. I think “Pride and Prejudice”, “Anna Karenina”, “Como agua para chocolate (Like water for chocolate)”, “Persuasion” and “Little Women” are just perfect titles.
But if I dared to change the first I’d call it “Becoming Mrs. Darcy” (I’m a total Mrs. Darcy wannabe, aren’t we all?) but thank the reading stars I can’t change anything because I don’t think it would cause the impact the original title has throughout the years.
Keira: Which do you like more: finishing a book or starting a new one?
MJ: Starting a new one. I love the feeling of reading the first lines and slowly page by page I get so immersed in the story up to the point that when I finish the book it’s hard to let go. Days after I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows I felt like my little brother had left and would never come back, ha-ha that one was a hard one to finish in the sense that I didn’t want it to end, although I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but that will take me off the topic so like I said, I like starting books more.
Keira: When it comes to romance who makes or breaks the novel: the hero or the heroine?
MJ: This is a very debatable question; it would depend on the book, especially when it comes to all the different protagonists in the novels out there (m/m, f/f, m/f, etc.).
I think it takes two characters to make a romance novel. For me the best stories are those that give you enough details about both the hero and heroine that make reading about the relationship more enjoyable. But I think all romances I’ve read always agree on the same point, in the end it always depends on the heroine. Even if it is based on the toughest of all heroes, he is devoted to the heroine and without her there wouldn’t be a happy ending to his story.
Keira: What heroine type would you like to read more of and why? (Spinsters, kick-ass, brainy, wallflowers, TSTL, etc.)
MJ: Kick-ass brainy heroines. My favorite heroines are those I can relate to. They don’t have to be perfect, they are strong, brave and determined, with soft, gentle traits. Women who accept their flaws but don’t let their life be ruled by them. They are intelligent and they can break rules without losing their femininity as not to be rude “testosterone-ish” heroines. TSTL get on my nerves, they are so insipid and make it so hard to finish those books.
Keira: How do you define love?
MJ: Wow, first of all, Love is hard to define and I think everyone’s definition of love changes from time to time. Right now I’m a hopeless romantic, so here I go.
Have you seen a Pas de Deux? For me that’s the greatest visual definition of love. I love ballet. My favorite part of the performances is the Pas de deux: two dancers, beautiful movements in tune with the perfect music. It usually starts with both dancers in an entrée, then a variation for each of them and a finale in which both dancers come together once again to execute the most spectacular movements.
The entrée, for me is like the first stages of love. The lovers (dancers) meet and slowly get to know each other (through the movements).
Then come the Variations, both dancers perform magical solos, which for me symbolize the happiness and exhilarating feeling you get when you realize you are in love. You are happy, you feel you can conquer and achieve anything, you have someone to share your goals and motivations as well as your downfalls.
In the Finale, they come back together and mesmerize the audience with the greatest movements. They are a true couple. He delicately and strongly supports her in every step so she doesn’t fall, but it’s not only about her, he also shines in the performance. And for him to shine, it takes a strong woman for them to do the poses in perfect equilibrium. It’s not only him that lifts her up in the air, she also has to hold her position or hold his hand with equal force so they don’t fall.
See, I’m a cornball
But that’s Love, a perfectly synchronized partnership that makes you feel the uttermost happiness and support, a force that makes you want to share your complete self with the other, and what makes you admire and appreciate what the other shares with you, good or bad.
Keira: Do you read the sex scenes or skip over them? What’s one of the most memorable ones (good or bad) you’ve come across?
MJ: It depends on how deeply I get involved with the story or on my mood. You know when the sex scene is vital for the story, and if you skip it you miss an important part of the story. I’ve skipped sex scenes that are only fillers, the extremely long ones or the ones with too much dirty talk.
Regarding the scenes, I haven’t read that many but I guess the most memorable sex scene believe it or not is the one in Isle Esme in Breaking Dawn. I know, many of you just rolled your eyes or cringed after reading this but that was the first one that came to mind after reading the question. Not that I would love to wake up one day all bruised up, covered with feathers to find the headboard crushed, but there was something about that “fill in the blanks” scene. I guess the fact that you had to imagine what happened is what made it unforgettable to me.
Keira: What is your favorite and/or least favorite plot, trope, or literary device in romance?
MJ: I really wish Cinderella stories would stop. I like my ladies in distress with an edge, can’t stand inept, incompetent heroines that expect everything be solved for them either by the hero or “fairy godmothers” and who think that everything will be fine once the hero steps in.
Haven’t read any of the following yet but I would really be disappointed if I find a book with TV soap clichés like amnesic lovers that reunite, or the evil twin sibling no one knew about. Also I’m not a fan of love triangles; the whole “Pick me, Bella” deal annoyed me (needless to say I didn’t enjoy the all about Jacob chapters) And the other thing I am avoiding when searching for new reads are the abusive heroes, I don’t think I could enjoy reading about people being abused and them not doing anything about it.
I enjoy the friends that fall madly in love or better yet the enemies that become lovers. The sexual tension between the last ones is a guilty pleasure.
Keira: Does the cover of a book sway you toward impulse purchases? What do you like/hate about the current cover trends?
MJ: Can’t say I never bought a book based on the cover but most of the time the cover is not important. Lately I’ve been basing my choices on the titles or reviews. Sometimes I’m attracted to a title and then when I see the cover I have and “ay ay ay” moment. :S
Regarding the trends I don’t like the excess Photoshop and image collages in covers. Also, how many more naked torsos embracing can we handle?
I’m more into the nice fonts for the titles and a neutral yet related to the story images.
Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s open!
MJ: The pic I sent you is a cool one for me and I sort of owe it to my mom. After I left for college she managed to keep some of my old books and stored them inside a drawer in my old desk at home. The day I found them was so great! I don’t know how my mom chose the books to keep, but what she kept is valuable for me. It was like a time capsule.
The drawer contains the first set of paperbacks I ever bought with my allowance: The Babysitter’s club #25-28. (When I was in the 4th grade I discovered we could lend books from the school library and they had the Babysitter’s club collection which I devoured.) You can also see my beloved copy of The Secret Garden. I so loved that book. I always have flower seeds around the house, some of them sprout and others don’t. The little kid in me knows that someday I’ll have my own secret garden.
The drawer also contains the very first romance I ever read: The last princess by Cynthia Freeman. I don’t know how many times I read that book but I know it was more than twice as you can see it’s all worn out. It’s hilarious to remember how I used to hide to read it ha-ha.
The German books you see were presents from my German class teacher. I used to speak German when I was little and I say used because I didn’t practice over the years. I’m guessing that now I can only have a “Hi, how are you, thank you very much, good bye” conversation in German. I’m more fluent in French but I’ve only read Le Petit Prince in that language.
You can also see my favorite Spanish romance novel: Como agua para chocolate. I really enjoyed how Laura Esquivel could intertwine recipes with a great romance.
The other books in Spanish were classic lit novels we had to read in school. And the rest of the books show you I didn’t (and still don’t) have a favorite genre, I’ve always read different genres.
You also asked me to send you a pic of my TBR pile. Lately I’ve been e-book reading. I have a full folder with e-books I’m planning to read but before I get to them, I’ll be re-reading the books in that drawer. There’s something about holding a book in your hands and turning pages that e-books can’t top. So to kill two birds with one stone, the books in the pic are going to be my TBR pile.
Thank you so much for considering me for the interview; I had fun answering the questions. And most of all thank you for the patience. And now I have a question for you, to us romance reader “newbies”, is there a list of Romances every newbie MUST read?