Pop culture, juicy romance and hilarious conversations come together in the recently Cosmopolitan featured One True Pairing podcast! Join Erica Martirano and Marissa Sangiacomo as they talk romance and revisit their favorite couples from across TV, movies, books, and pop culture. From Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Ross and Rachel, this roller coaster of bad boys, break-ups, and HEAs (Happily Ever Afters) combines love, feminism, sex, and relationships with the gossip you love.
Romance Awareness Month Q&A With the Hosts
Can you introduce yourselves and tell me how you got into romance?
Marissa: I’m Marissa Sangiacomo and I’m a marketing manager at St. Martin’s Press where I work on romance and commercial women’s fiction. I’ve loved romance novels ever since I was young and would share books with my mom. The ironic thing is that she would flag the sex scenes with post its and tell me to skip them, which just highlighted them for me. I was really drawn to the romances because I loved fairy tales and it was a natural progression from fairy tales to romance for me.
Erica: I’m Erica Martiano. I’m a senior associate director of marketing for St. Martin’s Press where I work on a variety of women’s fiction, health and wellness, and celebrity nonfiction. But I miss working on romance desperately! I started reading romance as a young girl stealing my mom’s historicals when she wasn’t looking. Where Marissa, you told your mom you were taking her books, I just took them. Sometimes while she was reading them, which would really tick her off. I was also the type of kid that would dog-ear pages, so not only was I taking her romance novels, she would know I took them. But similarly my mom loved her romance books and reading in general. I started with historicals. Dirty historicals, which is probably why I still love dirty romances.
So what is the show about?
Erica: One True Pairing is a podcast about love, romance, and couples. Every other week, we chat about either an individual couple, like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, or about a series or universe, like the Marvel Universe. We also have romance writers, like Laurelin Paige, Kayti McGee and of course, Alexis Daria, on to talk about our favorite romance couples.
Marissa: And we really try to dig deep into these couples–we do a lot of research in the couples and we try to pull out themes. Why do people love this couple? What does our love of them say about society as a whole? We really want to look critically at the couples, with a little bit of gossip thrown in for good measure.
That’s great to hear about! So, I’m interested to hear more about what you are doing for Romance Awareness Month on the show and why?
Marissa: We’ve always been big fans of romance and August is Romance Awareness Month. As a podcast that covers couples of all kinds, what better couples to cover than the ones that started our obsession with love? We want to help our listeners explore the genre if they never have. Our listeners tend to skew more pop culture but we think there’s such an overlap between what we talk about and what they can find in romance.
Erica: And if they have tried reading romance before, we want to help them dig a little deeper and find something they haven’t read before. Step out of their comfort zone and celebrate the variety of stories you can read.
Marissa: So every week in August we are talking with people in every part of the romance community. We have editors and a writer and a publisher and reviewers all coming on the show. We’re asking them questions about their work and they will all be telling us their favorite couple from a romance novel. So definitely stay tuned!
Just listening to the show, you’re clearly both obsessed with couples. What do you think it is about couples (both fiction and non-fiction) that get people talking & shipping like you both do on the show?
Erica: I think it’s really a fantasy thing. You look at these couples and they seem so perfect. You just want to be in their world. You want to love them and lift them up. You want to make them even more perfect in your brain than they ever could be in real life. That’s the fun of it!
Marissa: And I think with more fiction and romance, it’s because we like seeing ourselves in the couples a lot of times. So it’s getting to imagine yourself with this partner and what your life would be like.
Shifting a little bit, I think an interesting thing the internet has done for romance writing is create these shipping “subcultures” and there’s a lot of the same negative opinions about these communities as there are about romance readers. What are your thoughts here? Do you think these communities are normalizing romance reading/writing or no?
Marissa: I think it’s cool to be a nerd now. I think it’s cool to follow fandoms, be obsessed with them and know everything about them. We see that with movie and TV shows like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. And to be honest, I think it’s always been there for romance, it’s just now we can be even more open about it because everyone else is doing it.
On the flip side of that, there have obviously been romance book communities longer than there have been online shipping communities. So do you think these online communities (including podcasts like yours) have changed the overall romance industry?
Erica: I think it’s interesting–you would think that with the more fantasy and sci-fi communities popping up online, that those kind of romances would become more popular. But, actually, in my experience, it’s the other way around. You had paranormals that were so popular in the early 2000s and now they’re not as popular anymore. Everybody’s writing about rich billionaires with a dirty, tawdry side who want to rescue you from the world.
Marissa: Really, romantic comedy is now the big thing.
Erica: Yeah! And that’s nice because now people really crave escapism. The world is such a dumpster fire right now, why wouldn’t you want to read a romantic comedy?
It’s almost as if people aren’t looking to escape to another place, they’re looking to escape to a different real-life.
Marissa: Yeah, and I think romance is stepping in to the contemporary sphere more because people are getting their fantasy, and somewhat historical stories, on TV more and more. But I think it all just feeds in to each other. Someone who loves The Crown might find that they love historical romance, they just need to find it.
As marketers, do you focus on helping these TV and movie lovers find the crossover?
Marissa: Our job as marketers is to do that. It’s to say, “If you love Game of Thrones, you’ve going to love this fantasy romance series,” or, “If you love The Crown, you’re going to love this historical.” It’s about getting the message out there that this romance novel is similar to that movie or show. And I think the internet helps feed that. You can hashtag something that’s similar to both to connect them. So the internet facilitates that connection for readers.
I love the idea of the internet acting as this connecting factor between not only different types of romances but different types of media. Do you think that all these new spaces and media to find romance in is taking romance lovers away from books? Do you think people are leaving the romance novel community in favor other media?
Marissa: I don’t think other media limit romance audiences because it’s really the same audience. It’s almost as if romance readers are saying, “Duh, we’ve been doing this forever and now you’re catching on.” And maybe some people who have never read romance are just now finding the genre, but I think it’s less existing readers leaving romance novels and more TV and movie lovers discovering romance. Romance readers have always been on top of it.
Erica: Pun intended. But I agree–there have been so many people reading romance for years and now other people are coming to it and us hardcore fans are like, “where the hell have you been?” But we’re happy to have you!
Your show comments on pop culture couples in the same way my blog comments on romance couples. Do you think podcasting has changed the romance commentary?
Erica: I think podcasts have made a safe space for romance readers. Just like how My Favorite Murder created a safe space for people to talk about true crime, podcasts like ours create a safe space for people to talk about romance and couples they love without feeling like people are, for lack of a better term, shitting all over their passions.
Marissa: Yeah, and you have someone in your ear who’s saying things you agree with so it feels more like a friendship where sometimes I think on the internet it can feel aggressive and mean.
What romance are you reading at the moment and why should we ship the couple?
Erica: I ship the book I just finished reading so hard. It’s Silver Bastard by Joanna Wylde. Becca and Puck are awesome! He saves her from a life of biker prostitution. She slams a pot of hot coffee over someone’s head to protect him in a bar fight. They’re wonderful and I definitely ship them. It’s such a great book.
Marissa: I’m going to go with Tara Sivec because I love her and her new book, Kiss the Girl in the Naughty Princess Club series, is coming out soon. It’s about three ladies who start an at-home stripping business. They are all vaguely like princesses–the main character is named Ariel and she’s with a guy named Eric. So, Ariel and Eric, like The Little Mermaid. It’s so fun and adorable. She also has a mouth like a sailor, so I doubly I love her.
What’s coming up for the podcast during Romance Awareness Month? What do we have to look forward to and where can we find you?
Both: We have so much coming up. Like we said earlier, we have an episode dropping every Wednesday in August. You can listen to those on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, or whatever podcast platform your prefer. You can follow us on Twitter @OTP_Pod. We love interacting with our listeners so please do tweet at us!
Thank you so much for coming on and I’ll be sure to listen!
Marissa: Thanks for having us!
Erica: This was so fun!
Episode Brief: Have you ever wondered what a #romance book editor does? @OTP_Pod is joined by @E_Roths, editor extraordinaire, as she talks about working with authors (some even have day jobs as CIA agents!) and the romance books she loves.