Romance writers Jennie Jones, Lily Malone and Juanita Kees treated an appreciative audience of more than 50 to laughs, cheekiness and a tad of sauciness at Stories on Stage: Date Night last night.

Part of the Stories on Stage series held at Koorliny Arts Centre in Perth’s southern suburbs, Date Night celebrated the romance genre, with the writers put under the spotlight during a panel interview … with me! The stage was set for the date with atmospheric lighting, a candle and a bottle of champagne, and quiet jazz music in the background. And then, once the audience was settled, the “getting to know you” bit began.

It’s fair to say, there were a few nerves at this point. For me, this was a new experience – interviewing three writers in front of a crowd. Jennie’s no stranger to the stage with her theatre background, but Lily and Juanita had to take a few deep breaths and employ whatever tactic worked for them to speak in public. Since the audience was mostly female, I don’t think they imagined everyone in their underwear, but they might have pretended the room was full of firefighters.

Photo: Trudie Campbell

Whatever they did, it worked. Lily, Juanita and Jennie had the audience captivated from the start, leading to laughs, red-faces and possibly even a few face-fans when things got a bit steamy. The panel interview was split into three sections: “Defining the romance genre”, “The art of writing romance” and “Just for fun”, with a reading in between each section. The authors talked about “bodice-rippers”, “escapism” and their inspirations; they shared how they felt when people made derogatory comments and assumptions about the romance genre. The audience heard about the importance of balancing conflict and romance, how the characters determine when and where a first kiss or love scene will take place, and the key elements of romance stories. And just for fun, Lily, Juanita and Jennie revealed their preferences for butts or biceps, strange things they have Googled as part of their research, what their husbands thought of their love scenes, and whether they’d choose Edward Cullen (Twilight), Mr Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), Jamie Fraser (Outlander) or Christian Grey (50 Shades of Grey). The last question prompted a witty response from one of the older audience members:

“You didn’t say if it was for romance or love. If it was for romance and so on (*naughty giggle here*), I’d say ALL of them! If it was love, none of them.”

In between each group of questions, Lily, Juanita and Jennie read excerpts from their novels – well, Lily read Jennie’s, Juanita read Lily’s and Jennie read Juanita’s. Cue red faces and embarrassed giggles as the authors heard their excerpts read aloud … especially when hands went under shirts, mouths opened, hips met, and “I want you” was breathed.

Photo: Claire Boston

Audience members came up with some good questions after the panel concluded, but most saved their questions for the onstage meet and greet, which included book sales, signings, freebies and photos. Here’s one from romance reader Trudie: 11148705_921174041236686_4581916584704236186_n The evening concluded with a tasty home-made supper of Melting Moments (because romance is full of those); brownies (because they are soft and gooey … like the first stages of love); my special Choc Chunk Slice aka Choc Hunk Slice (because it’s yum); orange, date and walnut cake, and egg sandwiches.

I’d like to thank Juanita, Lily and Jennie for their time and effort in making Date Night such a fun evening. Romance readers, if you haven’t checked out their books, you must! They are all fantastic at what they do. Thanks also go to Escape Publishing and Harlequin Books Australia for providing 10 books, discount vouchers and USBs pre-loaded with the authors’ books to give away, and to Alex at Koorliny Arts Centre for his fab tech support (he’s been promised a role in all three authors’ books, as long as he understands that his shirt will come off). And finally, thanks to Jim at Rockingham Books for helping with book sales and supporting Stories on Stage. You’re a star.

For more information about Lily Malone, click here. Read my reviews of her books here and here.

For more information about Juanita Kees, click here. Read my interview with her here.

For more information about Jennie Jones, click here. Read my review of her latest book here.

The next Stories on Stage is with Mark Greenwood on June 10. Hope to see you there.



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. Monique, you did yourself proud. The choice of guests was spot on, the format worked beautifully and the questions provided interesting and humorous insights into the everyday lives of romance authors. As for the interviewing, you’re a natural – professional yet relaxed and friendly. The supper was superb as usual. Congratulations on a wonderful Date Night to everyone involved in making it such a success.

    1. Thank you. It is nerve-wracking being the interviewer (as well as the interviewee), but Lily, Jennie and Juanita made my job easy.

  2. As you know I had a 2.5 hour drive home last night to complete the evening. I was thinking about the excerpts and here’s what I reckon the problem was – at least with hearing my piece read out. I think romance relies so much on emotion, and when you read a romantic scene ‘cold’ with no context – it doesn’t have (it can’t possibly have) what I’d refer to as “the feels”… 🙂 I might be wrong – but I think for an excerpt reading, it may have been better to choose an action scene, or a dialogue scene – rather than a romantic scene. But that’s just me – and of course – it was #DateNight! Plus I was thinking of your question: “Weirdest google search term ever” – and I came up with: “Animating a cartoon snake”… Dodgy hey? What would we have done before the Internet. Thanks again for everything you did for #DateNight Monique!

    1. I’d agree with you there Lily. I think a scene where the characters first meet or where tension first starts to build between them would work well to hook the listeners, ensuring that they just have to go out and buy the book!

      Also, big props to you Lily for 5 hours in the car in one day in order to grace the stage. Well worth it for us!

    2. You’ve made some good points, Lily and I agree. It’s always hard to choose a reading, but for what it’s worth, I think the audience all appreciated the ones you picked.

      An animated cartoon snake. That’s a good one.

  3. What a great idea to raise the profile of, not only the presenter/authors but the romance genre. Now you just have to sell a few million and start the national tour 🙂 Well done ladies! Wish I could have been there!

  4. It sounds like a fabulous night and it’s such a shame I missed it. Definitely next time, though.
    I’m not a big reader of romance, but the times I have read a good one—like yours, Lily—I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the story and the writing. Not just that, but I’ve loved the escapism. This genre’s so needed, especially with so much pain and sadness in the world—we need to let ourselves escape and just dream sometimes.

    1. I’m not a big romance reader either, Louise, but like you I do enjoy the escape at times. And, if the book is funny and has a bit of depth, I usually end up loving the experience.

    2. I was so sad that you couldn’t make it Louise – both of us had been looking forward to a face to face meeting. I was going to say to you that I would lend you my beanie for the evening. A pink beanie cannot fail to brighten a girl’s day. A pink beanie and a good book to lose yourself in (and the melting moments were sublime – Monique’s biscuit ones, of course) 🙂

  5. Can’t thank you and Koorliny Arts Centre enough for a brilliant evening, Monique! Can I also add my thanks to Alex our stage, sound and lighting technician for just being Alex. Before the ‘show’ we warned Alex that there might be a bit of sex talk. His response was: “Hey, let it roll. I’m a guy, remember!” You definitely get a part in one of my next books, Mr. Alex. And also – thank you Jim from Rockingham Books – you were so cool when your electronic selling thingy didn’t work for a few minutes, but you kept your best book seller smile on your face – and got it to work. Thanks everyone at Koorliny. Wish I lived closer, just to visit more often 🙂

  6. Gosh it does surprise me to hear you say you’re not a big fan of the Romance genre, Monique! So what inspired you to have three romance authors at Koorliny??

    1. I enjoy reading romance now and then, Jennie, because sometimes I really do want that escapism we talked about. Within the genre itself, romantic suspense is my favourite, but I do like romances that make me laugh. I tend to go for contemporary/dramas, suspense and thrillers more often, though. Gothic-style fiction is high on my list.

      As for having three romance authors – a couple of reasons. First up, because you’re all wonderful! Secondly, I wanted a theme night and I decided romance was a good place to start.

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