Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate. Rosie posted on Instagram that she was willing to pop in to virtual book clubs reading The Roommate for a discussion, so I decided to take a chance to reach out and see if she’d be willing to do a virtual meeting with me. She immediately said yes, and I’m so glad that she did!
We met over Zoom and had a really great conversation about writing, what it was like getting published during the pandemic, and what some of Rosie’s favorite romances are. She was so kind and so sweet, and I enjoyed interviewing her so very much!
Since I wanted our conversation to progress as naturally as possible, I recorded our conversation and then transcribed my questions, and Rosie’s answers. However, because it was a conversation, my transcription is not fully accurate. No changes were made to any of the answers, of course, but this was not our conversation word for word. Tangents were left out, words were filled in, and the order of wording was changed in certain cases. But you’re still getting all the wonderful answers that Rosie so graciously provided! Just a version that’s more suitable to written form, instead of an audio version! (Also, this is also a disclosure that the writing style is my own, even if the words are Rosie’s, if that makes any sense. Basically, all stilted writing is my fault. Rosie writes beautifully, which you can easily find out by reading her book!)
I also cut out a lot of my tangents and babbling. So don’t be fooled by the standard Q&A setup you’ll see below! This was a conversational interview, and was lots of fun, even if I can’t exactly translate every time I smiled or laughed into this post. But having rewatched the video, I can tell you that I smiled and laughed a lot. This was my first one on one interview, and even though I was super nervous, I immediately felt comfortable once Rosie and I started chatting ,and I enjoyed the experience thoroughly!
What’s The Roommate About?
The Roommate follows Clara Wheaton as she makes a spur of the moment decision to leave her socialite community on the East Coast for a childhood crush in California. Unfortunately, things don’t exactly go to plan, and Clara ends up sharing an apartment with a famous porn star. Oops! (I bet you can’t guess what happens next!)
Featuring a company focused on female pleasure, fear of ketchup, a takedown of the porn empire, and levels of denial over obvious attraction that’s enough to drive you mad, if you’re a fan of romances, this is definitely a book you need to read!
General Writing & Publishing Questions:
To start us off, tell me about your writing journey!
From a young age I knew that I enjoyed writing and that I had a pretty good aptitude for it. I gravitated towards liberal arts class, and I was editor in chief of my school newspaper in high school. So I knew that I enjoyed telling stories in the written format. I’ve also been a lifelong reader, especially a romance reader, and I always thought it would be cool to write something when I grew up.
I wrote some fanfiction for Gossip Girl in high school, but I never finished it! It was a seven chapter fic, and there are comments asking me to finish it, but I never did. Because of that experience, I thought that I wasn’t able to finish writing books, and therefore, could never be an author.
But as an adult, I decided to try to write a novel as a hobby. Then I joined a writer’s group, and they get really mad at you when you’re not writing! What got me to finish my novel was that one of my critique partners told me to stop making excuses and threatened not to have lunch with me if I didn’t actually write.
So I finished the book, and then I went to a conference where there was the ability to pitch your book to agents. I loved talking about my story. So I decided to start pitching to these agents just for fun, because I never thought my book would get published. But then once I pitched it, people were interested and asked for a manuscript, which motivated me to clean up my novel. Around that time was when I heard about Pitch Wars, a writing mentorship program, so I applied for that and I got in. And that’s how I had a polished manuscript to submit. I got my agent, my editor, and my publishing deal pretty soon after.
It was a pretty accidental journey. But I’m very grateful, and I hope to keep writing!
Do you have a specific writing process? A specific place you write, a specific time, laptop vs on paper, etc.
Please note that any resemblance to Rosie’s writing process is purely accidental
I will brainstorm by hand, but for the actual writing parts like drafting or revisions, it’s all done on the computer in different places, such as on my couch, in my bed, or wherever.
I’m not very consistent. I’ve moved at least 5 times while writing. Sometimes between states, and then most recently, I had an international move. All that moving kept me from having a set place to work from. But more recently, because of the pandemic, I decided to get a desk and external keyboard to have a more set place to work.
The Roommate was written over the course of a couple of years, whenever I felt like it. But the second one was written in middle of my international move! I’m hoping to have set hours to write future projects. Because I actually really benefit from structure!
How did getting published during a pandemic change things?
The headline is “It sucked!”. It was definitely hard not getting ARCs. When you’re a debut author, that’s the difference between holding your book 6 months earlier or not. The industry also took a big hit since people have less expendable money to spend on books. Indies and really all physical bookstores are struggling to stay open. It’s hard not to wonder how this book would have done if it didn’t come out during a pandemic. You wonder if authors that didn’t come out in the pandemic were set up more to succeed.
But on the bright side for my launch event, I got to be in conversation with Christina Lauren, which was a dream come true! And I don’t know if it would have been possible if the launch wasn’t online!
Questions About Writing The Roommate:
What made you focus on the sex work industry in your novel?
It really didn’t start out as “let me write about sex work”. It was more like, what kind of story am I interested in telling? What tropes do I like?
I’m a big historical reader, and I love the “lessons in seduction” trope, sometimes called “sex for science” trope, and it’s usually between an experienced, stigmatized hero who’s a rake, and a heroine that loves to learn and is an outcast because of that. That’s like catnip to me, so I wanted to write a modern version of that. But I wanted to update it so that the heroine had agency and is driving the education, rather than having the hero decide what pleasure should look like, which is what’s normally done because of the historical time period. But that’s how it was born. I wanted to evolve the tropes into a modern setting, so that it’s still fun and sexy, but also focused on female empowerment.
Josh and Clara every time they start getting naked
What research did you do for this book?
There are lots of primary resources to learn about performer’s experiences, which is what I tried focusing on, rather than the content itself. So I read a lot of articles that performers had written, looked at Reddit Ask Me Anything’s where they answered questions. And I had a current male performer read it as a sensitivity reader/ content expert. I always wanted to make sure the performers were always treated with the utmost respect, which I hope I achieved.
What inspired the driving and ketchup phobias that Clara and Josh have respectively?
The driving one is easier to answer. I definitely have experienced driving anxiety, and I was able to draw on my experience, and what I thought or felt. I think it’s a more common fear, actually. So many readers have mentioned that they have a similar fear to me.
The ketchup fear is based on a friend’s fear. But basically, when I was writing that scene, I wanted Josh to have a funny fear, to balance Clara’s more serious fear, so even though my friend takes her ketchup phobia seriously, I thought it was funny, and therefore I used it for Josh.
What is your favorite scene and why?
My favorite scene was probably the one that first came to me to make this book. Which is the scene where Josh walks in on Clara watching his video, which sets up the whole story. That’s probably the scene I have the most affection for.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
Writing this whole book was really joyful, but the scene that was hardest to write was honestly the scene where they watched Speed together. It was always on page that they watched it together, but my mentors from Pitch Wars wanted the full dialogue and interaction as they bonded watching the movie. I struggled with that scene because I’m driven a lot by external action, and that scene is pretty much all about them watching Speed, which is a very passive action, so that was difficult to get right. I’m glad that it’s in the book, but it wasn’t something that came very naturally to me.
What’s the biggest thing that changed from the initial draft?
Shameless wasn’t a fully formed company in the initial draft, which is a pretty big change!
Do you think that going so far out of her comfort zone was the only way Clara could become her own person?
I’m of the opinion that she is the kind of character that needs to be pushed off the diving board, and I think she even acknowledges that in her internal monologue. She finds so much comfort in maintaining control, so when she has these big growth moments she’s sort of thrust into them. You see that a couple of times. When she arrives in the beginning of the novel, when she’s confronted with Josh’s offer of seeing what Josh could do, when there’s the offer of starting the business. She makes an immediate decision in those situations.
I’m curious what you think are the parallels between The Roommate and The Kiss Quotient, since they both take the Lesson In Seduction trope in the contemporary setting.
I definitely think that if The Kiss Quotient hadn’t come out a year before we were talking to publishers, The Roommate might not have been purchased by Berkely. The success of The Kiss Quotient showed people that you can have a sex worker hero and people would respond to that positively.
One of the reasons I never thought this book was going to get published was because I had plenty of industry people tell me that you can’t have a male hero who’s a sex worker. Especially since Josh just does sex work because he likes it, and not because it was his only choice or for money. But I definitely think that The Kiss Quotient paved the way for my book to be sold and succeed.
Tell me about your next book, The Intimacy Experiment!
It’s a different book from The Roommate. It’s not a rom-con, it’s more of a true contemporary romance. It’s more serious, and it more of Naomi’s book alone, rather than focusing on the growth of both characters, like you have in The Roommate.
What are some of your favorite romance books?
You Deserve Each Other By Sarah Hogle
It’s very funny. Very different and refreshing. It has a sort of dark humor to it and features lovers to enemies to lovers, which is great!
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
A historical romance with a little bit of ghosts in it. Perfect for spooky season!
Olivia Dade, Kate Clayborn, & Talia Hibbert
A Fun Novella: