It's International Podcast Day this month. So our Editor, Mercy Carlile, couldn't have chosen a better time to bring Vanessa Zoltan's podcast, Hot & Bothered, to our attention!
There is a new podcast on the scene! Hot & Bothered encourages people to write Romance novels as a sacred practice. That's right - a sacred practice!
Vanessa Zoltan, of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, started the podcast out of an idea to have each of her close friends write a book based on a romance trope (ultimately to be shared with the Hot & Bothered audience.) But the idea quickly evolved into the Hot & Bothered of today.
I had the opportunity to chat with Vanessa about her successful new podcast, and the concepts of sacred text and sacred practice.
Vanessa Zoltan and the "Happy Ever After"
Vanessa's background is impressive. As a Harvard Divinity School graduate and a 2019 Peter J. Gomes Honoree, she has dedicated a lot of her time to understanding how sacred practices can impact us all.
"A sacred practice is anything you are in an intentional relationship with that gets you better at loving," she shared.
After posing the idea to her friends that they each write a romance novel, Vanessa quickly realized "writing romance is intimate and hard." And from that the show grew into what it is now: Vanessa's dear friends trying to write their idea of a "Happy Ever After." In the context of each concept of "Happy Ever After," Vanessa's friends take a closer look at themselves, have discussions and get valuable advice from Romance authors and academics, and do an all-around deep dive into the genre. Through all of this Vanessa, her co-host, and Romance industry veteran, Julia Quinn, and the rest of their team encourage and support the listeners to write their own "Happy Ever After."
One might assume getting Hot & Bothered off the ground was a simple feat, given the fact Vanessa is a co-host of the wildly successful Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. But according to Vanessa, that would be an incorrect assumption.
As she explained, "Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a chat-cast. I spend two hours talking about something I enjoy with my dear friend. Hot & Bothered episodes are generally scripted at around 7000 words per episode. Also, writing and talking about writing has a vulnerability to it."
She admitted some things did come easier than expected. She was particularly amazed at the availability and openness of Romancelandia, "there are so many brilliant people willing to talk, share, and connect."
When asked "why romance?" Vanessa shared how much she struggled during the presidential election of 2016, #Metoo, and the state of the environment. Depressed and consuming too much media discussing politics, she realized she desperately needed a distraction, albeit brief. So, she turned to a Julia Quinn novel floating around her e-reader and thought, "Why not? What would a few hours with a stupid book hurt?"
That "stupid book" set things in motion. Vanessa realized "these books weren't stupid or simple at all." She decided to read one more, and then just one more. Quickly enough, she had read most of Julia Quinn's catalog and was beginning to wonder if she had an addiction to romance novels.
But "reading romance wasn't affecting me negatively like an addiction," Vanessa said, "It was nourishing me. It made me want to go out into the world, talk, and share recommendations with friends." She began to realize, "Romance novels are about hope and love. Women interact with them in a sacred way. They are often in constant conversation with Romance, and reading about loving can help pull us out of despair."
When asked if she learned anything surprising, her response made my paranormal romance-loving heart burst. Vanessa acknowledged she has not yet dived into the paranormal romance waters. "I have a friend who turned to them when dealing with the loss of a loved one, and then it occurred to me, paranormal Romance often deals with immortality, beating death, a heaven on earth, if you will. As someone with a theology background, I find this incredibly interesting."
(Don't worry paranormal romance fans, I gave Vanessa some great recommendations!)
As this inspiring and thoughtful conversation with Vanessa came to an end, she shared two lovely thoughts. Like most of us in Romancelandia, she has high hopes for the genre. "I hope Romance starts to get the respect it deserves and continues to push diversity. It's done a lot in that space but can go much farther." And the other thought was a message for The Pink Heart Society family: "Romance isn't frivolous. It's part of a many hundred-year feminist project, like a quilt we've all been working on, and we might just be alive to see some of it come together."
How great would that be?
You can subscribe to Hot & Bothered wherever you get your podcasts, like iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. To find out more about Vanessa and Hot & Bothered you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter or visit the website.
Are you a Hot & Bothered listener? What do you think of the idea of romance writing as a sacred practice? Is there another podcast you would recommend to our readers? Do you run a romance-writing or reading podcast you would like to tell us about? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on our Social Media using #SpreadTheWord