The Festival of Books and The One, The Only, Fabio

April 13, 2014

It's Festival of Books weekend in the City of Angels and I am all a-flutter with excitement.  I absolutely adore this event.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books celebrates books, writers, and readers.  Readings, Q&A panel discussions, live performances, cooking demos, exhibits, screenings, and signings make this one of my favorite shindigs in the city.  It takes place on the campus of USC and it's...wait for it...free!  Exhibitors include booksellers, publishers, museums, theaters, and cultural organizations.  

Something I've always wondered about, though...why the H-E-double-hockeysticks isn't there more romance at the Festival?  There are booths for children's books, crime and mystery writers, religious organizations, upmarket literary fiction, horror, graphic novels, etc. With romance novels accounting for $1.4 billion in sales in 2013, we could use a stronger presence here.  With 150,000 visitors, this event would be the perfect place to introduce readers to romance as it really is! We need a big, juicy, lively romance booth.

Complete with booth babes.  Like this one. 



Or this one.

Or perhaps this one.
All of these photos are from this Jellybooks Ltd. Pinterest board.
As God is my witness, I have a new mission.  (I mean besides learning to poach an egg properly.)  My new mission is...are you listening?  Listen!  My mission is to help get a stronger romance presence at the Festival of Books in 2015.  

I have no clue how to do this.  But you know what?!  I will learn.  And we will be there.


Okay, that foolhardy promise made, let's move on to the cool romance thing I did see at the Festival yesterday.  I attended a panel discussion called Fiction: A Love Story, featuring romantic suspense author Beth Yarnall, paranormal romance author Susan Squires, and Regency romance authors Tessa Dare and Julie Anne Long.  Here they are, giving me a big smile.

Beth Yarnall, Susan Squires, Tessa Dare, and Julie Anne Long at the 2014 L.A. Times Festival of Books.

Here are a few of my notes from the discussion.  Please keep in mind that these quotes are paraphrased because my handwriting is pretty illegible.  My apologies to the authors.

 

On the popularity of romance

TD: Reading a romance is like attending a great wedding.  You know exactly what to expect at a wedding, but nonetheless, you feel the couple's love and it's new and exciting.  It reminds you of your own romance and it makes you smile.  Not everything is going to be perfect, but everyone hopes for a happy ending.

 

On sexier romance novels and the Fifty Shades phenomenon

TD:  I believe that for the first time, female sexuality and fantasies have become a consumer force.  

SS:  [The success of books like Fifty Shades] have broadened the social acceptability of sexier novels.  I believe that this is a healthy trend.  New blood and new trends are good for us.

TD: [These books] have made me worry less [about writing sexy scenes].  I find myself asking as I write, 'Can I go there?  Yeah, I can!'   

SS: Sex is informed by character.  If you think about it, it's where we are at our most vulnerable, for better or worse.

TD: Sex scenes in a novel need to earn their place there.

JAL: [Regency] readers have clear expectations [when it comes to sex].  I've always written for my readers.
 
SS:  What's important isn't sex, but sexual tension.  You can have tons of sexual tension without actual sex.  The problem I have with a lot of newer novels is that sometimes the sexual tension is based on nothing more than "He's got a cute butt."  That may be a good start, but it's going to have to be more than that really quickly...What's going to bring them together?  What's going to tear them apart?

 

On reading romance now, as a writer

BY:  It's like being on a ride at Disneyland with all the lights on.  You can see the wires and pulleys...It's hard to turn the writer brain off.

 

On the legitimacy of writing romance

SS: [After someone accused me of writing 'smut', I said that] it may be smutty, but it's critically-acclaimed smut...Romance will always have its detractors.  It's important to feel secure in what you write.  Keep in mind its relevance, especially to you.  Grow a thick skin.

JAL: Every genre is subjective in its quality....I think packaging deters a lot of people.  So when people say, 'I don't like romance,' chances are it's because they haven't actually read any of it.  

TD: Sometimes a lot of shade gets thrown at romance because it's written almost exclusively by and for women.  It's harder to get legitimacy.

I want to thank these lovely authors for participating in this panel.  I had a wonderful time and I know the audience did, too.

Completely separate from the Festival of Books, I met Fabio!  You remember Fabio, right?

Image from www.fabioifc.com.

If you were wondering what Fabio has been up to lately, I have an answer for you! 

These days, Fabio runs a company called Healthy Planet Nutrition, which sells pure probiotic whey protein from happy, growth-hormone free cows who live in New Zealand.  Here's a picture of this product.

Image from amazon.com.

It makes sense that he would sell this.  The man is 55 and 6'3" of pure, unadulterated Italian Stallion.  He's in amazing shape.  To a healthy crowd amassed at World Gym in beautiful Glendora, California, Fabio spoke eloquently and very, very knowledgeably on the topic of nutrition and health for almost an hour, answering each question with charm and clarity.  I was kind of floored.

But of course, as I have my own agenda, a romance question begged to be asked at the end of the presentation.

Again, this is a paraphrase.  I had trouble concentrating because...well, because Fabio.

 

How did you get started as a model for romance covers?

Fabio: When I first came to the United States, my first job was modelling for the Gap.  The ads ran in all the women's magazines...and book publishers saw them.  They decided that they wanted their heroes to look like me.  So I got a phone call to do a photo shoot.  I thought it was just like any other photo shoot.  You know, on the book covers, they do a lot of painting.  They paint in the backgrounds and everything, so I had no idea.  I did the photo shoot and that was it.  Then a few months later, I was in Miami.  I was in a nightclub and these three women came up to me and said, 'You look like the guy on our favorite books.'  I said, 'What are you talking about?'  They said they lived near the club and that they would go get the books and bring them back to me.  They did and I saw myself.  I couldn't believe it.  I thought at first that they just had a pretty good pickup line.
Fabio is kind and completely self-aware of his status as this odd cultural phenomenon.  He also gives nice squashy hugs that feel like being embraced by friendly boulder.

Fabio and me.  Feel free to Photoshop your face in if you wish.












What is the Festival of Books?
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books began in 1996 with a simple goal: to bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them. The Festival was an immediate success and has evolved to include live bands, poetry readings, chef demos, cultural entertainment and artists creating their work on-site. There’s also a photography exhibit, film screenings followed by Q&A’s and discussion panels on some of today’s hottest topics.

Where is it?
On the USC campus.

Who attends the Festival?
The Festival attracts approximately 150,000 people each year of all ages from across Southern California and even other parts of the country.

Who exhibits?
Booksellers, publishers, museums, theaters as well as literacy and cultural organizations. They sell and promote books, distribute related information and/or sell merchandise such as clothing and handmade accessories. Many independent booksellers participating in the Festival represent diverse ethnic and cultural communities of Los Angeles, offering books in different languages and genres.

- See more at: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/fob-info/#sthash.vb1CI3FQ.dpuf
What is the Festival of Books?
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books began in 1996 with a simple goal: to bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them. The Festival was an immediate success and has evolved to include live bands, poetry readings, chef demos, cultural entertainment and artists creating their work on-site. There’s also a photography exhibit, film screenings followed by Q&A’s and discussion panels on some of today’s hottest topics.

Where is it?
On the USC campus.

Who attends the Festival?
The Festival attracts approximately 150,000 people each year of all ages from across Southern California and even other parts of the country.

Who exhibits?
Booksellers, publishers, museums, theaters as well as literacy and cultural organizations. They sell and promote books, distribute related information and/or sell merchandise such as clothing and handmade accessories. Many independent booksellers participating in the Festival represent diverse ethnic and cultural communities of Los Angeles, offering books in different languages and genres.

- See more at: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/fob-info/#sthash.vb1CI3FQ.dpuf
What is the Festival of Books?
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books began in 1996 with a simple goal: to bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them. The Festival was an immediate success and has evolved to include live bands, poetry readings, chef demos, cultural entertainment and artists creating their work on-site. There’s also a photography exhibit, film screenings followed by Q&A’s and discussion panels on some of today’s hottest topics.

Where is it?
On the USC campus.

Who attends the Festival?
The Festival attracts approximately 150,000 people each year of all ages from across Southern California and even other parts of the country.

Who exhibits?
Booksellers, publishers, museums, theaters as well as literacy and cultural organizations. They sell and promote books, distribute related information and/or sell merchandise such as clothing and handmade accessories. Many independent booksellers participating in the Festival represent diverse ethnic and cultural communities of Los Angeles, offering books in different languages and genres.

- See more at: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/fob-info/#sthash.vb1CI3FQ.dpu
What is the Festival of Books?
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books began in 1996 with a simple goal: to bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them. The Festival was an immediate success and has evolved to include live bands, poetry readings, chef demos, cultural entertainment and artists creating their work on-site. There’s also a photography exhibit, film screenings followed by Q&A’s and discussion panels on some of today’s hottest topics.

Where is it?
On the USC campus.

Who attends the Festival?
The Festival attracts approximately 150,000 people each year of all ages from across Southern California and even other parts of the country.

Who exhibits?
Booksellers, publishers, museums, theaters as well as literacy and cultural organizations. They sell and promote books, distribute related information and/or sell merchandise such as clothing and handmade accessories. Many independent booksellers participating in the Festival represent diverse ethnic and cultural communities of Los Angeles, offering books in different languages and genres.

- See more at: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/fob-info/#sthash.vb1CI3FQ.dpuf
What is the Festival of Books?
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books began in 1996 with a simple goal: to bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them. The Festival was an immediate success and has evolved to include live bands, poetry readings, chef demos, cultural entertainment and artists creating their work on-site. There’s also a photography exhibit, film screenings followed by Q&A’s and discussion panels on some of today’s hottest topics.

Where is it?
On the USC campus.

Who attends the Festival?
The Festival attracts approximately 150,000 people each year of all ages from across Southern California and even other parts of the country.

Who exhibits?
Booksellers, publishers, museums, theaters as well as literacy and cultural organizations. They sell and promote books, distribute related information and/or sell merchandise such as clothing and handmade accessories. Many independent booksellers participating in the Festival represent diverse ethnic and cultural communities of Los Angeles, offering books in different languages and genres.

- See more at: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/fob-info/#sthash.vb1CI3FQ.dpuf