Romance fans rejoice - a romance-only bookstore may be coming to the Midwest! Marissa and Roseann Backlin are a mother/daughter team who currently have a Kickstarter for Love’s Sweet Arrow. Their goal is to open up a romance focused bookstore in the south suburbs of Chicago with the funds raised. We spoke to Marissa and Roseann about their Kickstarter, their goals for the store, and some of their favorite romance reads.
What inspired you to open your own romance-only bookstore? Have you chosen a location for the store yet?
Marissa: We were partially inspired by The Ripped Bodice actually. I followed them on Twitter probably close to two years ago and thought they were pretty cool and their love of romance was contagious. I’m currently a special education teacher and last year when I was in kindergarten, we used to have conversations about lunch about what we would do on our next careers, like open small businesses, like coffee shops and things of that sort. Then the lottery got really huge at the beginning of the summer.
Roseann: So last summer, when the lottery hit tens of millions of dollars, we began to talk about what we would do with the money. We discussed how we would quit our jobs and open a romance bookstore. And it has just snowballed from there! We have a huge amount of family support, which is fabulous.
Marissa: As for our location, we have a dream one, it has a warehouse attached, a small side office, and an around the corner location for erotica and it’s within walking distance from a ton of restaurants. But we’ll see if it can happen. We might have to start a little smaller.
What was the inspiration for your bookstore’s name?
Marissa: So back in the fall, we were driving somewhere and I was googling love quotes to see if we could find a phrase and I came across a passage from Oscar Wilde I think and it was like, I want to make Romeo jealous and right after I found a page of penis euphemisms and love’s sweet arrow was one of them. Originally, I was like, Make Romeo Jealous that’s the one! But we both individually kept thinking about ‘love’s sweet arrow’ and then finally told each other. It sounds like a Cupid reference but it’s also about sex so we thought it was pretty perfect!
Roseann: We had a whiteboard with lists of names as well and until we decided on Love’s Sweet Arrow for sure, we would write down names every time we came up with one.
How has the community responded to your idea for a bookstore?
Roseann: It has been huge and very positive! Everyone either reads romance or knows someone who does. I have had people volunteer to put up or distribute flyers to help get the word out! And of course, we have had an amazing amount of support and positivity from the romance community! Authors have already contacted us and are ready and willing to come visit!
What is your vision for the store?
Marissa: We want it to be a community space, like we definitely want to support the community with food drives and provide opportunities for people to donate books to children around the holidays and books to incarcerated women, and other things like that. I adopted both of my dogs from a wonderful foster group in the surrounding area and I would love to help them raise money on occasion because they often take in dogs with heartworm and one of my dogs needed surgery before I got him. They were contacted after he was hit by a car and took him in after the surgery.
The Ripped Bodice does a fantastic job creating a diverse environment at their shop - whether it’s the books they stock or the authors they ask for store events. Do you hope to bring a similar vibe to your shop?
Marissa: Absolutely. We definitely understand we inherently have privilege that we were automatically born into. We have talked at length about how we want to use that privilege in order to bring others up. I signed up for the Bawdy Bookworms Diverse BookList email in order to see what is coming out soon. We are prepared to do the extra work in order to ensure that everyone is represented in our store and we definitely are planning on having events that represent everyone as well.
And as I may have mentioned, I am a special education teacher, so I am also hoping to get as many romances that feature people with all disabilities as well. I loved that Alyssa Cole’s A Duke by Default had a heroine with ADHD, but with more of the subtle aspects of it. Because ADHD is not represented by just a kid who can’t sit down. In addition, I think I mentioned in our SmexyBooks interview that I would love to do a display or feature Native American romance novelists around November every year. I took this amazing course about contemporary Native American novelists in grad school and it truly opened my eyes to their current writing and the stereotypes they struggle against. I do not know of many, and I’m not sure how many are in print form, if any, but it’s definitely something I am passionate about.
Roseann: We want our stock and author events to reflect everyone.
What is your favorite subgenre of romance?
Marissa: Ahhh! So hard to choose! I’m currently super into romance suspense, but I just read a great paranormal and a great historical….. And I’m currently reading a fun contemporary enemies to lovers…. This is too hard!
Roseann: I lean more toward romantic suspense, and I am definitely more of a contemporary romance reader. I like books that relate to what is going on in our current lives, but paranormal is also good. I guess I just like a good HEA.
Have you been romance readers all your life? What was the book that jump-started your love for romance?
Marissa: I can’t remember what the title was, but the cover had a beach scene, the heroine had a death in the family and it was a second chance romance I think. That was the book I was sneak reading when I was 12. In high school too, I read some pretty steamy Harlequins that a friend got at a used book sale at her house! I think I always liked a good HEA and I used to read fanfiction for stories that didn’t have happy endings a lot.
Roseann: I think I moved from Nancy Drew straight to romance! My parents never policed what we were reading as long as we were reading. And since my mom and older sisters read romance, it made sense that I would too. I don’t have a specific book, but Johanna Lindsay was huge for me and Julie Garwood was also popular in our house.
The romance genre has gotten a lot more exposure in traditional press outlets. Are you hopeful that this will lead to more romance bookstores, or more bookstores carrying romance?
Marissa: We hope so, as long as it means we are one of them! It’s definitely hard, I remember having the hardest time finding Beverly Jenkins books and Alyssa Cole books in the past couple of years in some of the big chain stores and I would leave without buying anything because I was so frustrated. When we were finalizing plans for our store, we were visiting other independent bookstores in the area, and Roseann was talking with one of the managers and when she mentioned what we were planning, the manager was like, do you mean Danielle Steel? And that was the only one she could come up with. There is so much more than that! So there definitely needs to be more out there and a better understanding by the general public. And probably more listening by those outside the romance community too and less judgement.
Roseann: I think the press for romance is overall positive! We are very hopeful that press will lead to more bookstores carrying more romance, and of course it will help bring more people into our store.
You’ve hit over 100 backers on Kickstarter, congrats! What will the final push look like?
Marissa: We have another surprise giveaway planned and we are going to be on an episode of the Too Stupid to Live podcast next week! We are super excited to record that this weekend! I think there is something else in the works too, but it’s still in the works, so we will keep you posted!
Desert island rules - what are three books that you couldn’t survive without?
Roseann: Flirting with Pete by Barbara Delinsky (I think I have reread that book 10 times), Heroes are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and for a newer book, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang!
Marissa: Ahhhh, again with the picking! I know the second I finish this, I will come up with ten others, I’ve never been good at narrowing down books. The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig, Belle and the Beau by Beverly Jenkins (it’s now republished as Belle, but I had that book way back and it was my favorite for years, I reread that book over and over and over), and Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. But there are so many runners up and really, I have like 5 bookshelves in my condo, plus a Kindle app filled with books and a notebook full of book titles I HAVE to read….. Ok, just one more, Cherish Me by Farrah Rochon, partially because they went to Italy and I want to go to Italy one day! And because it’s so good! I cheated, sorry, I’m terrible at games like these…..