The August/September 2019 issue of Shelf Unbound, a publication focused on “what to read next in independent publishing,” features an interview with Third Street Books (McMinnville, OR) bookseller and Bookstore Romance Day founder, Billie Bloebaum. She was interviewed by Sara Grochowski, who has been a bookseller at McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, MI and Brilliant Books in Traverse City. For the full interview, including some great romance title recommendations, click here.
August 17, 2019 marks the first Bookstore Romance Day, a grassroots celebration of the Romance genre by over 100 bookstores across the United States. Billie Bloebaum, the founder and “Evil Mastermind” behind the movement, sat down with Shelf Unbound to discuss her career in bookselling, misconceptions about Romance genre, and increasing the visibility of independent bookstores that respect and embrace the Romance genre and its dedicated readership.
When did you become a romance reader?
BB: I was raised on a steady diet of Disney movies and fairy tales, so the Happily Ever After has been part of my reading self for ages and ages. My first dive into Romance as a genre was in my late teens (so, the late ’80s) and it started because my friends and I would pick them up at the corner store to find the most outrageous euphemisms (velvet flute, anyone?). It didn’t take long to realize that I found something supremely comforting and hopeful in the stories and I added them to my regular reading rotation.
BB: The groundwork was laid with the creation of a Facebook group in 2018 that was (and is) a place for independent booksellers to talk to each other about the Romance genre. The final spark for Bookstore Romance Day, though, was a Romance author on Twitter singing some version of the “Independent bookstores don’t support Romance, why should I support independent bookstores?” refrain, which spurred discussion in our FB group. It basically came down to us realizing, as a group, that we needed to be more visible and vocal and how do we do that? I was sort of joking when I suggested that we create a day to celebrate Romance in independent bookstores, and the idea somehow gained traction and here we are.
What is your goal for this inaugural year?
BB: The metaphor I employ most often is a group of kids saying, “Hey, let’s put on a show,” intending to do something simple in the backyard and finding themselves Off Broadway. I was hoping for maybe fifty bookstores participating and we have well over 100 at this point. Our resources are limited, so it’s really a grass roots, organic sort of thing this year. The base goal, though, is and always has been to celebrate the relationship between independent bookstores and Romance authors and readers and to create more of those relationships.