143: Reading Romance - Interview with Farrah Rochon, author of THE BOYFRIEND PROJECT
We are thrilled to share our interview with Farrah Rochon, the USA Today Bestselling author of more than 35 novels, including her latest release, The Boyfriend Project. The two-time RITA Award finalist is a native of South Louisiana. When she is not writing in her favorite coffee shop, Farrah spends most of her time reading, cooking, traveling the world, visiting Walt Disney World, and catching her favorite Broadway shows.
Ashley - Marie Lu's Wildcard
Farrah - Sandra Kitt's Winner Takes All
Sara - Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys
Jen - Lia Louis's Dear Emmie Blue
Mentioned in Episode
Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient
Jasmine Guillory's The Wedding Date
Alyssa Cole (An Extraordinary Union)
Suzanne Brockman's SEALS series (Book 1, Prince Joe)
Priscilla Oliveras (The Island Affair)
K. M. Jackson / Kwana Jackson's Real Men Knit
Denny S. Bryce's Wild Women and the Blues
Give Me One - Favorite Broadway Musicals
Farrah - Hamilton, Aida, Dear Evan Hansen, Spring Awakening, Once
Ashley - Rent
Sara - Cabaret
Jen - Hamilton, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Once
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Ashley shared that she is reading Marie Lu's Wildcard, the second and final book in the Warcross duology. She had recently shared on a Bookish Check-in that she was reading Lu's book Rebel, the fourth book in the Legend series. She said, "It was so refreshing to be back in that world with the characters that I knew but with a whole new set of obstacles and circumstances. . . . It was comforting to be back in a space where I knew the characters well."
She continued, "I read Warcross a while ago, and it is really interesting. It is about a gaming environment: Warcross is the is the virtual space. The main character Emika is a bounty hunter within [Warcross]--she is a glitch in the system."
Ashley expIained, "I think that the dynamics between the main characters are really powerful. And I also while I'm not a gamer, myself, I love exploring the ways that the virtual space impacts the real world."
Farrah Rochon said, "I'm so lucky these days because all of my reading has been for blurbs that I'm giving for authors. So I'm reading all these books that are not available yet. But I'm currently reading a book called Winner Takes All by Sandra Kitt, who is a long-time . . . African American romance writer. She's like one of the Queens, you know. She's been writing forever."
Winner Takes All, Rochon explained, is "actually the first in a new series all around people who have kind of come into money. The hero is an ex-baseball player who works for ESPN now as a commentator, and he wins the lottery. . . . What's unique and great about it is that [Kitt] explores like the darker side. . . . The hero's name is Patrick, and the heroine Jane works for the mayor's office. And she's the one who gave him the the lottery check. They went to high school together, and this was their first time things, seeing each other. So that's how they reconnect."
Rochon shared, "It's so drama juicy. It's like, no, I needed this. So it's been really good. But then, like I said, there's been a few of those dark moments where he's kind of like, my life was better before this money came in. So I'm really enjoying it. It's something that you don't necessarily see in romance. But if anyone can pull it off, it's a pro like Sandra Kitt."
Sara was reading Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys, which we were reading for our Unabridged Podcast Buddy read. She said, "It is just such a powerful read, and as a former eighth grade English teacher, I can see so many applications and the classroom for young people. It is told in dual perspectives. One is Rashad. He is an A student at school, he's an artist, and he becomes a victim of police brutality. Quinn is the other perspective, and he witnesses this police brutality. I should say that Rashad is Black, and Quinn is white. Reynolds writes Rashad's point of view. Kiely writes Quinn's point of view."
She continued, "They do such a great job of showing the impact of police brutality, . . . of having these really amazing voices for each of the characters. . . . As a teacher reading this book, I just see so many applications in the classroom and great messages for young people."
Jen talked about Lia Louis's Dear Emmie Blue. She said, "This is a buddy read with @thechicklitbookclub, which is actually where I first got to talk with Farrah. I was part of a huge buddy read chat after we all read The Boyfriend Project, and it was so much fun."
"The premise here is that when she's a teenager, the protagonist Emmie Blue releases a balloon into the atmosphere with her email address in it, just thinking probably that nobody's ever going to see it, but she's going through a lot, and she just wants to make contact with someone. And a boy, Lucas, finds it. They start this correspondence and become best friends. Emmie has feelings for Lucas but does not want to ruin the friendship, and so she is very careful to try to keep things platonic."
Jen continued, "The book is back and forth between past and present, and in the present, they are adults, and Lucas announces that he is getting married. He wants Emmie to be his best woman basically. So it's like very much My Best Friend's Wedding vibes. She doesn't want to mess things up, but she is fighting these feelings that she has and sort of secretly wishing something could happen. It is just really sweet. . . .There is some darkness and her past that is coming out, as well. So there are some serious sides to the book."
Main Discussion - The Boyfriend Project
We had such a wonderful conversation about The Boyfriend Project. We asked Farrah to introduce the book, and she said, "The Boyfriend Project is, I like to say, it's what happens when you find out that the guy that you thought was not necessarily Mr. Right, but Mr. Right Enough is dating two other women. You know, at the very beginning, this is not a spoiler, because it happens at the very beginning, but our heroine Samiah, is getting ready for a date with her boyfriend Craig. And her sister is on Twitter, which is very much like me all the time. And she is relaying this live tweet of a date from hell. And as Samiah is listening, she's thinking, this sounds familiar and discovers that this guy is basically on a date with another woman. It's the same date he took her on. And then they find out that yet another woman is there, so they confront him at the restaurant."
What's at the core of The Boyfriend Project really is this friendship, this instant sisterhood that starts between Samiah, Taylor, and London.
"They decide that they're going to work on themselves. They have spent too much time trying to do what society tells them. You know, Samiah has this checklist of everything that she's done. Perfect job, the condo, the car, and the only thing she's missing is the man, and then she decides, no, I'm going to work on my app. That's her project. Each woman has a project something that they they are going to work on for the next six months. So they're off and doing it, and then this cute guy shows up at Samiah's job and just ruins it! Ruins it in the best way. So that's that's basically that's the start of The Boyfriend Project."
Our conversation continued, and Rochon shared details about her career as a writer and about the change that The Boyfriend Project represents for her. She said, "When I got the idea for The Boyfriend Project, I knew that it was a bigger book, and that it could grow my audience. There was just something about the industry at the time. . . . The Kiss Quotient had just come out, and Jasmine Guillory's The Wedding Date. . . . So I just thought, if you're going to try to make a return, this would be the time, and this is the book."
Ashley asked about Samiah's dedication to mentorship within the novel, and Rochon, responded, "That's just me being my mother's daughter. My mom is the type of person—she taught high school for 35 years, and then 15 years after she retired, she still is going to the school and doing SAT prep, and doing it's just a part of my DNA, I think, because you just you give back and you help, so that was just natural to me."
We are really looking forward to book two in the series. Rochon said, "Taylor's book is next year. I am still working on it. It's been a crazy year. So it's a little late, but I promised my editor that I will have it for her in the next few weeks. But I think it is July of 2021. It's when it's supposed to come out, and I just got to see the first real mock up of the cover and I absolutely love. I love it."
This wide-ranging chat covered the ways that Rochon develops her characters and conflicts, Samiah's situation as a Black woman in technology, and so much more, including some great recommendations of romance authors to read soon!
Give Me One - Favorite Broadway Musical
We ended our episode with sharing our Favorite Broadway Musical . . . but (spoiler alert!) some of us had a hard time sharing just one.
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