Feminist Romance, it’s a beautiful thing.

I’m not a romance reader. Haven’t been for a long time. But recently a friend of mine got her first book contract, a romance contract. As much as I love this woman, I didn’t plan on reading her books. Supporting her, encouraging her, buying her books for other people who like that genre – absolutely, but reading them? Not my genre, why read something I wouldn’t enjoy and then not know what to say next time I saw her?

But then in April we were at a conference together and I heard her talking about her books and why she wrote them and why she chose the romance genre and I remembered – this is MK f’ing Meredith, and she is BADASS.

mk meredith

MK F’ing Meredith
Badass Romance Writer & Hardcore lover of peanut butter.

So if she’s writing romance, maybe… just maybe, I’m wrong about the genre, at the very least maybe I’m wrong about lumping her books into my preconceived and outdated notions of what the romance genre is – maybe, just maybe, I should get over myself and give them a try.

So, I did. And THANK THE ODDS for being willing to look past former biases and give things a try with an open mind and an open heart because, GOD DAMN I loved this book – and… (Don’t tell MK this) now that I’ve been shown the light, I’m reevaluating my notions of the romance genre entirely and have even (shhhh…) bought a few more novels in the genre to try out.

See, I bought into the lie that the romance genre is all fluff and happily ever after and brain candy – you know, pink frilly girl stuff – a guilty pleasure. (Yes, that’s my female chauvinist pig showing. I’m working on it.) And I needed someone to knock that silly notion out of my head. As MK so eloquently reminds us, THERE IS NO GUILT OR SHAME IN EXPERIENCING PLEASURE.

As soon as I finished MK Meredith’s book, Malibu Betrayals, I wrote to her asking if I could interview her for this blog and share my revelation with all of you.

She was generous enough to let me, so without further ado, let me introduce you to the amazing MK, and her romantic notions.

malibu betrayals cover

Feminist Romance, a beautiful thing.

Her chance to write a whole new ending…

Hollywood screenwriter Samantha Dekker spent the last year picking up the pieces after her husband’s suicide. Along with grief, guilt, and tabloid hell, she’s had to watch helplessly as the film industry slammed its doors in her face. Now Sam has the rarest of Hollywood opportunities – a second chance…working with the one man she swore never to see again.

Hunktastic A-lister Gage Cutler knows that Sam blamed him for his part in her husband’s death. Still, Sam is the one woman he can never forget. All he wants is a second chance of his own – to prove he’s not the player she remembers. And Malibu is the perfect backdrop to make a girl swoon.

Except they’re not alone. Someone is watching Sam and Gage’s steamy off-screen romance with the most dangerous of intentions…

TBT: Did you intend to write a feminist, or female empowering, romance novel when you started out?
MK: My very purposeful intention is to empower women with their sexuality. I want to show that it is healthy and okay to know what we want. Taking charge of our bodies, what works for us and what doesn’t, and being comfortable expressing it is important to our self-worth and self-confidence. Too many women struggle with these issues. And not that men don’t, too, but when it comes to sexuality, they are expected to be sexual beings. Women have to fight for it.

Malibu Betrayals is the journey of a strong women finding her way again, taking back control of her life, including her sexuality. The shower scene is my favorite one! LOL!

(TBT here – Yes, the shower scene… And can I just say how much I LOVE the idea of empowering women with their sexuality, MK nails it, right off the bat.)

TBT: Why did you include condoms in your book? What was your intention? How did you think readers would respond/react? Did you hit any snags trying to work them in naturally and have them present, but not interrupt the flow of the scene?

MK: I put condoms in my book on purpose. It goes back to the self-worth discussion. Man or woman, we need to care enough about our selves to put our safety first. To be honest, I didn’t worry about the reader’s response simply because it is an element that will remain. I imagine my readership will be those who want the protection in the stories or don’t mind it.

I didn’t really have any trouble fitting it in–lol! that’s what she said. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. And there is always at least one scene where they don’t use a condom because I want to keep the story as real as I can. People aren’t perfect, we get caught up in the moment, rush, or forget. So they make their mistakes, too.

(TBT here – I love this, that it was a conscious decision founded on promoting self-worth and respect. And I love that you were conscious of allowing them to be imperfect and human.

Also – writers please take note – My biggun and I were talking the other day and she mentioned how frustrated she is that in most of the YA she reads condoms, STI prevention and birth control are never mentioned. I told her about MK’s book and she was like, “So it can be done, why aren’t more authors doing it?” You have your marching orders – go forth and promote safer sex!)

TBT: Emotional and verbal abuse and their aftermath are big prevalent themes in this book – the self-doubt that creeps in, the loss of confidence, the difficulty in trusting others, etc. as well as how those traits affect future relationships and things that partners of abuse victims/survivors have to deal with/be patient around.
How much research did you do around those topics? Why did you choose that as one of the things Sam has to overcome? How did you balance her being an independent protagonist while also allowing her to be damaged and to need help sometimes?

Gage handles a lot of Sam’s baggage really well, to the point that I wanted this book to be required reading for people in relationships with abuse victims/survivors. How much research went into his character’s responses?
MK: My background is Occupational Therapy. What a lot of people don’t realize is O.T. has a premed element along with a heavy psychology and abnormal psychology focus. I reached back to my education and my own past to address the topics in this story.You know how they say ‘write what you know’? Well, the issues are part of my own past–a very different story than Sam’s, but there all the same. I feel I’ve come a long way, and I wanted to show a woman fighting her way through the self-doubt and the self-worth issues. It doesn’t happen over night, and certain events can trigger responses a person may not be proud of. We falter. Two steps forward, one step back and all that. I know her indecision can be frustrating for some, and it is, but it is also real. I couldn’t let her ‘fix herself’ too easily. These issues run deep. And I think that showing her struggle is what allowed me to show her taking action toward her independence, but still struggling with her right to do so. Part of her growth is that needing help is different than being worthless.

As for Gage, I pulled from my education for him as well. It is important that we don’t tell someone how they feel, but empower them to feel. To help them see the strength in the mirror. It is important to think about the intent behind someone’s actions. It makes all the difference in the world to our responses…or should anyway, in my opinion.

(TBT note – emphasis was added, because I really loved these points.)

TBT: There’s a really remarkable scene where Sam reclaims her right to pleasure. (Yes – the shower scene!!) It felt deliciously subversive to me to have her demand and give herself pleasure while sharing it with a guy. How intentional was that scene? How important was the theme of reclaiming female pleasure and ownership to you?

MK:This goes back to question #1. It was completely on purpose. I squealed in delight with your question. “She get’s it!” *fist pump* My husband raised his brow at me as if I’d lost my mind. LOL!

So, my husband was in the Air Force, as a matter of fact he retired this past year. We had seven deployments together. That’s a long time to be apart. Matters need to be taken into one’s own hand, so to speak, when there is that much time and distance in a relationship. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with military women who would discuss taking charge of their physical needs, but then whisper or shy away in mock horror. It drove me nuts. Not in an angry way toward them, but in a way that I wanted to shake them and yell, ‘You are important, your needs are important, and it is okay.’ I don’t see any reason for it to be embarrassing or hidden or a secret kept at all costs. It is simply human. So it is extremely important to me to portray women who are already there, or are finding their way.

TBT: Gage has some baggage of his own – he’s got serious abandonment issues. What made you decide to give him that as his kryptonite?
MK: Another I pulled from my past. I lost my mother at seven and then my father remarried twenty-eight days later to a woman who was not really interested in some dead woman’s four children. That has an effect. I basically lost both my parents at once. One didn’t want to leave, and the other I feel never looked back. But the residual fallout remained in myself, and in my brothers. What’s more, I think many of these issues really peak in our thirties and forties, when we realize how we should have been treated, or when we have children of our own and they reach a similar age. It is hard not to ache for the child you were–as if they were someone else. I felt that his abandonment issues would be a great foil to Sam’s problems committing.

TBT: A lot of the conflict and tension in this book is internal, it’s quiet and smoldering and just under the surface – in many ways, this felt like an adult coming of age tale, two people rediscovering themselves and remaking themselves in a new image. Where did that theme of reinvention come from?
MK: The original idea for this story all rose from a dream I had where I met Gerard Butler at a bar. It was a very casual conversation, and he couldn’t have been less interested. LOL! It got me thinking to the opposite scenario and then so on and so forth with the blossoming of ideas. When I dug into Gage’s and Sam’s backstory I related to their struggles in one way or another, and I wanted to show that even with living through an adverse past, you can achieve an amazing future. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible. It takes a certain ability to reflect and respond instead of simply reacting.
gerard butler

He’s listening.

TBT:I feel like this book really explored the difference between doing the work to be worthy of another person and changing yourself to be what someone else wants. Where is that line for you?
MK: You know–or maybe you didn’t–I was married before. I am the reason you let your daughters date. I was never allowed to, so the first boy I met once I moved out of my home, I married–5 months later. We had nothing in common, but I was on cloud nine and just KNEW that must mean it was meant to be. I didn’t realize that was how it was when you first started dating. He is a wonderful person, with a big heart and a strong work ethic, but we had NOTHING in common. So after five and a half years together we got divorced.

But picture this…me in Rocky Mountains (a western jean), cut out shirts, and lace ups going to rodeos, and sitting in a duck blind, or pheasant hunting all while listening to country music. There is nothing wrong with any of it, but does that sound like the MK you know? Yeah…me neither. I was so focused on being a woman he’d stay with, that I lost the woman I was and had no idea of the woman I wanted to be. So I left.

And I made myself a promise. I would never lose who I was, never wear clothes I didn’t want to wear or listen to music I didn’t want to listen to in order to make someone like me. I promised that I would stand up for myself…and boy was it a journey, especially the last one. I still struggle with it. But my husband Brian has helped me in tremendous ways.
So the line is: I am who I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t take my loved one’s needs into consideration, but now they aren’t the only consideration. I am, too.

TBT: Last, tell me how your own beliefs about love and partnership helped shape and color this fictional relationship.

(Note – I had to ask this question, because her answer is the reason I picked up her book and read it in the first place – emphasis was added by me.)

MK: I think I’ve been answering this last question all along. I think we have to choose each other every day. It is important to learn what our partners need to be happy, and if we can provide it or help provide it, or support them in finding it, in a way that does not sacrifice ourselves we set the relationship up to win. I think talking and checking in and reevaluating keep relationships from falling into ruts where you wake up not recognizing the person lying next to you. I very much feel my beliefs were involved in Gage’s and Sam’s Happily Ever After. I hope that what my husband and I have figured out will help create very real feeling happy endings.

TBT here – Suffice it to say, MK is simply a phenomenal human being, and she put so much of herself into Malibu Betrayals that it can’t help but be anything other than fantastic.This book really was empowering and super sexy. I can’t wait to re-read it with my husband. I’ve also already ordered extra copies for my niece and a few other young women I know who are heading off to college and who I think could use this reminder that we are worthy of love, and deserving of pleasure.

If you’re looking for a fun book that packs some heat – I really cannot recommend Malibu Betrayals enough.

If you want to dive into MK’s world of love, romance and peanut butter, follow her on her author page.
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Filed under Books, Of Course I'm a Feminist

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