10 Questions for Martha Waters

A lover of romantic comedies, England, and gin cocktails (and not necessarily in that order), Martha Waters grew up in Florida, attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and now works as a children’s librarian in North Carolina. When Martha is not encouraging the next generation of readers to pick up a book, she loves to bestow words of wisdom in the form of book and travel recommendations to anyone willing to listen.

Who is Martha Waters?

At the moment, someone who is juggling existential dread about the state of the world with trying to work from home as a librarian—a job that is really, really not designed to be done from home!—and also finishing writing a book on time. Under happier/more normal circumstances, I’m a children’s librarian by day, writer and halfhearted runner by night, and avid traveler who spends too much money on plane tickets. (A disproportionate number of those plane tickets are to the UK, because I’m a dedicated, lifelong Anglophile.)

Tell us about your debut book, To Have and to Hoax.

To Have and to Hoax is a Regency rom-com about an estranged married couple, Violet and James, who have barely been on speaking terms for a few years. At the beginning of the book, James is in a riding accident and knocked unconscious; Violet rushes to his side, only to find him totally recovered and irritated by her concern. To get back at him, she fakes a case of consumption—a ruse that James sees through almost immediately, because it’s a terrible plan, but instead of calling her bluff, he plays along. They get sucked into an escalating battle of one-upsmanship, falling back in love in the process. I pitched it to my agent as the “they don’t know we know they know” episode of Friends, with more consumption, a description I stand by!

What have you learned about the Regency era that surprised you the most?

This is an interesting question, because not only was I a history major in college, I’ve also read approximately a zillion Regency romances, so the period feels very familiar to me. However—and I fully acknowledge that this is incredibly specific—a sort of staple in Regency romances is ratafia being served at balls and characters often thinking it’s disgusting and overly sweet. However, I looked up recipes for it at one point while I was writing my book, and I have now planted my flag firmly in the pro-ratafia camp—it sounds legitimately tasty to me. Recipes vary, obviously, but generally involve multiple types of liquor and fruit and spices, and I think it sounds great, and it’s just some sort of weird masculine posturing and patriarchal nonsense that has allowed it to get such a bad rap in historical romances up until now. Justice for ratafia!

What is the romance (or romances) that got you hooked as a reader on the genre?

Julia Quinn! I came late to reading romance—prior to library school, I had only ever read Georgette Heyer, but I took a class for my MLS about popular materials and one week we covered romance. I picked up a Julia Quinn book (I believe it was Ten Things I Love About You) and found it totally charming and delightful, and then immediately inhaled the entire Bridgerton series over the course of a week and a half. From there, I was hooked—I probably read 75 historical romances that year alone.

Don your reader’s advisory chapeau and pretend someone has asked for some “great romantic comedies.” What suggestions would you give?

Where to begin? Another shout out to Julia Quinn, of course, because I think all the Bridgerton books are pretty much perfect romantic comedies. I’d also recommend anything by Loretta Chase, who I think is a genius and writes some of the smartest, most tongue-in-cheek romance out there.  Contemporary rom-coms are obviously having a bit of a moment right now, and of the many choices out there, I’d probably point readers toward Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, a book I loved so much that I finished it and then immediately started reading it all over again. I’d round out my recommendations with Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series (the first one is Act Like It) which I’m going to go on record as stating are the best and cleverest contemporary romances I’ve ever read.

What three words best capture the flavor of your writing?

Funny, smart, banter-filled. (Is it cheating to use a hyphen? I don’t care!)

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

I am deeply contrary and hate being given advice, but I did read an author (I can’t remember who! Woe!) advising that you should never stop writing for the day if you don’t know what’s going to happen next in the scene you’re writing—basically, always park on a downhill slope. And this is incredibly good advice, and quite possibly the only reason I was able to actually finish writing a book.

If you could be any fictional character for a day, whom would you choose?

As a millennial, I am obviously contractually obligated to reply with a character from Harry Potter, so I will not disappoint: Ginny Weasley. I have thought about this extensively and come to the conclusion that if I was Hermione, I would be spending too much time preventing Harry and Ron from accidentally getting themselves killed to properly enjoy myself, whereas I feel like a day as Ginny would be more likely to offer me a proper slice of life at Hogwarts, which is of course what we’re all really after. We don’t want Death Eaters; we just want to play a spot of Quidditch and stuff ourselves in the Great Hall and hang out in the common room.

What is next for you as an author?

Coming in spring 2021 is To Love and to Loathe, which is set in the world of To Have and to Hoax. It follows Violet’s friend Diana and James’s friend Jeremy, who despise each other (they claim!), and is a fun enemies-to-lovers romp set at a country house party.

How can readers learn more about your book and connect with you?

I’m on both Twitter and Instagram @marthabwaters, and I have a fairly infrequent newsletter full of book news and reading and travel recommendations, which people can sign up for at tinyletter.com/marthawaters. Information about my books and any future events can always be found at marthawaters.com.

For more on Waters, whose debut published yesterday, April 7, be sure to check out her conversation with our very own Susan Maguire as well as the latest installment of Corner Shelf.

About the Author:

The Romance Writers of America 2002 Librarian of the Year, Charles has been reviewing romances for Booklist since 1999 and is the author of Romance Today: An A to Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance. After working for the Scottsdale Public Library System for 30 years, Charles retired and went to work for Scottsdale's independent bookstore the Poisoned Pen, where he still gets to push books but has to deal with far fewer computer questions.

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