Okay, be honest. When’s the last time you picked up a romance novel?  If the answer is “I think maybe never? Does Fifty Shades count?”, we want you to meet Maya Rodale, a bestselling romance author living in New York City who is not only a prolific writer of the genre herself (she’s written 13 books already!), but she’s also written about how the romance novel is ~actually~ quite feminist. In her own words, the genre is “perhaps the only art form where you’ll reliably and consistently find stories about women, by women, for women.”

Please tell us about yourself!

Maya Rodale here–I’m a New York City girl, and an author of feminist romance novels.

How did you find your path to becoming an author, nevertheless a romance author?

I really got into writing in college, when I took creative writing classes because I thought the homework would be easy (just make stuff up and type it up!). Turns out I had a knack for it, thank goodness, since the homework was more challenging than I originally anticipated. I started writing romance novels after college when an agent told me I should write them, since I loved reading them so much. I extracted a promise from her that she’d represent me if I had a novel for her in 3 months. Because I didn’t know how insane that was, I pulled it off.

I’m sure many of our readers are very curious - what does a typical day for you look like?

Coffee and creative writing first thing in the morning, then in the afternoon it’s more coffee and the business of writing—emails, social media, etc. I break for meals and walking the dog.

How are you seeing the romance genre changing? Do you see perceptions of it changing for millennial women in particular?

Overall I think the perception of romance is improving, thanks to a lot of younger authors who are really speaking out about how these books empower women, so they’re changing the narrative about “grandma’s bodice rippers.” We also owe a lot to Fifty Shades of Grey—because the book was so freaking popular, media outlets couldn’t ignore it, so the conversation about romance expanded to a new audience and new perspectives.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration your latest book, Lady Claire Is All That?

The main character, Lady Claire, is my version of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer (not just the first female one, the FIRST) who collaborated with Charles Babbage on his difference engine (an early attempt at a computer). One of my previous romance series, The Bad Boys & Wallflowers books, were based on the difference engine and many readers wrote asking me, “Where’s Ada?” So Lady Claire is my Ada. I borrowed a lot from Ada’s real life work when writing about Claire—you can read about it in this blog. Fun fact: the book isn’t too serious and math-y. It’s also based on the classic rom com She’s All That!

What advice do you have for someone in her early twenties who may be interested in becoming an author and getting published?

You have to finish something and you have to pitch it. I have seen SO MANY great authors not get published because they’re afraid of rejection so they don’t pitch themselves or their work. Let other people tell you no-—you’ll survive—but don’t tell yourself no before you even try.

Let’s talk about self-care! What does it mean to you?

Self care to me means pacing and taking breaks so you can play a long game. It also means treats and rewards for hard work! What are your favorite recent self-care products or rituals? (hint: beauty/skincare, home goods, food/snacks, wellness, self-care apps) I’m a big fan of baths, massages, cocktails, reading magazines on the couch, and working out. I’m currently obsessed with NYL’s shimmer scrub and bath soak–the fragrance is amazing and they make my skin soft and sparkly. My new favorite workout is Krav Maga and my go-to cocktail bar is The Wallflower in the West Village.

Lightning Q&A Round:

First thing you do when you get home from work?

FOOD. I usually make dinner at home; I find cooking relaxing.

Most recent splurge?

I recently splurged on a pair of Frye motorcycle boots. I have no regrets!

Book on your nightstand (or one that you’re dying to read)?

I’m currently reading Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists by Jean H. Baker and loving it. The last awesome romance I read was On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins.

Your current lady crush?

It’s always Rihanna, to be honest. Actually, for me it’s Beyonce!

What’s the last thing you saw that made you laugh?

All the baby panda stuff on the Smithsonian National Zoo Instagram account has me laughing and squeeing.