In 2013, Penny Reid was working as the chief operating officer of a research center when a colleague confessed that she loved romance novels but never found engaging characters. Reid bet her a fancy dinner she could produce just such a book, and seven months later she was enjoying a fine meal while putting Neanderthal Seeks Human on Kindle Direct Publishing. Drawing on influences like the Marx Brothers, Sid Caesar, and Tina Fey, Reid started releasing multiple, interconnected series of witty and romantic comedies. She now has a print-only deal with EverAfter Romance, but she continues to self-publish all of her witty and bestselling e-books. With the upcoming release of Dr. Strange Beard, the fifth volume in her pun-filled Winston Brothers series, Reid reflects on keeping the comedy in both romance and self-publishing.
Why do you like to mix comedy into your romances?
My sense of humor is a cumulative snowball of absurd, self-deprecating sarcasm while endeavoring to bring realism to ridiculous situations and sense to the nonsensical. Life is hilarious. And when life is not hilarious—when it’s terrifying or tragic or troublesome—humor is the best coping strategy. A great book, in my arrogant opinion, must have relevance. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like to laugh. Comedy is always relevant.
What do you think sets your characters apart from those in other romance novels?
All my main characters are based on real people and are therefore critically flawed. Like most humans of my acquaintance, they overthink, they protect their hearts, they have opinions that aren’t well-researched, they make mistakes (often), and they are forced to learn and grow and change over the course of their stories.
When did you decide to pursue writing novels full time?
Some people are accused of living to work; I could’ve been accused of living to work for my dental, vision, and comprehensive hospital coverage. But when the first Winston Brothers book was published (Truth or Beard in 2015) and hit the USA Today bestseller list upon release, we decided that it made the most sense for our family for me to leave my office job and work from home full time as a writer. Our insurance plan now consists of buying hand sanitizer in bulk, bubble-wrapping our children before they leave the house, and sacrificing a baby lamb to the god of deductibles during the spring equinox.
What do you think has given you a big advantage when it comes to self-publishing?
I left my [previous] position with competencies in accounting, budgeting, project management, systems, database design, web and graphic design, quality assurance, etc. Running my own small business didn’t feel burdensome; it felt natural. When I began publishing in 2013, it was very much a hobby. I wrote my books to entertain myself, and since no agents were interested, that freed me to develop my own voice without the input (or constraints) of a traditional publisher. I had no one to please but myself, and could therefore take many, many, many risks.
What can you tell us about the upcoming Winston Brothers release?
The series is just as much about the dynamics of growing up and living in a large, dysfunctional family as it is about finding a life partner to hold your toolbox so you can hold theirs in return (“toolbox” is not a euphemism, but it is a metaphor). The next book in the series (Dr. Strange Beard) will release July 30 and centers on the youngest brother, who is a veterinarian. He’s also a little reclusive and a little clueless, but—as readers will discover—this has a lot to do with the fact that he has something like an eidetic memory due to time-space synesthesia. His lady love is a forensic chemist…and that’s all I’ll say about that.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.