Thanks to the team at Avon for sharing this Q & A with us! Maya’s latest novel, Some Like it Scandalous, was released on June 18th.
The Ladies of Liberty cause a lot of trouble—namely, attempting to dine alone at Delmonico’s. Why was it important for you to write include this boundary pushing scene?
This scene is a fictionalized version of something that actually happened! The real life #inspo for the Ladies of Liberty Club, which this series centers around, is The Sorosis Society, a ladies club founded by Jane Cunningham Croly after she was refused entry at a Press Club dinner on account of her sex. She and her fellow female journalists staged a “sit in” at Delmonico’s in protest! The restaurant ended up hosting the club’s anniversary meeting each year. There was no way I wasn’t including this scene in a Gilded Age Girl’s Club novel.
You wrote, “women were supposed to make it easy to forget about their existence. To hide the fact that they were flesh and blood humans who wanted things.” How do you use cosmetics in your daily life to signal what it is you want?
When I was younger, I used make up to look older. Now that I’m older, I wear make up because it pleases me to do so and I have learned other tricks for signaling what I want (like just asking for it!). Every woman’s relationship to cosmetics is different, and changes at different points in her life or different hours of the day and that’s okay. There is another line in the book, where a character declares “I hate the way it feels on my lips, but I will fight for your right to wear it if you want to!” So this novel explores women’s complex relationship between how they feel about themselves and how it affects their romantic relationships.
Theodore Prescott III is a non-traditional romance hero in that he is described as “pretty” rather than “brawny.” What was the inspiration behind writing a man whose physique is uncommon in the romance world?
Romancelandia has gotten better at portraying a range of women’s bodies—they’re not all blonde, violet-eyed girls with waists so narrow the hero can span his hands around it anymore—but not so much with our heroes, who are all hyper-masculine, super big and broad and in possession of 12 pack abs. With Theo, I wanted to romanticize a different type of male body. Because why not?! Maybe the 18% of romance readers who are male want to see more diversity in their representation, too.
Cosmetics and makeup are a form of self-care, both in your novel and in the real world. In the novel, Daisy thinks: “they deserved care and tenderness, even if only from her proprietary mixture of moisturizing ingredients.” What are your favorite self-care habits and products?
It’s maybe easy to scoff at the #selfcare trend but it’s really saying to yourself that you and your needs are valid, valuable and worth being tended to. Especially for women, who spend so much energy taking care of everyone else! If I’m really indulgent, I like to get a massage or a haircut. But often I just need to close my bedroom door and get some time alone.
The Ladies of Liberty practically leapt off the page, particularly as a group. “The three ladies burst out laughing at a most unladylike volume. Heads turned. People glared. How dare these outcast and eccentric women enjoy themselves!” Were these women based on the nuanced and wonderful women in your own life?
I love using my historical romance novels to shine a light on real historical women that have been overlooked in the history books. There were SO MANY women who did amazing things through out history! I think their lives and accomplishments have been deliberately obscured to so other women don’t get Ideas about what we’re truly capable of. In my books, I take the outlines and facts of their lives and breathe life into these characters by giving them traits and feelings from the wonderful women I know in real life. So I’m here to write the stories overlooked historical women in a really accessible way—and what’s more accessible than a paperback romance novel with a happy ever after?