Laurie Kahn is a documentary filmmaker whose latest film explores the world of romance fiction and romance writers. It’s called LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS and it was just released last month. Laurie Kahn is also the Project Director of THE POPULAR ROMANCE PROJECT, which includes the doc film LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, about the global community of women who write and read romance novels as well as a large interactive website exploring popular romance across time and across cultures, a nationwide library program with the American Library Association, and a symposium on the deep roots of romance fiction and its future in the digital age at the Library of Congress.Kahn is known for making documentary films that explore fascinating aspects of popular culture and women’s issues. Kahn’s film A MIDWIFE’S TALE was part of PBS’s The American Experience series and won numerous awards including a national Emmy for Outstanding Non-fiction. Her more recent film, TUPPERWARE! won the George Foster Peabody Award and was nominated for a national Best Nonfiction Director Emmy. Both films are used in courses on women’s history, medical history, early American history, obstetrics, midwifery, 20th century history, marketing and gender studies. Kahn also conceived of and produced an award winning website, DoHistory.org, that immerses its users in the hands-on process of piecing together the life of an extraordinary person in the past. Kahn’s film company, Blueberry Hill Productions, was founded in 1992. During the 1980s and early 1990s, she worked on many award-winning documentary series, including The American Experience, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, and Frontline Special Report: Crisis in Central America. For the past four years Kahn has directed the Creativity Foundation. She has also been a consultant for the American Film Institute, The Smithsonian Institution, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Before working in film, she worked in radio for NPR’s evening news program All Things Considered.
LP: What inspired you to make the documentary LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS?
LK: As a documentary filmmaker, I want to bring the lives and work of strong, interesting women to the screen, because women’s stories aren’t being told nearly often enough! I am also very aware that any industry dominated by women is typically dismissed as trivial and “merely domestic.” My previous films — A Midwife’s Tale and Tupperware! – are very different from one another, but they were both shaped by my desire to look honestly at communities of women who haven’t been taken seriously (but should be), who deserve to be heard without being mocked.
When I learned that the romance fiction community is global, successful, and almost entirely female, my ears perked up. I began doing research, and I discovered a group of women who’ve built a remarkable community — and also a multi-billion dollar business.
LP: How has the romance community responded to your film?
LK: There have been almost 100 very successful screenings of Love Between the Covers — in libraries, community centers, and movie theaters in cities across the US, and around the world. The big romance publications — Romantic Times, USA Today’s HEA, the American Library Association and many romance blogs — have raved about the film. I get email and social media messages from readers and authors who I don’t know, all the time. And since the film’s wide release on various platforms on July 12, I hope to hear from many more!
LP: Who are the authors that you follow in LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS? And what was it like meeting them and talking to them?
LK: I wanted to find a broad range of characters, to challenge the two-dimensional stereotypes of romance authors and readers. I was looking for authors with diverse backgrounds and diverse day-jobs. After shooting dozens of interviews, I had to narrow down my list of potential main characters. And that was incredibly difficult, since so many of the women I’d been interviewing were funny, smart, and interesting.
The main characters we finally chose to follow in Love Between the Covers are:
- Mary Bly– Tenured Shakespeare professor by day, bestselling romance author Eloisa James by night.
- Len Barot– Surgeon, farmer, publisher, and well-known author of lesbian romance fiction, writing under the pen names Radclyffe and L.L. Raand.
- Beverly Jenkins– Pioneer of African American romance, author of historical, suspense and inspirational romances.
- Susan Donovan and Celeste Bradley – Best friends, divorcees, single mothers, and New York Times bestselling writing partners.
- Joanne Lockyer– A young Australian environmental consultant and aspiring romance author trying to publish her first novel.
* Nora Roberts– Often called the Queen of Romance. One can’t make a film about the romance community without Nora!
But lots of other writers play important roles in the film. We got terrific interviews with Jayne Ann Krentz, Jennifer Crusie, Robyn Carr, Brenda Jackson, Suzanne Brockmann, Bella Andre, Sherry Thomas, Kristan
Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Jodi Thomas, and many more. For a list of all of the authors we interviewed, you can check out lovebetweenthecovers.com/main-characters.
I had a blast meeting and getting to know all of them!
LP: Tell us about the production itself – how was it funded and is this doc part of a bigger series or a special academic project you are working on?
LK: Back in 2010, I dreamt up the Popular Romance Project which includes 1. the website PopularRomanceProject.org, 2. the Library of Congress conference What is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age (you can see the conference program and watch all four amazing panel discussions at http://www.lovebetweenthecovers.com/loc-con), 3. the film Love Between the Covers, and 4. a nationwide program of screenings of the film at public libraries, universities, and community centers.
The project was funded by hundreds of generous Kickstarter supporters, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mass Humanities, the Nora Roberts Foundation, an RWA scholar grant, the Freed Foundation, Amazon’s foundation, Harlequin (they supported the conference), and dozens of other foundations.
The sneak preview of Love Between the Covers took place in the historic Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress in February of 2015. I’m proud of organizing the first-ever conference on romance fiction hosted by the Library of Congress! And I’m grateful to all of my partners on this project: the Library of Congress, the Center for History and New Media, and the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance.
LP: How do you define a romance novel?
LK: The Romance Writers of America define a romance novel as a novel with a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. So that’s the definition I worked with!
LP: When did you start reading romance and why do you love it?
LK: I was a big reader of Victoria Holt, Elizabeth Goudge, and Jane Austen when I was in junior high school. I was intrigued by the Brontes, and immersed myself in the imaginary world the Bronte sisters created when they were young. When I got to high school I became an avid reader of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, James Baldwin, Herman Melville, and many others — mostly men, since very few women were deemed worthy of “the canon” back then. In college, my reading shifted to non-fiction (I was a philosophy major and I wanted to be a journalist.) For years I read non-fiction and short stories. Plunging into the romance world has allowed me to plunge back into long-form fiction!
LP: Why is romance fiction important for women? In your opinion is it empowering? Is it feminist?
LK: I think romance fiction is empowering. This is one of the few places where women are always center stage, where they get what they want, justice prevails, and the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically.
LP: When and where can we expect to see LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS? Any upcoming screenings?
LK: Love Between the Covers was officially released on July 12! It’s all been very exciting! The film is now available for purchase at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, X-box, VUDU, DirecTV, FandangoNOW, Kaleidescape, AT&T U-verse, cable on demand, satellite TV and many other platforms! Here are the links for Amazon and iTunes:
You can find info about upcoming public screenings at: lovebetweenthecovers.com/screenings.
LP: Tell us about some memorable moments that happened during filming of LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS?
LK: It took us a few years to get our interview with Nora Roberts, but when we did, she was open and funny and willing to talk about subjects she’s never been asked about. A woman was sitting outside the hotel room where I was doing the interview. I asked who she was, and Nora told me it was Ruth Langan, a romance writer she met 30 years earlier at the very first conference of the Romance Writers of America. They roomed together then, and have been sharing a room at the national conference ever since! Clearly Nora, a multi-millionaire, does not have to share a room with anyone! But I thought their friendship said a lot about the loyalty and camaraderie of the romance community. I invited Ruth into the room and then interviewed the two of them together. Our interview with Nora is unlike any other interview with her that I’ve seen. She openly discussed her childhood, shared hilarious stories about her early days as a writer, explained how the romance industry has changed, and discussed her writing process.
LP: What’s coming up for you – tell us what you’re working on next?
LK: My next film project is about a homeless shelter called Y2Y (Youth-to-Youth) — created for young adults and staffed by volunteer university students the same ages as their homeless guests. I will document Y2Y’s obstacles, hard choices, and triumphs over the next three years as homeless young adults and idealistic university students work together to create a safe environment for an extremely vulnerable population. It’s a wildly ambitious attempt to come up with a better model for dealing with homeless youth, and the students running the operation hope to inspire other students to replicate what they are doing at universities around the country. It’s an important subject. And the students and homeless guests are inspiring. For more info: blueberryhillproductions.com/y2y.
LP: Bonus: Who do you fangirl over?
LK: Sorry to be geeky but I fangirl over beautifully made, interesting, entertaining documentary films. When I see one, I’m jazzed for days.
LP: Where do you enjoy tucking into a good romance novel?
LK: On a hammock between two big trees in my yard. In the winter, you can’t beat a comfy chair in front of a fireplace!”
The buy link for Love Between the Covers is http://radi.al/LBTC
You can check out the film trailer for LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS AT: –https://vimeo.com/167886547
You can see ALL the different places where the film is now available for purchase or viewing at:lovebetweenthecovers.com/filmrelease as well as watch excerpts from the film AND fabulous bonus videos with footage that did not make it into the film!
If you watch the film LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS take the time to rate and review it at Amazon, iTunes and GooglePlay! It will make a big difference for this wonderful indie documentary film!!!