Throughout the month, we’ll be checking in with Marissa Backlin, co-owner of Love’s Sweet Arrow, a romance-focused independent bookstore in Tinley Park, IL. Be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, sign up for their newsletter, and check out their Patreon. Their online store is still open! Up first, an interview with LSA co-owner Marissa Backlin and FF’s Editorial Manager, Danielle Dresser.
Danielle: Welcome to the Fresh Fiction blog, Marissa! We are so thrilled to learn more about Love’s Sweet Arrow. Where did the idea come from to open a romance-only bookstore in Chicagoland?
Marissa: Roseann and I have always been big romance readers. I’ve been reading romance since I was sneaking it around 12 and Mom read it growing up too. I also ordered a few times from The Ripped Bodice once they opened and two Christmases ago, I got Mom the Lydia Bennett box! So two summers ago, we were just talking about how if we had an unlimited amount of money, opening a romance bookstore would be one of the things we would love to do. After a whole summer of daydreaming together about it, we decided to go for it!
What are some of your favorite things about romance? Books, authors, tropes, the community, etc.
I love the feeling of finding an author I love and reading their entire backlist! And really, there’s nothing like reading a book knowing there will be an HEA at the end and discovering how the author manages to convince you in an inventive way of their HEA. It’s a massive comfort in such an unstable and uncertain time right now.
Fresh Fiction is owned by a mother-daughter team, and LSA is owned by you and your mom as well! What is it like working with your mom?
It’s definitely handy to work with someone who knows me super well and vice versa. It’s not easy with both of us working two jobs (although not right now), so knowing what each of us needs to de-stress is handy. And sometimes when we need it, we buy each other books, which is the easiest way to de-stress!
What have things been like during the COVID-19 outbreak for you and the store?
Not great in some ways. We were hoping for some rent relief due to having to close the store and losing foot traffic and events, but it’s not looking likely. In addition, a close family member was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in the past week, so that has been rough. I’m following the shelter in place to prevent the spread and to keep myself and others healthy, but I am hoping to be able to see this family member in the near future before it’s too late.
With regard to the support, we have definitely seen the romance community support. We have had a lot of online orders, which will help with rent and our bills. We’re hoping to keep some steady online business so we can also pay our bills for the next month in case the store needs to remain closed through April and we aren’t allowed to hold events.
Having been to events at your store, I know how fun they are! What have been some of your favorite events so far? What sorts of events do you hope to have in the future?
I love all of our events, but it was super fun to have a Halloween party at the store! (Lady wants to share that any event where an author holds her for hours is her favorite, so she loved the events with Sonali Dev and Jen DeLuca!) I’m hoping to have more panels discussing important topics in romance, like our Romance Resolutions panel. I’m also hoping that we can do some of the summer events we were beginning to plan for, but we are starting to develop virtual options for events.
What do you wish other independent booksellers realized about romance?
That romance is the backbone of the publishing industry and romance readers are voracious readers. And romance readers buy books from bookstores where they aren’t judged and they can find the books they want.
Do you remember your first romance novel, or the novel that made you realize you were a romance fan?
Sadly, all I remember of my first romance novel is that there were sex scenes, a sunset on the cover, and a funeral and possibly a fight regarding the funeral. But I really got into the Avon True Romance for Teens in high school and I bought every single one! My absolutely favorite was Belle and the Beau by Beverly Jenkins and I read that one so many times. I was so happy to see that it’s been republished as Belle and it’s on my list of things to get for the store soon. I’ve read so many romances since then, but that and its sequel, Josephine and the Soldier, have always stayed with me.
What do you want readers to know about your store, especially during this tumultuous time?
We’re hanging in there, but any support (social media, gift card purchases, online orders, Patreon support) is greatly appreciated and frankly needed, especially since we’re not likely to see any rent assistance. We have been so excited to see our first anniversary in June, but if the shelter in place lasts for a few months, we will need to rely on online orders to keep going. Now, both Roseann and I are firmly of the mind that the shelter in place is the correct thing for the situation we’re in and we support that wholeheartedly. It’s just a hard position to be in, as a fledging business.
Rapid Fire Random Questions
Favorite animal: My dogs! Those goofball puppers of mine! Also, zebras and wolves.
Coffee or tea: Frappucinos from Starbucks. I’ve been super good and not gotten one since the shelter in place started. I’ve been supplementing with tea from home. It’s definitely one of the things I will celebrate with once we are able to.
Favorite book to re-read: Wow this is tough. I haven’t reread a book in a while lately because I’m trying to keep up with my TBR. I want to reread the Hidden Legacy series soon though and the Destiny’s series.
Beach or mountains: I like walking more than I like swimsuits, but I’m also super afraid of heights. And you can read on the beach!
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?: Olympic gymnast actually. I was not actually good enough to do that, but I was competitive until I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and required orthopedic surgery at 12.
Dream vacation: Italy. I’ve had two missed opportunities to go there, so I’m bound and determined to get there one day.
Aside from reading and writing, what are your hobbies?: Crocheting. I’ve done it since high school and it’s self-care for me. And I love marathoning tv shows. Hoping to do some social distance marathoning of The Mandalorian and Westworld with my younger brother.
Five people you’d invite to your book club (dead, alive, fictional, etc.!): Anne Shirley, Rabbi Dayna Ruttenberg, Representative Ocasio-Cortez, Elena Alvarez, and Billie Yates (nee Wells). I feel like it would be like a literary salon and someone would have to be writing down the discussion.
Favorite movie: I don’t really know. I haven’t seen a lot of movies lately. One of my students a few years back was obsessed with Inside Out and that was a cute one.
You have a totally free afternoon – no deadlines, no obligations, no Twitter notifications! What do you do?: Did someone come and take my dogs for the day too? Lol. I’m putting on Schitt’s Creek or One Day at a Time and crocheting, taking reading breaks.
GIVEAWAY: We’re all cooped up – what do you miss about browsing in bookstores? Tell us in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a totally adorable Love’s Sweet Arrow tote bag. Bright pink and perfect to carry around a bunch of books. US only – Good Luck!
About Love’s Sweet Arrow
LOVE’S SWEET ARROW is a romance-focused independent bookstore in Tinley Park, IL. LSA has been featured in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, BTW, Love In Panels, and more. You can find out more about the store (and their adorable bookseller dogs) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also shop their online store, sign up for their newsletter, and check out their Patreon. For more information, please visit http://lovessweetarrow.com.
WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | NEWSLETTER | ONLINE STORE | PATREON
Fresh Fiction Editorial Manager Danielle Dresser is an avid reader, lackluster-yet-mighty crafter, and accomplished TV binge-watcher. Once upon a time, she was a publisher publicist and continues to cultivate her love of books and reading by chatting with the best authors in the business. She lives in Chicagoland with her very own romance hero husband, darling daughter, and two tempestuous cats. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @dj_dresser.