Creators Kevin Norman and Hina Talk Romance Fiction, Audiobooks, and Finding Community Online

Be it a steamy contemporary novel, a charming historical romp, or fantasy with a passionate twist, romance holds a special place in many readers’ hearts. On Spotify, you can find audiobooks that cover everything from classic romance (hello, Pride and Prejudice) to viral modern picks (Red, White & Royal Blue, anyone?) and everything in between. With recommendations, curated playlists, and more, our on-platform Spicy Audiobooks hub is an easy way to start exploring.

This February, we’re celebrating romance audiobooks on Spotify with the help of authors like Ana Huang, as well as some of our favorite audiobook experts: Kevin Norman and Hina. For the Record caught up with Kevin and Hina to learn more about their love of reading, the power of social media, and their ideal spice level when it comes to romance novels.

Romance fiction is having a moment. Why is this genre so popular?

Kevin: People have always loved romance novels, but social media has given us a place to talk about them and introduce them to a whole bunch of new readers. As these videos go viral, they have a reach that book marketing never had before.

Hina: Part of why I think this genre is so popular right now is because we are still in the post-pandemic adjustment era. One of the consequences of the pandemic was a global shared feeling of loneliness. A lot of people turned to online spaces to feel the company of others, to feel less alone while we were locked away in our homes and the world was on pause. It makes sense to me that online communities boosted genres such as romance fiction given that collectively, we were all seeking something that made us feel like we could be in a world untouched by disaster.

Kevin, you helped curate editorial content for Spotify’s Spicy Audiobooks hub. Tell us about that experience—how did you determine your selections?

Kevin Norman

Kevin: It has been one of the most surreal opportunities I’ve had as a bookish content creator. I always saw those celebrity playlists, so it’s wild that I now have my own and get to share some of my favorite books. When making my selections, I wanted to be diverse in my choices and ensure I included a little of everything for everyone. I felt like this was an opportunity not just for me, but for all of us in the book community, so I didn’t want to only include books I’ve read and loved. This playlist is for all of us.

What do you hope listeners get out of the hub?

Kevin: I hope that new listeners will fall in love with reading and that theyll discover their next favorite book. Its a fantastic opportunity for people to explore a new genre and fall in love with my personal favorite way to read: audiobooks! I hope it spices up their lives, too.

From sweet (🌶️) to scorching hot (🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️), where’s your sweet spot for romance fiction?

Hina: For me, between 1 and 2 is ample, and the book’s spice level is second to the plot. To feel invested in any book, I think the spice needs to feel like it has a purpose and isn’t the propeller of the plot itself.

Kevin: My sweet spot for a romance book is a 3! Not too hot, not too mild. It’s a perfect blend of spice, romance, and plot.

What romance novel would you recommend to someone totally new to the genre?

Kevin: I would pick something by Emily Henry. Her books are a great balance of romance and spice without being too overwhelming for someone new to the genre.

Hina: I really enjoyed Gideon the Ninth from the Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir. It’s a romantasy novel with a gothic atmosphere, a creative plot, queer love, and an interesting world. I’d call it “gays in space” if I had to rename it in three words. This was the first romance novel I had ever read, so it stands out to me. The strange relationship dynamics in this book were filled with tension and excitement. I remember how fast I turned the pages just to get to these moments of juiciness.


What do you love most about audiobooks?

Hina: One night I wanted to draw but also wanted to read, so I gave audiobooks a shot. My life changed forever. Now there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t listen to a book. I still love a physical book, but there’s something about having it read to me that has really charmed me. Hearing how the readers emote and read dialogue sections is particularly fascinating. Sometimes there’s a part of a book I’d read one way in my head, and then hearing it read in a different way can change the tone entirely.

Kevin: I love audiobooks because of how convenient they are for anyone who is busy and on the go. You can listen to them while you drive, cook, clean, etc. Plus, it makes books feel so immersive. My first audiobook experience was Harry Potter when I was in elementary school, and I have been obsessed with audiobooks ever since. Also, they help me focus. I love to read a physical book while listening to the audiobook for full immersion, and to cut out everyday distractions.

Any advice for people who want to get into—or get back into—reading?

Kevin: Honestly, audiobooks! I think they’re perfect for those who might think reading a physical book can be a little daunting. Whenever I feel like I’m in a reading slump, audiobooks always pull me out.

Hina: The most important thing about reading is that you read things that are interesting to you. No matter how much you like to read, you’re not going to enjoy reading something you’re not into. For me, I love sci-fi. Out of the hundreds of books I’ve read in my lifetime, I’d bet at least 70% are sci-fi. Ask yourself what kind of media or stories you like from other mediums, like film or TV. If you like historical movies, try historical fiction or period pieces. If you like documentaries, try nonfiction or memoirs. If you like video games, read books like Ready Player One or Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. There’s a book for everyone.

Looking for a sizzling, swoony listen? Peruse Spotifys Spicy Audiobooks hub.