Whenever I read a book I wonder about the author’s connection to the story. Why did they write about this? Which character do they identify with most? Is it autobiographical? Etc. To my surprise, people have been asking me similar questions as they are reading my book. This has been delightful and yet disappointing because I feel like the answers are a bit of a let down.
One summer my husband and I loaded our two toddlers into our little hatchback Subaru and drove from Iowa City to Orlando for an internship. It was a really long drive and to entertain ourselves we challenged ourselves to come up with the most cliche romantic comedy plot of all time. This was the beginning of Love Over Easy. Here were our criteria: The girl has to be a writer in New York City, living a lifestyle that isn’t logical based on her income. Her love interest should have a snarky, minority for a best friend. She should have some kind of complicated family situation, probably a dead parent.
I had participated in National Novel Writing Month for a few years previous to that road trip brainstorming session, so I had written a novel before. The following November, I set out to write the book that had made us laugh so much in the car. The original version had some kind of class divide going on between Violet and Guy, where his being poor and uneducated was a barrier to them getting together but I just hated it and abandoned it after the first draft.
That was back in 2010. It’s been eight years, three full rewrites and countless revisions since then. In January I called up my brother who runs a small publishing house, Eburnean Books, and said ‘I just don’t really know if I should continue writing. I’m not sure if it’s what I’m meant to be doing with my life. I don’t know if it’s worth the time I put into it, or if I should double down and spend way more time on it.’
I had sent my brother the manuscript a year previously and had heard nothing back. I assumed that my book was terrible and he just didn’t have the heart to tell me.
When I talked to him in January he said ‘oh that’s hilarious, I just picked up Love Over Easy this week and am enjoying it. I think it’s a sign. Let’s go ahead and publish your book.’
It turns out that even nepotism can’t get you to the top of the slush pile. 😉
So. Frequently asked questions.
Have you ever lived in New York City?
No, I have never even been to New York City. However, the amount of research I did on the restaurants that circa 2007 NYC had to offer left me ravenous and vaguely dissatisfied with Iowa City’s food scene. Which was before I moved to suburbs, where the food scene is much worse. I would absolutely love to go to New York and get a better feel for all the places I described.
The setting was chosen purely because it was the most cliche rom com setting to use. I live in constant fear that an actual New Yorker will yell at me about something in it. Which I have heard New Yorkers really enjoy doing. If I had to do it over again I would choose a city that was more familiar to me, like LA where I grew up.
How do you know so much about Dungeons and Dragons?
I am, in fact, a Dungeons and Dragons player. Although I say that with lots caveats. I play with close friends and family who are interested in playing themselves and I kind of go along for the ride. I do enjoy it though, particularly I enjoy trying to use my made up “flirt” skill to get me out of things. I find myself hilarious.
Where did you get Guy’s hash brown recipe?
Guy’s hash brown recipe is actually my hash brown recipe. My love of hash brown s definitely rivals Violet’s and I have always lamented my lack of ability to recreate diner hash browns at home. After a lot of research, I came up with this, which is squarely a second rate version of every diner everywhere including Dennys.
Which character do you identify with?
I didn’t really write myself into this book, none of the characters are really ‘me.’ If I had to choose one I’d probably pick Guy’s sister Virginia but only because I hope I’m not quite as involved as MaryAnne by the time my kids are that old. We’ll see.
My best friend read the book and she says that I’m Pedro. Since he gets the most praise from beta readers and reviewers, I’m okay with that.
Why did you choose to put in…
I really think that Love Over Easy suffered from over drafting. After the second rewrite I should have scrapped it and moved on to a different project but as an immature writer I stubbornly held on to my idea.
The thing I think that drove most decisions about Love Over Easy is that its a genre novel. It’s meant to be a romantic comedy and while I didn’t write it to a specific formula, the genre demands certain things be included. The first couple drafts had no kissing scenes at all. To me, it made sense that since Violet had a boyfriend, Guy and Violet wouldn’t be kissing until the end when Violet was more available. My writing group told me that wouldn’t do, it was a romance after all and even clean romances need kissing. So I added the scene at the Ritz.
When I was working on this, my friend was working on a time travel/adventure series. She struggled through the first book then started on the second, wherein the protagonist was trapped with her love interest for a long period of time. This lit her up. She loved writing the romance aspect of the story. Her word count sky rocketed, writing became easy and fun for her. She eventually dropped the sci fi genre, started writing clean romance and has done very well for herself with it.
Romance doesn’t light me up. I kind of hate it. I’m not planning on writing any more romantic books. The next project I’m working on is a cozy mystery, a genre that I am much more likely to read and enjoy than romance. It’s come much easier to me.
I also wrote two drafts of a modern retelling of a scripture story using Mormon missionaries as the protagonists. I really loved that one but I don’t think I’ll ever publish it for many reasons.
Sometimes the beginnings of books float around in my head, keeping me up at night. I play around with words until I fall asleep and then I can’t make them quite as good again the next day. It’s so surreal that some of those little bits of thought all came together into a book and that other people are actually reading it. It’s pretty terrifying. I feel so arrogant. Why should anyone read my strange thoughts? Why should I make such demands on their precious time? I’m not sure what the answer is, but something compels me to put down little bits of thoughts down into writing.