I love a good romance. And I am particularly excited about this book, For Butter or Worse, by Erin La Rosa. Erin and I were in a writing group together back when my boy (who’s now 11) was just an infant. Since then, she’s written two very funny non-fiction books (Womanskills and The Big Redhead Book), and this is her first (long overdue) foray into fiction.
Because we go way back, I couldn’t pass up the chance to ask her a few questions that I’ve always been a little too shy to ask other romance writers. But before we get into the interview, you should take a moment and pop over to Bookshop.org to pre-order your copy of For Butter or Worse. It comes out on July 26.
Okay, here we go:
April: One of the things I love about romance novels is their ability to surprise me. I mean, we read romance precisely for the HEA (Happily Ever After – we know it’s out there somewhere), so when things seem like they can’t possibly work out, we have to keep reading to see how it all comes together in the end. Do you outline or just start writing with the HEA as an ultimate end goal?
Erin: I’m a big fan of outlines, especially after writing For Butter or Worse, which started as a “pantser” situation (meaning I was flying by the seat of my pants, no outline!). I actually wrote a full draft of For Butter or Worse, then had to scrap it entirely and start over because I realized I needed more plot. Now I do a really intense outline in Google Docs before moving on to the writing phase, and I’ve found the writing comes faster and easier as a result. Having the HEA as a goal to reach is a huge help in terms of figuring out how to give each character an arc and growth that will lead them towards that happy ending.
April: Tessa Dare dedicated her book, The Duchess Deal, to her dad, saying: “Thanks, Dad. This book’s for you. Please don’t read chapters 7, 9, 11, 17, 19, 21, or 28.” How have your parents reacted to you publishing your first romance novel? Have they read it? Do they ask unbearable questions?
Erin: I love that dedication, it’s so perfect! My dad is an avid reader and deeply into vampire novels, many of which are just romance books with some bite (wink). Still, I was terrified of him reading For Butter or Worse because, well, there’s a lot of steam, folks! He did read the book though, in one day, and he didn’t so much as mention the sex scenes (thank the gods of romance!). My mom, however, has a friend who told her there will be sex scenes in my book, and she seemed pretty scandalized. She hasn’t read it yet, and I’m absolutely going to redact those chapters for her!
April: One thing I admire about your writing is your ability to capture witty banter on the page. If you sit down at your computer and you’re not feeling droll, how do you evoke that? Do you have music/books/shows that you turn to to get you in a clever frame of mind?
Erin: Thank you for saying that, April! I really love writing dialogue, it’s my absolute favorite part! I think that comes from my playwriting and screenwriting background. I also love this question, because I totally rely on movies, shows, and books I love to get me into a funny headspace. I love rewatching Bridget Jones’s Diary, Legally Blonde, and more recently a show called Starstruck. I’ve also re-read my favorite romance book of all time, Boyfriend Material, when I need to get into a certain headspace.
April: What inspired you to set a romance story in the culinary world and how many hours of reality TV did you consume as research for this project? Do you have a favorite baking show?
Erin: Ha! So many hours! My favorite shows to watch while I wrote this were Top Chef, Great British Baking Show, and especially Chef’s Table. I got inspired to write this because I wanted to tell a story where my lead female was succeeding in a male-dominated space, and while researching jobs I was shocked to see a statistic that only 7% of restaurants in America are run by women—which was wild to me. I then kept digging and saw so many stories from female chefs who’d left the restaurant world because of sexism, and I thought there was something to explore there. Nina, my lead, is a Gordon Ramsay-type, so not your typical nurturing, Food Network, host. I wanted to flip the gender stereotypes and see what would happen if a woman acted like a man in an already male-centric world. So we see a lot of the sexism and backlash she faces, and reveal some of the discrimination within that world while telling a compelling love story.
April: I usually end my author interviews with a lightning round, but since you’ve already answered all my rapid fire question when we did this for The Big Redhead Book, I had to come up with a few new ones:
Favorite day of the week?
I love Sundays! I make a point not to work at all on Sunday, so it’s a total family day. We hit the farmer’s market, go to the park, and just kind of bliss out with weekend vibes in Los Angeles.
Do your cats have middle names?
Ha! They don’t, but they do have backstories we’ve invented. Fish, our eldest, was a steamboat captain running an illegal gambling ring. Chip, our youngest, was an elevator operator and donned a funny cap.
What’s one book you’ve read, but not listed on GoodReads?
Recently read Remarkably Bright Creatures, which I cannot recommend enough. I mean, there are chapters written from the POV of an octopus! It’s wonderful and compelling and so deeply warm.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
I eat the same thing every morning (so Steve Jobs of me): oatmeal, goji berries, flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds on top
What do you wish you’d had for breakfast this morning?
A donut from Donut Friend. I’m ordering them this weekend, and I am going to TOWN on that dozen.
Pratt or Pine?
Pine all the way.
Fuzzy slippers or a gorgeous pair of heels?
I live a lot of fantasy lives, so I want the heels, but I never wear them! Still, I’ll say heels because they’re aspirational.
And lastly, can you tell us anything about your next book?
Love this question, because I’m chin deep in rewrites for my second book. It’s a spin-off book about Sophie, Nina’s sister, and she’s a romance novelist in her sophomore slump (meta much?), who decides to revisit her past relationships to discover why she’s never fallen in love!
And don’t forget to pre-order your copy of For Butter or Worse today.