WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Kristan. We are so happy to talk with you today. Your book, The Next Best Thing, is out from Harlequin this month. What do readers need to know about your latest book?
Kristan: Thank you, Margo! It’s lovely to be here today. The Next Best Thing is about Lucy, a young widow trying to find a not-so-bad guy to marry, so she can have kids and move on with her life. She’s not looking to fall madly in love again — she was obviously devastated when her husband died five years ago, and she doesn’t want to be that vulnerable this time around. So, the first thing she does is distance herself from Ethan, her best friend and more recently, her friend with privileges. Their relationship is complicated, and he’s pretty much the last guy Lucy would pick as husband material.
One of my favorite things about this book is Lucy’s profession and her family, which are very much intertwined. Lucy’s a very talented pastry chef, but she works in the family bakery in the bread department while her aunts make these rather tired and uninspired pastries, cookies, and cakes. Lucy loves the family bakery and adores her aunts; but they’re all widows, too. And in Lucy’s family, you don’t remarry. You get one shot at love; and if he dies, well…that’s your bad luck. So Lucy’s bucking tradition, as it were, and it makes for some very funny scenes. And of course, it was really fun to write about all those gorgeous desserts.
WOW: What a great premise with the aunts! I love it, and I'm sure readers get hungry reading your book. I hear there's a great recipe in this book AND in your book Too Good to be True. How much does cooking play into your plots and love stories?
Kristan: Well, food is a great part of life, don’t you think? One of the things I try to do is create a character the reader can really feel she knows and an important detail is favorite food. In Too Good To Be True, Grace consoles herself with Disgustingly Rich Chocolate Brownies, which she also brings to the hero to apologize for an unfortunate incident involving a field hockey stick and the police.
In The Next Best Thing, Lucy’s profession revolves around food, of course. Her late husband was a chef, and her in-laws own an Italian restaurant; so yes, food is very important! One of the things that hints at my characters’ feelings is what they eat…and what they don’t. And yes, I’ll be posting more recipes on my website…I do love to bake, so these are all tried and true.
WOW: Just the name of those brownies from Too Good to be True sound absolutely delicious! Food and romance just seem to go together--you're right. You have several contemporary romance books out from Harlequin and more to come. How do you keep your story lines fresh and interesting since we all expect the happily ever after at the end of a romance?
Kristan: I think the first thing I do is try to be honest about the pitfalls of relationships. My characters are very real people — no one is a billionaire, staggeringly beautiful, or breathtakingly talented…in other words, they’re us! I also try to focus on the heroine’s immediate dilemma, then pick the guy who seems to be the very worst choice for her. Of course, he’s really the right guy, but I want the couple to have to earn their happily ever after. And I focus a lot on family. Families shape us into the people we are; they know our best qualities and our weak spots, too. And weaving them into the story feels very natural for me.
WOW: I like that idea of the family being involved in your books because families are so involved in our love lives whether or not we want to admit it. I love the animals on the cover of all your books. The Next Best Thing has a gray cat, looking ready to eat some of whatever your heroine is mixing in that bowl. Where did the idea come for animals on each cover? Do animals play an important role in each novel?
Kristan: The amazing people in the Harlequin art department design my covers, so I can’t take any credit, though they give me a little preview, which is always thrilling. Personally, I’ve always had pets (mostly dogs, a few cats thrown in to keep me on my toes); and making my heroines pet owners wasn’t so much a conscious decision as just a normal part of life. But I choose the heroine’s pet very carefully, and that pet reflects something about the character. In The Next Best Thing, Lucy’s cat, Fat Mikey, is a very independent animal. Dogs, in my opinion, require a lot more attention and devotion. And when Lucy acquires Fat Mikey, she’s still really hurting over her husband. It felt like a dog might be too much. So Fat Mikey keeps her company, but he doesn’t get too sentimental, either.
WOW: What a great way to reveal things about the characters through their pets. That's genius! (I'm a big pet lover, too.) You also have a blog that you regularly update. What types of information will your fans find on your blog?
Kristan: My blogs on my own website are just little vignettes about my life as a writer and as a person. I’m pretty normal…married to a real sweetheart, mom of two great kids. I’m very close with my siblings, adore my nieces and nephews, have lunch with my mom, volunteer in
our town, carpool the kids around. If anyone has any illusions about the glamorous life of the writer, they need only check in with my blog and get a reality check! There are no silk pajamas here…my dog would drool all over those, and the cat would shred them in a heartbeat.
WOW: I'm sure your fans love to read about your life, and that's a good idea for blog posts! What are you working on next?
Kristan: Right now, I’m finishing up the edits on All I Ever Wanted, which comes out
this August, and working on another romantic comedy. One of the things that’s most fun about being a writer is figuring out which of your ideas is ready to be teased out into an entire book…you never know which seedling is ready to sprout.
WOW: We are so excited, Kristan, that you shared your insights about your books and your writing life with us today. We look forward to many more great books from you to keep us reading and smiling!
Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill
*If you're an author interested in being interviewed and/or promoting your book, please contact Margo at margo (at) wow-womenonwriting.com for details. (Replace at with @)