Mattie Johns, the protagonist, is introduced as a calculating media agent with no apparent moral code outside of financial independence. Her male clients are bullies with disgusting habits, and it was hard for me to believe she would touch them (let alone do anything more).
But almost as soon as I'd decided that, Talli slowly began peeling back the layers to reveal these characters' dreams, their betrayals and heartbreaks, and their determination to succeed--all the elements that lead them to Nate's fictitious reality dating show. (Reunion show?)
Mattie's facing financial ruin precipitated by Kyle Cook, her ex-business partner and the only guy she ever loved. Nate's manipulated by the television executives handling his show. And the truth is, other than Kyle, most of Mattie's exes really are idiots. Or worse...
As readers follow these two through one humorous double-cross after another, Nate and Mattie become sympathetic characters who are just trying to move up the career ladder to success.
Mattie's defensive-aggressive personality is explained, and readers will hold their breaths in anticipation of her giving Kyle another chance. (Will she? Won't she? But it was all a misunderstanding...)
Talli does a super job maintaining tension throughout the book, and I giggled more than once at Mattie's snide observations (e.g., "decomposition was the only chemistry in that relationship"). Talli also has clever fun with names (e.g., "SiniStar Productions" and "Silver Hatchett" is Nate's cut-throat boss.)
The chemistry between Mattie and Kyle is fantastic, and while I had an idea of what was coming, the conclusion plays out in an unexpected (and satisfying) way. By the end the characters have grown and changed, and readers will be cheering for them to win.
The Hating Game is a romantic comedy for grown ups that I gladly give it a smiling A and recommend you run out and purchase right away. (link)
And now for my interview with Talli!
1-First, love the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Where did you find those? Are they real?
Thank you! They are completely made up – I shudder to think about anyone’s chances of finding love if they were genuine. I looked at real life dating statistics, then I flipped them around, exaggerated numbers, and in many cases came up with my own from scratch (using some of my negative dating experiences…).
2-I got the impression while reading that you're not a fan of reality TV. But I actually thought "Second Chance for Romance/The Hating Game" was a great idea for a reality show! How did you come up with it? And which came first, the book idea or the reality show idea?
Actually, I love reality television! I’d make a great spectator at the Coliseum back in the day – I love giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to people on the screen – and the fact that it’s real lends extra drama. But as much as I enjoy watching, I’m very skeptical. I’ve worked in the media and as an intern on TV shows and I’ve seen how editing can influence outcomes.
When I’m thinking about new ideas, I try to take things I’ve already seen and flip them on their head. I had a think about all the reality shows I know and tried to give them a twist… and The Hating Game came to life!
3-Mattie's a successful business woman who's on the verge of losing everything. I remember you blogged once that if you hadn't lost your own job, you'd never have tried to write a book. Any correlation between art and life here?
Funnily enough, I’ve written a few novels with ambition versus self-fulfillment as the central theme. But in this novel, Mattie’s ambition and the threat to her business is really just a set-up to propel her to make a decision she wouldn’t have made otherwise. The central theme in The Hating Game is more about love and trust than ambition.
4-You did a great job taking these initially unlikeable characters and giving them depth. I got misty reading one of Mattie's memories of her father (the ring). Did you start writing them that way or did you change them to be less likeable at first?
Thank you! Mattie was a tough one; she needed to start off brusque and aggressive, but with a hint of a soft centre. I don’t like wishy-washy characters and I’d much rather have them slightly over the top than passive.
Usually when I start writing, I don’t have a clear enough sense of what they want to make them much of anything. By the end of the first draft, their personalities are fully formed and I can go back and make them really come into their own.
5-Who was your favorite character and why? Or which character did you connect with the most (and why)?
I really love Nate, the misguided TV producer, because he’s like a giant cuddly teddy bear who desperately wants to be cool but is just… not. Silver, the managing director of the production company, was the most fun to write. I’ll never be able to bite into a sausage again without thinking of her! And of course I empathize with Mattie, since we’ve all been hurt by former loves in our lives and want to protect ourselves from that pain.
6-You’re also a travel writer, writing 24 Hours London (link) and 24 Hours Paris (link). How much of a switch was it for you moving to fiction? How did your approach change?
Since I trained as a journalist, writing non-fiction was very natural to me. My dream was always writing fiction, but after years spent trying to write the bare-bones facts, I did – and do – find it hard to ‘make stuff up’. I tend to write very sparse first drafts and rush through scenes with scant level of detail. The second and subsequent drafts are where I add in much-needed details and try to flesh things out.
7-Tell us about your journey to print. How long did it take? Any ups or downs you'd like to share?
I’ve written five novels which will never see the light of day! But I don’t consider them wasted – I learned something from each of them, from plotting to characterization. It took awhile for the penny to drop that execution is not enough; you need to examine the core concept carefully before you start writing. Is it different? Does it fit into a genre? And does it have enough potential for conflict to carry it through at least ninety-thousand words?
8-You went with a small, independent publisher (Prospera Publishing) for your first book. What made you choose that route? Would you recommend it? (Tell us about that experience briefly.)
I had already published two travel guides with Prospera and helped to edit a few other projects, so I had a very good relationship with the publisher already and a clear understanding of how they worked. When it came time to pitch The Hating Game, it just made sense to continue working with them. It’s been a great experience, since I’ve had input into the cover design, release strategy and been consulted every step of the way.
9-We have to mention your marketing success for THG, as you put together an impressive "web splash" for the Kindle launch of THG. Any brief thoughts on that?
First of all, a massive thanks to everyone who helped me spread the word and supported me on the day! It exceeded my expectations and I’ll never forget it. To anyone who ever doubted it, social media does help sell books. I managed to get to 24 Paid Kindle on Amazon UK and 460 Paid Kindle on Amazon.com. (Link to Talli's blog post about it. And another link about working with Amazon.)
10-And you're already off to the next book! Tell us a little bit about your new book, Watching Willow Watts, when you expect it to be ready, how it's going.
I’m really excited about Watching Willow Watts, about a small-town girl who becomes an overnight YouTube sensation.
I love how technology is transforming our idea of celebrity, making it possible for almost anyone to become famous if the fates allow. It’s still in the very beginning stages, and it’s due out November 2011.
Bonus Question: Spill it! Who's "A" in THG's dedication?
Mr Talli Roland, of course! He was the first person to really give me a boot up the butt and tell me to quit whining about wanting to write and actually do it! Plus, he’s a great motivator and is the first one to let me know when I’m slacking off. All that and he bakes delicious coconut cookies, too.
Yummy! Thanks, Talli~
Talli's a great writer and a super bleep. I think you'll enjoy her debut romantic comedy, and I think WWW sounds even more fun--can't wait! (Now I'm wondering if that title was intentional... www?)
Have a great post-Christmas recovery week, guys. Til Thursday~ <3