Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review & Author Interview - The Hating Game

OK, True Confession: When I first started reading Talli Roland's witty, entertaining debut novel The Hating Game, I was concerned. I didn't like a single character. (Rut-roh!)

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).

The other male plot-mover and creator of the reality show Second Chance for Romance (which becomes The Hating Game) Nate Reilly is introduced as a cowardly, doughy, barf-covered, bad-haired children's television show host.


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 (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


Vicki Rocho said...

Great review and interview! I read THG this weekend...not finished yet. Mattie is on day 3 of the 2 weeks with he-who-shall-remain-nameless-for-all-those-who-haven't-read-it-yet.

I agree that in the beginning, the characters were a little off-putting, but have definitely grown and changed. Can't wait to find time to finish it!

Talli Roland said...

Yay! Thanks so much, Leigh, for having me here on the blog, and taking the time to read and review The Hating Game! :) I'm glad you and Vicki enjoyed it despite the initial hard (and sometimes sloppy) appearance of the characters!

Hope you've had a great Christmas!

Old Kitty said...

Yay!! I have to admit that Mattie scared the bejesus out of me when I started reading the hating game - cos she was just so angry!!!! Why was she so angry, I asked myself - but at the end - I was cheering for her all the way!!

Oooh nice to see the cover of Talli Roland's next book!!! Lovely!

Take care

DEZMOND said...

a lovely review, Leigh!

Unknown said...

I still need to read this one! Thanks for the review and interview.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm not a reality TV fan but a book about a fictional show sounds very intriguing. I've always wondered why anyone would expose themselves like they do on those shows.

Tracy said...

Great review and super interview! I am heading out today and will look for the book; can't wait to read it!

notesfromnadir said...

This was an interesting review to read as Leigh seemed a bit skeptical at 1st. But she obviously got involved w/ the story!

I also enjoyed reading the interview as I had no idea those stats at the beginning of each chapter were made up! & I also thought Nate seemed so sweet & I enjoyed his journey.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Leigh and Talli .. great to be here .. I love the relaxed style you have Talli .. and the book sounds even more enticing .. I have no kindle .. so need the book itself. Great interview .. loved it .. thanks - here's to a great year ahead for both of you .. Hilary

LTM said...

I emailed those of you I could!
@Tracy-I think only the Kindle version is available at present, but it's still $3 and very much a steal at that price. :o) <3

@Hilary-I think the PB version is due out early 2011, but I very much recommend getting it. It's a great fun read! :o) <3

Yay, Talli! ("sometimes sloppy" = blow-drying ferrets? ;o) <3

Theresa Milstein said...

LTM, I felt the same way about the characters in the beginning. They were entertaining, but then the layers formed as I read on.

Talli, you made up those quotes? Funny because I thought it's amazing anyone finds love with stats like that!

Unknown said...

I adored The Hating Game and I'm looking forward to her next book!!! I loved the quotes (information) on the top of each chapter in THG, it was so fun!!!

Great interview!!!

Happy New Year to you both!!!

RaShelle Workman said...

Hey, Leigh - Great review. Sounds like a fantastic book. I love layers in characters. What a great interview, too. ;D

Carolyn Abiad said...

Great review and interview! Sounds like a great book for "me" time. Can't wait till these kids go back to school so I can tackle the TBR list! :D

Unknown said...

Great review and interview. I had similar concerns when starting the book but as it crept along, I started rooting for the characters and couldn't wait to see what happened.

Mason Canyon said...

Leigh, wonderful review and interview. I've only gotten to read a few pages so far but I can tell it's going to be a fun read and you've confirmed that for me.

Talli, wishing you much success with The Hating Game and love the idea for your next book.

Thoughts in Progress

Talli Roland said...

Thank you, everyone, for the comments -- and a big thanks to Leigh for hosting me! :)

Dawn Ius said...

I already had this book on my TBR list, but your review and interview make me want to move it towards the top :-) Thanks!

Unknown said...

I had such a great time reading your review and interview. Great job to both you and Talli! I have my copy of The Hating Game and can't wait to dig in!

Hope you're having a good recovery week too!


Manzanita said...

I finished THG over Christmas and was curious about some of the questions you answered in this interview. Your character development is fantastic and the way the reader's emotions change about the characters. I kept wondering where you got the idea for the sausage eating Silver. I could smell the garlic and then they all end up at the garlic farm!!
What a talent and I'm so looking forward to your new book.
Thank you for the review.

Jessica Bell said...

I thought the book was fab, too. I hated everyone. LOL. That's why it was so great! Very different. Brave. Clever.

I think I'll gag every time I see a cocktail sausage from now on ... :o)

Creepy Query Girl said...

yeah!! I can't wait to read this- thanks for sharing the little tidbits Leigh and Talli! Sounds like a great read to me!

Unknown said...

This is an awesome interview, and I like the review, makes me wantbto go pick up the book :)

LTM said...

@Damyanti--you should! It's a fun book, and it supports a friend~ :o) <3