Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Arlene Hittle, Romance Author

Arlene Hittle, Author
and other romances
Reviewers say that BLIND DATE BRIDE by Arlene Hittle is “funny, witty and a modern romance” that “makes you feel good and brings out the hopeless romantic in all of us.” Hittle claims it’s “pure entertainment.” She writes romances to escape from everyday life and because she likes happy endings. In addition to BLIND DATE BRIDE, she has written four other romances and numerous articles as a journalist.

When she’s not writing, Hittle likes to spend time with her cats, dog and tennis pro boyfriend. Currently residing in Arizona, she grew up in Chicago and remains a Cubs fan.  She is working on “Trouble in Paradise,” the follow-on to BLIND DATE BRIDE – both self-published. In addition, she also writes for Turquoise Morning Press who will be releasing one book in March (BREAKING ALL THE RULES, for Star Trek fans) and another in April (JUST RIGHT, a novella-length retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears).

Don't miss the excerpt following her interview.

Q: How did you conceive of the idea for a romance connected to Reality TV in BLIND DATE BRIDE? Why do you choose to write romances?

Arlene Hittle: BLIND DATE BRIDE is actually the first of two Reality (TV) Bites stories. A radio news report sparked the idea, way back in 1990-something. Back then, reality TV shows weren’t as pervasive as they are now. You had MTV’s “Real World” and “Road Rules,” but I don’t think “Survivor” or “The Bachelor” had started airing yet. I’m really not sure how I made the connection, but I remember telling myself I needed to hurry up and finish writing the book before the reality TV craze died off. Turns out, I needn’t have worried about that.

After hearing the radio story (the details of which now escape me), I wrote and submitted to my local theater group a one-act play in which the “lucky” couple’s friends are in the church basement, beseeching them to go through with a blind-date wedding neither of them signed up for. The book picks up where the play left off, with Kari and Damien reluctantly getting married and then getting to know one another.

I write romance because I believe in happy endings. Romance provides an escape from everyday life...a guarantee that, no matter how many things go wrong along the way, the hero and heroine will get to happily ever after.

Q: One of your reviewers describes BLIND DATE BRIDE as a “modern” romance. Do you agree? How does a “modern romance” differ from a “traditional romance?”

Arlene Hittle: When I think of “traditional romance,” I think of the Silhouette Desire and Harlequin Presents titles—boss and secretary find forbidden love, best friends become lovers, secret baby comes to light, divorced couples rediscover the spark ... I devoured those stories (still do from time to time). BRIDE isn’t one of them.

Sure, the situation Kari and Damien find themselves in—meeting for the first time on their wedding day, as the winners of Romance TV’s “Get a Love Life” contest—can be seen as a traditional marriage of convenience story. At the same time, the reality TV angle makes it thoroughly modern. Even 15-ish years ago when I first came up with the idea, it seemed outrageous. (People asked me how I’d get readers to believe people would marry for TV.) Not so anymore. About the time I released BLIND DATE BRIDE last summer, FYI network premiered “Married at First Sight,” a reality show with an eerily familiar premise.

Q: A reviewer said your “wit and love for the funnier side of love shines through.” How important is humor to telling your story? Do you associate humor with romance?

Arlene Hittle: For me, at least, humor and love are intertwined—if you’re not having fun in a relationship, perhaps you shouldn’t be in it. Yes, I love love won’t be a 24-hour-a-day laugh fest, seven days a week—but your mate should be able to make you laugh at yourself or the situation. My tagline has been “...because love is funny.”

Q: What makes readers care about what happens to your protagonist Kari Parker? How do you create a character that readers will embrace?

Arlene Hittle: Good question. I hope to create characters that readers identify with, or at least wouldn’t mind sitting down to drinks/dinner with. (I do this with varying degrees of success, according to editors and critics.) I love my characters, flaws and all, and want everyone else to do the same.

Kari picked the wrong boyfriend in college (who hasn’t done that?) and is still struggling to get over the psychological damage he inflicted. She gets tongue-tied talking to cashiers, and her friend Bethany enters her in the contest to win something less than the grand prize—a six-month subscription to an online dating service. Instead, she finds herself saddled with a too-strong, too-sexy veterinarian and has to find herself before she can say “yes” to love.

Q: Does the concept of “villains versus heroes” apply to BLIND DATE BRIDE? What are the attributes of an effective villain? Do you need a villain to have a hero?

Arlene Hittle: There really is no villain in BLIND DATE BRIDE—unless you count the ghost of Kari’s ex-boyfriend. I think to be effective, a villain has to be creepy and have good reasons for doing what he does. (We’re never in Rob’s head, so we have no idea why he was such a jerk to Kari.) In romance, the hero can be a hero simply because he’s the male lead.

Q: Did you write BLIND DATE BRIDE just to entertain or did you intend to deliver a message?

Arlene Hittle: It’s pure entertainment. Any messages readers find in it arise from their experiences/interpretations.

Q:  In addition to writing your novels, you are also a journalist. Do you prefer journalism or novel-writing? Fiction or non-fiction? Were you able to use your journalist skills to write a fictional novel? Or is the difference between reporting news and creating a story difficult to cross?

Arlene Hittle: Honestly? I majored in journalism because I was trying to be practical. In elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. By the time I got to 10th grade, I realized I needed a career to pay the bills while I tried to break into fiction. I chose journalism because it’d give me a chance to write for a living until I could write novels for a living.

Novel-writing and journalistic writing are somewhat different—I didn’t really settle into heavy-duty fiction-writing until I started working as a page designer/copy editor. (When I wrote all day at work, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was write some more.) Some skills cross over—vocabulary, ability to string together sentences. I believe that my reliance on clichés, which some readers have dinged me for, is a result of my journalism background. (I go for the quick, easily understandable comparison.) I’m about to test my ability to do both at once, though. In September, I was laid off from my page design/copy editing gig, and I start a new job as education reporter Jan 5. Writing has become more of a habit now, and I’m confident I’ll be able to do both.

Q: How supportive is setting to telling your story? Can you use time and location to amplify your narrative?

Arlene Hittle: I probably could, but I’m not sure I do. A lot of the scenes in BRIDE are set in fictional places within the real city of Chicago.

Q:  What’s next?

Arlene Hittle: BLIND DATE BRIDE is my foray into self-publishing. Its companion, TROUBLE IN PARADISE, picks up where BRIDE left off and tells the story of Kari and Damien’s best friends Bethany and Cody, the ones who got more wedding night action than the bride and groom. It’s sitting on my hard drive, waiting for me to shape it into something ready to release, which I’d like to do sometime in 2015. I also write for Turquoise Morning Press. My next TMP releases are set for March (BREAKING ALL THE RULES, a nod to Star Trek lovers) and April (JUST RIGHT, a novella-length retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears).

Q: Tell us about Arlene Hittle. What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing?

Arlene Hittle: I watch too much TV and spend as much time as possible with my cats, dog and tennis pro boyfriend. I enjoy cooking, the result of a Food Network obsession in the 90s, and—in a fit of poor judgment induced by my impending move downstate—decided to use up my yarn stash by crocheting scarves as Christmas gifts. I’d love to learn how to knit, but attempts to teach myself have been unsuccessful. I’m guilty of pinning tons of recipes/projects that I will probably never, ever attempt on my own, no matter how delicious they look or cute they are.

About Arlene Hittle

Arlene Hittle is a Midwestern transplant who now makes her home in northern Arizona. She suffers from the well-documented Hittle family curse of being a Cubs fan but will root for the Diamondbacks until they run up against the Cubs. Longtime friends are amazed she writes books with sports in them, since she’s about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe and used to say marching band required more exertion than golf.

Nearly a decade ago, accountant Kari Parker shed 220 pounds of dead weight — her hulking, abusive college boyfriend. The last thing she wants in her life is another man — especially one as tall as a Windy City high rise. Yet when her best friend enters her in Romance TV’s “Get a Love Life” contest, another man is exactly what she gets. As much as she'd love to just say no, she can't turn down the prize money that will allow her to help her parents save the restaurant they've run all her life. Sparks fly between Kari and her bogus groom, and as she and Damien share close quarters, intimate meals and — gulp — his bed, Kari doesn’t stand a chance of resisting his considerable charms. Even worse? She might not want to. But building a real future out of their sham marriage will be tougher than baking a wedding cake from scratch … with no flour … in a broken oven.


She let Damien take her hand, and together they took their first steps as man and wife. When they reached the end of the aisle, they dutifully posed for their wedding pictures. Really, they were publicity shots for Romance TV, but the producer promised Kari and Damien could have as many copies as they wanted.
Like they’d really want any pictures to commemorate this bogus wedding.
She made sure her fake smile remained plastered on, though, as flashes lit the room. She stood and smiled, nodding whenever necessary, while the reporters in attendance asked questions that could only be considered nosy. No doubt this blind date wedding would be news in papers all over the country tomorrow morning.

Thank goodness her parents didn’t subscribe to the newspaper anymore. They’d stopped several years ago, claiming too much of the news was depressing. They didn’t have cable TV, either.
“So, Mrs. Walker, do you think your luck in love is about to change?”
When Kari didn’t respond right away, Damien nudged her. “They’re talking to you, sweetheart.”
He wanted her to speak in front of all these people? No way! And why was he calling her sweetheart? They barely knew each other.
She leaned over to whisper in Damien’s ear. Annoyance flared that she had to stand on tiptoe to do so. “I hate public speaking. I can’t address this crowd.”
His eyes searched her face. She barely had time to register the half-smile on his lips before he lowered his mouth to hers again. It was another one of those long, soul- searing kisses that made her hunger for more. When the kiss ended, he looked at the throng of reporters. The corners of his mouth quirked up in a satisfied smile.
“Does that answer your question?”

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Twitter: @ArleneHittle

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