In this exclusive Q&A best-selling authors and best buds Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins explore the subject of first love and reunions, a theme represented in their books, "Once in a Lifetime"and "Waiting on You."
Q: Who was your first love?
Kristan Higgins: Danny Rice, who would occasionally babysit for us. He played guitar and had green eyes. I once threw a toothbrush at him to demonstrate my feelings. We saw each other a few years ago, and he was very sweet. He even said I’d turned out kind of pretty. The nerve! How dare he wait 40 years before making his move?
Jill Shalvis: My first love was the library—oh, wait. You mean a guy. Yeah, sure, I’ve got one of those, too. My first boyfriend was the boy next door. He had both a dog and a cat…and a pool. And his mom always had cookies out for us to eat. In hindsight I think it was his mother I loved....
Q: Say your first love walked into your life again, the way Lucas shows up in Manningsport in Waiting on You. Would you A) fall into his arms; B) briefly contemplate the potential prison sentences for various criminal acts involving his head and a stapler; or C) hide?
KH: Well, if it was my first boyfriend (not to be confused with babysitter), I’d definitely go with (B) the stapler. Did I mention he dumped me?
JS: I might be tempted to (C) hide. I can’t eat cookies like I used to…
Q: Describe the scene in your books when the hero and heroine see each other after all this time.
JS: In Once in a Lifetime, Aubrey is very busy tossing her drink in a guy’s face when the guy ducks and the drinks goes…right into Ben McDaniel’s face. Ben, of course, is Aubrey’s first crush, her first love and the guy who is on her list of wrongs she must right. Painful. Humiliating. Just as an opening scene should be. :)
KH: Hey! Colleen and Lucas meet up in a bar, too in Waiting on You! Colleen is trying to coach her friend on getting a guy, and things are going disastrously wrong.… Her friend knocks the guy over, spills her drink on his head, steps on him, the usual. Then all of a sudden, Colleen sees Lucas. She freezes, then begins babbling, and her thoughts bounce between homicide and how her hair looks. She’s completely unprepared to see the guy who broke her heart ten years ago.
JS: Aw. I can feel her pain from here! I love it when a book makes me feel, which by the way, yours always do, Higgins.
KH: Right back at you! There’s a reason we’re friends, and it’s not just because we both love dessert.
JS: It’s not?
KH: Fine, it doesn’t hurt. There’s no one I’d rather go to The Cheesecake Factory with than you, Jilly.
Q: Why do you think readers love a reunion story?
KH: First love is so powerful and consuming…and obviously, it doesn’t always work out. You have to have guts to try again with the same person who shattered your heart.
JS: A reunion story cuts right to the heart because the characters already know each other. I love the sense of intimacy we get from that. There’s nothing like dredging up a heartbreak from past misconceptions, misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Q: What are some of the challenges of writing a reunion story?
KH: I’d say making sure the characters really are older and wiser now. What have they learned? Why will things work out this time? They can’t be the same sweet, naive kids they used to be, but they’re the same people.
JS: When the characters already have a history in place, it’s even more critical for the story to be well written so that the readers don’t feel like they’re missing the first part of the story.
Q: What are the rewards?
KH: It’s the second chance, you know? They’ve overcome all that hurt and heartbreak, they’ve grown up, and that overwhelming, incredibly powerful and delicious first love…it was real all along. I’m getting choked up just typing this.
JS: That’s because you get choked up at cereal commercials.
KH: They can be very compelling, Jill. For those of us whose hearts aren’t made of stone, that is.
JS: Uh-huh. But let me just say that I ditto the second-chance thing. Overcoming all is a prominent theme in romances anyway, and it adds another layer of satisfaction to the happily ever after.
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