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"You need to completely go for it with no abandon; don’t try to write to correlate with book trends or to engineer something you think will fit what people want."
Darcy has been in love with Tom since she first met him. Too bad her twin brother, Jamie, claimed him as a best friend and marked him as totally off-limits. Now as adults, Darcy and Tom are thrown back into each other's lives when tasked with trying to restore their grandmother's rundown cottage before Jamie makes the move to sell it. Both single and both looking for something in their lives, yet both still unable to comfortably be in the same room together, Darcy and Tom will discover whether or not they will love each other the way Darcy has always hoped or if they will both continue to sit on the market.
Sally Thorne spoke about what inspired her to write this book, her best advice for romance writers, and how Delia the Pug is her best writing assistant.
How did you become interested in writing? I was encouraged by my primary school teacher, Mrs. Raleigh, to share my creative writing out loud with the class. She was so confident that I was talented, and it made a huge impact on me. I forgot about my knack for writing as I finished university and got my first office jobs, but I eventually remembered it again in my late twenties when I was trying to think of a cheap hobby to take up.
I met with Mrs. Raleigh to give her a copy of The Hating Game and to thank her for her impact on my life. I said that without her, I probably would never have written a book. Never underestimate the influence of a really good teacher.
On your website, you mention your dog in your writing process. Tell us a little bit about Delia the Pug.
Delia is a ten-year-old purebred pug. She’s fawn with a wrinkly face and a beauty mark on each cheek and a darling little curled tail, like a pig. She’s greedy and sweet. I am lucky enough to write full time now, and Delia is my little shadow. I don’t know how I’d write without a background soundtrack of snoring. I love her so much. I had to thank her in the acknowledgements of The Hating Game. Now I just need to teach her to read. It’s slow progress.
How did you think of the concept for your latest book, 99 Percent Mine?
There were three inspirations: I always wanted to write twins, because my mother is a twin, so I created the always-sparring Darcy and Jamie Barrett. I love the brother’s best friend trope, so I added in the pure-hearted ultimate man Tom Valeska, wrapped in tight t-shirts and a chihuahua in the crook of his arm. To bring them all together, I gave the Barrett twins a dilapidated cottage that Tom has arrived to save from the bulldozer. It’s Tom’s first solo house renovation, and he has a lot to prove.
The title popped randomly into my head and shaped everything; I liked the idea of Darcy mentally trying to calculate how much of Tom’s heart she has, and her ambition to have more. She doesn’t aim big at first; two percent of his beautiful heart would be enough for her. But Darcy is an impulsive, needy, passionate person, and it soon isn’t nearly enough.
There is a lot of sexual tension flying around between Darcy and Tom. Did you have any favorite scenes between them to write?
My favorite scene in the book is when they go to a bar together under the guise of helping each other get back in the dating game. It ends up with them so closely locked together, tucked up safe in their own world, that Darcy feels like she is sitting inside a gold bubble with Tom. He drags her stool even closer, into the frame of his spread denim thighs, and Darcy thinks it’s the best seat in the house. In that moment, she’s never felt this alive, and I feel like she’s almost drunk on the optimism and proximity. Could he be hers? Completely hers, forever?
In this moment, she dares to wonder. I loved writing their animalistic, intense attraction to each other, and how if she couldn’t have Tom, she’d never want anyone else. He’s it for her.
I gave Darcy some traits that are often reserved for the hero in romance: she’s protective, passionate, possessive and breaks out into a lust-sweat whenever she’s in the same room as him. She defends him at his weak moments and will never stand by to watch him fail. I hope it is Darcy’s passion, and how hard she loves him, that hooks the reader in and makes them love her, too.
Seeing as this is your second romance novel, have you learned anything about what goes in to making one special?
I’m still learning, and probably always will be, but you must write authentically as yourself and not think about what the reader will think. You need to completely go for it with no abandon; don’t try to write to correlate with book trends or to engineer something you think will fit what people want. To write a special romantic book, you should write your dream book. The book you want to read, containing the exact things that you find heart-stoppingly romantic. 99 Percent Mine is full of everything I love to read about.
A big part of this novel also involves home improvement. Do you know anything about that subject and why did you think it would make for a great set-up for a love story?
I chose to set 99 Percent Mine in a house renovation because my family was renovating our old holiday house by the beach. It is a house that has been in our family for many years and holds a great deal of sentimental value, so I could understand how Darcy Barrett could feel afraid of having her grandmother’s cottage ruined by an insensitive modern refit.
The other reason I chose this set-up was that I love books that have two characters in forced proximity under one roof. Darcy has never been able to spend more than a minute or two alone with Tom Valeska, on account of her overbearing twin brother Jamie, but now they’re finally alone for the first time in years. And Tom’s single. Darcy cannot handle it.
You are at work on your third book. Is there anything you can tell us about what it will be about?
I don’t usually talk about what my books are about until they are quite well formed, but it will be what I hope people come to think of as classic Sally Thorne: Sweet, funny, a little weird and a tiny bit sad sometimes. There will be some lovely moments, a magical feeling and a unique, slow burn romance
Rachel A.G. Gilman is the Creator/Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Creature.