When I got the invite to interview Denise Williams for her new release, How to Fail at Flirting, I couldn’t respond fast enough. I loved the cover and the synopsis and I’m always ready for a new romance to flail about and a new author to follow.
Before we get to Denise’s answers, let’s check out the book!
When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.
Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.
Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again
Sounds good, right?
1. Please give the elevator pitch for How to Fail at Flirting.
Type A professor, Naya, makes a to-do list to repair her social life after an abusive ex left it in tatters. A handsome stranger in town on business seems like a perfect uncomplicated one-night fling, but Naya soon finds herself flirting with the idea of more with Jake. Oh, did I mention that her job where she’s put all her energy is on her university’s chopping block and that Jake is the one holding the axe? It turns out, things might get complicated after all.
2. Which came first: the characters or the plot line?
The characters definitely came first. When I started How to Fail at Flirting, I wasn’t just new to publishing, I was new to writing fiction in general. I had a lot to learn about developing a meaningful plot, but the characters were very clear to me from the beginning, especially Naya and her voice.
3. Why do you love Naya and Jake and why should readers root for them?
I think there’s so much to root for between these two characters. The story is told from Naya’s point of view and readers see so much of her vulnerability in this story. Through her eyes, though, readers will see Jake’s as well. I always root for people overcoming heartbreak and both characters are. Of course, I love them for many other reasons. Their nerdy banter is the stuff of my nerdy dreams, they’re both passionate about their careers and that passion is part of what they bring to the relationship, and they have wonderful chemistry in and out of bed. I hope readers want to see them through to their happily ever after.
4. Were there any weird things you googled while researching?
I can’t believe it but my googling for this book was pretty mundane! I spent a lot of time researching the TILT attraction and Navy Pier. I’d planned a trip to Chicago this summer and definitely had both places on my list but COVID interrupted that.
5. Without spoilers, which scene was your favorite to write?
There are so many scenes I loved writing, but I think my favorite was the dark moment for the couple where threads from throughout the book come into play during the heroine’s crisis moment. It’s not funny or sexy in the way some other favorite scenes are, but I loved writing a high emotion, high tension scene where the characters showed their imperfections, but also how well they knew each other. I still tear up when re-reading it.
1. You find out you’re being published for the first time. Describe the next 5 minutes.
- I scream and startle the student in my office.
- I write down everything my agent says and then re-read if four times to make sure I didn’t imagine it.
- The student I startled is the first person I tell that my book will be published.
- A text message full of emojis flies off to my husband.
- I re-read my notes and breath a sigh of relief that I didn’t make it up.
- Then just general flailing for the next eighteen months.
2. What 3 things would you take to a desert island?
Can I say a fueled, private yacht? If not, A solar-powered Kindle filled with all the books I’ve meant to read but haven’t, a tricked-out tent with air conditioning, and sunscreen.
3. You can only read one book for the rest of your life. What is it?
The Dictionary. Hear me out. I have a pretty good imagination so I can tell myself stories forever, but the dictionary would give me all kinds of new ideas.
4. What is the one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?
The best advice I’ve received along the way that I wish I heard earlier was “It’s not your turn yet.” Traditional publishing takes a while and I had about eighteen months between signing my contract with Berkley and the book coming out. A dear friend said it’s so easy to feel unimportant, forgotten, and like wait is endless in that time, but if you remember that it’s just not your turn yet, it’s easier to manage. She was right and that made the waiting so much less anxiety-inducing.
5. You wake up and discover that you are Bella in Twilight. You know how it plays out. What do you do differently?
I have to admit, I am in the tiny fraction of the population who has never red or watched Twilight! I know, I know…that admissions might get me stripped of author credentials. So, that said, I guess I’d buy stock in Zoom and Netflix and wait for things to play out!
Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education, going on to work in higher education. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house. website | instagram | twitter
Huge thanks to Berkley Romance for the opportunity and to Denise for taking the time. How to Fail at Flirting is out today and there are buy links above.
Have you read How to Fail at Flirting or do you plan to?