[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Rachel Lynn Solomon to the site. She recently sampled a LOT of wedding cake…for research, of course. Take it away, Rachel!]
I feel fairly confident saying I was the only person who attended the Seattle Wedding Show in January 2020 alone.
It was an event filled primarily with brides-to-be, their families and friends, and a handful of intrepid grooms. And there I was, solo, weaving my way through the booths with a swag bag full of coupons. I wasn’t there to decide whether I wanted a buffet or a plated dinner—I was there for research.
Maybe it’s my journalism background, but when I’m working on a book, I’m rarely content with the kind of research that begins and ends with a Google search. I’m always eager to call someone (despite my millennial fear of talking on the phone), go somewhere, and ask as many specific questions as I can. Especially when I’m writing about something I’m curious about but largely unfamiliar with, research is a key part of my process.
My latest YA novel, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This, centers on Quinn, a teen harpist whose family runs a wedding planning business called Borrowed + Blue. I was drawn to the idea of someone so immersed in the business of weddings but who no longer sees the joy in love or grand gestures. Of course, this is something cynical Quinn will unpack over the course of the book—it’s a romantic comedy, after all.
While I’ve always loved attending weddings, my husband and I eloped, so I didn’t have any firsthand experience. I started drafting with a general understanding of wedding planning I’d gleaned from books and movies. Still, I was pretty sure J.Lo and Matthew McConaughey weren’t going to be enough. I kept getting stuck, unable to visualize the scenes in my outline. I couldn’t bring them to the page in a way that felt lively or flashy enough. When I learned there’d be a wedding expo in Seattle taking place a few weeks before my first draft deadline, I knew I had to go.
I was expecting there to be cake, of course, but I didn’t expect so much of it to be right there at the entrance to the exhibition hall, a towering display of champagne and red velvet and a dozen other flavors I probably couldn’t name. I stood in line, figuring the people working the booth would slice off the tiniest sliver as a sample—nope. Not the case. They loaded my compostable plate with stunning pink and cream and lavender confections, so much cake that I could barely walk and eat at the same time.
The cake didn’t end there. Inside were rows and rows of booths featuring bakeries, caterers, venues, florists, décor, party buses, DJs—even luxury bathroom rentals, which I had not known existed. It was overwhelming. It was perfect.
After I made the rounds once, collecting even more cake and ice cream and mini quesadilla samples, I circled back, eager to flesh out my thin draft with all the wedding details I could. Even though I love research, I’m always a little anxious and socially awkward at first, unsure how to begin a conversation with a stranger. I was careful to approach vendors only when a booth was empty so I wouldn’t interfere with anyone gathering information for their wedding.
In the midst of all this chaos, I was thrilled to find something I wasn’t expecting: a harpist playing softly, beautifully at the end of one of the rows. I paused to listen, enjoying the instant sense of peace the music created, feeling for a moment like I’d stepped into a different expo altogether. Harps had always fascinated me; they’re such gorgeous instruments, and the idea for this book grew out of wanting to write about a teen harpist. A few weeks later, I’d be visiting a friend’s parents’ harp studio to learn all about the art of harp-making, but I seized the chance to ask this harpist about her schedule, the songs she’d play at a wedding, and more, the recording app on my phone picking up everything that I wouldn’t be able to recall from memory.
Finally, I could see the book coming together in my mind, all the scenes that had seemed gray and dull and devoid of color suddenly sparking to life. By the time I was ready to leave, I had all the inspiration I needed—even though I wouldn’t be able to look at another piece of cake for months.
About the Author:
Rachel Lynn Solomon writes, tap dances, and collects lipstick in Seattle, Washington. Her romance and YA novels include The Ex Talk (January 2021), Today Tonight Tomorrow, and You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. You can find her online at rachelsolomonbooks.com and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.
We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon, out now!
Quinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.
Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.
Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.
Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.