In my inaugural post for Frolic, I’m so excited to interview USA Today bestselling author Jessica Hawkins about her new dramedy Right Where I Want You. It’s not only a huge departure from her forbidden love story Something in the Way, but it melds Hawkins’ style of angsty stories, with large splashes of wickedly funny banter and face-to-palm moments. Part of what makes this a standout is its balance of romance and reality – how it frames the story within current changes in work/dating culture and magazine publishing, which have direct effect on the actions of the characters.
About the book: There’s a thin line between love and hate . . . and it cuts right through the middle of their office. Bad boys? They run right over good girls like Georgina Keller. But after a confidence-shattering breakup, she’s determined not to let anyone at her new workplace push her around—least of all the brooding creative director, a “bad boy of publishing” who’s made it clear she’s enemy #1.Sebastian Quinn’s taste for fast cars, late nights, and beautiful women may have gotten him to the top of a leading New York magazine, but the reputation that made him is suddenly threatening to end his career. Georgina can help Modern Man shed its bad reputation, but in order to do that, she’ll have to start at the top—and no amount of rakish charm or inconvenient attraction will distract her. Because if Sebastian gets her right where he wants her, it means she’s going down.
1. Welcome to Frolic! What can you tell us about your new book Right Where I Want You?
Thank you for having me! Right Where I Want You is a workplace romance inspired by the old-school rom-coms I grew up on. Since I typically tell more emotional, angsty stories, I wanted to explore a new side of my writing while paying homage to some of my own favorite stories. It’s got loads of sexual tension enhanced by witty enemies-to-lovers banter!
2. Right Where I Want You is an enemies-to-lovers romance at its surface, but deep down focuses on a lot of serious themes about workplace sexism, the future of print magazines, and the rules of dating. What research went into your writing, and what inspired you to go in this route?
I began writing Right Where I Want You in 2015. Obviously, the conversation about men and women in the workplace has evolved greatly even in a few years. I try to stay up to date on that, so it naturally influenced my writing. I didn’t want to take away from that traditional feel-good office romance but thought it was important to be conscious of modern day changes. As I mentioned, Right Where I Want You was originally inspired by rom-coms I loved back in the day, like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Hitch. But when I went back and rewatched them with a critical eye, I found myself craving a deeper exploration of the characters that a two-hour film just isn’t able to provide. I found that by focusing on the character arcs and tackling some of today’s issues, the book really became less of a rom-com and more of a dramedy, which I’m happy about. At one point, I asked myself what I wanted this book to be, and two words kept coming up: heart and depth.
3. Georgina is a fierce woman who one ups her male counterpart Sebastian at every turn, but throughout the story, she struggles with being assertive and thinking about herself, something we can all relate to. What was the significance behind placing her in an all-male environment?
As a woman who has put her career above all else, I love to read about a heroine killing it at work. But as a romance author, I’m surrounded by fierce, career-driven ladies, and I know many of us share the same insecurities. It’s not realistic to pretend that doesn’t exist, even in the most confident women. Just because someone can deliver the hell out of a presentation or hit the New York Times or run a Fortune 500 company doesn’t mean they can’t also suffer from self-doubt or struggle to reward or even acknowledge their achievements. By putting Georgina smack-dab in the middle of a male-dominated workplace, surrounded by men who share her doubts about her ability to run a men’s magazine, she’s forced to confront—and question—some deep-rooted issues about her capabilities. And I think a lot of women are able to relate to that.
4. You mentioned you did a rewrite and had to push your pub date – would you be able to speak to some of the changes you made from your original manuscript?
While I think we’ve established Right Where I Want You isn’t your average rom-com, I did wade into gentler waters when my usual approach is to throw my poor characters out to sea without life vests. This was an entirely new experience for me. I started out thinking this would be a light, fun read, but anyone familiar with my books knows that just isn’t my style. So in the beginning, I was plotting a fun and flirty summer release. As I got further into the story, I realized this was, like so many of my books, a study of human nature. And once I accepted that, along with my responsibility to address certain behaviors in the workplace, the story took a different direction. The tone is still fairly light but doesn’t ignore the important issues.
5. You’re very careful about not turning this into a traditional workplace romance – their romantic relationship doesn’t really impact their professional relationship and the power is actually tipped in Georgina’s favor due to her temporary role at the magazine. Was that a conscious decision?
Absolutely! Two things you should always get with my books are realism and unpredictability. It’s not standard for the hero in an office romance to be level with or even deferring to the heroine. It was so much fun to write Sebastian—who’s been told what a great job he’s been doing for so long—as he transitioned from leading a band of off-the-leash men to being forced to wrangle them alongside a woman. He was forced to question his own ethics and even his abilities. I appreciate any story that plays with the unexpected, and this power dynamic was not only fun to write but also kept me on my toes.
6. New York is such an important character in this book – why the love affair with NYC and are there any places you used as your writing/research spots?
As a born-and-bred California girl, I grew up romanticizing NYC based on what I saw in movies and read in books. It’s no coincidence that it’s a frequent character in my books (and that I also live there now). It’s one of my favorite places in the world and gives me not only inspiration but so much to work with! I also grew up reading Sassy, Seventeen, Cosmo, Maxim, etc., and NYC is the heart of magazine publishing. I’ve visited Hearst Tower twice and the buzz in that building is thrilling. I wanted to capture that in the book.
7. And lastly – we’re already eager to hear about your next project. Are there any hints you can give us?
Violent Delights is book one in White Monarch, a new trilogy where I get to return to my angsty roots. I’m feeling very inspired at the moment and am experiencing the same rush I got while writing Something in the Way and Slip of the Tongue—like I can’t get the words down fast enough. It will be a little on the dark side as I take on the cartel world and a love story that’s doomed from the start. But while I gave my readers a break with Right Where I Want You, Violent Delights is the kind of story that keeps my diehard readers coming back—one where they can get torn apart and put back together.