We're pleased to have Nicole Evelina at CLC today to talk about the setting of her latest novel, Been Searching For You. It takes place in a city that is near and dear to the hearts of Melissa A, Melissa S, and Tracey.
Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Been Searching for You, a romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, and Sirens (a group supporting female fantasy authors), as well as a member of the Historical Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, Broad Universe (promoting women in fantasy, science fiction and horror), Alliance of Independent Authors and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Find her here:Synopsis:
Annabeth is a hopeless romantic who believes in soul mates. In fact, she’s been writing to hers each year on her birthday since she was 16.
Now, at 34, she’s still holding out hope of finding Mr. Right even though he’d be fighting an uphill battle to gain her trust, thanks to a traumatic experience years before that’s left her unable to commit.
When Annabeth meets a handsome literature professor named Alex on her 34th birthday, she thinks her quest may finally be at an end. Things don’t quite go as planned, so Annabeth resolves to do everything she can over the next year to find the unknown recipient of her letters. But blind dates, Meetup events and online singles sites have nothing on what fate has in store for her when a co-worker unexpectedly quits and Annabeth finds herself working in close quarters with both Alex and her long ago ex, Nick. Fighting her attraction to one and loathing for the other, Annabeth is forced to face all of her old insecurities while keeping an eye on a scheming frienemy who may derail her hopes and dreams.
Written in the tradition of Bridget Jones’ Diary, Kim Gruenfelder’s A Total Waste of Makeup, and Melissa Pimental’s Love By The Book, it shows that love on the sweet side can exist for the modern girl, if only she’s willing to trust herself and search hard enough.
A Romantic Comedy in an “Interesting” Setting
When the plot of my new romantic comedy, Been Searching for You, plopped itself in my head a few years ago, I didn’t have to think twice where I was going to set it. It had to be Chicago. It’s my favorite city in the country, I’ve been there many times, and it’s not too far from where I live now, so plot-specific research wouldn’t be a problem.
When my agent at the time started to send the book out to publishers, an interesting thing happened. We started getting responses that Chicago was an “interesting” choice for a setting, and they weren’t saying it in a positive way. What the heck? Why should it matter? The only thing we could come up with is that it isn’t the traditional settings of New York City/Manhattan or small town America, both of which are very popular in romance novels.
But here’s the thing – besides my own predilection, I chose Chicago specifically because it isn’t either of these places. As someone in the prime demographic for romantic comedies who can’t afford to live in New York, I find it frustrating that so many are set there. All that says to me is I somehow missed out on something in life since that’s obviously where all the young women are, or at least I feel like I’m being told that’s where I should be. New York is used as a setting so often it’s becoming cliché, plus it’s not realistic or relatable to most of the target audience. As for small towns, again, not all readers live in one of those and there are so many out there (fictional and real) that you can’t twirl your earbuds in a bookstore without hitting one. (Plus, small towns give me panic attacks – true story – so I don’t know that I could set one there.)
To me, Chicago was the perfect compromise. It’s cosmopolitan enough to have the glamour of New York, yet small enough to be relatable no matter where you live. Demographically, it’s a young city, so it’s a logical place for two never-marrieds to fall in love. There are a multitude of cultural options so my characters would never lack for things to do, plus there are the lake, beaches and parks to add variety. I knew my hero was going to be a literature professor, and with the Chicago area being home to more than 119 colleges and universities, I had plenty of places to employ him. In the end, the city of Chicago became almost a character and the novel became my love letter to my future home town, much like Lost in Translation was Sofia Coppola’s ode to Tokyo.
Now when people ask “Why Chicago?” I think, “Why not? After all, it worked for While You Were Sleeping!”
Thanks to Nicole for sharing a taste of Chicago with us and H.C.L. for including us on Nicole's blog tour. Visit the other stops:
Bookish Lifestyle - Review
ItaPixie's Book Corner - Review/Excerpt
Jena Books - Review