Tamie Dearen is married to the most romantic man in the world - which is why she enjoys writing romance novels so much. She has published 11 books so far, and her characters are so relatable that her series, Best Girls very quickly became a bestseller. As our Author of the Day, Dearen talks about the first book in the series, Her Best Match, explains why readers found the main character to be slapworthy at times and talks about what it takes to make readers fall in love with the hero.
Please give us a short introduction to what Her Best Match is about.
Her Best Match, Book One of The Best Girls Series, is about Anne Best, a forty-five-year-old widow from Texas, with two grown daughters, who has grown bored with her life and decides to travel to New York City to interview for a job. Thinking she has no actual chance of landing the job, she doesn't prepare for her interview, treating it as a free trip to the big city for a weekend adventure. As she hasn't done her homework and tends to be a bit out of the loop about celebrities, she doesn't recognize her interviewer, the famous (or infamous) billionaire, Steven Gherring. Though she finds him attractive, she also thinks he's arrogant and rude. But he manages to rattle her into losing her temper, and she spouts off at him multiple times. Embarrassed at her outbursts and knowing she's blown the interview, she apologizes before dashing out of his office. Except that Gherring catches her and tells her he wants to hire her on a "trial basis."
And so begins Anne's great adventure in New York. A matchmaker at heart, Anne feels sorry for Gherring, who has never been married, and determines to find his perfect match. She soon teams up with his grandmother, Gram, who has sworn her grandson will get married before she dies. Gherring, of course, wants the women to stay out of his business, and much chaos ensues.
Tell us more about Anne Best’s character. Who is she and what makes her so special?
I believe the reason Anne Best is so special is because most readers can relate to her. She is a wife and mother who has worked at a mundane job her entire life. For once in her life, she decides to try something adventurous, and off she goes to the Big Apple to work for a handsome billionaire. Who hasn't dreamed of escaping their ordinary life and experiencing a romantic adventure? Though we may be perfectly happy with our lives, that doesn't mean we can't have dreams.
Anne is smart and confident and caring, and she has a great relationship with her daughters. But she isn't perfect. She is afraid of public speaking, talks too much when she's nervous, and sometimes acts a bit clueless, especially in picking up the cues that Steven Gherring is attracted to her.
Readers report that they loved Anne but felt like slapping her at times – did you create her this way deliberately?
Poor Anne has actually been stuck with many of my faults--the very thing that makes her slap-worthy at times. I modeled her after myself. We both had very romantic husbands (though mine is still alive), two awesome grown daughters, and Chemistry degrees. Like me, Anne is from Texas and when she visits New York, she falls in love with the city. Anne and I also share a fear of public speaking, we're insecure about our bodies, and we talk too much when we are nervous. That last fault is the one that irritated readers the most, I believe.
I think readers were most often frustrated with Anne when they thought Steven was finally going tell her he was attracted to her, and she talked so much he didn't get a chance to speak. But they shouldn't judge Anne too harshly. As her boss, Steven Gherring had almost eight hours every day available to work with and talk to Anne. He was just as much at fault for not speaking his mind and being honest. On the other hand, Henri (the handsome Frenchman) simply told Anne outright that he found her pretty and wanted to spend time with her. It's Steven's own fault that he wasn't willing to be as forthright with Ann.
Why was it important to you to also work comedy into Her Best Match?
For me, reading is an escape from life, so that's the experience I want to give my readers. I think laughter is so important for mental health, and we often take things too seriously. In our marriage, my husband is the one who is always making me laugh. It's one of many reasons I love him.
What is the most romantic thing you have ever experienced personally?
I have repeatedly claimed that I'm married to the most romantic man in the world. I have so many experiences, I could never share them all, but I give two examples.
One year, about twelve years into our marriage, my husband decided I would have "fourteen days of Valentine's." So each day, starting February 1, I received a card, flowers, or a small gift. For instance, one of those days, he gave me a chanter (a practice horn for a bagpipe) because he knew I wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes. On February 14, he gave me a beautiful diamond ring.
Another time, he was on a driving trip when a love poem came into his mind. This is extraordinary, because he doesn't ever write poetry and has never since. But on this occasion, he pulled over on the side of the road, wrote this poem down, and had it printed and framed for me.
Gram is a character that the readers love – what inspired you to create her?
As are most of my characters, Gram is patterned after a real person. She is the funniest, sassiest lady I've ever met. If you met her, I promise you'd be in stitches just listening too her.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
My biggest "secret skill" is probably my music. I play a lot of instruments and write instrumental music and songs. In fact I've written several songs to go with some of my books and the background music to a book trailer. I have this vision to eventually have a song recorded for every book, so readers could download both a book and a song.
What characteristics should the perfect romantic hero have for readers to fall in love with him?
He needs to care in a deep, self-sacrificing way. It's always nice if your hero has a six-pack, but it's more important for him to have a tender heart. It's especially sweet when the guy doesn't even realize how soft-hearted he is.
He needs to be protective. I like a hero with beautiful, soul-searching eyes, but that isn't what really makes you swoon. You get that "Ahhhh" feeling when you see the guy getting upset if someone or something has hurt the woman he loves. Sometimes I give the reader a glance at how he treats her when she is sick or injured. And when you know the hero would readily die for her, regardless of whether that would ever happen, you can't help falling in love with him. After all, that's why I fell for my man.
Do you plot your books out before you start writing?
No. I have a few ideas about what's going to happen, but my characters come to life, interact and generally surprise me with the story.
What does an average writing day look like for you? Do you have a favorite writing spot? Do you listen to music while you write?
Unfortunately, there is no "average writing day" for me. I'm still working full time (I have my own dental practice) so my writing gets squeezed into my spare time. That's why I've been frustrated lately at my lack of writing time.
But I do have a favorite writing spot, on the couch in my sunroom, looking out at my garden and gazebo.
Unlike many other romance novels, you kept your book clean, without explicit sex scenes – why did you take this approach?
To be honest, my favorite part of romance books has always been the attraction and sparks and anticipation between the hero and heroine. I've always felt explicit sex scenes took away from the story, so I didn't want to include them in my books. In fact, Her Best Match has the only "closed door sex scene" in any of my books, and that was the wedding night. I only included that part because I wanted the readers to know how Steven's unconditional, committed-for-life love helped Anne overcome her body insecurities, as that is how love should be.
Also, my daughters absolutely forbid me to write anything they would be embarrassed to read.
What are you working on right now?
I have so much in the works. I have another romantic comedy started in The Best Girls Series. I'm co-authoring a cozy mystery. I've started a brand new romantic comedy series, as well. In addition, I plan to publish another book in my Holiday, Inc. Christian romance series and the fourth (and perhaps final) book in my young adult fantasy series, Alora.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can contact me on my website, TamieDearen.com. I have a giveaway every month, and I try to respond to every person who sends a personal note.