by Serena Chase)
Amy Matayo's second novel, Love Gone Wild, came out last month, and like her debut, The Wedding Game, it features a couple caught in the cast of a reality TV show. We checked in with Amy to talk about reality TV, inappropriate thoughts and sexual chemistry in inspirational romances.
Serena: You write romantic comedy steeped in the behind-the-scenes world of reality television. Tell me about your research methodology into reality TV and romance.
Amy: Um ... I watch The Voice and occasionally a little Dancing With the Stars. Neither have anything to do with my books, so I guess when you consider that reality, I really don't research much at all. Though I did date a couple of guys once (The Wedding Game) and I HAVE been to the zoo before (Love Gone Wild), so there's that.
Serena: Were there any shows or reality stars in particular that fed your writing — or helped you procrastinate from writing?
Amy: I am the best procrastinator, hands down, and I challenge anyone to top my last-minute freak-outs. They're pretty impressive. But as to your question, Kim Kardashian fed The Wedding Game, though she looks nothing like my heroine and I've never once watched her show. Her 10-minute marriage to Kris Humphries sparked the original idea for the book, and I think I recall watching a couple of episodes of The Bachelor back then (which was and still is a torturous experience for me. I'm not kidding.) But other than that, most of the book was stuff I just made up in my head.
Serena: Honestly, after reading your books, I am totally surprised to find that you are not a reality TV addict!
Amy: Other than The Voice, I seriously don't watch much reality television. Next up I'm going to begin a three-book series based on the WWE, another subject I also have zero interest in.
Serena: The WWE? *recovers from nearly choking on her coffee* As in World Wrestling Entertainment? Are you serious?!?
Amy: Uh, no. Joking.
Serena: I can't decide whether to be relieved or disappointed. I'm not a wrestling fan at all, but I am intrigued by the thought of a WWE rom-com! As you've said, you're not a fan of reality TV, yet you've written two novels taking place in that world. In an author-universe that declares you should "write what you know," why did you choose to write about something in which you have such little interest?
Amy: Instead of "write what you know," my philosophy is more "write what seems obnoxious to you."
Serena: HA! Love it. And it seems to be working out pretty well for you, too! You write what most general market readers would consider "clean read" romance and what many inspirational romance readers would consider "edgy" romance due to the most definite sparks and sizzles in your characters' internal thoughts, as well as the suggestions and innuendos in dialogue. Define the word "sexy" as it applies to your novels.
Amy: As far as my novels go, sexy — to me — means something that makes your heart race, makes you hold your breath, makes you want the main characters to go ahead and kiss already for the love of all that's holy, and yeah — hopefully gets you in The Mood, if you know what I mean. For married women like myself, I don't think that's a bad thing. However, sexy is not a step-by-step outline of body parts complete with charts, graphs and diagrams to make sure the reader really gets it. I'm not a fan of graphic sex in novels — in my opinion, that's what imagination is for.
Serena: *snorts* Charts, graphs and diagrams. *snorts* I'm with you. I love innuendo and humor and suggestion, but my imagination is sufficient without all the throbbing adjectives.
Amy: I'm not a big fan of the word "throbbing" in general. It makes me think about ... things I don't want to think about.
Serena: Which is a less-than-perfect segue into my next question, due to the possibility that we could go all sorts of unintended and inappropriate directions: Have you done any location research for your novels?
Amy: No, but I've decided that my next book is gonna take place in Hawaii and I'm totally flying there by myself. For two weeks. Just me and some sunscreen and my laptop. And the main guy will be a masseuse who also specializes in margarita making, so I need to research that thoroughly, too.
Serena: *nods with feeling* Research is very important to accuracy in novel writing.
Amy: Yes. And surely my husband will be on board with this. He's an easygoing guy. Mostly. Some. OK, not at all.
Serena: So I guess that trip is off. Sorry. What inspired you to use Alaska as the location for your fictional reality TV location for Love Gone Wild?
Amy: Out of the Wild — the TV show. My 11-year-old son watched all the Discovery Channel episodes of Out of the Wild, and that show was the biggest influence on Love Gone Wild. Notice the use of "Wild" in both titles. I seriously hope I don't get sued for that. I guess I could have set it in Iceland, but that would have required too much thinking and I'm not all that original. Plus, then they would have needed passports and international flights and just typing that sentence gives me a headache.
Serena: Sounds like you need that masseuse … *winks* So I've been wondering: Your husband is in politics. You have kids. The heroine of Love Gone Wild is the daughter of a scheming politician and his socially and upwardly mobile, not-too-likable wife. Umm …
Amy: It's totally autobiographical. My poor daughters have no hope, especially not with me as a mother. Everyone knows I'm mean, and with all those political and social ladders I plan on climbing one day on my way to becoming President of the World ...
It's only a matter of time until I rule everything.
Serena: As it should be.
Amy: Now if only I could find my iPhone to put it on my schedule ...
Serena: Foiled again. Oh, well. *laughs* Speaking of politicians and celebrities you know … Mike Huckabee promo tweeted about your first release, The Wedding Game. Did you have positive or negative results from that celebrity promo?
Amy: I received only positive. I have no idea if he received negative, though I'm sure he did. But with or without politics, he's a great guy and did it twice for me, so hopefully the negative wasn't too horrible.
Serena: You are one of several Christian/inspirational romance authors who seem to be moving away from the idea of having a "strong faith thread" as a necessity of plot, but rather are creating Christian "Everyman" characters (or every-celebrity, in the case of some of your characters!) who are simply living life in the real world, facing real issues (or reality-TV's version of "real") with a side dish of comedy. Have you come across any opposition from more traditional inspirational romance readers who find your novels a bit risqué for their palate?
Amy: The opposite, actually. I honestly think — and I don't mean this to sound braggy, if that's even a word — that it's the main reason The Wedding Game and Love Gone Wild are selling well despite being indie. To my knowledge, there aren't many "Christian" books that are allowed to go there — in terms of romance and feelings and actions and the inappropriate thoughts we all have (at least I have those thoughts. Am I the only one??).
Serena: Err, no. You're not alone. I can be quite inappropriate in my head. And aloud, every so often, too.
Amy: And my characters do that, too. Sometimes I might go a little too far, sometimes I might be a little too "edgy," but it's important to me to show that Christians are real people with real issues, and so far readers seem to relate.
On a side note, the only one-star review I've ever received was from a lady who was put off by all the God references in The Wedding Game. I think God is mentioned three times. I guess next time I should stop at two.
Serena: You can't please everyone. You can only be true to the character. What would be your response to reader "concerns" about the edginess, or, at the risk of winning the award for interview with most made-up words ever," God-iness" of your books?
Amy: I would say that I'm a flawed person with a warped sense of humor who messes up often and who just so happens to love God, and that I was just hoping to find one or two readers out there who might relate to my way of thinking. Those are the people I write for. People who just want to know that they're OK. That we all have faults. That we all like a good make-out scene. And that God loves us anyway. And hopefully I would do that in a way that would still be kind and understanding.
Serena: While your novels are "clean reads," there is a lot of heat sparking between the characters and romantic and sexual tension play big roles in the dialogue and inner monologues, as well. While editing, do you more often find yourself needing to tone down the heat, or turn it up?
Amy: I usually need to turn up the number of romantic encounters, but tone down what happens during those encounters, both physically and mentally. Nothing crosses a hard and fast line, but I do tend to raise my agent's eyebrows from time to time. That's when we work out a happy medium. Everything that winds up in print has been thoroughly negotiated. But I like romance. I like kissing. I can't help it.
Serena: Can you tell us anything about your next project? I heard a rumor you will release a New Adult title next fall …
Amy: You heard right! It IS a New Adult, a bit of a departure from my other two, and the title is Sway. Here's the blurb:
Finally settled after a tragedy-laden life, 24-year-old Caleb has found security in his faith, his friends, and his career. Enter Kate Hawkins, the attractive 21-year-old stranger he rescues from a bar fight. Kate has an odd affinity for the color pink and a unique sense of humor, but it doesn't take long to realize their connection is intense. After only a handful of dates, a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Frequent interactions become impossibly painful as both deal with the realization that they've fallen hard for the absolute wrong person.
And I'll tell you this: Of all the books I've written (seven so far), this one is my favorite.
Serena: Ooooh! I can't wait to read it! Especially since it starts off with a bar fight! After talking about "the WWE series not-to-be" I have to think you've put a little WWE in Sway, anyway!
Amy: It IS WWE! Plus, I incorporated a little old-school General Hospital into the mix. It's amazing all you can learn from watching trashy television.
Find out more about Amy and her books at amymatayo.com. She is also on Twitter (@amymatayo) and Facebook.
MORE ON HEA: Check out Serena's rec of Amy's 'The Wedding Game'
A writer, performer and accomplished partaker of dark chocolate, Serena Chase lives in Iowa with her husband and two daughters. The first two books in her debut Eyes of E'veria series, The Ryn and The Remedy, are out now. You can find out more about her at serenachase.com.