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We Are All Other

Originally published in Novelists Ink, October 2021

How authors can dive into cultural research 

By Elizabeth MS Flynn 

Authors are eternally curious, and they are fortunate in that they can not only assuage their curiosity by doing research for their latest work in progress, but also learn a lot of interesting (not necessarily related) facts as well. They can discover fun facts like when buttons came into use (earliest noted 5,000 years ago!), but they also can find out about other cultures and what makes them unique, and how that can be used for unique characters and stories. 

But where do authors start? When researching other cultures—any culture at all, whether it’s one we’re familiar with or one with which we have no familiarity at all—we are faced with how to track down the information we need, ascertain accuracy, and enrich our work. Start at the basics: 

General research 

Wikipedia is one place to start, but can’t be the only place. Believe it or not, another place would be children’s books and textbooks, because those authors have to boil down and explain complex concepts to a younger audience. If you’re trying to figure out how to tackle a subject and you’re not sure where to begin, tracking down a children’s book on the topic or a related one may be a good place to begin. 

I asked Lerner Books, the publisher of children’s books and middle-grade books, what they would recommend for a start on difficult, complex subjects, and they responded with a few possibilities: For Black history, Ruth and the Green Book and Unspeakable. For Asian American/ Pacific Islander history, they recommended Kiyo Sato and Sachiko. For LGBTQ history, Lerner recommended No Way, They Were Gay? Covering all of those plus Latinx and Indigenous, the publisher recommended Into the Streets, and, finally, for all of those and more, Dictionary for a Better World

Interviews and biographies 

Track down a member of the culture you’re interested in (if you’re doing research for a look at daily life circa 35 BCE, however, you may have to stick to the history books and biographies), but keep in mind that the responses you get may be specific and unique to that subject. Always keep in mind the background of the person. If possible, track down more than one interview subject. 

If you can’t, you may want to get the information by diving into a related point of interest, something you can find information about, and expand from there to find what you need. If you want an idea of some of the issues that were notable during the middle to late 20th century, for example, you could examine a biography of a notable person during that time. And keep in mind if you want to interview as a journalist, decide whether you want to get to the heart of the story or more about the people. 

Social and religious attitudes 

Anthropologists will tell you that you must separate your own beliefs and attitudes from that of your research subject if you want to understand the mindset of another. You may be a Christian, but to truly understand, say, Hinduism, you’ll have to set aside your skepticism about the existence of multiple gods. Simply put, your beliefs are not necessarily those of another culture. Margaret Mead made her name as a young anthropologist in Samoa, but her work was eventually considered to be flawed because she made many of her conclusions based on her assumptions going into the study instead of describing the culture with an unbiased eye. 

Authenticity readers (also known as sensitivity readers) 

These readers are specialists in a given topic, and as author services provider Reedsy explains, they read manuscripts specifically to look for “cultural inaccuracies, representation issues, bias, stereotypes, or problematic language.” One example might be focusing on the differences between China, Korea, and Japan. The latter two cultures have their origins from the former, but they are very different, and the languages are not intelligible to each other—in speech. The Korean and Japanese written languages have their origins in the Chinese language, and to some extent the Korean, Japanese, and Chinese people may be able to discern what is being written in the other language, but only to some degree. 

Spoken language, though, requires an article on its own, as does being able to discern between the facial characteristics of the three cultures. (Hint: If the Asian cultures can’t do it consistently, neither can anyone else.) All three of those cultures are different yet similar, not unlike how there are differences between Scotland, Ireland, and England, all of which have similarities but are different and also come from a long shared history. Differences can be hard to discern: if you’re not from European ancestry, the differences between the Nordic people and the Mediterranean people may be negligible. If you’re from European ancestry, you see the difference keenly. 

Then there’s viewpoint, which can be classified under social and religious attitudes. Consider the differences in how cultures think. To get an idea, you may do well to find books on sociology and anthropology. In his Geography of Thought, Richard Nisbett avers that there are differences between Eastern and Western thinking; Western culture emphasizes individualism versus Eastern culture, which emphasizes common values within the society. Western goals of the individual aren’t the same as the Eastern goals of the individual, which are counted into the goals of the society as a whole. But there are similarities, too. Both have the concept of family embarrassment—“saving face” is a common admonishment in Eastern societies (as in, don’t bring shame to your social group), and is echoed in Western societies when you hear your parents saying, “Don’t embarrass me.” (On the other hand, according to Nisbett, to compliment someone in public can give face. And public praise in both Western and Eastern societies is a good thing.) 

As blog notes, it may take time to adapt to a culture different from your own, but your reward will be a deeper understanding of the culture and topic: “Embrace those things that are uncomfortable, those things that don’t make sense, those things that are frustrating. Those are the things that will teach you the most.” 

There are mystifying elements in any society, ones that don’t make sense to anyone not in the know. But there are elements common to every culture. Every culture, every society, every person needs food, shelter, community. But they may approach those things very differently. Knowing those things will flesh out your characters into real people, not stereotypes. 

I have a checklist on my website that allows you to consider what makes your characters fully thought-out human beings. Taking a look at the elements allows you to decide whether your characters are real, memorable people. 

So in this way we are all other. We have so many things in common; whether it’s saving face or your parents saying, “Don’t embarrass me,” there’s the element of “We do that too!” no matter where you go. All it takes is a little research. 

Elizabeth MS Flynn is a professional editor and has been for more than forty years, working with topics as diverse as academia, technology, finance, genre fiction, and comic books. Her work for this article comes from her studies in anthropology, with a linguistics and folklore concentration. 

References and Resources 

  • “Navigating cultural differences in Asia.” 
  • Bieschke, Marke. Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States. Zest Books, 2020. 
  • Bunting, Joe. “How to conduct an interview like a journalist.” 
  • Dictionary for a Better World. Carolrhoda Books, 2020. 
  • Enjeti, Anjali. “Craft Capsule: Why You Need an Authenticity Editor,” 
  • Flynn, Elizabeth MS. “A Look from the Other POV” checklist, http:// 
  • Goldsmith, Connie, with Kiyo Sato. Kiyo Sato: From a WWII Japanese Internment Camp to a Life of Service. Twenty-First Century Books, 2021.
  • Kuang, R.F. “Racial Rubber Stamp,” SFWA blog, 2018 
  • Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa. Harper Perennial, 1971. 
  • Nisbett, Richard. The Geography of Thought. Free Press, 2004. 
  • Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018. 
  • “What’s the difference between the facial features of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people?” 
  • “How to tell the difference between Asian languages.”
  • Reedsy. “Sensitivity Readers: Who Are They and Should Authors Use Them?” 
  • Social Psychological and Personality Science. 
  • Stelson, Caren. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. Carolrhoda Books, 2016. 
  • Sting. “The Russians.” The Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1985. 
  • Strauss, Gwen, Calvin Alexander Ramsey, and Floyd Cooper. Ruth and the Green Book. Carolrhoda Books, 2010. 
  • Tett, Gillian. Anthro-Vision. Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, 2021. 
  • West, Eliana.
  • Wind, Lee. No Way, They Were Gay? Hidden Lives and Secret Loves. Carolrhoda Books, 2021. 

Story Behind the Story: The Way Home by Eliana West

A letter from the past will change their future… For this story, Eliana West was inspired by a conversation about family history with her sister, and the way these things happen sometimes, the story she wanted to write bloomed right then and there! The result is a delightful novel, providing a happily ever after for two characters whose heritages are echoed in America’s history.

Eliana West says interracial romance isn’t just for Black readers.

What’s the theme behind your story? 

The theme for all of the books in my Heart of Colton series is forgiveness. These are stories about forgiveness, redemption and of course love.

What’s the logline?

A letter from the past will change their future.

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?

I was talking with my sister about our family history and the story came to me almost fully formed. I also wanted to figure out a way to tell a story about the complex relationships between the descendants of enslaved people and the descendants of those who enslaved them. 

How did the original idea change as you went along?

My hero’s backstory changed quite a bit and new characters that evolved as the story went along, secondary characters that really became crucial to the story. Otherwise, the bones of the story have always stayed the same. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

Taylor Colton is kind of a combination of the Property Brothers and Ben Napier from Hometown on HGTV. For all of his success, he’s pretty insecure. When I had the idea for Taylor, I pictured him as a hero who struggles, not wanting to be the hero at first. For Josephine Martin, I wanted a heroine who worked in tech and a character with a strong will and a big heart. Ada Mae is based on my great aunt, and I drew a lot of inspiration from her personality and life. 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

The first draft of this story was just terrible and I had a point where I didn’t think I could salvage it. I took my time and did a major rewrite and now I’m so pleased with the result. I’m not sure at this point that I would do anything different.

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

Oh boy, that’s a good question. Maybe Chris Evans for Taylor Colton, and Jaylen Barron for Josephine Martin.

What else do you want readers to know?

What I’d like readers to know is that interracial romance isn’t just for Black readers. Interracial romance is for any reader; diverse romance is just that diverse. If you haven’t read an interracial romance, give one a try. 

My books may be a challenging story for some people. I write stories that confront some uncomfortable aspects of race and history. But at the end of the day, these are romances, love always wins.  


Eliana West writes contemporary interracial romance. Her first book, The Way Forward, establishing the Heart of Colton series, was published by Tule Publishing in 2020. When not writing, Eliana can be found exploring the many wineries in Oregon and Washington with her husband, traveling around in Bianca, their vintage Volkswagen Westfalia. She is the founder of Writers for Diversity (, a community for writers of all genres, creating diverse characters and worlds. Check out

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Story Behind the Story: 1000 Kisses by Jody Wallace

Jody Wallace specializes in quixotic stories, mean kitties (but not really), and surprises around the corner. In 1000 Kisses, the second in her Fae Realm series, the unexpected is key in exploring a familiar trope of meeting your One True Love: You may have a destined mate, but what if you don’t like each other?

What’s the theme behind your story?

1000 Kisses is the second book in my Fae Realm series that has been on pause since I completed 1000 Kisses. In writing it, I was toying around with the popular trope in paranormal romance of “fated mates”—as in, what if you and your fated mate don’t like each other? What if your fated mate tells you no? What if there’s no biological drive toward a fated mate, but more of a philosophical one, and the mates in question can accept or deny it if they wish? I hadn’t seen that particular situation in paranormal or fantasy romance before, so that was all my brain needed to scooch off down the rabbit trail.

What’s the logline?

Magic might go by the book, but love doesn’t play by the rules.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

Well, the cat who plays matchmaker, kind of, took over and decided to be a major part of the story. Like cats do. And then the gnomes wanted a piece of the action, because they’re greedy little jerks, so the book did not end up where I thought it would. I am sure the cats guided me in the correct direction, though! 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

The characters were introduced in Book 1, Survival of the Fairest. SPOILER ALERT: In Book 1, our hero of Book 2 thought his “fated mate” was the heroine of Book 1, so he was the driving force behind chasing her down when she went AWOL in the human world. Turns out the fiery, spontaneous Talista from Survival of the Fairest was NOT his fated mate—it was her quiet, calm twin sister Anisette. The book then explored how quiet and calm and thoughtful can be just as strong and brave, if not stronger, than more obvious trappings of courage, as the hero himself, Embor, is kind of a stiff, uptight, quiet guy.

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

I’d have added more cats in Book 1 and sold more copies of Book 2 so it would be worth my while to finish Book 3! Does that count as doing things differently??

What else do you want readers to know?

To buy Book 2 and encourage me to finish Book 3? So far it is AMAAAAAAZING and also chock full of gnomes, cussing, kissing, cats, fighting, unexpected turnabouts, mystery, and adventure. The heroine is the sister of the hero from Book 2 and the hero is someone we haven’t met in the previous books. 


Jody Wallace’s 30-plus titles include SF/F romance, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. Her fiction features diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and humor. Her readers frequently comment on her great characters, suspenseful stories, and intriguing and creative world building. When describing her methods, Jody says: “There are two sides to every story. I aim to tell the third. And I add cats regardless.” 

Outside of her fiction career, Jody has employed her master’s degree in creative writing to work as a college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and all-around pain in the butt. You can learn more about her at

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The Story Behind the Story: Kolea by Russell Cahill

Russell Cahill’s stories about his Hawaiian ancestors always fascinated me, because they all had a touch of history, a touch of mystery, and a touch of the fantastic. Kolea’s story has a familiar grounding: a child of royal blood with a destiny to fulfill…but his destiny is not one that the reader may expect. (I have to state at this point that I was the copy editor for this story, so I got to be an early observer about Kolea’s journey!) 

Kolea: A child, born of royal blood, is spirited away and raised in isolation. Pursued by an older brother, he escapes and travels to new worlds but cannot escape his fate.

It’s hard for me to believe in magic. I am a product of two cultures. Mom was descended from people of Europe who came to North America in the 1600s. Dad was a Native Hawaiian. One set of grandparents were pragmatic Yankees. The other grandparents were closely related to the land, the sea, and the plants and animals of Hawai’i. They were comfortable with the unseen and were quite superstitious. I ended up with a degree in science and an itch under the skin regarding the supernatural. Writing Kolea allowed me to scratch that itch.

If you want to get close to the ancient culture of Polynesia, there is no better place than Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. Stories of shapechangers, ghosts, and spooky happenings are everywhere. I was fortunate to be assigned as superintendent of the park in 1970. I rode horseback or walked through that crater at least once a month for the four years of my tenure. 

There is good reason to believe the ancient ones believed the place to be a sacred location. There is a lava tube purported to be the repository of the umbilical cords cut from infants. I have seen the skeletal remains of ancient people hidden well back in the lava caves high on the mountain. And the workers I supervised refused to spend the night in areas of the back country that had disturbing Hawaiian spiritual significance. 

On one of my treks, I was climbing the steep trail at Halemau’u when I spotted a pueo, a Hawaiian owl, hunting on the steep slopes. It flew back and forth and didn’t seem to notice me as I stood quite still. The bird flew directly over me, perhaps five feet over me, and when it was just above me it recognized me and did a little hitch, continuing its flight. The magical part was that we stared into each other’s eyes for what seemed a long moment and I saw its eyes flecked with gold particles. I instantly felt calm, as if I had had a discussion with the owl. That evening I decided that although my father’s family aumakua (an animal god who is your relative and protector) was a shark, the owl had assigned itself to me. I went home that evening and began jotting notes about the pueo. 

A few years later I was living in a wall tent in rural Alaska. My little family and I were building a cabin in the forest at Gustavus. My wife and I had a disagreement about where the cabin should be sited. She liked one location and I, another. In the middle of one night, I got up to relieve myself and walked to the site I had chosen. As I prepared, a short-eared owl, the same species as the pueo, took off from a tall spruce tree and, with a lot of noise, swooped down from its perch and flew right above me, screaming its call. 

I took the nighttime event as a sign. The following day, we staked out the new cabin on the site my wife favored.

I began writing. Each evening after working on the construction of the cabin and having dinner, I sat by an oil lamp with a notebook and pencil and told the story of a boy, adopted by a mystical hula dancer and her blind warrior companion. Stories told about the battles between Maui and Hawai’i warriors were fresh in my mind from readings, and discussions with Hawaiian people in Hana, Kipahulu, and Kaupo. 

The idea of a canoe voyage to North America evolved from readings about the probability of prehistoric contact between Polynesians and the indigenous people of the Americas. The characters were formed from first-hand observations of people, and from the classic warring families found in all literature. I translated my own adventures in Alaska and the west coast of North America into plot points. After my sojourn in the Alaska Bush, I put the penciled draft in a file and set it aside as new work opportunities came up. 

The draft sat untouched for more than forty years. One day, one of my grandchildren was in need, and I gave her some money. She asked, “What can I do for you, Grandpa?” She was a good typist. I retrieved the notebook draft and said, “Put this in a Word file for me.” A couple of weeks later, the first draft came up on my computer screen and I went to work on a new draft. I pulled in research material on Hawaiian voyaging canoes and other materials and completed a first draft.

With no experience in publishing, I was flummoxed. But one sunny day, my wife and I were having lunch at our favorite little seafood place in Aberdeen, Washington, and I saw a note pinned on the wall for the South Bay Writers Group annual meeting to be held the following weekend at the Tokeland Hotel. A publisher would be there to hear pitches from authors. I drove south to Tokeland and reserved the last room available in Washington’s oldest hotel. “Do you mind the haunted room?” I was asked. “Of course not. I’m a writer,” I said.

On the following weekend, a representative of Booktrope, a cooperative publishing venture in Seattle at the time, listened to my pitch and agreed to publish Kolea. Along the way, I learned about editors, proofreaders, cover designers and marketing people. After the book was published, Booktrope folded. I was rescued by Gwen Gades, the publisher of Dragon Moon Books in Red Deer, Alberta. Gwen had designed the cover for Kolea. She agreed to continue to publish Kolea. And that, good reader, is the story behind the story.

Russell Cahill is a San Francisco–born child of a mixed-race family. His father was a Hawaiian seaman, his mother a descendant of Pilgrims. A former national park ranger in Yosemite, Alaska, Washington DC, and Hawai’i, Russell now writes from his home in a forest north of Olympia, Washington. His fascination with the native cultures of North America and Polynesia inspired him to write Kolea, a story of early Hawai’i and a voyage to North America.

Story Behind the Story: Death by Intermission by Alexis Morgan

Alexis Morgan’s series about Snowberry Creek, and her amateur sleuth, Abby McCree, reminds us that there’s always murder in the most unlikely places. This Story Behind The Story is about the latest in Morgan’s Abby McCree Murder Mysteries and how characters can shape and grow. 

Cover of Death by Intermission by Alexis Morgan

What’s the theme behind your story?

The theme behind DEATH BY INTERMISSION is the importance of supporting the people you care about, both in good times and bad. 

What’s the logline?

DEATH BY INTERMISSION—It’s a blockbuster whodunit…

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?

I was trying to think of a very different location for a murder to take place when I came up with the image of someone sitting in a lawn chair just inside the tree line at a city park looking as if he’d dozed off. From there I needed a reason for both him and Abby McCree, my amateur sleuth, to be there in the first place. Since Abby is always getting “volunteered” to serve on committees in the town of Snowberry Creek, this was the perfect time for her to be in charge of the town’s movie-in-the-park night. 

How did the original idea change as you went along?

I like Abby to have a good reason for getting involved in solving a murder. Originally, it was going to be because she was in charge of the night’s festivities and that alone was enough to draw her into the investigation. However, as I started writing, I realized that wasn’t enough of a personal connection. To add additional depth, I had one of the chief suspects be dating Abby’s mother. In turn, he was trying to protect another possible suspect by withholding key information, which complicated the situation for everyone. That one change gave the story more depth and tension, especially regarding the relationship between Abby and her mother. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

This is the first time the reader meets Abby’s mother even though it’s the fourth book in the series. I’ve always pictured Abby and her mother being very close. But as the story unfolds, they have to confront their changing relationship. Abby’s life had changed dramatically since moving to Snowberry Creek, and she’s never realized that her mother isn’t happy about some of the choices Abby has made. Things get a bit rocky for them, but their relationship becomes much stronger in the process.  

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

Overall, I’m pleased with how the story turned out. Abby and her friends have come a long way from where the readers first met them in DEATH BY COMMITTEE, Book One of the Abby McCree Murder Mysteries. Abby’s circle of friends has expanded, drawing in more people from both her past and her new home in Snowberry Creek. At times I wish I had created more in-depth backstories for the major characters before I started writing the first book. That would make their reactions to different situations more predictable. However, as a writer, I really prefer getting to know the characters over the course of the series just like the readers do.   

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

I really love the idea “casting” my characters with real-life actors! I can just picture Abby, my plucky amateur sleuth, being played by Anna Kendrick. Tripp Blackston, Abby’s tenant and almost-boyfriend, is a former Special Forces soldier and would be played by Jai Courtney. Henry Cavill would make a perfect Gage Logan, Abby’s friend and the local chief of police. 

What else do you want readers to know?

I would like the readers to know that Zeke, Abby’s ninety-five pound mastiff mix roommate, is based on two of the dogs in my own life. My granddogs, Walter and Remus, are both bulldogs, so I have firsthand experience in dealing with the issues Zeke has with drooling and shedding. They are also both extremely fond of dog cookies.  I keep several flavors on hand for whenever they come to visit. 


USA Today best-selling author Alexis Morgan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. She is the author of over forty novels, novellas, and short stories that span a variety of genres. DEATH BY INTERMISSION is the fourth book in her first cozy mystery series, The Abby McCree Mysteries

Buy link

Here’s a link to the book’s page on my website.  It includes several buy links, the back blurb, and the first chapter of the book.

Story Behind the Story: My Sweet Enemy by Jenny Hartwell

Jenny Hartwell’s tale about pivoting to publish should be a familiar one to anyone who’s aspired to publish, whether it’s a novel, a short story, or even a blog post. And about chocolate. How could anyone complain about a love story involving chocolate?!

At a writing conference I attended a few years back, the entire panel of agents and editors announced to the crowded room full of eager authors that historical romance was a tough sell these days. 

Huh. Too bad I was pitching my historical romance to them the next day. 

After going nowhere slowly with my story of carriages, ballgowns, and duels at dawn, I returned home fighting despondency. What to write next? I took a long walk, thinking about the power of pivoting. Romcoms were just taking off. Could I pivot from writing about English ladies in the early 1800s to penning pithy tales of modern love? Could I make pop culture references? Could I be funny

The answer, surprisingly, was yes. 

Before I discovered this, though, I had to search the depths of my soul. What do I love? Truly, madly, deeply? Love enough to spend countless hours researching and writing and editing the topic? The answer came readily enough: chocolate. I loooooove chocolate. However, the sweet treat itself was not a plot. But what about everyone’s favorite chocolate story from childhood, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? What if I slammed it together with the breakout enemies-to-lovers romcom, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne? I returned from my walk invigorated, pivoting, and ready to leap into something new. 

It turned out, I adored writing contemporary romance. I love pop culture, and now I had an academic purpose for my subscription to People magazine. Including references to Taylor Swift, Star Wars, Axe body spray, the Hemsworth brothers, and Lord Voldemort was fun. And more important, it was funny. 

I had to modernize the story of the impoverished Charlie Bucket, turning my main character into Charlotte Beecher, a twenty-something chocolatier who’s out of work and getting desperate as her bills and student loans pile up. Thankfully, she wins a social media contest for one of five internships at a gourmet chocolate company, my spin on Dahl’s five golden tickets. The interns compete in a series of challenges with the winner earning a high-level job at the chocolate company. One of the other interns, Mister Tall, Dark, and Haughty, is all spreadsheets and number crunching, and when he and sunshiny Charlotte go toe to toe, sparks fly! 

Once I’d worked out my plot, I had some serious research to conduct. And by research, I mean eating chocolate. Studying chocolate. Making chocolate. Let me tell you, it was a tough gig. Luckily, I live in the same city as two gourmet chocolate companies, so I set up tours, tastings, and a truffle-making class. It was extraordinarily delicious and educational. I even met the eponymous owner of one of the factories, and I gushed to her—perhaps a bit too gushingly, now that I look back with the distance of time—about how I was writing a novel based on a factory just like hers with a female owner just like her. I asked her for a selfie. I rambled. I preached on the transcendent joy of her salted caramels. And…I’m lucky there were no restraining orders issued. 

Writing the book was both easy and hard. The dialogue flowed. I could have my characters swear. I didn’t have to research how long a carriage journey from London to Bath on dirt roads would take. But…I was also living in my house while it underwent a six-month renovation. Jackhammers and writing are not boon companions. I loved this story, though, so I figured out how to write despite the construction. I wrote in my car. I wrote on friends’ back porches while they were at work. I hummed along to the member of the construction crew who was fond of belting out Cher tunes while I typed away. And at last, my enemies-to-lovers chocolate factory romcom was done. 

There is quite a bit that happened in between typing The end and the publication of my debut, but that’s a story for a different day. My Sweet Enemy was released by Entangled Publishing on February 8. Being published and seeing my book out in the world, the result of my career-changing pivot, fills me with more transcendent joy than eating a salted caramel.

And that’s really saying something.  

Jenny Hartwell has a confession–she loves People magazine as much as Pride and Prejudice. Her fun, pop culture–adoring side shines in her contemporary rom-com novels set in a gourmet chocolate factory while Jenny’s Regency romances feature strong damsels and swoony lords. Her writing has won or finaled in numerous contests including the Golden Heart, The Emily, Four Seasons, Fool for Love, and The Catherine. Jenny lives with her family in the verdant Pacific Northwest. She loves movies, travel, and staying up late with a good book. And, of course, chocolate. Jenny is represented by Lesley Sabga of The Seymour Agency. 

Blurb for My Sweet Enemy

Sunny chocolatier Charlotte Beecher is unemployed, in student debt, and on the verge of hawking her beloved copper pots just to make ends meet. So when a gourmet chocolate factory chooses her as one of five candidates to help re-launch the company in their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory–inspired competition, Charlotte begins to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Fellow contestant Luke Wells complicates her plans to win by a landslide with his flow charts and marketing projections. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Haughty is all about the bottom line and is as bitter as she is sweet. And when he snubs Charlotte in the first challenge, misunderstanding or not, she transforms from cream puff to jawbreaker. Bring. It. On.

But when these two rivals find themselves distracted by delicious attraction, will they let their passion get in the way of winning the competition?

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