August 2009


Kristin Harmel has written four adult novels, including her latest Italian for Beginners, and teen novel When You Wish. She has written for many magazines, including People, and she lives in Florida. (Interview by Angela Smith)

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  1. Tell us about your latest novel Italian for Beginners.

    It's a Roman Holiday-meets-Bridget Jones's Diary tale of a woman who goes to Rome in search of love - and winds up finding herself instead. Basically, 34-year-old Cat Connelly decides, after a few upsetting run-ins at her little sister's wedding, to go to Rome in search of the Italian man she had a short but intense fling with in her early 20s. It doesn't take long for her to realize she'd been viewing him through rose-colored glasses, and now she's alone in Rome for a month. She could choose to go home - or she could stay. For once in her life, she decides to take a leap of faith, and it changes her life. In her remaining four weeks in the Eternal City, with the help of an eccentric waitress and a handsome restaurant owner, she unlocks some secrets of her past and discovers that sometimes you have to risk falling in order to fly.

  2. What was your inspiration for the book?

    My previous novel, The Art of French Kissing, was set in Paris, which is a city I have a great passion for. I found that I really enjoyed writing about a foreign city that felt magical to me, and I thought that like Paris, Rome had a great air of romance, history and magic. It seemed to be the perfect place to set a story about someone who had to unlock the secrets of her own past in order to move into her future. I also wanted to write a story about a woman who was struggling with where she felt she "should be" in life by her mid-30s, because that's a pressure I feel like a lot of people face. I wanted to send her on a journey that taught her that everyone's timetable is a little different, and that you can't rush things. I also wanted her to learn that you can't always live life on the safe side; sometimes, you have to take risks.

  3. What do you love about Paris?

    Practically everything! The food, the wine, the culture, the history, the architecture; it's all just very magical! I find myself unable to stop smiling when I'm walking through the streets of Paris. I love strolling through the city; there's so much to discover.

  4. Tell us about your next YA title?

    It's called After, and it comes out in early February from Random House/Delacorte. It's the story of 16-year-old Lacey Mann, whose father died in a car accident nine months before the book begins. She thinks she has dealt with her father's death while everyone around her has remained depressed, but as the anniversary approaches, she discovers, with the help of the mysterious new boy at school, that just because she's trying to fix everyone else doesn't mean she's actually dealt with her own feelings. It's a sweet story about family, friendship and the real meaning of love.

  5. Are you planning another adult novel?

    Yes. I'm actually in the midst of drafting an outline for my fifth women's fiction novel. And in the meantime, I'm ghostwriting Chubby Checker's autobiography, which will be out next year, in time to mark the 50th anniversary of The Twist hitting #1 on the charts.

  6. Did you always want to be a journalist?

    I've always wanted to be a writer (except for a brief phase in 4th grade where I was determined I'd be a pop star!). I actually tried to start a neighborhood newspaper when I was in elementary school, and I started writing professionally for magazines when I was 16. So yes, I guess journalism has always been a passion for me, as has fiction writing!

  7. What would we learn by attending your How to Write Chick Lit classes?

    I teach an eight-week online How to Write Chick Lit course, and a three-hour How to Write Chick Lit seminar, both for Mediabistro. In both classes, I give students an overview of how to outline, how to create compelling characters, and how to finish the first draft of a novel.

  8. If you had to be linked to a movie star in the gossip pages, who would you want it to be?

    Great question! I'm not sure. I don't know that there are any movie stars I particularly have a crush on! Perhaps that's a result of having worked for People for a while; the shine of celebrity has sort of worn off! Actually, you know who I'm actually really intrigued by recently? John Stamos! And this is weird, because I actually never really watched Full House when it was on. But I'm fascinated by the fact that he loves oldies music (like me), plays the drums (like me), went on tour with the Beach Boys this summer (while I'm working closely with Chubby Checker), and is a huge Disney-phile (like me)! I also think it's cool that he's doing a Broadway show (Bye Bye Birdie) now; I think it's fascinating when television and movie actors do stage work too. Plus, John Stamos just seems like he'd be nice. So there ya go; link me with him! I can see the tabloid headlines now! :-)

  9. What inspired The Blonde Theory?

    The Blonde Theory is about a brainy, successful attorney who wonders if her dating life would be easier if she was just a "dumb blonde". So she tests out the theory by dumbing herself down deliberately. It was inspired by the fact that so many of my friends - smart, dynamic, successful, driven, kind women (in other words, the complete package) - were feeling like all of those qualities that made them so special also made them intimidating to guys. I wanted to write a book that addressed that. In the end, Harper, the main character, learns that even though playing dumb might increase the quantity of the guys who came her way, it certainly didn't increase the quality!

  10. What is your favourite:

    1. Movie: Love Actually, Sliding Doors, In America, Notting Hill, Finding Neverland
    2. TV show: Sex and the City, True Blood, The Mentalist, Law & Order
    3. Book: The Diary of Anne Frank, and way too many novels to name, including books by Emily Giffin, Jane Porter, Liza Palmer, Megan Crane, Brenda Janowitz, Sarah Mlynowski, Alison Pace, Lynda Curnyn, Melissa Senate, Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve, Cecelia Ahern and James Patterson.
    4. Sports team: The Florida Gators! I love college football! I also love baseball, and I root for my hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays (although I was born in Boston, so I have a soft spot for the Red Sox too!).
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