What inspired you to write Just the Sexiest Man Alive?
I had been kicking around the story for a while, but I was still working full-time as a lawyer and didn’t have a lot of time to write. I kept putting it off, saying I’d find the time to start writing “someday.” And then my grandfather gave me some very wise advice: if there was something I wanted to do with my life, I should stop waiting for “someday” and just do it. So I started writing in the evenings after work, and I wrote the story originally as a screenplay. Later, my film agent suggested that I expand the script into a novel.
What type of research did you do for the book?
None. Wait—am I supposed to admit that? I did have to look up whether anyone had ever been named People’s Sexiest Man Alive three times. Otherwise, the majority of the material in the book came from either my experience as a lawyer or as a screenwriter.
How did you develop the characters in Just the Sexiest Man Alive?
Ah… Jason. (affectionate sigh) There was no real “process” for developing him; I didn’t sit down and do a character sketch and figure out his favorite ice cream or color or anything like that, I just sort of heard him in my head. And once I had Jason, I had Taylor—I needed a very strong heroine, someone who was smart and witty, but who could occasionally be vulnerable too, even if she tries her hardest to hide that fact.
How does your experience as a trial lawyer play out in the book?
Just like Taylor, I worked at a large law firm and defended corporations in sexual harassment and discrimination cases, and my work experiences certainly gave me some ideas for the book.
In the book, both Jason and Scott are famous movie stars. Did you have anyone in particular in mind when writing them?
This is a tricky one to answer… I did have someone in mind when writing Jason, but interestingly, both my editor and agent thought he was supposed to be somebody else! So now I just say that Jason is whoever you imagine him to be. Same thing with Scott—while I may have had a certain person in mind when creating him, I’d rather the reader be able to envision the character however they want.
How much of your life is played out in Just the Sexiest Man Alive?
Just like the heroine of the book, I really enjoyed being a trial lawyer. But as much as I enjoyed what I was doing, there came a point in my life—again like Taylor—when I was faced with the opportunity of going after something else I loved even more. For me, that was the decision to quit my job at the firm and begin writing full-time.
As a lawyer have you ever been assigned to coach anyone?
While I’ve never been lucky enough to coach the Jason Andrews, for several years while practicing with the firm I did pro bono work as a coach for an inner-city high school mock trial team. That was some of the most rewarding work I ever did as an attorney.
As an employment discrimination attorney, you have probably seen a lot of unique cases. Did that help you in writing Just the Sexiest Man Alive?
While the lawyer in me would never comment specifically on any of my former cases, and while the lawyer in me would also like to emphasize that this book is a work of fiction, I can say that, yes, I saw some pretty interesting things in my line of work. On more than one occasion, something would happen in one of my cases and I’d think, “This should be in a book/movie.”
How did your experiences in screenwriting help you in writing the book?
I think it helped in several ways. First, I think that the screenwriting gives me a better ear for dialogue—hearing when characters don’t sound natural. Second, because the scenes in screenplays are relatively short, that helped me develop a stronger sense of how to start a scene just as the action begins and how to cut out the extraneous parts. Finally, writing screenplays was where I learned the value of conflict in a story. Even if it’s a romantic comedy and the conflict is portrayed in a humorous light, the heroine and hero should have opposing goals in virtually every scene.
Do you have other books coming soon?
My second book, Practice Makes Perfect, will be released in March 2009. The heroine and hero are lawyers who can’t stand each other and have to fight it out for the one partnership spot at their firm. It’s another romantic comedy, a battle-of-the-sexes story with a lot of humor and hijinks and a hero and heroine who think they’re totally wrong for each other.