Lauren Brooks is in a rut, and her roomie is determined to yank her out of it by convincing her to participate in a local coffee shop’s 5-in-5 speed dating event. Once she agrees, it takes her about 30 seconds to realize if there’s an oddball out there looking for love, he’ll find her. And creep her out. She confronts one weirdo after another until someone she used to know winds up in the same place, and she has to decide what she wants more: to make a break for it, or embrace the possibilities of another chance.
“A tale with humor, depth, and a healthy dose of psychology took me by surprise.”
“It makes one want to believe in happy endings.”
“This novella really took me somewhere unexpected. I loved the fact that the heroine wasn’t the usual fluffy bit of perfection but someone real who had suffered – and I also loved the humor. Different and so entertaining, what a good read.”
CIR: What gave you the idea for this novella?
CALDWELL: I was working on the sequel to my YA paranormal novel, Psyched, and I was completely stuck. I decided to try some free writing in a totally different genre just to get my brain working again, and this was the result. I wrote it in two weeks and loved it so much, I just threw it out there on Amazon. It seems like it has really resonated with people, which makes me happy.
CIR: What do you hope your readers will get out of this book?
CALDWELL: I hope they understand that it’s okay to move forward regardless of the awful hands life deals us, and it’s even better to do it with a sense of humor and a snarky comeback. Lauren is a unique character, one we don’t see often in romance. She’s smart and witty, an emotional wreck, strong and flawed. I hope looking at the world through her unique perspective will make my readers smile and feel hopeful.
CIR: What is the main character like?
CALDWELL: Lauren is sort of a hot mess. She just graduated from grad school and is making no progress in her life now that she’s done. Her roommate Harlow guilts her into trying a speed dating event, and through the course of the evening, through one bizarre date after another, we find out why she’s such a train wreck and see her build her resolve to move forward. No more schlepping on the couch watching reality TV—all the whack jobs and weirdos she meets, along with a couple of guys from her past, convince her it’s time to move forward. (Maybe just not the way you might see in your everyday romance novel!)
CIR: What makes your book unique?
CALDWELL: I have a minor in psychology, and I drew on that to touch on Lauren’s issues with anxiety and how she’s dealt with the tragedies in her life. It sounds so boring to write about someone who’s suffered from mental illness, but I focused a lot on her sarcastic observations at the speed dating event. It’s a light-hearted look at someone who lives daily recovering from something she can’t control, about that person choosing happiness—and sometimes fighting for it—but always making that choice to move forward, with hilarious observations along the way.
CIR: Is there more coming?
CALDWELL: I never considered writing romance, but I’ve had so much fun and such a positive response to Arms Wide Open from readers and reviews on Amazon that I’m working on a full length romance in the same vein. Tentatively titled Guilt Trip, it’s about a girl (okay, so she’s a 30 year old woman) living in her dad’s basement and trying to break free from that co-dependent relationship while she reconnects with a man from her past when she takes a singles cruise…and I threw in the younger sister who doesn’t really want the guy, but doesn’t want her sister to be happy and move on either. I’m using a little psychology and a lot of humor to put the FUN in the term dysfunctional family.
Learn more about Juli Caldwell and her writing at her website.