For Day 3 of Taiwanese American Heritage Week, we have an interview with romance author Ruby Lang on her recent novella House Rules!
ROOMMATE WANTED to share a gorgeous sun-filled apartment in Central Harlem. Must love cats. No ex-husbands or wives need apply.
Seventeen years ago, different dreams pulled Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kuo apart. But when Lana takes a position as a chef back in Manhattan, her apartment search puts her right in her ex-husband’s path. Music teacher Simon is also hunting for a new place to live, and when Lana proposes they be platonic roomies, well…it’s not the worst idea he’s ever heard.
A sunny uptown two-bedroom sounds far more appealing than the cramped, noisy space where he’s currently struggling to work. Still, Simon has seen firsthand that Lana’s a flight risk, so he agrees on a trial basis.
Three months. With strict boundaries.
Living together again feels wonderfully nostalgic, but when the ex-couple’s lingering feelings rise to the surface, the rules go out the window.
Of course, chemistry was never their problem. But while Simon’s career feels back on solid footing, Lana is still sorting out what she wants. With their trial period soon coming to an end, they’ll have to decide if their living arrangement was merely a sexy trip down memory lane or a reunion meant to last.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for House Rules and the Uptown series?
House Rules, a second-chance contemporary romance about exes who end up living together once again because New York City rent is too damn high, was inspired by stories about the desperate things we do to find apartments in expensive metro areas.
The book is part of the Uptown series, my contemporary romance trilogy about love, real estate, and adulting, which I was prompted to write while walking around in Harlem. Harlem is a sprawling neighborhood in Manhattan with such an amazing history—it’s especially rich in Black history. It’s a great place to eavesdrop on conversations and the architecture is gorgeous. But the neighborhood has been gentrifying. So I wanted to write some small, intimate stories about ordinary people in that context.
Now, of course, I miss those long, aimless walks. I miss the chatter.
Q: If Lana and Simon from House Rules used Twitter, what would their Twitter handles be, what would they put in their bios, and what kind of content would they Tweet, respectively?
Lana would be @lananoodle. On her Twitter, she would only post links to Instagram. Her IG is pictures of food, plants, her cat, and sometimes scenes from the classroom where she teaches noodle making.
Simon will be @Mizrahi0905214. His profile photo is a blank and he’s only ever retweeted announcements from the college where he teaches, and that was 2 years ago. He follows 5 people and is followed by 2—both of whom are his interns.
Q: What’s your favorite romance trope to write?
I love writing enemies-to-lovers, probably because what I enjoy most working on banter. Even if characters are on opposing sides, the tension of having them match their wits against each other is always so fun to write, and read.
I love that contradiction of characters being at their worst but also being at their best, cleverest, funniest, sharpest, quickest with each other. I love the sense of play that often comes out when characters spar. I love showing readers what makes these people tick though the way they talk.
Q: If you could go on a date (platonic or romantic) with one of your characters, who would you pick (name and which book they’re from), what would you do/where would you go, and why?
Oh, wow! The idea of going out anywhere at all these days is pretty nice. But I’d definitely want a friend date with Lana and Simon. I’d try her hand-pulled noodles and maybe we’d all listen to music together.
Q: Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between?
I’m a little bit in between! I often will write most of an outline, come to a section in the plot that seems too complicated to figure out, give up on mapping out the story, and then start writing the actual manuscript. And then I’ll often end up going off the path, get lost in the weeds, and get to an ending in a completely different way than anticipated. I’ll also write snippets of dialogue, absolutely sure they’ll fit in at some point, and totally forget about them.
Q: What advice would you give to inexperienced writers for crafting a compelling romance?
Characters first! Always think of the characters, what they think they want, what they actually want, and how that all comes into conflict. I think that some people think that romance is a genre of pure wish fulfillment. (And that’s probably one of the many reasons why it often comes under fire.) But it’s more a genre about subjectivity and how people’s desires clash with expectations; writing romance means you have to have a firm grasp on what makes people tick.
About the Author:
Ruby Lang is the author of the acclaimed Practice Perfect series. Her alter ego, Mindy Hung, wrote about romance novels (among other things) for The Toast. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Walrus, Bitch, and other fine venues. She enjoys running (slowly), reading (quickly), and ice cream (at any speed). She lives in New York with a small child and a medium-sized husband.
Website – http://www.rubylangwrites.com/
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/RubeLang/