Julianna is here today to talk about Difficult People. Her newest novel, Bench Player, is out on March 30. I’ve already read and I can confirm, the heroine and hero are both difficult, but in the best of ways.
People say I’m difficult, and sometimes that’s a badge of honor. – Bill Murray
I like difficult people. Maybe not so much in real life, but in books? Yeah, I love ’em. Give me your prickly, your sarcastic, your snarky, your flawed. I want ’em all. And the reason I want them is because I know they’re going somewhere. Somehow, over the course of the story, that stubborn, untrusting, heart-shut-off-to-the-world character is going to learn to be a little less stubborn, a little more trusting, and to open their heart a little bit more. I love that sense of expectation, of knowing that after the character puts up a fuss for 300 pages, they’re going to be so much happier for having been put through the emotional ringer of our story. And that’s what I’m really here for. The journey. And all its messy parts.
Difficult people breed conflict, and that’s why my favorite romantic trope is enemies-to-lovers. Think of the drama! The tension! The seething, sexually-tinged squabbling! You put two challenging characters in a situation they can’t get out of and force them to work out their differences and acknowledge their pants feelings? Give me a front row seat for that show!
In BENCH PLAYER we have two difficult people. A former Major League Baseball player, fresh out of prison and wanting his job back, and a bossy Public Relations manager who wants to keep her job by repairing said player’s reputation. He doesn’t want her help and she doesn’t want to help him, but they have to help each other if they’re both going to remain gainfully employed. And over the course of much bickering and bantering, they’re going to fall in love, too. Set-ups like that make me giddy—two people who don’t want each other now, but will be in love by the last page? I’m so here for it.
Growing up, my favorite film and TV couples were the ones who duked it out on a regular basis. (To be totally clear, I don’t think this is ideal in real life, but it makes for entertaining TV.) I worshipped Saved By the Bell, and Slater and Jessie were my most beloved couple. My teenage self mourned the loss of the short-lived show Models Inc., and its stuck-up model and surfer dude pairing. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Jake and Amy, pranking and challenging each other week after week until falling blissfully in love? Magic! (And the inspiration for the working title of this post: Why Is This So Hard? Title of Your Sex Tape.)
Nobody’s perfect, and for me, difficult people are appealing because of their imperfections. Their insensitivity, their indifference, their indiscretion—when a character in a story starts out with an obvious flaw (or two or ten), I know it’s the beginning of their character arc. And just like we know a detective will solve the case or a treasure hunter will find the cavern of gold, I look forward to the resolution of that arc, to seeing the character be rewarded for their growth. When two people start out deeply flawed in a romance, it’s not just their character arc that’s beginning, it’s the start of their relationship arc too, which gives me even more to get excited about. Yeah, there’ll be some (fine, a lot) of bumps along the way to their HEA, but that’s half the fun. And I think we can all agree that the stuff worth having is the stuff working hard for.
About the Book
Bench Player releases on March 30. Pre-order now for $2.99.
As Public Relations Manager for the Charleston Thrashers, I’m responsible for protecting the team’s reputation. But after our right fielder gets sent to prison and we lose the World Series, my own reputation takes a huge hit. There’s only one way I can save my job: by revamping Connor Whitman’s tarnished ex-con image. Keeping my eye on the ball isn’t a problem until I discover what’s underneath his unkempt exterior—a man who’s unexpectedly vulnerable and distractingly sexy. Now, my professionalism is sailing far into foul territory.
I’ve served my time, and now I’m determined to reclaim my spot in the Thrashers’ outfield. Unfortunately, the new General Manager doesn’t want an aging ex-con on the roster, so I have no choice but to go along with Allison’s annoying scheme. Her bossiness drives me crazy—but so do her legs and her hair and her all-too-rare smiles. I can’t afford to fall for anyone when my focus needs to be on baseball, but love is a game I’ve never played before, and for the first time ever, I’m out of my league.