In her newest romance novel "It Happened One Summer" (Avon Books), New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey plucks Hollywood socialite Piper Bellinger out of her glitzy Beverly Hills comfort zone and drops her into the sleepy coastal town of Westport, Washington — and into the burly arms of sexy sea captain Brendan.
Comedy and chemistry ensue in this "Schitt’s Creek"-inspired rom-com, making for the perfect hot summer read. Bailey spoke by phone from her Floral Park home about channeling the lovable Alexis Rose, writing through the pandemic and the comfort of happily-ever-after endings.
In your acknowledgments, you note that you wrote "It Happened One Summer" during the pandemic. Did that change your writing process?
I’ve always written spicy romantic comedy. I think that’s why so many new people are discovering romance; in these unpredictable times, at least they can be assured of a happily ever after. I wrote "It Happened One Summer" at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve written more than 50 books and this is the longest book I’ve ever written, but it took me the shortest length of time to write it. I just needed to lose myself and let the story absorb me. Everything was so unfamiliar at the beginning of the pandemic and writing is so familiar to me. Romance is a safety net. Every book is different — different characters, different setting — but you go in knowing you are going to get a happy ending.
Why did you choose the TV series "Schitt's Creek" as your inspiration?
That show made me so happy and got me through the pandemic. There wasn’t a bad person in that show. No villain. These wonderful people living in the town, this understood acceptance of all walks of life — that’s what I want the world to be like, I just loved it. I wanted to write a book with a main character finding her footing in this magical place.
Piper, the main character in your book, feels similar to Alexis from "Schitt’s Creek," but has a very different storyline.
Alexis Rose is one of my favorite television characters ever. Her arc was so dramatic throughout that series. I just fell in love with her. I don’t want to spoil it, but throughout the series she kind of falls in love with herself. I think that’s really what I wanted for my book and for my main character, Piper. This girl thrown into this fish-out-of-water situation, without her normal crutches of media and fame and money — and she only has herself to fall back on.
Piper’s love interest, Brendan, is a king crab fisherman. How did you decide to give him that job?
I watch a lot of "Deadliest Catch!" But seriously, this is part of romance — we like heroes with dangerous jobs. A lot of us are victims to that attraction. There is something so eternal about fishing and the ocean, going out in to the ocean in that repetitive way. That is Brendan to me — he was this throwback, a man who has these deeply rooted responsibilities and routines that he can’t break and appreciation for history and the people around him. That’s a man that you want to write a romance novel about! You want him to look past all these behaviors he has and have him fall in love with someone completely opposite from him.
Does Long Island ever inform your work?
My last series, "Hot & Hammered," was all set in Port Jefferson. I lived in the city for so long that the first half of my career the books were set in NYC and Chicago. The longer I live on Long Island, the more I want to write books that take place in small towns with mom-and-pop shops. There is something really charming and romantic about it. I love Long Island.
What are you working on next?
I miss Piper. I’m following this book up with a sequel called "Hook, Line and Sinker" in March 2022. This one is about Hannah, Piper’s sister, and Fox, her love interest. You get to visit Piper and Brendan and see them happy so there is closure, leaving them with their happily after.