Six Questions with Romance Writer Talia Hibbert
We talk about the Brown sisters, her next books and more
From where I’m sitting, Talia Hibbert is one of the best romance authors writing today. Her books — imbued with humor — seamlessly combine the serious, sexy and sweet. I shrieked with joy when she agreed to speak with me for this interview.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown is the book I recommended most often in 2020. Whenever a friend, family member or coworker said they needed a break from the world around them, I immediately pointed them to Chloe Brown.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown is the first book in Talia’s latest series, The Brown Sisters Trilogy, which follows Chloe, Dani and Eve Brown, posh Black Britons, as they find love. Each of the Brown girls has such a distinct personality — Chloe is a Type A computer programmer, Dani a witchy professor and Eve “a certified hot mess” — but the affection they have for each other feels so real.
The sisters’ relationship with each other is just one of a dozen things that make this series a complete and utter delight. They’re the literary equivalent of a bear hug from an old friend — comforting and joyful. I devoured each of the three books in a single sitting, alternating between crying and laughing.
I talked with Talia about the Brown Sisters series, her writing process and what she’s working on now.
I love the dynamic between the three Brown sisters. What drove you to write a series about sisters?
Siblings are a big thing in romance because we love to see side characters and think, ‘Oh! They should fall in love too!” and then that’s the next book.
A lot of the time, I see books about brothers. So, I thought it would be cool if they were sisters because you get to know the family and their connections. They have a reason to always be around each other, even if they’re very, very different. Maybe if they were friends, they wouldn’t be quite as different, or they’d have a lot more in common, but I’ve always liked the idea of family members being super different people who nevertheless love each other.
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You wrote Act Your Age, Eve Brown in quarantine. What was it like to write romance during a time of self-isolation?
It was difficult, and I’m lucky that it was a book that I really loved and was excited by. This was one of those books that really swept me away, which was great because obviously, the world around me was very terrible.
Someone recently pointed out that the main characters spent most of their time at the bed and breakfast they work at, and they don’t go anywhere else. Looking back on it, I think that was influenced by the fact that I was stuck in one place.
I’m writing another rom-com right now, and again, the characters don’t really go anywhere. I have to keep telling myself, ‘They should go somewhere else now.’
Your books often tackle serious issues while still maintaining a joyful feel. How do you balance handling topics like domestic abuse while keeping that sweet romance novel feeling?
I have to build things in layers because when I’m writing a scene, I might know the goal or the topics I want to come up in the scene, but I’ll be in a particular mood or on a particular track. If I’ve just written a lot of banter, I can be in a funny writing zone, not a serious one.
So, I’ll write the scene, and maybe serious topics will come up, but I didn’t hit them as precisely as I would like them to. I will then have to come back at a later date and kind of tweak those elements. That’s quite a big part of my process — rewriting or fiddling with scenes to make sure that all the different elements fit together.
I understand you’re working on a Pride and Prejudice retelling. Can you preview it for us?
It’s book one in my new series, the Skybriar series, which is a spinoff of Eve’s book. It’s set in the same town where Eve and Jacob live, and it’s about the Montrose siblings. Pride and Prejudice stars Jacob’s best friend Mont, and he is Lizzie. He has to fake a relationship to increase his chances of inheriting the family pub that he’s been running for a decade. When an old childhood friend comes back to town, she’s very different, and they don’t get along, but they do end up faking a relationship.
What drew you to Pride and Prejudice?
It’s very much connected to the pandemic. I went to see at the cinema, the latest version of Emma, with Anya Taylor-Joy, and I thought it was really great. I’d never been a huge Jane Austen fan before then, but after seeing that, I thought, ‘I need to revisit the books.’ Then, my boyfriend and I started watching all these different Jane Austen adaptations, and we liked all of them. And then I thought, ‘I definitely need to revisit these books’ because I tried to read Pride and Prejudice when I was younger, and I thought it was boring and never picked them up again.
When I went back to them, I realized there’s a lot of great stuff here. I thought it would be funny to do modern rom coms based on different Austen novels, so that’s what I’m doing. Book two is going to be Emma, and book three is going to be Persuasion.
And I can’t let you go without asking if you have book recommendations?
I recently finished Drag Me Up by R.M. Virtues. It’s a great book full stop, but also a great pandemic read because it’s set in this kind of contemporary world that’s also very much not our world. It’s a Hades and Persephone retelling. It’s gritty and hopeful. It’s very much a power couple story where they’re super devoted to each other, but they have to deal with other stuff, and they’re both badasses. It was amazing, and I loved it. I also recently read The Girl Stars in Her Eyes. It was amazing. It’s a story that’s very music-based — it’s actually a rockstar romance — but it was just so emotionally soothing. It felt so fresh. Every last one of the characters was so compelling, and I loved it.
Thank you so much to Talia Hibbert for speaking with me. You can buy her books here and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. The first book in the Skybriar series is due out in the fall. In the meantime, I suggest checking out Talia’s extensive back catalogue.
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