Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell is a rare find: A book that not only has a fabulous premise, but also lives up to it every step of the way. Here’s the gist: an erotic novelist meets the fictional hero of her most recent book in real life, and must decide whether she wants to get him back between the pages—or between her sheets. At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.
Then, during a routine shopping trip, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking… places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all.
This book is Enchanted for adults. Smart, funny, charming in the best sense of the word. I’m thrilled to have had the chance to ask author Elizabeth Maxwell a few questions .
LB: As an erotica author, I immediately fell in love with the idea of your story: In the middle of writing her latest novel, a divorced erotica author runs into her book’s hero – at Target! How did you come up with this novel?
EM: Right around the time Fifty Shades of Grey was devouring the marketplace, I was working on a grown-up version of Enchanted (the movie) but I couldn’t get it quite right. I was about to give up when I happened upon an interview with an erotica author who kept her profession a secret. She had this whole life no one knew anything about! It was fascinating and gave me a way into the story about Sadie Fuller.
LB: If you could encounter any romance hero – from books or film – in real life, who would it be?
EM: Indiana Jones. I’m convinced he pretty much ruined real men for me.
LB: I enjoyed reading about a heroine in her 40s rather than her twenties. I’m hoping there’s a bit of a trend to this. Did you know right from the beginning this book would be about love later in life?
EM: Absolutely! And thank you for saying you’d like to see more women this age represented – I would too! As for Sadie, she couldn’t be twenty-something fresh. She had to have taken some of life’s inevitable hits for her to end up in that Target. The women I know in their forties are funny and smart and so capable. My hope was to create a little of that on the page.
LB: The scenes from Sadie’s erotic novel are really fun. Do you ever think of writing an erotic novel? And has your literary agent, like Sadie’s, ever advised you to “throw in a little sex?”
EM: I really struggled with those chapters! In Happily, Sadie says genre writing is hard work and I totally agree. Erotica is not my usual style so I had to study up and practice. And there was quite a bit of rewriting as you can imagine. As for writing a full erotic novel, I don’t think I have the chops for it! I read so many when I was trying to figure out how it was done and almost all of them nailed it. I might be too intimidated to try and put myself in such company. J
LB: One of my favorite threads in this story is that Sadie learned about writing romance from a heated fan letter telling her all the things she did wrong. And from this she gets a list of “rules from Ellen.” How did you get this idea?
EM: I’m constantly amazed at how closely readers pay attention. As the author, you better have your ducks in a row because if you don’t, someone is going to call you out. Knowing this has made me a better writer. I don’t want to disappoint the person who reads with that level of focus. Over the years, I’ve received emails and letters from readers pointing out errors with my facts (the readers are almost always right, too!) or suggesting an ending they would have preferred or giving me sequel ideas. I love this level of communication with readers and so appreciate their willingness to escape with me into the pages.
LB: You describe the way Sadie walks around NYC looking for real-life inspiration for her characters. Do you do that when writing?
EM: I’ve never actually followed a stranger but I’ll admit to stealing freely from friends and acquaintances. Sometimes just the way a person walks down the street is enough to open up a character for me.
LB: I truly loved this book and I want to see the movie!Who would you cast?
EM: Sadie – Renee Zellweger (loved her willingness to be un-glamorous as Bridget Jones!); Jason – John Cusack; Aidan – Ian Somerhalder or Zac Efron (I can’t decide!); Lily – Olivia Wilde
LB: Any writer who has unwritten novels tucked away in her desk with love this book because Sadie is in a sense haunted by a book she did not finish. Have you struggled with this?
EM: Yes! I have characters or scenes I’ve had to axe because they were not working. Some of them, I just move on and others I go into mini-mourning. I’ve tried resurrecting characters from the graveyard and it never works. Once they are declared dead, it’s better if they stay that way.
LB: What book have you read recently and loved? What novels are on your TBR?
EM: I just finished Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King. I’ve always admired how well he takes the ordinary and makes it terrifying. He does that again in this one. Next up is The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri and The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
LB: Will Sadie’s adventures continue in a new novel?
EM: I would love to spend more time with Sadie but as of right now there are no plans for a sequel.
LB: I hope that changes in the near future. Thanks for a fabulous book, Elizabeth!
For more on Elizabeth Maxwell and Happily Ever After, visit:
Happily Ever After/Touchstone/March 18, 2014