I recently finished Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan and it is the perfect summer read! It’s a wonderful love story between a divorced screenwriter and a celebrity set in an idyllic small town. I’m thrilled Annabel joined me for an author interview.
About Annabel Monaghan
My debut adult novel, Nora Goes Off Script, is coming out on June 7, 2022 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Writing it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. Pre-Nora, I wrote fiction for young adults and a column for not-so-young adults.
I grew up in Los Angeles, and nearly every one of my relatives still lives in Southern California. I attended Duke University where I studied English. I have an MBA from The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania and a brief history as an investment banker. I also used to teach novel writing at the The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. I now live in the suburbs of New York City with my husband, three sons, and a little dog who sheds.
Check out the Synopsis for Nora Goes Off Script
Nora’s life is about to get a rewrite…
Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it’s her job. But when her too-good-to work husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage’s collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life. No one is more surprised than her when it’s picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her 100-year-old-home. When former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, is cast as her ne’er do well husband Nora’s life will never be the same.
The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He’ll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The extra seven grand would give Nora breathing room, but it’s the need in his eyes that makes her say yes. Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.
Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, Nora Goes Off Script is the best kind of love story—the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life. For Nora and Leo, this kind of love is bigger than the big screen.
Author Interview: Annabel Monaghan
Annabel, I’m so excited to talk to you today about Nora Goes Off Script, out June 7th, 2022. Thank you for joining me for this Q & A. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind Nora Goes Off Script?
Annabel: I was recovering from surgery when I got hooked on The Hallmark Channel. In two-hour increments, I dwelled in the hardware stores and bakeries of adorable small towns, watching romances unfold with subtly different storylines. Periodically, in my Tylenol-addled consciousness, I’d wonder, didn’t I just see this one? But maybe last time she was a fashion designer living outside Chicago rather than a ballet teacher from Akron? After the first few, I could predict within a 30 second margin of error, the exact minute that the handsome guy would be suddenly called back to the city, only to have a change of heart and return immediately after the commercial break. (It’s usually minute 108 out of 120, if you’re wondering.)
After about a week, I became preoccupied by the people who wrote these movies, and I had a few questions. I wondered if they were wild romantics, with their offices decorated with dried prom corsages and posters of Peaches and Herb. Or if they were bots just plotting out the same recycled love story, reverse engineered to climax at minute 108. This is where Nora Hamilton came from, my imagined writer for my imagined Romance Channel, who has spent a decade supporting her horrible husband by writing these movies. She writes with a degree of detachment and a bit of eyerolling, because she’s never really been in love. I wanted to run Nora through a real lightning bolt romance to see how she’d react.
I absolutely loved Nora & Leo so much. Nora is steadfast, self-deprecating and wonderful. Leo is a man of few words, but is a man of action. What are your favorite characteristics of Nora and Leo?
I like how Nora is with her kids. I like how she’s all in with her kids and figures out how to manage the jigsaw puzzle of her life. Nora is exceptionally capable. She loves her life from the onset, and that feels like a choice she’s made. I also admire her appreciation for things that don’t cost money – the sunset, a good run.
I like how he wants to connect with his humanity, and I like how he can see what Nora thinks is so beautiful about her life. He is a great listener, and he doesn’t ask a question unless he’s going to settle in for the answer. I like his sense of humor and how he gets carried away by a children’s musical. I like how he orders in dinner once a week. (I’m going to mention this to my husband, actually.)
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I’m a big fan of Hallmark-esque movies. I especially love the Thanksgiving themed movies as well as anything that has to do with cookie baking competitions. Do you have any favorites?
I think I like the holiday ones the best, where the couple falls in love in the quaint town but, while doing so, they also discover the true meaning of Christmas. There’s always a little magic in these, and a little healing. Though the economics always distract me: like how does the woman who makes her living designing custom holiday wreaths have a brand new kitchen with marble countertops and a different red or green coat for every day of the week? How is she paying for the six Christmas trees that line her porch? That’s a lot of wreaths to sell!
Nora is a romance channel screenwriter. While researching this book, did you find out anything interesting about that career?
Besides the economics of the job, I didn’t do much research. I gave Nora my writing routine and sort of watched how she worked.
Author Interview: Annabel Monaghan: Let’s Chat About Writing
I would love to know if you’re a plotter or a pantser. What seems to work best when you’re working on a new manuscript?
I am definitely a pantser. I would love to be a plotter, as it seems like a much smarter way to write a book, but ideas don’t come to me fully formed. I have to start writing to hear the characters’ voices and to see what they’re going to do. No one was more surprised than I was about how Nora turned things around with her career. I was so happy for her as it all unfolded. After I’ve written a full draft, then I like to switch the other side of my brain and see what I have. That’s when I’ll start laying out note cards to see how the story moves. I do not recommend this method, but it’s the way that works for me.
Do you have any favorite snacks, music or rituals for your writing? For instance, are you blasting music or need complete silence?
I gave Nora my ritual! I don’t have a tea house, sadly, but I like to go into this small sitting room in the front of my house and light a candle before I start writing. It’s my way of quieting myself and asking for help. I eat a lot of almonds. I don’t listen to music because I find song lyrics to be really distracting. Like if I’m trying to write dialog, the conversation will end up sound like a hip hop song. I’ve been told that mumble while I write, so I think I’m listening to the rhythm of the words. I certainly don’t need silence, there’s always a TV on somewhere in my house and a leaf blower outside my window, but that sort of feels like white noise.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers?
Nora Goes Off Script is my debut adult novel and I’m 52 years old. I’d encourage writers who are trying and not quite getting there to be patient with themselves and to stay at it. Writing is so much like running, it’s painful but the more you do it the easier it is. And then all of a sudden you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel right unless you’ve done it. During times when I have written every day, something has been produced. It’s not always any good, but it always leads to something else. So you’ve just got to keep at it.
Also, find a community of writers. Take a class or go to hear speakers at a local library. There is so much good wisdom and information that is shared at these things, and so much encouragement. Writing is a pretty solitary occupation – some days it’s just me, my dog and my almonds. But I’ve found it invaluable to have writer friends who I can reach out to and run things by.
What started your foray into reading and loving the romance genre?
I think I’m probably a natural romantic. I’ve only ever fallen madly in love. I seek out the romance in every story, even if it’s the tiniest part of the plot. In murder mysteries where the butler and the maid make eye contact over the dead body, I spend the rest of the book waiting for them to get together. I wrote my first YA novel about a teenage math genius who works with the FBI. It’s a thriller, really, but of course by the time I was done with it, it was a love story. I don’t think I can help myself.
Reading Recs, TV Casting & More: Author Interview: Annabel Monaghan
Nora Goes Off Script, is one of my top Summer 2022 reads! What are some romances on your TBR and/or must read romances?
I’m so happy to hear that! I am really excited to read A SHOE STORY by Jane L. Rosen this summer. Recent love stories I’ve adored are THE SUMMER JOB by Lizzie Dent, THE PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION by Emily Henry and DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME by Mhairi McFarlane.
I always love talking about TV and movies. If you were to cast an adaptation for Nora Goes Off Script, do you have anyone in mind for your characters?
I had no one in particular in mind when I was writing Nora and Leo’s story, but the other day I was listening to a podcast interview with Judd Apatow and I thought, wow, Leslie Mann would be a great Nora. She’s that right mix of sexy, funny, likable. Then I thought maybe Matthew McConaughey as Leo, because he’s cute.
Do you have any favorite TV shows or movie franchises?
I really liked Outer Banks, but then that ended. Maybe a long time ago? I’ve got a lot of TV catching up to do.
Who is the perfect reader for Nora Goes Off Script?
The first readers were my children, and they for sure weren’t the perfect readers! I’d say a woman who likes a good love story but also appreciates how much motherhood flows into every other part of your life.
Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me, Annabel! How can readers best connect with you?