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Ali Hazelwood: On the Science of Romance

New York Times bestselling author Ali Hazelwood discusses how she combined plotting and pantsing for her new romance novel, Love on the Brain.

Ali Hazelwood is the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis, as well as a writer of peer-reviewed articles about brain science, in which no one makes out and the ever after is not always happy. Originally from Italy, she lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She recently became a professor, which absolutely terrifies her.

When Ali is not at work, she can be found running, eating cake pops, or watching sci-fi movies with her two feline overlords (and her slightly-less-feline husband). Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Ali Hazelwood: On the Science of Romance

Ali Hazelwood

In this post, Ali discusses how she combined plotting and pantsing for her new romance novel, Love on the Brain, the difference in writing this from her previous novel, and more!

Name: Ali Hazelwood
Literary agent: Thao Le
Book title: Love on the Brain
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Random House
Release date: August 23, 2022
Genre/category: Romance
Previous titles: The Love Hypothesis
Elevator pitch for the book: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis comes a new STEMinist rom-com in which a scientist is forced to work on a project with her nemesis—with explosive results.

Ali Hazelwood: On the Science of Romance

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What prompted you to write this book?

The idea for it came from my amazing agent! The Love Hypothesis was on submission for a while, and my agent Thao and I brainstormed ideas for what other books I should be writing while we were waiting to hear from editors.

She said that she’d love to read something about rival scientists who thought they were enemies, but were also communicating through other channels without even knowing it. I started playing around with the idea, and the rest of the plot developed from there.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I started writing the book in late spring 2020 and it’ll come out this August (2022), so about two years. Once I settled on the idea, I didn’t change it too much, mostly because I have a relatively editorial agent who’s great at helping me brainstorm and getting the basic premise of a book in decent shape!

While I do plot the general beats of a story ahead, I also pants quite a bit and let the characters guide me as I write. I’m not averse to improvising (the fantastic Adriana Herrera taught me the term “Pantiliner” for writers like me, and I will be forever grateful). For instance, when I started writing I knew that Bee was going to be a neuroscientist and that she would collaborate with Levi, but I didn’t know yet that she’d be a Marie Curie stan.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I feel like I always learn a lot about craft and story structure whenever I’m in the process of editing a book, mostly through the back and forth with my amazing editor, Sarah Blumenstock. She’s always instrumental in making what I write into its best self.

An interesting behind-the-scenes tidbit about the book is that the cover (illustrated by the amazing @Lilithsaur) went through several iterations before we landed on the perfect poses and expression for Bee and Levi.

Ali Hazelwood: On the Science of Romance

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Love on the Brain is actually my first book in many ways, since The Love Hypothesis was adapted from a fic. And writing it was … really hard???

I was used to publishing fic by the chapter and getting feedback pretty often on the direction a story was taking. In comparison, writing a book is lonely, and I kept second guessing whether I was doing it right, whether the plot made sense, whether the characters were relatable, whether the entire thing was too boring.

But I wrote the bulk of Love on the Brain in about a month, over the summer, and I have some nice memories of falling deeply in love with Bee and Levi as I spent all those hours with them. So, I guess what surprised me the most about writing the book were the high highs and the low lows?

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

All I want is for people to feel entertained and spend a few pleasant hours. And if some readers meet Bee or Levi or Rocío, and feel seen and understood, or recognize themselves in characters I write, that is going to make my entire year.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Surround yourself with people whom you trust and who support you. I know it’s easier said than done, but there are a lot of welcoming online communities that are accessible and full of amazing writers.

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