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Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

Writer Alicia Thompson discusses what she learned about herself in writing her new romance novel, Love in the Time of Serial Killers.

Alicia Thompson is a writer, reader, and Paramore superfan. As a teen, she appeared in an episode of 48 hours in the audience of a local murder trial, where she broke the fourth wall by looking directly into the camera. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

Alicia Thompson

In this post, Alicia discusses what she learned about herself in writing her new romance novel, Love in the Time of Serial Killers, her advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Alicia Thompson
Literary agent: Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary
Book title: Love in the Time of Serial Killers
Publisher: Berkley (PRH)
Release date: August 16, 2022
Genre/category: Romance/Rom-Com
Previous titles: Psych Major Syndrome; Secret Language of Birthdays: Teen Edition; Winning Team; Balancing Act; Reaching High; Unexpected Twist
Elevator pitch for the book: PhD candidate Phoebe Walsh’s study of true crime causes her to always suspect the worst—including the motives of her nice, hot neighbor who’s always doing nice, neighborly things for her. But what if the only danger is to her not-so-black heart?

Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

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What prompted you to write this book?

I wrote Love in the Time of Serial Killers during the pandemic, when I was feeling especially squirrelly and feral and like I was losing the ability to interact with other humans (to the extent I ever had it). I was thinking a lot about how hard it was to open up and be vulnerable with people when there’s so much in the news every day to just turn you completely cynical.

But then the pandemic also made me realize at the same time how necessary and beautiful those connections were. I was also listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher and going through a lot of old papers and stuff from high school, which ended up informing the book a lot.

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

I kept a notebook while I wrote Love in the Time of Serial Killers, so I actually know the exact day I started writing—August 1, 2020. The book is scheduled for release August 16, 2022, so it’s almost exactly two years from that day I started writing until publication.

Prior to that, it probably took months or even years for the idea to percolate. Usually I get some nugget of an idea—a character comes to me, or I watch a movie or hear a song that sparks something, whatever—and then I think on it for a while. When the characters start to form up, and I have actual scenes in mind, an idea of where I want the story to go, that’s when I sit down to write it.

My original idea for Love in the Time of Serial Killers stayed pretty true throughout the publishing process. There were some edits to the manuscript to make character motivations clearer and that kind of thing, but overall, the story is the same as when I first wrote it.

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

One of my biggest surprises was that the Simpsons reference I’ve been making for years was actually a misquote. Thank god for copyeditors! But also it shook me to my very foundation. If I’ve been quoting that wrong for years, what else have I been messing up? Are none of my favorite references safe? Am I in the middle of a Berenstain Bears situation?

Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

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

In Love in the Time of Serial Killers, one theme is that Phoebe has to stop believing all the stories she’s always told herself about herself. And that was something that I did, too, as I wrote her character in the book.

For example, I tend to think of myself as closed-off, cynical, a pessimist, etc.—but writing Phoebe, who exemplifies those qualities way more, I realized I’m really not like that! I guess you could say for a pessimist, I’m pretty optimistic.

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

Mostly, I just hope readers swoon over Phoebe’s developing romance with her neighbor, Sam. I hope they laugh at a few of my jokes and sit up straighter when they see a niche reference to Keith Morrison that makes them want to watch/rewatch that particular Dateline episode. I hope they take some comfort in knowing that you can be deeply weird and still find someone who happens to like your brand of weird.

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

Cultivate your relationship with your own writing. Consume other stories that inspire you or make you curious, allow yourself to daydream about your characters and worlds, find community that gets what you’re trying to do and wants to support you to get there. Writing can be so lonely, and tough, and kind of a slog—so the more you can do to make your process as joyful and playful as possible, the more sustainable it’s going to be.

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