Devon Daniels is a born-and-bred California girl whose own love story found her transplanted to the Maryland shores of the Chesapeake Bay. She's a graduate of the University of Southern California and in her past life worked in marketing, product design, and music.
When she's not writing, you'll find Daniels clinging to her sanity as mom, chef, chauffeur, and referee to four children, or sneaking off with her husband for date nights in Washington, DC. Meet You in the Middle is her first novel.
In this post, Daniels shares why politics inspired her debut romance novel, how long it took to go from idea to publication, what's her top tip for other writers, and more!
Name: Devon Daniels
Literary agent: Kim Lionetti, BookEnds Literary Agency
Title: Meet You in the Middle
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release date: February 2, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Elevator pitch for the book: Meet You in the Middle is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about two rival Senate staffers who fall in love across the aisle.
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What prompted you to write this book?
When the idea for Meet You in the Middle came to me in 2017, it was after what was (then) the wildest election of our lifetimes. You couldn’t go five minutes without seeing a breathless headline proclaiming the death of bipartisanship: couples breaking up (or even divorcing) over election results; estrangement from family and friends; new dating apps designed exclusively for members of each political party.
I became fascinated by the conflict surrounding bipartisan dating: Can you date across the aisle in today’s world? Does 'opposites attract' reach that far? And what does a successful relationship of political opposites look like? It felt like a uniquely relevant and compelling topic—and no one in the romance community was touching it.
My goal was to write the literary equivalent of a Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers film: a book that would be both hilarious and heartwarming, taking an optimistic view of the world and promoting a timely message of love beyond labels.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
I started writing the book in fall of 2017, finished it in December 2018, and sold it to Berkley/Penguin Random House in July of 2019.
While I wouldn’t say the overall idea changed too much during the writing process, I did go through many drafts before the book was finalized. It even had an alternate ending at one point! I am an over-writer, so I ended up cutting about 40,000 words from my original first draft, which was as hard as it sounds!
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
As a debut author, literally every step in the process is a surprise! I’d always heard that publishing moves at a snail’s pace, and I’ve definitely found that to be true. It’s incredible to me that by the time the book publishes in February 2021, it will have been a four-year journey (I now understand why people refer to them as “book babies.”) Just how many people, steps, and details are involved in turning a manuscript into a finished product is mind-blowing.
On a larger scale, publishing during a pandemic has been one big learning moment! For a type A perfectionist like me, staying flexible and embracing unpredictability is certainly an ongoing opportunity for growth.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I’d say the biggest surprise was how incredibly challenging it is to write a book, period. As an avid lifelong reader, the thought Could I do it better? was always in the back of my mind. I can now say with confidence that crafting a well-rounded story that hits all the right beats of pacing, tension, romance, conflict, and humor is incredibly difficult. It is, without a doubt, the hardest work I’ve ever done.
Another surprise was how writing this particular story caused me to examine and reflect on how I communicate with others about politics and current events. I began with a goal of writing a lighthearted, modern enemies-to-lovers tale that readers could relate to, but I ended up more passionate about the book’s messages of kindness, empathy, and open-mindedness than I ever anticipated.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
First and foremost, I hope readers are swept away by Kate and Ben’s love story. My ultimate goal was to write an emotionally intense, moving, and memorable romance that will be someone’s favorite book, one they’ll love so much they’ll return to it over and over again.
As for the book’s message, I hope it inspires readers to be kinder to each other, to embrace and engage with others whose viewpoints differ from their own, and to see the person beyond the label.
Authors are often told to write what they want to read. More so than ever, I want to read stories that leave me feeling hopeful, that provide some escapist pleasure in a world that desperately needs more messages of love and optimism. I hope the book feels as healing to read as it did to write.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Write what you want to read—and don’t read the reviews!
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