Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

Author Kerry Winfrey wrote her latest romance, Very Sincerely Yours, during the 2020 pandemic to comfort herself. Here, she's explaining why that tone is important for readers.
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Kerry Winfrey is the author of Love and Other Alien Experiences, Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It, Waiting for Tom Hanks, and Not Like the Movies. She has written for many websites, including HelloGiggles. When she is not writing, she is most likely baking yet another batch of cookies or watching far, far too many romantic comedies. She lives with her husband, baby, and dog in the middle of Ohio.

Kerry Winfrey

Kerry Winfrey

In this post, Winfrey wrote her latest romance, Very Sincerely Yours, during the 2020 pandemic to comfort herself, why that tone is important for readers, and much more!

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Name: Kerry Winfrey
Literary agent: Stephen Barbara
Book title: Very Sincerely Yours
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Random House)
Release date: June 15, 2021
Genre: Contemporary romance
Elevator pitch for the book: Teddy, recently dumped and nearing 30, realizes she doesn’t know what she wants out of life, so she decides to do one thing every day that scares her. One of those things is emailing the local children’s television host she has a crush on, Everett St. James, and the two strike up an email pen pal relationship.
Previous titles by the author: Waiting for Tom Hanks, and Not Like the Movies

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

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What prompted you to write this book?

While checking out a museum exhibit on Jim Henson, I started thinking about the idea of a puppeteer romantic lead. That character became Everett St. James, a children’s television host who is completely dedicated to and passionate about his work. And when it came to Teddy, I wanted to write about someone who had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. I’ve written books about characters who know what they want and have to overcome obstacles to get there, but what happens when someone doesn’t know what their passion is? The juxtaposition of those two characters—someone with a lifelong passion and someone who’s still searching for one—was really interesting to me.

(Flying Sparks: 5 Tips for Writing "Clean Romance" That's Just as Hot as Explicit Sex Scenes)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

I started working on the proposal in the fall of 2019, had it accepted in March 2020, and turned in the book in early fall 2020. However, this all happened after trying and failing to write an entirely different book proposal. I wish my process was faster and involved fewer false starts, but sometimes you have to write the wrong thing to figure out the right thing.

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

This is my second book to come out during the pandemic, so I like to think that by now I’ve learned to adjust to virtual events and doing things a little bit differently. Mainly, this time around I’ve been amazed at how awesome the team at Berkley is when it comes to marketing and publicizing books during a really difficult time.

(Agent Scott Eagan On: Romance vs. Women's Fiction)

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

Writing a book is always a surprising process for me! I have an outline, but it’s usually pretty basic in the middle (often including incredibly unhelpful lines like “and then some things happen and they fall in love,” or “they have a big fight over something”), and those are the beats I have to work out as I get to know the characters. It was so fun to get to know Teddy and Everett and figure out what they would do in each situation.

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

I wrote this book to comfort myself during the pandemic, so I hope that readers will think it’s cozy and comforting. I tried to make every house and setting feel as cozy as possible—there are a lot of throw pillows and blankets and seasonal candles. Any time I thought of something that made me feel happy, like an entire freezer full of ice cream, it went into the book. My number one goal with every book I write is always to make readers feel happy and hopeful and forget the stressors of their real-life for a moment, and that felt magnified during the pandemic.

Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

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

If you want to write, do it in the life you have now. Don’t wait until some point in the future when you have unlimited time, because that time will probably never come! This might mean that you can only write for 15 minutes a day or only on the weekends, but that’s okay. Those short writing sessions all add up. That’s how I’ve written most of my books! 

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