Lucy Parker: On Cooking Up the Perfect Romance Novel

Award-winning romance author Lucy Parker discusses her process in her new romance novel, Battle Royal, including what inspired the book, how her plots tend to unfold, and more.
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Lucy Parker is an award-winning romance author who lives in New Zealand. A romance reader from a young age, she loves to write about people pursuing their dreams and falling hopelessly in love along the way—often with the last person they would expect. Her previous titles have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, and Oprah Magazine, and were included in NPR’s Book Concierge for four consecutive years. Learn more at www.lucyparkerfiction.com and follow Lucy on social media via Twitter (@_lucyparker) and Instagram (lucyparkerauthor).

Lucy Parker: On Cooking Up the Perfect Romance Novel

In this post, Lucy discusses her process in her new romance novel, Battle Royal, how this experience differed from her previous publishing experience, and more!

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Name: Lucy Parker
Literary agent: Elaine Spencer at The Knight Agency
Book title: Battle Royal
Publisher: Avon Books
Release date: August 17, 2021
Genre/category: Romance
Elevator pitch for the book: He’s the infamously icy, no-nonsense judge on Britain’s favorite TV baking show; she was a fan-favorite contestant who drove him up the wall with her glittery cakes and sunny demeanor. Four years later, she’s joining him on the judging panel, they own rival bakeries on opposite sides of the same street, and they’re competing for the contract of the year—baking the cake for the upcoming royal wedding.
Previous titles by the author: Act Like It, Pretty Face, Making Up, The Austen Playbook, and Headliners

Lucy Parker: On Cooking Up the Perfect Romance Novel

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

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What prompted you to write this book?

I’ve always enjoyed baking and cooking romance, and I could very clearly see these characters in my mind—the notoriously stern baker with his traditional, minimalist aesthetic versus the perpetual optimist with her love of all things fantasy and magic. On the surface, they have completely opposite styles and taste, but underneath they’re fundamentally very similar people. I love watching baking competitions on TV, and I thought that environment would lend itself well to a rom-com setting. And there are few bigger contracts for a commercial bakery than catering a royal wedding, so that provided another fun avenue for the plot.

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

A bit longer than I initially planned! Like a lot of people, I’ve found the past year or so often challenging, including from a writing perspective. However, while I was working on Battle Royal, it was also very welcome being able to escape into this world of fantastical baking, found family, and unexpected love. (Although external stresses combined with a writing project focused strongly on desserts is a dangerous combination. I think even Willy Wonka would be daunted by the amount of sugar consumed in the making of this book.)

I always start with a rough outline and the characters fixed firmly in my mind, but the plot tends to unfold as I go, one thing leading into another, sometimes taking turns I didn’t anticipate. Right on cue with this one, as with every book I’ve written so far, about halfway through I hit what I call the “whiteboard stage”, where I’ve written myself into a corner and can’t see the way out. I end up taking my whiteboard and pens into the living room, and basically brainstorming out loud. I do find that it almost always works to actually vocalize the plot and the problems as you jot down notes and diagrams; for some reason, in the process of talking about it, the light begins to glimmer and you can see the way forward, what changes you need to make.

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

This is my sixth traditionally published novel, but my first time working with the team at Avon, so everything felt quite new again and the whole thing has been a wonderful learning experience. My previous books were published as e-books in the first instance, and picked up for print afterwards, so this was the first time I’d had the additional editing steps of working on the print galley, which was a learning curve, but fascinating for me. Honestly, my whole publishing experience so far has been a series of unexpected surprises and constant new experiences, and I’m extremely grateful for the whole thing.

Lucy Parker: On Cooking Up the Perfect Romance Novel

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

There were definitely some unexpected outcomes in the writing process. This was the manuscript that required the most extensive edits yet; I ended up cutting an entire plotline out of the draft after the first round of edits, but it became clear quite quickly into the rewrites that it was working better without it. I do believe that most things end up the way they’re supposed to, which is hopefully the case with this story!

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

Overall, Battle Royal is a happy, optimistic book, and I hope it provides some much-needed escapism in a time of continuing challenges. I genuinely don’t know how I would have got through some times in my life without my book collection; I’m a firm believer in the power and necessity of curling up with comforting stories and characters on bad days (or bad years).

Amongst the lighter moments as Sylvie and Dominic begin to truly see each other, there are also scenes of more serious reflection and at times sadness in the book. They’re both shaped by their pasts, they’ve experienced loss and grief, and they both know what it is to be lonely, even when surrounded by other people. However, they find incredible happiness and a sense of belonging with each other—and also within themselves, as they work through what they really want in life. There is a focus on family in this book, biological family but also and perhaps especially found family, the enduring love and connections we find and choose in life. I hope anyone reading is reminded that however dark things may be at times, we really do never know what happy and exciting things are waiting just around the corner.

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

I know it can be difficult sometimes, especially if there’s a looming deadline or you’re feeling particularly frustrated with your work or your goals. But try to enjoy the journey; don’t just focus on the end product. I think it’s very easy sometimes to have that initial story idea and picture it as a completed book, then try to get to that stage as quickly as possible, but there’s a reason why people say to write the story you want to read. Enjoy being in every page of that story and have fun with those characters. Look forward to spending time with them again when you open the document, and hopefully miss them when it is all finished. Writing is really hard work, and publishing will always have its highs and lows. I think it’s so important to grasp hold of that real love for just being in your own fictional world, telling yourself this story before you tell it to anyone else, and don’t let that go.

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