Absolutely, Almost, Perfect by Lissa Reed
Craig Oliver and Alex Scheff lead a charmed life. Craig is part owner of Sucre Coeur, the bakery he’s loved and managed for years. Alex is an up-and-coming Seattle photographer. Their relationship has been going strong for a year, and everything is absolutely perfect—right up until Craig receives a wedding invitation from his long-estranged brother.
As Craig grows tense over seeing his brother for the first time in years, Alex can’t control his anxiety over meeting Craig’s family. At the wedding in an English hamlet, boisterous Scottish mothers, smirking teenage sisters, and awkward ex-boyfriends complicate the sweet life they lead.
Smelling of soap, a blue bath towel slung around his hips, Craig drops a kiss on Alex’s forehead before he takes his own seat. He slides the Ivory Square of Doom to his side of the table. “Right, we have to work this out.”
“Do we?” Alex cuts a finger of toast and dips it into his egg. He concentrates on the simple task so he doesn’t have to look Craig in the eye. “I mean, really. Neither of us actually wants to go. Why can’t we just RSVP with a sad but firm no and send them the nicest thing on their registry?”
Silence stretches long enough that he does look up. Open-mouthed, Craig stares at him. A forgotten toast finger drips egg yolk onto the tabletop. “You…” Craig shakes his head and puts down the toast. “You spoke to my mother. Many times you faced this woman on Skype or Facetime and had actual conversations with her, and you still somehow think that is a reasonable course of action.” His eyebrows lift, and he lets out a low whistle. “You know, I’ve held your balls in my hand. Were they brass all this time, and I just missed it?”
“Oh, come on, Craig.” Alex runs a hand through his hair. “Yes, I spoke to your mother. She’s nowhere near as scary as mine.”
“See, now, there’s an excellent reason for both of us to go to this damn wedding, so I can show you in person exactly how wrong you are.” Craig lifts his mug of tea and coughs out a laugh. “Your mother is frightening, I grant you: half my size and twice as intimidating as I can manage on my best day. In fact, our mothers would get on like houses afire, which should give you an idea as to why I, at least, cannot get out of going to this wedding.” He takes a sip of tea, sets the mug aside, and reaches over the table to catch Alex’s hand in both of his. “Alex, even apart from my mother’s insistence… Chloe is one of my oldest friends. I have to do this for her. But I can’t do it without you. I know it won’t be easy, but I need you there with me.”
At the sight of their joined hands, a lump grows in Alex’s throat to match the one in his stomach. “It’s just… your family…”
Silence falls again, interrupted only by Fitz tap-tap-tapping across the checkerboard linoleum of the kitchen floor and whining to be picked up. Craig scoops him up and scratches Fitz’s fuzzy little ears. “They won’t bite, Alex. They’re just…”
“Just people, just your family, I know.” Alex’s chest tightens. “Just your mother, your father, your sisters, your brother who you don’t even like, and I guess there’s an Aunt Lorraine now, and this Chloe chick and God knows who else gathering for the Wedding of the Century, where they’ll get to meet Craig’s neurotic train wreck of a boyfriend and judge us. They’ll judge me for being an uptight, deadbeat American and you for clearly having some kind of episode, to decide that I was an appropriate choice for a boyfriend.”
The lump in his throat swells and cuts him off.
Lissa Reed, author of the Sucre Coeur series. Book Three, Absolutely, Almost, Perfect will be released by Interlude Press on August 3rd.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Lissa Reed, author of Absolutely, Almost, Perfect.
Hi Lissa, thank you for stopping by! Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
I’m a gal with world-traveler dreams and a Greyhound bus ticket budget, to be honest. Writing has been my way of exploring places I’d love to visit, but haven’t gotten to yet.
I’ve been writing for a long stretch of my life now, and I’m on my third book. I thought it was time to really let myself and my sense of humor loose. Absolutely is a bit of an indulgent book, because it is straight up a loving homage to my favorite film genre: the British romantic comedy, which is a very specific type of rom-com, with a distinctive tone and feel. Lots of slapstickiness, ribald relatives, wacky miscommunications, inappropriate crushes, the whole nine yards. I went right for it all!
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Plots can be triggered by so many things – something I see on TV or in a movie that I wish had gone a different way, or someone will tell a joke or say something profound that just lets a story unspool in my head and I have to write it down. And usually along with a plot comes at least a ghost of a couple of characters.
Sometimes characters introduce themselves to me with a line, and then I just have to sit and let them develop, which is fun, it’s like watching a movie in my head. Others are a little more difficult. I’m working on a story now that has a complicated main character, she’s been stubborn about letting me in. I didn’t even know her hair color until recently, or what she was wearing at a pivotal moment. I had to sit down and sort of cycle through things. It felt like Cher’s computerized closet in Clueless, and I was having to work through a “Fashion Mismatch!”
Who doesn’t love a good hero? Tell us about your protagonist. Was there a real life inspiration behind them?
Alex and Craig share the stage in the two books that center them; they’ve been a team since day one. Craig is a steady, cheerful, and nurturing presence – he loves to fix things and save people, and he likes to be the change he wants to see in the world. And Alex is someone who has spent his whole life being told what he’s supposed to do, and not feeling like he’s measuring up – but he is a survivor whether he likes it or not.
That sounds very lopsided, like Craig just takes care of Alex, but Alex can step up for Craig when it’s needed. And it’s definitely going to be needed in Absolutely. This book finds them stepping into unaccustomed roles, which was a lot of fun to write.
I don’t really know anyone that’s like Craig. I’d like to! I think I got bits of him from every person who ever helped me during tough times. Plus, I wanted to write a baker, a kind and caring person who knew their way around a pie pan.
Alex, though, I’m afraid there’s a lot more of me in Alex than I’m comfortable admitting. Writing him, in this story, has been very cathartic.
What real-life inspirations do you use when world building?
It could be anything! I have been known to go onto Pinterest and search for scene inspiration. I’ve used YouTube, I’ve watched DVDs – like, for Absolutely, since I wanted the feel of the quintessential British romantic comedy, you don’t get much more there than with the Richard Curtis holy trinity: Four Weddings and a Funeral, and then Love, Actually, followed up by NottingHill. If I needed to get into the right frame of mind, I’d pop one of them in and let it set the mood. In fact my fake-out working title for Absolutely was One Wedding and One Potential Funeral. That’s how it’s saved on my laptop, and that’s what I named the Spotify playlist I put together.
But really, there’s so much Pinterest in my working process. Even if I don’t pin too much, I still spend a lot of time on there. I got lost in a rabbit hole last spring, just scores of images of greenhouses and floral arrangements when I was setting my mental scene for a flower shop that appears in the book. And last year I went flower nuts in my container garden, I’m certain it was a direct result of that. I wasn’t even actually writing this book at the time, I was still working on the previous book. This was just idle research between editing stretches.
Did you learn anything from this book and what was it?
Ah, yeah. I don’t think I am ever having a wedding. I mean more power to anyone who has that kind of patience, but I am so not about that giant chiffon occasion kind of life. Not that I anticipate getting married anytime soon, but boy, if I do, I am utterly eloping, my mother can guilt trip me all she wants about it, but my brothers both gave her epic weddings to squeal over, so I am running off to, I don’t know. France or something. Eloping can be romantic!
It’s your last meal on earth. What do you choose?
Yeah, it’s probably going to be some kind of macaroni and cheese, followed up by Ben and Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core ice cream, the one with the blondie brownie chunks in it. If I have to face the end of my life, I am facing it fully carbo-loaded.
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