Many thanks to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read an ARC of How To Fail at Flirting, and to feature an interview with Denise Williams!
One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.
When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.
Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.
Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.
Hi Denise, thank you so much for participating in this interview! To get started, tell us about How to Fail at Flirting.
How to Fail at Flirting is about a professor who decides to push herself out of her rut. After an abusive relationship, she closed herself off and focused on work. Now, years later, she decides a to-do list is the way to stay accountable to her plans to try new things. When she meets a handsome stranger in town on business, he’s the perfect fling. The only problem is that despite numerous flirting fails, Jake turns out to be the person who makes her want to keep trying and she ends up flirting with falling in love. Oh, did I mention he has a few secrets including that he might be a threat to her career? It’s a story about love and healing and finding that person who makes you realize you’re capable of anything.
What inspired you to write this novel?
When I first sat down to write, my son was an infant and I felt buried in momming and work—I needed a creative outlet. I ran into an ex on Facebook and it got me thinking about how past relationships shape us. The book evolved a lot since those first fledgling sentences, but the core ideas about how past relationships shape us and that happily ever after can be on the horizon after a broken heart is what you’ll read in the finished version.
Do you relate to the heroine, Naya, in any way?
Yes! I am a list-maker and a planner. I think I mastered drawing squares as a child so I could make check boxes! Naya’s sense of humor is very in-line with mine, too and, I’ll admit, I share her fear of butterflies. On a more serious note, Naya is an adult woman who hadn’t spent a lot of time prioritizing her own sexual pleasure. Like so many, I found myself in that place at one point. There are a stack of other ways in which I relate to Naya but the biggest is her inner voice. Throughout the book, she questions herself and hypes herself up and ultimately learns to trust herself. I’m not sure I’ll never not relate to that!
What was your favorite part of writing the book? What was your biggest challenge?
I geek out over writing love scenes. I’ll admit, there are several deleted love scenes sitting in my DropBox. Whether it’s a physically intimate scene or a scene to build sexual tension, those are the scenes I walk away from whistling a tune. The biggest challenge for me is editing. I love these characters so much and I want you to know them as well as I do, so I tend to overwrite. In the end, it helps me know the story better, but along with those deleted love scenes is lots of Jake and Naya Trivia!
What do you hope readers will take away from reading How to Fail at Flirting?
I hope readers will take away three main things. First, “That Denise Williams writes good books!” Just kidding… or not! More seriously, I hope readers walk away from HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING knowing heartbreak and trauma don’t preclude you from enjoying humor, affection, good sex, and love…that someone working to heal can still get their happily ever after.
Is there anything readers should know?
I mentioned Naya is a survivor of relationship violence with an ex co-worker. I hope readers who might have personal experience or be otherwise triggered by that take care of themselves by reading reviews or visiting my website to review the content warning.
About the Author
Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education, going on to work in higher education. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.
Author photo © D&orfs Photography 2019