Modern love: Jean Flynn on ‘Lovesick’
Jean Flynn’s debut novel Lovesick is the first title from Xoum Publishing’s new romance imprint XO Romance. Reviewer Kat Mayo describes it as a ‘fun romantic comedy’ with a ‘modern sensibility’. She spoke to the author.
What inspired you to write a romantic comedy about a medical receptionist who is a bit of stress sponge?
I began writing the first draft of Lovesick in 2011, when I was trapped in my house with a couple of small but energetic children. My mother suggested I do less housework and more writing—what good advice. I decided to make my protagonist an anxious receptionist because I used to be one of those. I no longer answer phones for a living, but I am still quite panicky.
Lovesick has a chick-lit feel, but main character Beth breaks the mould by being horrified at overpriced handbags and clothes, and just generally being dishevelled all the time. She’s a relatable heroine rather than an aspirational one. What does a heroine like Beth offer to readers?
Fictional heroines often have incredible cheekbones and enviable jobs, but I wanted Beth to be familiar rather than flawless, like someone you might actually know. I always find it easier to like characters I recognise or identify with. I’m hoping that readers will appreciate Beth’s eccentricities and barrack for her throughout the story.
Beth has quite a sad backstory—she moved back home to help care for her dad, who had cancer—but the plot focusses on Beth’s rather wacky adventures in dating and at work. I’m interested to know why you made this decision?
I think all stories—no matter what genre—ought to have a balance of light and dark. There are a few serious issues in Lovesick, but it’s a romantic comedy, so the focus had to be on the frivolities. Beth’s mishaps are integral to the story. While she’s clearly affected by tragic past events, what she really wants is to get back to ‘normal’—if only she could decide what that is.
The romance genre has some very strong traditions in terms of writing style and structure, but Lovesick doesn’t always follow these. Do you think the genre is changing, and if so, what changes are you most excited about?
It’s great to see the romance genre move away from the old-fashioned, clichéd damsel-in-distress model. Why should heroines have to remove their glasses to become alluring? Why should tall, dark millionaires with steely grey eyes get all the ladies? I’m interested in modern realism romance: stories about ordinary people who fancy other ordinary people.
Who are your literary inspirations? Which books take pride of place in your bookshelf?
I love Helen Garner’s quiet and straightforward writing, and I’m a big fan of Roddy Doyle (a master of voice and dialogue). I recently enjoyed Helle Helle’s This Should be Written in the Present Tense (Vintage)—such lovely descriptions of domestic trivialities. But my main literary inspiration is my mother, author Rachel Flynn.
What was the last book you read and loved?
I’m currently reading The Pier Falls, a captivating collection of short stories by Mark Haddon (Vintage).