Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me is a story of Holly and Alex, who were best friends at school – a misunderstanding stops them ever getting together and causes them to lose touch but as they’re both about to turn 30 circumstances bring them together again. So it’s about second chances with your first love – but there’s a danger they’ll make the same mistakes all over again. 

LT: We write alternate chapters, flicking between Holly and Alex. We wanted them both to have a really authentic voice, as the duel-protagonist element is what sets it aside from other great romantic comedies out there, so hopefully having the male character written by a man and the female character written by a girl does that. 

Please tell us about your characters, Holly and Alex...

LT: Holly has all sorts of hopes and dreams as a carefree teenager – like travelling the world and finding a satisfying career. But she finds herself nearing thirty as an underappreciated PA in a questionable relationship, and she’s not entirely sure how she got there. And then she sees Alex again….

JR: Alex dreamt of teaching kids to love Shakespeare and buying a nice house in the Peaks. He is a teacher at least – but he’s still living in the small town where he grew up, still living with his dad. As the story evolves and they come back into each other’s lives they’re reminded of the dreams they used to have.

The book has been compared to Love Actually and Notting Hill, so how does that make you feel?

LT: Enormously flattered. There are loads of romantic comedies that are enjoyable but forgettable and then there are the classics - that you can watch again and again and still make you smile, and that everyone seems to have seen whether or not they’re into that genre. To be compared to the latter camp is lovely.

JR: I think the publishers just want to give people a reference point. The Richard Curtis thing has been mentioned. I’d love to think the book has the sense of romance and humour and nostalgia that you get in his films but the readers will decide.

You studied together at Sheffield University so when did the conversation arise of writing a book together?


JR: I wrote a dating blog called; Laura wrote the Girl About Town column for thelondonpaper. We used to send lots of ‘loving your work’ emails and then Laura was approached by an agent who suggested writing a book.

LT: We’d had the seed of a thought that it would be fun to work on something together that comes from two different viewpoints, but nothing concrete. At the same time I was trying to think of an idea for a book to share with my agent, then one day we decided THIS could be a great idea for a book. I think it was one of those conversations that started half as a joke then turned into ‘but seriously, shall we do it?’

How much has your journalism background helped you to write this book?

JR: We did a journalism MA together but, speaking only for myself, it wasn’t until I got a job at a local paper that I learnt to write properly. Seeing my byline on stories was probably what got me hooked on the idea of writing a book – having my name on a book on someone’s shelf.

LT: Previously, I probably would have said there’s been a mixture of influences – from my degree and the journalism course, to every writing job I’ve had since. But recently I found a box of my old school books in my parents' box room and tucked inside were notes my friends and I were passing in class while we were meant to be working. If my writing style in the book resembles anything I’ve ever written before, it’s those notes.

Do you both believe in ‘meant to bes’?

LT: I don’t, no. But I think sometimes something comes along that feels so right that you subconsciously fight harder for it, even if circumstances make it tricky.

JR: Maybe you get the answer in the book!

Do you think that first loves can last a lifetime?

JR: I think the situation Holly and Alex are in, where they never got together first time around – you never really forget that person. There’s always a part of you that wonders. I had a major crush on a girl at college and over the next 10 years girlfriends came and went and through them all I still wondered about the girl from college. Five years ago, after a brief and friendly reunion, I told her I loved her. In a text message. 

LT: How’d that work out for you?

JR: She replied saying we'd only ever be friends - but hoped we could stay in touch. We haven't spoken since.

LT: You couldn’t just go for a ‘was great to see you’ could you? I think first loves can last a lifetime, but they don’t always. The first time you fall in love is an overwhelming feeling, and I don’t think you ever forget those feelings. But whether or not it’s still love depends on the people you are now.

Please tell us about your combined process.

LT: We do all the planning together right from story ideas and character bios, to a detailed chapter plan where we decide every event that leads the story on.

JR: Then we go away and write separately, sending each other our chapters at the end of each month for feedback.

LT: We’ve got a colour coding system. Red means the other one didn’t like it, blue means they loved it, green means there’s nothing wrong with it but maybe doesn’t quite work here. Anything left in black is fine, and can stay. Then we offer each other advice about how to fix things that aren’t quite right.

JR: The thing about writing with your best mate is you can be honest – neither of us is worried about how the other will cope with constructive criticism. It wouldn’t work if we weren’t close.

LT: And we both have the final say on our own chapters, so we have the power to veto the other’s suggested changes. That said, we respect each other’s opinions a lot, so don’t tend to stick our heels in about anything.

What is next for you?

LT: We’re writing a second book now. It’s not a sequel to The Best Thing, but it’s a similar concept – alternate chapters from a female and male perspective. It is based on the theory that it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them when you break up.

JR: The two main characters break up right at the start, and it looks at how they both deal with it. We’re about two thirds of the way there with it. It will be published by Transworld in 2015.


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