In my newest book, Running On Empty, the heroine is a reality show survivor who willingly takes on another reality show (and a fake triathlon) even though she suspects the cards are stacked against her. Why? Because she wants to show people that she’s smarter than they think.
Let me explain. My heroine, Ronnie Ventura, was a supporting character in the first book in this trilogy, Finding Mr. Right Now. She was the bachelorette on a show called Finding Mr. Right, and she was a sweet but naïve participant who ended up walking off the show in disgust. She’s changed a lot by the beginning of Running On Empty (she also had a supporting role—an important one—in book 2, Love In the Morning). She’s more self confident, more assured, and a lot less innocent. But she still wants to try her luck with Fairstein Productions one more time because it annoys her that millions of people once thought she was an idiot.
When I showed a draft of Running On Empty to one beta reader, she was mystified. “Why would she care what other people think? That’s silly,” she said. I didn’t exactly know how to answer her because from my point of view it wasn’t silly at all. I’m a person who worries about other people’s opinions of me. It would probably be better for me if I didn’t, but I’m old enough to know that’s not going to change.
But my beta reader’s point of view was helpful because that was exactly the point of view of my hero, Ted Saltzman. He can’t understand why Ronnie would care about what people think. The citizens of Salt Box, Colorado, know that she’s both savvy and sweet. They love her, and so does he. Why worry about anybody else?
This conflict between Ronnie and Ted becomes the central problem between them. He can’t understand why she’s putting herself out there for Fairstein Productions to step on once again. And she can’t make him see why it matters to her. It finally becomes An Issue:
“I think Fairstein is run by a bunch of jerks who don’t want you to succeed. I think they’re stupid. I’ve always thought that. But I never thought you were the problem, Ronnie.”
She blew out a quick breath. “The people at Fairstein are a bunch of jerks. Well, most of them, anyway. But I still want to do this. I can’t explain it—not so that it’ll make sense to you. And I shouldn’t have to.”
I think both points of view here are valid. It’s understandable to care about how you come across to others. But it’s also understandable to think that not all opinions matter. The central plot of Running On Empty is Ronnie’s struggle to triumph over Fairstein’s machinations (she does, of course—it’s a romance). But the romantic plot centers on this question: if someone you love does something you don’t really understand or sympathize with, can you learn to accept it? To his credit, Ted does. But it takes him most of the book to learn how.
Here’s the blurb for Running On Empty:
She’s running her heart out to stay in the same place.
Ronnie Ventura has every reason to distrust Fairstein Productions: she’s had run-ins with their shows before. But Fairstein’s newest reality show offers Ronnie a chance to redeem herself from looking like a blonde bimbo. All she has to do is win a modified triathlon. Simple, right? Except this is Fairstein, and nothing is ever simple with them.
Ronnie’s boss at the Blarney Stone bar and café, owner Ted Saltzman, is a lot less convinced that another Fairstein show is just what Ronnie needs, particularly when he’s head over heels about Ronnie himself. But she’s determined, and he’s a man in love.
Ted becomes her running coach, which fans their budding romance to a fever. But can Ronnie’s newfound confidence stand up to the usual Fairstein plots? And can Ted find a way to keep his true love in Salt Box if Hollywood tries to steal her away again?
You can find it at Amazon.