When I’m not reading Kristan’s books, I obsessively pore over her blog. I have New England envy, especially in summer, which lasts from March to November in Austin, Texas and grows hotter every year. So I lose myself in Kristan’s chronicle of her life in Connecticut, in her tales of late snow, cool summers, and fall foliage. Her family makes their own maple syrup. How cool is that?
And when I can treat myself to a new Kristan Higgins book, what strikes me the most is always the community that she builds: family, neighbors, friends, townspeople, a cohesive and caring whole. Her stories are affirming, without being treacly; funny, but still full of substance; and they always put a big smile on my face.
Not Quite Enough about Kristan Higgins
Kristan Higgins lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband, two lovely children, their devoted dog, and a regal and somewhat elderly cat named Cinnamon. They spend as much time as possible at their family home on Cape Cod, swimming in the Atlantic, shivering on the beach, swatting horseflies and watching fish evade Kristan’s lure at Higgins Pond. It’s as close to heaven as it gets.
Your new book, THE NEXT BEST THING, has a totally fun premise. In your books, the heroine and the hero often know each other in some ways, through family and friends or just living in the same small town. But Lucy and Ethan from THE NEXT BEST THING not only know each other, they are friends with benefits—really good friends with really good benefits, I should add. ::wink:: Lucy, a young widow who is finally ready to marry again and start a family, stops those benefits with Ethan so she can date seriously. And Ethan, well, Ethan has to convince her otherwise. How did you come up with such an unusual twist for a romantic comedy?
One of the things I try to do with my books is to take a classic idea and invert it somehow. A widow finding a second chance at love is that type of classic plot. In Lucy’s case, though…she really doesn’t want to fall in love again. She does want to marry and have kids. But since her heart’s been through the meat grinder once before when her husband died, she wants to play it safe this time. Ethan is anything but safe, so Lucy ends their arrangement, recognizing that he’s too potentially dangerous to the old heartstrings to meet her criteria.
You have fabulous covers which totally convey the tone of your books, which are comedic but not frivolous, romantic yet deeply rooted in real life. And of course, on each of your four previous books, there has been a darling pooch sharing the cover with the hero and the heroine. THE NEXT BEST THING marks a departure in that the animal friend is not a dog, but—gasp—a cat! How did that happen?
Yes, I know! The shock, the horror! But here’s the thing. I do love cats…some, anyway. And though dogs have become a bit of a trademark for me, they’re not just plot devices or a way to get those fun covers. Each heroine’s pet reflects something about her personality or situation. In Lucy’s case, a dog would’ve been too much work, too much adoration. Fat Mikey, her curmudgeonly feline, is just right. He’s good company, but he doesn’t get carried away. Keeps Lucy in her place.
In my contemporary romances, I prefer urban settings to small town settings. But I adore your small town settings. For one thing, I love New England—when I swelter through yet another 100-days-over-100-degrees summer in Austin, I think longingly of Vermont—and your books are always set in New England. For another, there’s nothing anonymous or stereotypical about your small towns. They really come alive in your books and become engaging characters on their own. Please tell me what location are we going to be treated to in THE NEXT BEST THING and why I am going to drool over it.
I have to say, this setting is one of my favorites. The book is set in the fictional town of Mackerly, a tiny island just off the Rhode Island coast. I based it on the beautiful berg of Jamestown, which is right near Newport. Lucy works in the family bakery; there’s a great cast of townspeople who come in regularly. She also does an occasional stint on board Captain Bob’s Island Adventures, a little tour boat operation. There’s nothing quite as beautiful to me as the New England coast, so it was a real pleasure setting the book here.
One thing I always looked forward to when reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books was to see how Stephanie manages to destroy her car/have her car destroyed in each new book. What I’ve come to look forward to in each of your books are the absolutely hilarious bad dates your heroines go on in the quest for true love. Do these come from personal experience and tales passed around among family and friends? And do you ever just make them up?
I’ve had a few bad dates in my time, sure! None have made it into a book yet, though…those are all pure imagination. You won’t be disappointed in THE NEXT BEST THING…most notably is Lucy’s foray into speed dating. I do love writing those scenes! Guess that makes me a sadist, but there you have it.
What are you working on next? And are you going back to dogs or branching further afield with parrots, hamsters, and goldfish? 🙂
I just finished my sixth romantic comedy, which is entitled ALL I EVER WANTED. It’s set in Vermont…be prepared for some serious Green Mountain envy, Sherry! This story is about a woman trying to get over her obsession with her boss. Back to dogs in this one — Bowie, a Husky mutt with different colored eyes.
Can we have the recipe for one of Lucy’s fabulous desserts in THE NEXT BEST THING?
But of course!
1 pound of cinnamon raisin bread (homemade is best for you overachievers, but Pepperidge Farms isn’t bad, either…thick sliced works best)
3 ¼ cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup golden raisins
1 eight ounce can of crushed or sliced pineapple. If you used sliced, cut into small chunks.
Top with Jack Daniels Browned Butter Sauce (see recipe below)
Oven: 350 degrees
Tear bread into 1/2-inch square pieces. Don’t smoosh the bread…you want it to be nice and airy. Place bread chunks in bowl. Add milk and stir occasionally until bread absorbs milk…takes about 20 minutes.
In another bowl, beat eggs, then add sugar, vanilla, raisins and pineapple. Mix well. Add to bread mixture and stir gently with rubber spatula.
Pour into 13-by-9 inch baking pan and cover loosely with foil. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Be gentle when opening the oven door to check…the pudding may fall if you’re not.
Jack Daniels Sauce
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
¾ cup butter
Dash of cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. Jack Daniels whiskey
In saucepan, brown the butter (be careful…it turns fast). Add water and sugar, mixing until sugar dissolves. Don’t boil! Turn off heat, add a dash of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla and the whiskey. Mix lightly, then pour over warm pudding. A little whipped cream isn’t going to kill anyone, so go ahead and add that. Taste. Smile. Life is good!