When you read romance, it’s hard to truly be surprised. This, of course, isn’t a knock on the genre. No one reads a romance novel to be surprised if we’re being honest. We read romance for the comfort of it, for the promise that no matter what twists and turns there might be, we will get a happy ending. But Maureen Lee Lenker’s It Happened One Fight manages to be both different enough in setting to be a treat, while also hitting on all the romance tropes we know and love.
Fangirlish had a chance to talk to Lenker about her debut novel, the kind of research that goes into writing historical anything, and the tropes in It Happened One Fight, starting with enemies-to-lovers, a trope that you either really, really love or really, really hate. And though, personally, it isn’t one I enjoy, it’s one that worked really well in this book.
“I think it’s better when the end is an element of miscommunication,” Lenker said about the trope, “or there’s a rivalry that they didn’t establish. When someone’s a bad person, it’s kind of harder to buy into it.”
But the fun thing about It Happened One Fight is that it manages to focus on the trope – with all the good drama that comes from two people who really don’t get along – while also being “a screwball comedy from the 1930s or 40s.” In fact, Lenker shared that she “wanted you to feel like you were watching something like Bringing Up Baby or The Philadelphia Story or It Happened One Night while you’re reading the book.”
Which kind of explains the setting, though Lenker also told us that she “always wanted to write a book set in the Golden Age of Hollywood.” We all have our favorite time periods, and that’s one that spoke to Lenker. But as for the inspiration behind the plot? Well, the author confirmed one of our hypotheses from reading the book. This was indeed inspired by that Keanu Reeves interview (that Lenker herself did!) where he mentioned that he thought he and Winona Ryder had been accidentally married on the set of Dracula.
That led to the one question any writer asks themselves: what would happen if this were true? Especially when you throw in two characters who don’t like each other and a time period where divorce isn’t as easy. Now, that’s a different story and a romance that still managed to hit the beats we all know and appreciate.
Plus, it’s set in a time period we are not as familiar with.
“I have always been a lover of history. I majored in history and have a Masters degree in history. And, you know, I love Jane Austen, I love Regency romance; I love Victorian romance. But I just feel like there is such a broad landscape for historical romance. So many more countries and locations and eras that haven’t been explored,” because we’ve spent too long in the Regency or Victorian eras. “I’m really excited to hopefully be writing historical that it is a little different from what people are used to seeing.”
Even if that requires …well, research. “You can’t know everything and you can look up a detail like what did women’s underwear look like in 1936 and end up down a rabbit hole. But the main thing I had to research was what exactly was involved in getting a divorce in this time period. There is a trope of people going to Reno,” for example, Lenker shared. “So, I did a bunch of research on what people did when they got there, how long they had, what the actual legal steps were in getting a divorce, and what some of the sillier traditions were of going there, for instance, like throwing your ring off the bridge after securing your divorce, which is something a lot of women did.”
And …there’s more. Because in romance, there always is. And though Flynn seemed like a great candidate for his own book, Lenker shared that he isn’t actually next. “He’s in the mix, but not right away.”
“Next, I’m going to be telling Arlene’s love story, and she will be making her debut as a director after her success as a screenwriter. She comes to find that her leading man, who is coming direct from New York, was the boy who grew up next door to her, who she has carried a torch for since she was about 14 or 15 years old.”
But that doesn’t mean she won’t be telling other characters’ stories. If people want to read them, Lenker is open to writing stories for a lot more characters. And since we might or might not be waiting for Flynn’s, we hope people read this book and make it so Lenker has a chance to tell a lot more stories.
Maureen Lee Lenker’s It Happened One Fight is available now, wherever books are sold.