Four More Words (Author Interview)

1.     What inspired you to write a love story set against the backdrop of academia and anthropology? How do you think Christine's career shapes her as a character?

-I chose a romance novel with characters that are deeply academic because I wanted their conversations to be wrapped in a shared love for education. It shapes the way they behave and influences the way they speak to each other. Christine’s background in anthropology makes her see the world in a different way than the average person would. She’s more aware of the behaviors and connections between people. She’s better at observing and analyzing her family and friends and even Declan. She sometimes wishes she wasn’t so good at reading people because she is more aware of peoples’ behavior and motives, even when she doesn’t want to know what they’re thinking.

2.      The book starts with Christine slipping on ice. How does this seemingly minor incident act as a catalyst for the story that unfolds?

-Christine slipping and hitting her head on the ice connects her to Declan instantly because not only does he carry her off to safety, but he has experienced similar head injuries in his past. Throughout the story, head injuries seem to pull Christine and Declan toward each other.

3.     Declan Price is introduced as the best friend of Christine's twin brothers. What made you decide on this particular relationship dynamic between him and Christine?

-I chose to have Declan in Christine’s past as her twin brothers’ best friend because I wanted Declan to have reasons to be around Christine even when she doesn’t want to be around him. I also wanted them to have a history that connects their lives.


4.     Your book delves into the conflicts of career vs. love. How did you approach writing about such a deeply personal and often divisive issue?

-It was easy to write about Christine’s determination to focus on her career in anthropology because she’s never been in a relationship before. She doesn’t personally know how impactful a relationship can be. To her, relationships are a complication because that’s all she’s known. Her parents divorced when she was younger, so a relationship seems more like baggage than romance. But Declan inserts himself into her life and relates with her through their similarities. He loves linguistics and culture, just like she is intrigued by cultural anthropology. Their careers bring them together and Declan is able to show her that a relationship can be just as important as a career. And if she lets him in, she’ll see that love can become more important than a career.


5.      The setting spans from Washington to Papua New Guinea. What research did you do to bring authenticity to these contrasting locations?

-I love this question. I actually lived in Washington for two years when I was in my early twenties. I lived near the tri-cities area and my husband and I took every opportunity to scrounge our money together to take trips to Seattle, Spokane, and drive down along the Hood River to Portland. I described Washington mostly from memory. I also have the characters relocate to Washington D.C. (before Papua New Guinea) and I’ve also been to D.C. I did pull up a map to have specific distances and locations of monuments, museum buildings, and other references; but also included a few circumstances from memory. For Papua New Guinea, I had a professor in my anthropology class when I was in college that did some fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. Each week she would show us photos and tell us about her experiences there. I pulled up old notes from her class as well as watched several YouTube videos depicting the landscape, culture, and climate of Papua New Guinea to help assist with my imagination and writing.


6.       Can you talk about the role of tragedy in bringing Christine and Declan together? How does it affect their relationship as the story progresses?

-The tragic event that hits Christine and Declan is both sudden and unwelcomed. It affects them in a way that would make them both feel alone and isolated in the world if they didn’t turn to each other for comfort and support. It’s as if the tragedy rapidly catapults their relationship to a deeper level.


7.       The book touches on the concept of a "hidden past." How do you go about balancing the reveal of Declan's past with the need to maintain suspense?

-There is surface and depth to Declan’s past. Christine is aware of the “surface” aspects of his hidden past. But she’s unaware of the depth. And as the story progresses, the depth of Declan’s hidden past continues to collapse deeper into the ground; revealing more about who he really is.


8.       Christine faces decisions that force her to choose between Declan and her own happiness. How do you see this as reflecting or defying societal expectations of love and relationships?

-For me, a true love is worth fighting for and even putting someone else before yourself. Who Declan is and what he does may seem to defy societal expectations for love because at first, he seems like he may not be worth fighting for. But Christine is able to see past his behavior, not without struggle and doubt of course. We live in a society that tells us to be selfish and choose our own happiness over someone else. There’s not a lot of empathy left in our society. But Christine and Declan’s relationship shows that sometimes we stop chasing our own dreams to help another person survive. 


9.       The book’s title, "Four More Words," seems enigmatic. Without giving too much away, can you explain how the title ties into the story?

-Declan works in a museum and studies linguistics. He loves language and words. This part of him draws Christine in and they both place significant importance on words.


10.   What do you hope readers take away from this "delicate display of what it means to love even when it hurts"?

    -I hope readers are able to see that fighting for a relationship can be worth it. I think our society jumps into relationships like they’re a public hot tub and places no importance on real connections. People give up and bail on their marriages more than ever. Instead of cultivating a marriage built on respect and understanding, people want a marriage with a partner that’s going to make them feel better about themselves. That’s not reality. And this story unravels the reality of what love looks like at its rawest form.