Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Guest Post - Why we can’t resist enemies falling in love by Hollie Moat

My debut novel, Other People’s Business, is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Naturally, people keep asking me why I did it – why go to all the trouble of updating that particular play? The answer is an easy one, and it’s that I knew it would make a beautiful modern love story and felt compelled to tell it. The central characters, Benedick and Beatrice (Ben and Bee in my book) are sharp, funny and clever – and crucially, they start off hating each other. I say crucially because hate is not the opposite of love (that would be indifference) and their explosive emotions keep things exciting right from the off. Much Ado made its debut around 1599, and in the 400 or so years since, I believe a rather large number of literature’s best ever couples have gone through the same love/hate predicament as Benedick and Beatrice. Which led me to start wondering why we just can’t get enough of those heroes and heroines who fight their way to falling for each other…

It does make the journey more enjoyable

Shakespeare himself once wrote ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’, but it might have been more accurate to add’ if you want to keep your reader interested’. In real life I’m sure most of us would rather a happy, no-drama relationship, but let’s face it, a conflict-free transition from meet-cute to wedded bliss does not make for a very exciting story. Of course there’s always the option of throwing obstacles like infidelity, illness or even death at our heroes, but since I don’t especially enjoy crying on the bus, this route doesn’t really do it for me. Watching 2 people who originally (or at least at some point in the story) hate each other makes for a suitably bumpy journey, and the destination is nearly always ‘Happy Ever After’. Which I like. 

A war of words makes for wittier reading

There’s a reason that the screwball comedies of Hollywood’s Golden Age are always the highest rated rom-coms on Best Film lists (think It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday…) and that is the whip smart dialogue. Look – I love a big declaration of love as much as anyone, but a whole book of them? One after the other? It’s going to be dull at best and nauseating at worst. Far more enjoyable is watching the sexual tension mount as they hurl insults at each other. Take Ben and Bee in Other People’s Business during this dancefloor exchange, 
‘Darling, can you stop getting your hand caught up in my hair? I appreciate that given yours is thinning it must be hard to resist touching mine but it feels like you’re pulling it. And not in a good way.’ 

‘My apologies Bee. It’s just it’s a little hot in here and my hands are getting clammy so I needed something dry to wipe them on.’

Yes they’re fighting – but it’s so obvious they’re going to fall in love…

You can expect more well-rounded characters

Nobody is nice all of the time. Except when we first get together with someone we adore and then it’s all smiling and skipping about like we’re living in a Disney film. It happens to even the most sardonic of us. But if I’m going to get on board with a protagonist, going to identify with or feel like I understand them, I need more than sighs and swoons. When your potential couple are at war you get to see them at their worst as well as their best, see all the shades of pettiness, vulnerability, frustration and elation. It makes them seem so much more real.

Of course, the main thing that a love/hate dynamic excels at is highlighting a couple’s chemistry – I thought I’d finish with 5 of the most iconic examples of this….I hope you agree!

1. Benedick and Beatrice
I may be biased but it had to be done. When they finally get together it makes me want to cry with happiness every time. 
2. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy
This celebrated duo are less into bickering than they are making snide comments and smoldering at each other. Just compare them to Jane and Mr Bingley, who are sweet but insipid by comparison.
3. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler
The couple at the heart of Gone With The Wind really mine the full depths of love and hate. Intense isn’t the word for this (delightful) pair of drama queens. 
4. Harry Burns and Sally Allbright 
Granted, an iconic movie rather than literary pairing, but an unforgettable one all the same. Harry and Sally take the scenic route in getting together – hate turns to irritation turns to friendship turns to sex and finally, true love. 
5. Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy
A bit of a cheat since they are a modern reinterpretation of Number 2 on this list, but lord knows I can’t resist a modern reinterpretation! When they finally get together it is so beautifully understated, and so very English. 

Thank you so much Hollie for that fascinating insight. 

About the author: HJ Moat (long version)

‘For me, the idea of writing a novel has been much like dating that guy you’ve always had a thing for, but you never seem to be single at the same time as. As a pre-teen I wrote short, fantasy stories for no real reason other than my mother thought I was good at them. The lack of passion, I think, stems from a personal disinterest in the genre – even Lord of the Rings I appreciate only as an aid for insomnia (yes, I know many people think it’s nothing short of a masterpiece, don’t shout at me).

Then suddenly, at the age of 16 I felt compelled to start a YA novel about all the things that 16 years olds are interested in – boys, friends, feuding and getting drunk at festivals. I wrote the first few chapters obsessively, furiously – and my own teenage naivety and arrogance encouraged me to send it off to some agents I looked up in a copy of the Writer and Artist’s Yearbook. In a shocking twist – one of them actually called me saying he liked it and wanted to see more. To my eternal regret (and if this was a film I would be watching this bit through the cracks in my fingers) my attentions wandered back to all the things that 16 years olds are interested in – boys, friends, feuding and getting drunk at festivals. So I never got around to writing, or submitting those new chapters – the flirtation was over. Shortly afterwards I got into a pretty serious relationship with fashion, and by the time I exited my teens I was doing a degree in Fashion Journalism at the London College of Fashion. Creative writing and I were not destined to meet for some time – I went straight from graduation to a job as Editorial Assistant at Arena magazine. 

I embraced the indie music boom of the 2000s and eventually became Music Editor, and when Arena folded in the recession I went freelance, writing entertainment and style stories for the likes of Q, Empire and Glamour. About 7 years ago I went in-house at a sweet little shopping website, a start-up that has since become one of the world’s biggest luxury fashion companies. I still work there  (I’m the Editor) and my life revolves around catwalk trends and celebrity interviews and style advice and fashion shoots. Which sounds pretty amazing and for the most part is, but in the winter of 2014 something unexpected happened. I started thinking about writing a novel – thinking about it all the time. The stories I dreamed up in my head when I was on the treadmill, or trying not to fall asleep in a boring meeting, were getting too crowded in there and I need to tell them before I went quite mad. So I suppose you could say that I was 28 when I finally got together with the love of my life. By which I mean, writing Other People’s Business.

Twitter @HJMoat (I’m very new to Twitter and still getting to grips with it)

Book blurb

Some cupid kills with arrows, some with traps...

Bee and Ben haven't always hated each other, but they certainly hate each other now. They hate each other so much that it threatens to derail the wedding of their best friends, Imogen and Will. 

But then something unthinkable happens and turns everything on its head. Within the wedding party, some hearts swell and others are broken, but will anyone work out that relationships are rarely quite what they seem?
This modern retelling of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing explores the idea of whether we're ever really in control of our own romantic destiny and if true love really can conquer all.


  1. Love this! So true, you've absolutely summed up the love/hate dichotomy and why it's so enticing.(it also mortifyingly reminds me of several of my teen relationships). I look forward to reading your novel!

  2. Love this! So true, you've absolutely summed up the love/hate dichotomy and why it's so enticing.(it also mortifyingly reminds me of several of my teen relationships). I look forward to reading your novel!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...