Hall’s Boyfriend Material (Sourcebooks Casablanca, July.) sees Luc, the rascally son of a rock star, attempting to improve his public image by faking a relationship with straitlaced barrister Oliver.
You really make the fake dating plot sing. What made you choose this particular trope?
The plot came first. At the time I started working on the material, there were several fake boyfriend things out there, and I like to do queer takes on things that are big. The story came from the trope rather than the trope from the story.
Luc is estranged from his father, but his scenes with his mother are poignant. How did you approach the familial subplots?
I really wanted to give Luc a strong relationship with his mother, because I don’t want my single-parent families to be shit. The notion of having someone you can feel that strongly about and that close to is important to me, particularly in romance and romantic comedy. It’s important to emphasize the value of non-romantic loving relationships—which is why the friends and Luc’s mother are so important. Romantic love isn’t the only thing that matters. As for Luc’s dad, occasionally I look back over my canon, as it were, and, I say to myself, “Wow, I do bad dads a lot.” A lot evolved out of this domino effect, where you start with a trope. You ask yourself, “Who would have a reputation?”—then you get to rock star parents, and then you get estranged father.
There are some laugh-out-loud moments. Can you talk about developing the humor?
It’s very strongly inspired by the kinds of comedy that I remember being exposed to in late 1990s and early 2000s. The vibe I was always going for was inspired by Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Love, Actually. I draw a lot on that style of comedy.
The romance is relatively chaste. How did you decide on the heat level?
I think it is because I was consciously writing a romantic comedy in the Richard Curtis mold. It’s not like there was a blowjob scene in Notting Hill. I try to make sure the sex scenes in my books are what the book needs. I’ve written very erotic books. I’ve written books with just kissing. I’ve written books with no romance at all. My feeling of how rom-coms work is that the comedy and romance need to support each other and not clash. I can’t think of many moments in rom-coms where a very romantic scene is punctured by comedy. That defeats the romance element of it. One of my all-time favorite scenes in a rom-com is the bit in Music and Lyrics, where Hugh Grant tries to punch a guy and misses and ends up with his face in the butter. You can do comedy when someone is trying to do something macho or aggressive, or that kind of romantic gesture, but when people are being sweet and genuine and human together, you can’t play that for laughs.