Escape room operator Callie must work with the prince of hell to stop the apocalypse in Bond’s Not Your Average Hot Guy (Griffin, Oct.).

What inspired this premise?

The idea for this book actually is kinda funny. I went to a YA book festival in Murfreesboro and there was an escape room business next to the hotel. So, I talked a group of authors into going over with me to do the escape room. And on the drive home I basically had this entire idea. I started the book when I got home, and the first chapter I didn’t change very much at all, which is very unusual.

Each of the novel’s three sections begins with a quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. What role did Carroll’s book play in your process?

When I was developing Callie’s character, that was gonna be one of her touchstone books. And I knew that I would be taking her out of the real world and stepping “down the rabbit hole” so to speak. Honestly, it’s bizarre, I never do epigrams first, but those epigrams were in there from the time that I started the book.

Despite being the son of the Devil, Luke displays many characteristics that could be considered good. Tell me how you balanced good and evil in his character.

I myself am drawn to more of a Beta hero. Those are the guys I know, those are the men in my life. Luke is basically going through the motions of being a “bad boy,” but I don’t think that’s actually who he is. I think the classic thing about rom-coms is that they’re about two characters who meet and make each other better versions of themselves. So that was something I definitely wanted to do with these two. Luke is fun to write, because he doesn’t understand himself at all. He has a bigger arc in the second book of the duology. It’s mostly about him figuring out who he is and what he wants in life.

The romance is relatively light and sweet. How did you decide on the heat level?

It just felt like these two characters would only go as far as they do in the book this quickly. There is definitely a higher heat level in the second book because they’ve known each other longer and their relationship is escalating to a more serious level. It’s nice to have two books worth of them so that they can get to that place. But I personally think that the character dictates [heat level]. I read romances of all different heat levels, and Callie in particular is a character who felt like someone that would be a little bit reserved at first. I think that rushing them into anything wouldn’t have felt right for these two characters. But I definitely do enjoy writing the romance, and it’s a lot of fun.

© christopher rowe