Bestseller Bailey pairs grumpy pro golfer Wells with a cheery fan, Josephine, in Fangirl Down (Avon, Feb.).
I’ve gotten really into it. Not to be a downer, but my father passed away prematurely about four years ago, and he was obsessed with golf. I refused to connect with him over it. I was like, “Golf is boring. All these guys are rich primadonnas.” When he passed away, I finally started watching it off and on and I was like, “these guys have great butts!” That was my entry point. Then this Netflix documentary Full Swing came out and golfer Brooks Koepka really caught my attention. He was kind of on a downswing. He couldn’t get his game back and he was like, “Eff it, I’m frustrated, I don’t care if I ever play this sport again.” I was really drawn to that and I wanted to explore what it would take to come back from that.
Why does Josephine stay such a loyal fan when Wells’s career is tanking?
She saw greatness in him before, and she believes he’s capable of getting back to that point. I think she—I’m acting like she’s a real person—but I think she saw him in moments where nobody was watching. That’s really how to judge someone’s character: what are they doing when nobody’s watching? Josephine sees moments of greatness in Wells that the cameras don’t pick up and the media doesn’t see. She believes in it so much that she thinks she can pull it out of him.
How did you approach writing a heroine with diabetes?
My daughter is 12 years old and she was diagnosed with type-one at age six. I’ve always wanted to write a heroine with type 1 diabetes—but it’s taken me this long to be able to do it confidently, not just from a standpoint of getting the jargon down or getting the medical things correct, but understanding what it’s like to live with this constant mindset of “Okay, I’m eating, so I need to think about supplementing my body’s functions with insulin.” And what you feel about your parents, and what they feel about you. It’s something that over the last six years I’ve been banking in my head, and trying to perfect in real life and often failing. So I tried and did my best. I hope it’s the first book of mine that my daughter will read someday.
How do you balance heat and heart?
It’s really organic to me. I know when I’ve built enough tension and when it’s time to release the steam valves. And I know when it’s time to show that they have a bond outside the bedroom. If we’re going to sell readers on this couple having a happily-ever-after, we have to prove that these two people can get along in a way that is super positive and can banter. They have a lot in common, more than they thought they had. We can imagine them having conversations every day for the rest of their lives. So you definitely need that balance of emotion and physicality.