Becca Kinzer lives in Springfield, Illinois where she works as a critical care nurse. When she’s not taking care of sick patients or reminding her husband and two kids that frozen chicken nuggets is a gourmet meal, she enjoys making up lighthearted stories with serious laughs. She is a 2018 ACFW First Impressions Contest winner, a 2019 Genesis Contest winner, 2021 Cascade Award winner, and all-around champion coffee drinker.
In this interview, Becca talks with us about her debut novel, Dear Henry, Love Edith.
FF: Where did your idea for this story stem from?
The idea for this story was planted in my mind several years ago when I was single and living in an apartment building that housed three other tenants. For a while I knew everybody who lived in the building. But eventually people started moving out, and a new guy moved into the apartment beneath mine. Even though the building was small, we never ran into each other. For months I never knew his name or what he looked like. But of course that didn’t stop me from making assumptions about him based on the things I overheard coming from his apartment, like music or snippets of conversations. I thought I had a pretty good picture of him inside my head. Then one day he showed up at my door to let me know a moving truck might block the driveway for a bit because he was moving out. As he talked, I couldn’t help thinking how different he looked from the guy I’d been picturing. And apparently I wasn’t at all like the person he’d been picturing. Before he went down the stairs, he asked me, “How come all this time I thought you were a little old lady?” I never saw that guy again, but our interaction always amused me and eventually sparked the idea for this story.
FF: You have a career in nursing. How has your experience shaped your storytelling?
I’ve always loved a funny story, but I think working over eighteen years in the critical care setting, especially dealing with COVID these past few years, has proved to me even more how important humor and laughter is in warding off bitterness and despair. But not if the humor comes at the expense of kindness. My hope is that my storytelling is always shaped by both.
FF: Edith is looking for her next adventure following the death of her husband. What was it like exploring her journey?
Edith and I had very different experiences when it comes to marriage. She married right out of high school, whereas I didn’t even date a whole lot until I was in my midtwenties. (Mostly because guys weren’t asking me out a whole lot, but let’s not focus on that aspect.) Unlike Edith, I had a little time to live on my own and get talked into a few crazy adventures like skydiving before a wonderful man did finally ask me out and we eventually married. Part of exploring Edith’s journey was reflecting on how my perspective on marriage might have been different had I married young and missed out on those years I was single. Especially if, like in Edith’s case, the marriage turned out to be more challenging than expected.
FF: What do you enjoy about romantic comedy? Is there anything you found challenging about this genre?
I love the general lightheartedness of a romantic comedy, especially since so much in life tends to veer toward dark and heavy. I know having this story and these characters to focus on as a writer this past year was a huge blessing to me as a nurse. It gave me something uplifting to think about after long, stressful days at the hospital, which is the same blessing I hope readers get from this story. I think the biggest challenge with writing in this genre, though, is creating a story that is lighthearted and fun but still believable and filled with depth.
FF: Who is your favorite character in the novel?
Oh, boy. Why don’t you ask who my favorite child is while you’re at it? Having said that, Henry. Definitely Henry. (Don’t tell the other characters.) I mean, he looks like a young Paul Newman. How could he not be my favorite? Good looks aside though, what really endears Henry to me is his penchant for self-deprecating humor to compensate for his flaws. Probably because that’s something I can relate to all too well.
FF: What will fans of romance love about the relationship between Edith and Henry?
I think romance fans will love how the element of mistaken identities allows their relationship to contain a fun trope-y mixture of love at first sight combined with friends to more. Plus there’s just something always romantic about a relationship built through exchanging letters back and forth, isn’t there?
FF: How does faith play a role in this story?
I think we all love that romantic notion of taking a giant leap of faith to answer God’s call, especially when God calls us to exciting new territories. What we love far less, and what the characters in this story must discover, is sometimes faith requires taking small steps day after day right where you are and trusting that God will use those small daily steps as much as he uses the giant leaps.
FF: While this is your debut novel, you’ve won a number of writing contests before. How did those experiences lead to the publication of your first book?
Writing contests have played a huge role in my writing journey. When I entered my first writing contest in 2018, it was the first time I showed my writing to anyone outside of my family, and I was terrified. But by going through the process, I discovered two important things. One—my writing didn’t stink. Two—I still had a long way to go. So I buckled down, continued studying the craft, and wrote, wrote, wrote. A year later I entered this contest again with a romantic suspense entry, thinking that was the genre I wanted to pursue. As almost an afterthought, I entered a short rom-com story too, not because I expected it to go anywhere, but I wanted to get as much feedback on my writing as possible. And wouldn’t you know, it was the rom-com story that the judges all loved. It ended up winning. And you know what happens when you win a contest at a writers’ conference? You have to stand onstage and give a speech! Talk about a whole new level of terrifying. But I must not have bungled it too bad, because afterward an agent—who a few months later would become my agent—approached me, wanting to know more about this story. After a lot of rewrites and edits, that little rom-com story landed me my first publishing contract. So thank the Lord I decided to enter it into that contest.
FF: What do you hope readers take away from Dear Henry, Love Edith?
I hope readers take away the idea that wherever their location, whatever their circumstances, they can live a life of adventure and purpose when they trust God to use their efforts, big or small. (Okay, fine. I also hope readers take away a lot of laughs.)
FF: Who is one of your favorite fictional couples? What do you love about their love story?
George and Mary Bailey forever. When I watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time several years ago and saw a young Mary lean over that counter to whisper, “George Bailey, I’ll love you till the day I die,” I instantly knew that I would too.
Dear Henry, Love Edith
A Charming Mistaken-Identity Romantic Comedy
Genres: Romance, Romantic Comedy
Release Date: January 31, 2023
He thinks she’s an elderly widow. She’s convinced he’s a grumpy old man. Neither could be further from the truth.
After a short and difficult marriage, recently widowed Edith Sherman has learned her lesson. Forget love. Forget marriage. She plans to fill her thirties with adventure. As she awaits the final paperwork for a humanitarian trip to South Africa, she accepts a short-term nursing position in a small Midwestern town. The last thing she needs is a handsome local catching her eye. How inconvenient is that?
Henry Hobbes isn’t exactly thrilled to have Edith, who he assumes is an elderly widow, dumped on him as a houseguest for the summer. But he’d do almost anything for his niece, who is practically like a sister to him given how close they are in age. Especially since Edith will be working nights and Henry works most days. When he and Edith keep missing each other in person, they begin exchanging notes—short messages at first, then longer letters, sharing increasingly personal parts of their lives.
By the time Henry realizes his mistake—that Edith is actually the brown-eyed beauty he keeps bumping into around town—their hearts are so intertwined he hopes they never unravel. But with her departure date rapidly approaching, and Henry’s roots firmly planted at home, Edith must ultimately decide if the adventure of her dreams is the one right in front of her.
Reminiscent of the beloved classic You’ve Got Mail comes a delightful new romantic comedy about mistaken identities, second chances, and finding love in unexpected places.
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