Bethany Turner has been writing since the second grade, when she won her first writing award for explaining why, if she could have lunch with any person throughout history, she would choose John Stamos. She stands by this decision. Bethany now writes pop culture–infused rom-coms for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight. She lives in Southwest Colorado with her husband, whom she met in the nineties in a chat room called Disco Inferno. As sketchy as it sounds, it worked out pretty well in this case, and they are now the proud parents of two teenagers.
In this interview, Bethany talks with us about her new Small Town Romantic Comedy novel, Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other.
FF: What inspired the story in your book, Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other?
It really all started with the people in this fictional town of Adelaide Springs, Colorado. Living in a small (though not as small as Adelaide Springs!) Colorado mountain town myself for the last 22 years, after growing up in metropolitan areas, I’ve had the opportunity to experience what the character of Brynn Cornell considers the worst aspects of small-town life—everyone knowing your business, occasional grudges for ancient trespasses, boring Friday nights, and long, treacherous commutes over 10,000-foot mountain passes to so much as shop at Barnes and Noble. But I’ve also experienced so much of the good. The way an entire community rallies around one of their own in a time of need. The shared pride and responsibility. The wide-open arms that welcome prodigal children back home. Brynn’s life is a story of loving, hating, missing, resenting, and ultimately appreciating home, and that was what fascinated me from the beginning.
FF: What can you tell us about the main characters in your book?
Brynn Cornell is the new co-host of Sunup, the number one morning news and entertainment program in the country. She’s pretty much beloved by the world and can seemingly do no wrong, until she’s caught on a hot mic at the very end of a Friday broadcast disparaging her hometown and the people in it. America’s Ray of Sunshine is revealed to be a mean girl when she doesn’t think the cameras are rolling, and if she’s to have any hope of salvaging her career and her reputation, she’ll have to go back to Adelaide Springs for the first time in twenty years and make nice. Sebastian Sudworth, meanwhile, has completely separated himself from his Pulitzer-winning career as a journalist, and for the last six years he has sought refuge in the low-key solitude of Adelaide Springs. Despite his past glories, he’s now passing his time as a city council member, bartender, part-time driver…and, once Brynn Cornell returns to town, reluctant babysitter.
FF: Which character surprised you the most?
Murrow! Murrow is Sebastian’s emotional support dog, trained to help him combat his anxiety and PTSD, stemming from a trauma witnessed and experienced while chasing a story. Named after Edward R. Murrow, of course, Murrow is a tiny, fluffy Havanese who I originally wrote into the story simply because my dad had been nagging me for years to write a dog into one of my books! At first, I thought he was simply a pet. But Murrow’s presence helped me unlock Sebastian’s past, present, and future in ways I never anticipated.
FF: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to share truth?
I think storytelling can break through defenses and tear down walls, sometimes whether we, the reader, want it to or not. There’s a reason Jesus told stories…and not just because we need things put into terms we can understand (but yeah…that, too). People lean in when they’re being told a story. Literally from the time we’re babies, we all lean in for a good story.
FF: What can you tell us about your next book?
I’m so excited to get to spend more time with some of the characters we meet in Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other! It’s not a sequel, but it’s the story of two best friends named Cole and Laila, who are also residents of Adelaide Springs. In Brynn and Sebastian’s story, Cole and Laila really jumped off the page for me as two characters whose own love story needed to be told, and I’ve honestly never had more fun with fictional characters than I’ve had with these two. Their story, Cole and Laila Are Just Friends: A Love Story, will be available next year!
FF: What kind of research did you do for this book?
I usually do shockingly little research when I write, if I’m being honest! This one required a little more than other books in the past, primarily because I wanted to do right by Sebastian and his journey toward mental health. The past couple years I have been putting in the work toward my own healing in regard to anxiety issues, and it was so important to me that I honored that journey. Sebastian’s and mine. I also had to do a fair amount of geographical research, since I truly struggle with north, south, east, west. I much prefer my geography in terms like, “Turn left at Starbucks,” but that didn’t ring true for the people of Adelaide Springs!
FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other is a story of forgiveness and healing, first and foremost. We live in a world that, unfortunately, tends to write people off very easily. Mistakes and moral failings often result in unfollows, character assassinations and, in extreme cases, cancellation. Don’t get me wrong: people do horrible things sometimes, and consequences need to follow. But when we forget that a flawed celebrity is every bit as human as we are, and we take away the possibility of forgiveness, we’re casting ourselves in roles we’re not designed or equipped to fill—judge, jury, and executioner. Hurt people hurt people, and not always but sometimes if we address the pain with love and compassion rather than judgment and dismissal, the ultimate impact can be positive rather than negative.
FF: What are the biggest challenges for you as an author writing in your specific genre?
I think there can sometimes be a stigma about romantic comedy, or at least an assumption that everything is light and fluffy, with as much depth as a kiddie pool and all the substance of meringue. But so many authors (myself included, I hope) are proving that’s simply not true. Nevertheless, it can still be a challenge sometimes to try and convince potential readers that a guaranteed happily-ever-after doesn’t necessarily mean the story doesn’t carry with it deeper insight and relevance than they’re expecting. On the other side of that coin, some readers seem to believe these meatier issues are done a disservice when packaged alongside laughs and swoons. But guess what? Humans are funny and love is messy. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that.
FF: What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
It’s such a stereotypical answer for a rom-com author to give, but the truth is I write the way I write as a direct result of the influence of Nora Ephron. In addition to being a novelist, Nora was a legendary playwright and screenwriter, of course, and her romantic comedy scripts are the original and ongoing source, inspiration, and motivation behind my love of romantic comedy. If there wasn’t a Nora Ephron standard to always be aspiring to, I’m not sure I would see the point.
FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
My faith impacts every single thing I do and every choice I make, of course, and that is certainly true in my writing. I try to write in a way that is welcoming to all readers, regardless of their personal faith, but I will never shy away from the fact that I believe all stories of forgiveness, compassion, and genuine love point and lead directly to Jesus.
Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other
A Love Story
Genres: Romantic Comedy, Small Town Fiction
Release Date: September 5, 2023
She’s a sunny morning-show host. He’s a cynical ex-reporter. They’re destined to hate each other…Aren’t they?
Brynn Cornell has to be stuck in a nightmare. Just last week, she was riding high as cohost of the popular morning show Sunup. She’s America’s Ray of Sunshine—the girl-next-door beauty who drives up TV ratings while never exuding anything but her trademark positivity and poise. All it took was one huge on-air mistake to expose her snarky side to the world and make it all come crumbling down. Now she’s back in her hometown of Adelaide Springs, Colorado, in a last-ditch attempt to convince viewers she’s not the mean girl they think she is. All she has to do is apologize and capture some feel-good footage reminding everyone she’s just a girl from humble beginnings who’s grateful for her big break, and she might manage to preserve both her career and her image. But this town holds painful memories that she’s not ready to face.
Sebastian Sudworth was on the fast track to the journalist hall of fame. A superstar reporter with a reputation for being in the center of the action, his fearless, relentless coverage of major events around the globe was winning him awards and accolades—until something snapped inside him and he vanished from the scene under mysterious circumstances. Sebastian sought refuge in tiny Adelaide Springs, working odd jobs and trying to blend in as a scruffy mountain town citizen.
When Sebastian is assigned to chauffeur Brynn around town, Brynn is sure he can see right through her carefully cultivated, sunny persona. But she’s determined to do what it takes to maintain her image and save her career—so she’ll just have to charm the socks off Sebastian the same way she charmed her viewers. Easier said than done. It’s no picnic to play nice around someone you hate…especially when you might be crazy about them.
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