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How I wrote Rachel Does Rome

Rachel does Rome is out tomorrow!!!!!

Rachel does Rome draft

I know I’ve said this before but Rachel really is one of my favourites in the Girls on Tour series. It’s the first novella where we see the girls on holiday together (except Poppy) and I relived loads of fun girls’ weekends away in writing it. But it changed massively in the writing – and even more massively since I first planned the series.

To start with, I knew I wanted to write a stand-alone story with Rachel from If I Could Turn Back Time. I was also curious to explore how her relationship with Oliver fared after they got together as they were such an unlikely couple in some ways and because she felt initially that she was ‘settling’ by going out with him. In the original synopsis Rachel was meant to be recently single after Oliver dumped her for being a workaholic. Cue a weekend in Rome where she let her hair down, and met a gorgeous Italian, Paolo, in a bar, who offered to marry her.

But I changed my mind about this scenario for a number of reasons. Firstly it was clichéd; also, I didn’t want Rachel to be romantically punished for working too hard because that seemed so retrograde and anti-feminist. I also thought better of Oliver. I figured that as someone who works very hard himself, he would understand her long hours. Instead I decided to give them a misunderstanding over Valentine’s Day plans because it allowed me to explore Rachel’s romantic expectations of what A Proper Relationship was like – and her insecurity and fears about Oliver losing interest. Then, instead of her meeting a gorgeous Italian, I decided it would be more interesting to have Rachel bump into her ex, Jay, who messed with her head and broke her heart. Jay looms large in If I Could Turn Back Time (where Rachel first appears) but we don’t meet him so I thought it would be fun to bring him on-stage so to speak.

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Toasting the completion of Rachel Does Rome with a green drink

So that’s what I did. I wrote Rachel Does Rome almost exactly a year ago; it was the second novella I wrote since getting out of hospital. I was starting to feel properly better; I’d also started jogging again for the first time and spring was coming … I think that sense of spring and optimism got into the story. I wanted to capture all the fun of a girls’ weekend away – all the crazy happenings and running jokes as well as the little differences between, e.g., the person who wants to see all the sights (Rachel) and the ones who want to kick back (Lily and Maggie). A number of odd people and situations and one-liners in the novella will be VERY familiar to some of my friends (such as Joe the American and the seagulls).

Girls-on-Tour-covers

The big challenge with this series was to create a different kind of romantic story in each one rather than having the same girl-meets-boy scenario over and over. In Poppy it was about seeing someone familiar in a new light: in Lily, it was a full-on holiday romance alongside some massive life changes. In Maggie, it was about the turning-point in a relationship where you decide to go or stay. Rachel is, I think, the most romantic in the series, though it might not start out that way. The ending is one of my favourites because it sums up to me what romance is really all about – not heart-shaped chocolates or pink teddies but people showing how they feel in simple but significant ways. If you want to find out more you can pre-order Rachel Does Rome here. I really hope you read it and that you like it!

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