Today we're pleased to have author Shelley K. Wall join us to talk about the next iteration of romance communication, this time in the digital age! Shelley's latest release, Text Me, has a hero who's having a bad time—he got fired, he got dumped, and bout the only thing that's going right are the texts he's exchanging with someone he thinks he knows—but doesn't! Text Me is a modern screwball comedy, integrating today's social media with some delightful miscommunication. Shelley is here to talk about love in the digital age. Thanks, Shelley!
Pop quiz time! How many Facebook posts did you make today? How about Twitter? Did you Facetime? What about plain ol’ texting a friend?
Now for the bonus question: How many times did you speak out loud to an actual human?
Let’s face it: this is an age of instant interaction. For most of us, the majority of conversations we have on a daily basis are now done through some sort of technical gadget. We text, tweet, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. and expect immediate communication.
So you’d think that books and movies would be full of folks on their cell phones, right? Of course, they didn’t have cell phones in my favorite romantic comedy flick of all time, You’ve Got Mail. (It’s almost hard to remember the quaint chimes of that distinctive AOL greeting.)
With so many more and different ways to engage with people online nowadays, I went searching for a few good romances to fit our current techno-dependent, social-media obsessed society.
In The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers, the romance begins electronically through an online personal ad the hero places and the heroine answers. Most of their romance takes place off-screen and in person, but Rivers cleverly develops the characters by having them interact through various ways of communicating. Brian is a wonderfully complex man with some very heavy life issues that make it difficult for him to meet women and have a relationship. (I can’t tell you the issues, that would be cheating, but you’ll be amazed at his strength and tenderness.) Carrie is seeking adventure in her life and takes a risk, meeting a stranger at a park bench for no-strings-attached kissing. Though their story doesn’t truly evolve online, the technical aspect makes for a fun premise and does add to the story development. It’s a heart-wrenching tale that readers will love. Keep a box of tissues nearby.
Teresa Medeiros’s Goodnight Tweetheart focuses more directly on the relationship that the main couple forms through Twitter. As a big Twitfan myself, the story intrigued me and though the book gets off to a bit of a slow start, it revs right up when you hit the tweets between Abby and Mark. Both are new users on the social network and reach out to each other with some very witty banter. I dare you not to smile or laugh when reading their exchanges. There’s poignancy as well in Abby’s loneliness and Mark’s personal circumstances (like Brian, he has a challenging life situation that makes social interaction easier than offline engagement.) The story was engaging and the characters charming.
In both of the books above, the people intentionally searched for a stranger and met them through electronic means, as something of an escape from their own reality. Their relationships matured to the point where they chose to meet in-person and the rest went like any normal relationship. Okay, maybe not exactly normal–since there’s a measure of intense drama in both stories that’s mixed into the humor. (Both heroes here had some serious baggage to unpack.)
But these stories go light on a concept that’s pretty integral to a lot of digital interaction: the mistaken identity. The idea that you never know who is truly on the other end of the keyboard can offer an element of intrigue and mystery that lends panache and extra excitement to an online relationship. (Of course, watch any episode of MTV’s Catfish and you can also see the dark side of that level of subterfuge.) Brian and Mark may lie by omission, but they don’t mislead their heroines by pretending to be someone they’re not, which helps the characters trust and grow together rather quickly.
But there’s something to be said for anonymity.
I absolutely adored You’ve Got Mail. Who doesn’t love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together? They were wonderful. Why did it work so well? Because they met via anonymous email chatting and were able to say so many things that people often hold back in a normal relationship. They were unencumbered, so to speak. They also met in real life and had an instant attraction that made your heart ache for them to be together. Unfortunately the hero’s hidden identity, once divulged, meant disaster for them. He was the enemy and she couldn’t get past his cold ruination of her business. Tom, err Joe Fox, becomes determined to win her over and through his efforts you’re immediately drawn to him, and so is the heroine, Kate.
Sixteen years later, the technology aspect of You’ve Got Mail is now quite outdated, and though the story still holds its charm, I felt there was a need for something that people of today could relate with and enjoy in a similar way.
So I wrote my own updated spin on this classic romance, Text Me. The hero and heroine, Carter and Abby, actually meet through a case of mistaken identity via texting but also get to know each other (without realizing it) on a chatting application at the same time, and later they Skype. As much as the couple can’t seem to get their electronic world in the same universe, the story unfolds in a way that shows they’re destined for each other.
I expect as our online addictions flourish we’ll see more contemporary novels using chatting and texting via smartphones or tablets as a staple in their characters’ communication with each other. People communicate more via texting today than ever before. We argue, we flirt, we gossip, we learn, and yes, we even fall in love through tiny screens and keyboards.
One word of advice though… be careful you don’t accidentally send that sexy pic to your entire contact list, and make sure to read your autocorrects before you hit send. ;)
Learn more or order a copy of Text Me by Shelley K. Wall, out now:
Shelley K. Wall writes contemporary romances, romantic comedies, suspense, and romantic suspense. Text Me is the first of a new trilogy, All About Me. For more info, visit her website at shelleykwall.com, like her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/skwallbooks, and follow her on Twitter @skwallbooks.