I don’t know exactly what prompted me to write about a ballet dancer, only that once I had the idea, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It just felt…right! Talia came to me fully formed as a character, with her energy, her bendy yoga in the living room, and her total inability to cook. We have so many stereotypes about what dancers are like and how beautiful and perfect they’re supposed to be. I wanted to make a real character who’s talented and strong…and just as flawed and multi-dimensional as everybody else.
I started doing ballet when I was five years old. I have so many fun memories of being on stage and learning new roles. In middle school, I performed for three years in a professional production of The Nutcracker. Seeing the world of professional dancers was so exciting for a kid who’d only been in small recitals before. I remember watching all the dancers as they hung out backstage. They’d spend time warming up and going through the steps, but they’d also just stand around talking, laughing, and gossiping like this was any other job. Which, I guess for them, it was!
One year, I remember that a number of the dancers in The Nutcracker had the flu. They’d go on stage to perform exquisite, jaw-dropping feats of strength and beauty…and then run backstage to throw up before their next cue. Yikes! Of course, the audience never had any idea what was happening or how sick many of the dancers were. It made me realize that when we’re seeing the outside of something, we truly have no idea what’s really going on behind the scenes.
I (weirdly?) thought a lot about that memory as I was writing Wrong Bed, Right Girl. I knew people would have certain ideas about what a ballerina heroine would be like, and Talia would have come up against a lot of those stereotypes in her life. People would expect her to be perfect and pretty all the time. Or they might think she’s prissy and superficial. They definitely wouldn’t realize how hard she works.
I knew Talia would have had some bad experiences in the past with loser guys who didn’t see all the way to the real her—the person beneath the costumes and the stage make up and the beautiful performances. Who didn’t like how strong she is or how damaged her feet can get from dancing. Who didn’t see—or didn’t care about—the real life that happens backstage.
I knew Talia’s HEA would have to come from meeting someone who sees her—ALL of her—and loves every inch. Someone who values and supports her performances and also knows she’s more than a beautiful figure on stage. And that any man worthy of her heart would have to give a killer foot massage!
Reed Bishop is all that and then some. A DEA Agent with his own professional demons, he also struggles to show his messy insides. But when he and Talia fall in love, it’s with their whole selves. It’s those struggles and imperfections that, to me, make their relationship feel lasting and real.
I was a short kid (who grew into a short adult, sigh), so I knew there wasn’t much hope for my ballet career. And I was never interested in being a professional dancer anyway. The physical demands at that level are more than I could handle. Turns out I like sitting around in my pajamas in front of the computer too much! But I’m grateful for those years that I spent twirling in costumes, making friends, and learning how to stick with something hard. And I’m grateful to those childhood memories for giving me ideas for Talia’s character in Wrong Bed, Right Girl. I wanted her to feel as realistic as possible—first when she’s on stage, and then when the curtain comes down, the lights go up, and the rest of her life begins.