Three Years Later: We Still Love Tina Reber’s ‘Love Series’
I first read Tina Reber’s Love Unscripted and Love Unrehearsed in the summer of 2012 and her characters Ryan Christensen and Taryn Mitchell are still favorites. Her books were good to the last drop and inspired me to love reading again. And though I now specialize in interviewing bestselling romance novelists in our post Fifty Shades of Grey publishing world, Tina was my first!
She was part of that very first wave of indie authors who changed history by bringing independently published love stories into the mainstream. Her books were soon scooped up by a major publisher, Atria Books.
Hard to believe it was three years ago that Love Unrehearsed, the second book in the Love series, first hit the New York Times Bestseller List, making her dream come true.
It was also three years ago that Tina and I had a fun chat over the most expensive breakfast ever at Le Parker Meridien in New York.
It’s the kind we all have fantasized about, where the hot, heartthrob actor falls for the hometown gal he cannot resist. However, poor Taryn has to deal with so much as she tries to adjust to Ryan’s world. She is totally out of her comfort zone. Sadly, she goes from a grounded, well-ordered person to a worsening state of mind as life in the fish bowl of fame does unbearable things to them both.
Mega-stardom aside, Ryan seems like a regular guy who just wants to be an actor. But they have a million obstacles to get out of the way before they can really be together: Crazed fans, relentless paparazzi, jealous women, scheming co-stars, and misunderstandings with cops, Hollywood hangers-on, creepy handlers, health issues, assorted tragedies, and the day-to-day pressures of fame.
In many ways, the book offers an inside look to the darkest side of fame. We can think of a few celebrity couples who have taken a beating from fans and media—from Linda Eastman when she married then-Beatle Paul McCartney to Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. And it is usually the woman–the one who gets the hot guy–who becomes prey to the slings and arrows of jealousy.
Today, sometimes when we see actors such as Jamie Dornan and Chris Hemsworth trailed by Paparazzi while out with their wives and children, it seems a bit reminiscent of scenes from Tina’s books.
One of the heart-warming aspects of the Love series is friendship. While the slices of celebrity and Hollywood make the story very exciting and glamorous, it is the down to earth love and adoration between the couple–and the support of their true friends–that makes us root for their relationship.
Tina worked in an office for 15 years and had a background in business, banking, and computers. She switched gears to write and now plies her trade from her home in Pennsylvania. Her latest book is Jacked.
Here are excerpts from our chat about the Love series. Be warned, I fangirled during the entire interview. I loved her characters so much that I wanted to know how she put it all together so there are a lot of spoilers.
A.C. ROSE: In Love Unscripted, Ryan Christensen is first introduced as a drop dead gorgeous actor in a famous trilogy who is literally being chased by fans. Was that inspired by anything specific, such as Twilight?
TINA REBER: When I started writing, it was at the time when Twilight was popular. I didn’t model a book after that leading character, but so much what was happening with young actors [and celebrities] at the time. Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears–all of these young musicians and actors were going through the stress of media.
You created a hero who is a huge star but a very down to earth person, and a heroine who is a hometown girl who could care less about celebrity and showed that a celeb and civilian can make it work.
Matt Damon met a regular girl and they have a beautiful family and beautiful marriage. Their dynamic is working because you don’t have two competing careers going on at the same time. I wanted to explore what would it be like for somebody who is so famous to find love. For example: How do you trust? When you go into a new relationship and meet somebody new, you’re already jaded a little bit because you don’t want to get hurt or burned; compound that by being so well-known. How can you trust that the person wants to be with you, or that they want to be with a celebrity? Some people said it took Ryan and Taryn 100 pages to kiss. They both went into the relationship as maturing adults. I wanted my characters to make sound decisions and not fly off the handle.
Sadly, the craziness of the fans, hangers-on, and media rattled them both. We were all glued to the books as Taryn tried to navigate the insanity that the relationship brought into her once-calm life.
She was trying to be in his world, and then have these things that were out of her control happen. It’s a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, and it all came down her.
There was a female stalker who tried to mess with Taryn. What kind of research did you do into the mental state of the character?
It was a combo of watching a lot of videos, documentaries, and researching cases. Almost everyone who’s famous has some type of uber-fan or almost stalkerish fan. Sometimes it gets to point where fans have an imaginary ‘real relationship.’ I wanted readers to experience what that might be like if you were Ryan, to have that fan take it a little too far. The stalker in my book never did any harm, but she wasn’t able to discern between reality and imagination. That’s something I found [common] among stalker cases. In their minds they have a real relationship that goes beyond [being a fan]. Then they question why the celebrity pushes them away. They are acting out the spurned lover–jealousy, anger, and, sometimes, violence.
Taryn was ultimately pushed over the edge by fans and handlers. At one point she gets caught up terrible mob and gets into a scuffle with fans while trying to get back to Ryan’s press junket. It was mortifying!
I wanted her to have a breaking point, where she pushed back. Actually, that scene was drafted after something that happened with Justin Bieber. He was promoting cologne. All of a sudden the hotel where he was had thousands of people outside. There was an incident involving a police officer and fans. In the book, the hotel is empty when Taryn leaves, but when she comes back it’s just a mob scene. Being in a foreign country and not knowing how to negotiate around things compounded things. One of my favorite scenes in the book was Ryan and Taryn having a talk after that, about his publicists and his managers and his fans.
He realized their relationship had to be protected, not just from fans but from his handlers.
I wanted him to have to make that decision. Since I was using his handlers as a stressor I needed a breaking point for him to make a solid decision on what was important in life. Readers were like, “Aww … he chose her. “ Isn’t that what we want? We want our man to choose us over all the other things affecting our lives.
Still, Taryn was thrust into a flurry of emotions and emotionally reactive behaviors, including insane jealousy and mistrust. How did you conjure all that emotion?
I felt it. I went with how I would react. Those are all my emotions. I drew off of real life. I don’t have experience with that kind of fandom. I don’t have people chasing me down the sidewalk. It struck me that: I have a liberty and anonymity that is all my own–and these people don’t. There’s a relationship that happens between someone who’s watching a movie and someone who’s starring in it, especially when media starts to give public access into private lives, following them with cameras, following their daily routines. People start to have a more intimate view into the celebrity’s life and it makes fans feel more intimate with the celebrities.
That kind of fan possessiveness is scary. The media gossip and false reporting frenzy is even scarier. Taryn found herself turning into a nervous wreck. Any of us could crack under the pressure.
Yes. After a while, you wonder what is real and what is made up? What is a lie and what is the truth? If you saw on the news that your husband is kissing somebody, you’d be like what the heck? I think stress brings out things in people you didn’t even realize you had in you. If you push me to a point where I have to defend myself I am going to react in a way I didn’t’ think I’d be capable.
Your books do not have a ton of sex in them, but readers don’t seem to notice because the sex that is there is so well done… and the sexual tension is so exciting.
I figured if you are an adult you’ve had sex so why repeat same act for five or six times in a book. I gave you that experience, that first time with them. And there are several sex scenes in there but they are skimmed over. The foreplay is the most important part because that’s what readers read. I skim over the actual sex act. I didn’t want anybody skimming my book. So many books that I read, within the first couple of pages the characters are already having a physical relationship, and I don’t really think that happens in real life. So I tried to keep it real life. I ‘m sure there are people that have met somebody that day, gone home with them that day, and had a wonderful evening with them that day, but how many relationships are solidified after a one night stand, so to speak?
Ryan had a great family and it became Taryn’s. Were they modeled after your own?
His parents are completely fictitious. They aren’t based on somebody I know. I have a strong family. My in-laws are Pennsylvania Dutch. The mentality’s a little different but I wanted Ryan to have that professional type upbringing where he is expected to be successful but not uber-famous. His parents said to him a couple of times, “We want you to be happy and there are a lot of things you could do to be successful without all this stress on you and if you aren’t happy doing it, then question that.” I tied some life lessons into the book. My mom said, “Dreams only come true if you pursue them,” and that’s a theme in the book. I wanted his parents to teach him a lot of the life lessons I had. Taryn’s parents are gone, and both of my parents are gone, so I know what it’s like to have these moments where you just wish mom was here or dad could see that. Knowing that both parents are gone is very isolating. I wanted Taryn to have that renewal of parents. I also wanted to keep that sibling rivalry between Ryan and his brother. Regardless of his fame I wanted him to have real moments with his family.
Has hubby helped with your books?
He’s been completely in the background, but he’s helped me edit both books. He knows what I’m writing about and the experiences I’m going through. He’s a great sounding board. I’ll bounce ideas off of him and try to get the guy’s point of view: how would you react or answer this question. We have mock dialogue sometimes and I’ll throw something out at him to see what his first reaction is.
Of course, we all fell in love with Ryan Christiansen. Did you fall in love with him too?